The Good Schadenfreude

by Suhas - Nov 20, 2016 11:47 AM +05:30 IST

The Good Schadenfreude

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Snapshot
  • From time to time, we need a boost of reassurance that there is a price to pay for being an offender. We need to know there is some incentive for being an abider with part of the incentive being watching a lawbreaker face the music.

    For the citizen to retain his faith in the system, measures such as demonetisation go far as they provide him with a strong dose of The Good Schadenfreude.

We have, especially in India, grown up on stories narrated by our grandparents, most of these stories revolved around our itihasas like the Ramayana and Mahabharata or our Puranas. One theme that consistently runs through all of them is of people having to reap consequences of what they willfully chose for themselves from their available set of choices.

While in the middle of a story there are times when we’ve all asked, “But he’s doing all things one mustn’t do and he’s still living happily”. Pat came the reply, “These are all consequences of some good deeds he has done earlier. He’ll run out of them soon and must pay for his bad deeds. Wait and watch”.

We keep convincing ourselves with variations of the above reply just to tell ourselves that cause-effect is true, karmic retribution is true and to keep ourselves from veering off the generally acceptable path of the times. But there are times when this self-assurance runs into rough weather, especially in our times when vice is something to be flaunted and virtue is something to be sneered at. From time to time, we need a boost of reassurance that there is a price to pay for being an offender. We need to know there is some incentive for being an abider with part of the incentive being watching a lawbreaker face the music.

The demonetisation exercise has been analysed largely, superficially and sometimes threadbare for its possible economic and logistical ramifications. However, the psychologically palliative effect it has on those who are living relatively honest lives have been spoken of very little, if at all.

Anecdotally speaking, the sentiment we observe all around seems to be, “Yes. We’re facing some temporary hitches due to this. But it is acceptable since this makes the offenders suffer in a much higher magnitude and aids a much-needed clean up”.

The general sentiment seems to be, “We have troubles but demonetisation is good" and not "demonetisation is good but we're facing trouble". This key difference in attitude towards demonetisation seems to be working in the Prime Minister’s favour.

Most people innately seem to comprehend that this is like a strong antibiotic dose – it may weaken the host briefly because even the helpful bacteria gets affected during the carpet-bombing against an infection . But since the latter can’t be isolated for treatment, there’s very little choice but to do something drastic. Temporary trouble, no doubt, but the fight against the infection gets a shot in the arm.

There’s a strange relief in observing the phone and message lines busy with, “Apparently, this person was sitting on 40 crores of ill-gotten wealth. It was money till yesterday, plain paper today because there’s no way he can manage this.” and “This politician who’s famous for his thousands of crores worth ill-gotten money now has his heart in his mouth.”

This is called The Good Schadenfreude – seeing the relatively dishonest scamper for cover and reassuring one’s own humble, powerless self that karmic retribution will catch up with everyone eventually.

It is important that the common citizens do not fall for the pervasive cynicism that certain sections of the polity and media feed them, by repeating ad nauseam that the whole system is filled with thieves who won’t upset the apple cart. For the citizens to retain their faith in the system, measures such as demonetisation go far as they provide them with a strong dose of The Good Schadenfreude. These instances make everyone understand that offenders - however mighty they are - do fall.

Reluctant techie. Bangalore lover. Man of eclectic passions with cricket and politics topping the chart. Wit, subtle humour, sarcasm aficionado. Keen on understanding Dharma.
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