Sunday, November 2, 2014

Quickies: A Dollop Of Schadenfreude

The title of this post features what’s probably the most important word borrowed from the agglutinative German language to English. Its root words would have it mean “shadow joy.” In application, it refers to the emotion of the envious man – the “successfully” envious man, who watched in joy as the target of his envy was laid low.

Plainly, Schadenfreude isn’t a emotion one should seek to experience...which doesn’t mean a middling decent person won’t feel a twinge of it now and then. This All Souls’ Day morning is such an occasion:

It used to be that both the Republican and Democratic parties included both liberals and conservatives. Since parties contained ideological multitudes, it was hard for them to be the basis of strong, personal identities. A liberal Democrat in New Jersey didn't have a lot in common with a conservative Democrat in Alabama. But now that's changed. The parties are sharply sorted by ideology. What were once fractious coalitions have become unified tribes.

You can see the rise in political identity in the surveys on marriage. As Cass Sunstein writes, "in 1960, 5 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of Democrats said that they would feel 'displeased' if their son or daughter married outside their political party. By 2010, those numbers had reached 49 percent and 33 percent."

This isn't a world in which we should be surprised that video games have been politicized. This is a world in which it was only a matter of time until video games were politicized. This is a world in which, sooner or later, most everything will get politicized.

So! This self-important twit, this strutting fool of little eloquence and less erudition, who has willingly aligned himself with a political community whose long-held, stridently proclaimed creed is that “The personal is political,” is displeased by that creed’s signal success! Might it be that he’s finally awakened to the true majority of sentiment in these United States: the great mass of decent, dignified Americans, found in every locale, every socioeconomic category, and every walk of life, whose own long-held, stridently proclaimed creed is “Mind your own business!” -- ?

After the chortles have died, what can or should one say to such a pompous ass? Beyond “You ought to have been more careful about what you asked for, moron,” that is?

A quick swerve and I’ll be finished for today.

A writer whom I generally despise once noted that now and then one must write a “finger exercise” or two, if only to dampen the deplorable habit of writing with one’s fists. That’s the state I find myself in just now: furious beyond my ability to express myself – in an opinion piece, that is – in any form but a bellow of rage. Now, I’m aware that some of my Gentle Readers actually like essays written with the fists. As it happens, I occasionally munch on one or two myself, just for the leavening they provide my excessively sweet temperament.

(Careful, now. Remember to breathe. Too much of anything, even raucous laughter, is bad for you. Epictetus said it, I believe it, and that settles it.)

However, when my blood pressure begins to challenge my IQ for supremacy, it’s time for a retrenchment. This is especially the case just now, owing to the heightened pressures from the impending election and my personal circumstances. Accordingly, these past few days, when I’ve found myself at the keyboard with my fists pre-balled for fury, I’ve deliberately backed away. Friday was a pinnacle experience of that sort: not only was I consciously in a rage; my vision had gone red-hazed and I had to fight to unclench my teeth. So after posting this bit of trivia, I booked a ninety-minute rubdown from my favorite masseuse Corey (a.k.a. “Thumbs of Steel”) and resolved to think of nothing political until I’d managed to de-escalate from DEFCON 1.

“Unplugging” has been an infrequent event in my life. Still, I’m about to embark upon the Next To Last Great Adventure – retirement – and it would surely be better to cultivate a modicum of serenity before taking that step. Atop which, fury over things one cannot control is less than productive, is it not?

So expect fewer political pieces and a broader indulgence in my other interests henceforward, at least for a while. After all, if I don’t make room for fiction and killing Solarii, who will?

That’s all for today, Gentle Reader. Enjoy your Sunday.


Anonymous said...

RE: Retirement & Rage

For what it's worth: My experience is that once retirement removes the daily abrasion of idiots & incompetents, it is amazing how easy it is to be calm.

Steve McKenna

Anonymous said...

"I booked a ninety-minute rubdown from my favorite masseuse Corey..."

How much did that cost, btw? I know prices vary wildly, but it'd be nice for a quick gut check.

If I won the lottery I'd love to spend all day sampling the various kinds of massage, smorgasbord-style.