People love train wrecks and trash talk. Movie stars divorce and we love it. A person falls down and we laugh. Our schadenfreude characteristic comes out in freak show appeal, circus attendance, and the film noir (dark film) component of soap operas that capture basic human problems. We are on the lookout to find reasons to ridicule and make fun of others. Schadenfreude is seen in a prejudicial mocking, name-calling, and the cruel laughter associated with fat, gay, racial, and ethnic jokes. It is attacking and making fun of the flaws and imperfections in others (opposite of wabi sabi). Schadenfreude is dualistic thinking where others are “not chosen,” not on the “right side,” and even a subspecies. I attest and I guarantee that as long as the evolutionary established trait of schadenfreude exists, the echoes of prejudice and discrimination will continue ad infinitum.
I am dismayed by the degree of cruelty we humans can dish out. It appears that the put down of others makes us feel better about ourselves. A major element of schadenfreude is the joy and the relief we feel that other people are damaged just like us —-> others have their dirty little secrets too. The schadenfreude trait makes it difficult to build relationships based on attachment and affiliation. In sharp contradiction and contrast to schadenfreude is the Buddhist empathetic and compassionate term of mudita —–> sympathetic joy. Mudita is the happiness a person has for the good fortune of others. Mudita appreciates the success of another, not their suffering. The major difference is schadenfreude is innate for humans, while most of us must learn and work towards mudita. I agree with Aeschylus when he said, “few men have the natural strength to honour a friend’s success without envy.” (6th Cent BC)