General Question

syz's avatar

When does schadenfreude become sheer meaness?

Asked by syz (35695points) June 29th, 2009

Or does schadenfreude = mean spirited in your opinion? Is it ever warranted? (I’m thinking of my glee at Madoff’s 150 year sentence, in spite of the fact that I was not directly injured by him.) What’s the cutoff?

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17 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

HI, Syz: Friends of mine lost their retirement monies after having worked and saved for 50 years in their textile business. Now they have sold their house here (at a loss) and moved in with one of their daughters in CA.

Bernie got what he deserved. Although maybe he’d be better off living and working in a soup kitchen or a road gang.

The class action suit may, if everyone is lucky, return $500,000 to those who lost several millions and are much too old to start afresh. My friends are in their mid and late 70s.

Bri_L's avatar

He has assured himself of retirement for life in better and more secure conditions than quite a few people he hurt. Except his wife who is struggling on the subway with only 2 million.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I once had an acquaintance who was very anti-abortion… until she got pregnant… while on birth control. For all the times she had passed judgment on others and ridiculed in disbelief their situations, she wound up there herself, faced with a most horrible decision.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Relishing the suffering of others is pure meanness.

Madoff did awful things to a lot of people. Rejoicing that an old man is going to suffer and die in prison is not is not a good thing.

chyna's avatar

I had heard, and don’t know if this is true, that his wife was only allowed to keep a couple million. If this is true, I’m outraged. It wasn’t her money, ever. It would be the same as if someone stole a TV and gave it to me. I would have to give it back, so why does she get to keep any money? And God forbid she live on a pauper’s salary of say, $100,000 a year. Ok, I feel better having gotten that off my chest now. Ok, I just googled to see how much money she gets to keep. It’s up in the air, but could be as much as 62 million. Unbelievable.

Bri_L's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic – where exactly is he going. I don’t believe that he will be suffering in the sense of “OZ”.

“Madoff is likely to land in a medium or minimum security facility. Former federal prosecutor George Jackson said that could change if authorities think Madoff is protecting co-conspirators.”

He certainly got a lot more out of life by screwing people over before he went to prison. And by his actions secured that many others will not have a portion of the good times he had at their expense. So now he lives in an 8 by 8 cell where he knows he has a place to live, meals and medical. Maybe more people should screw as many as he did.

I would agree that relishing the suffering of others is pure meanness. I just don’t feel that bad for taking comfort knowing that he is getting what he got given what he did.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@Bri_L So you want him to suffer more than he will? We have to call of the dogs eventually. He’s not in a position to harm anyone else where he is going. That’s what justice is about, not revenge.

You can’t undo the damage he did.

chyna's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic It’s not a matter of wanting him to suffer more than he will, it’s a matter of him paying for his criminal behavior. If he is sent to a federal prison, there is not much suffering there as it is more like a dorm with a college campus.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@chyna And how would you make him pay?

Also, I’m pretty sure federal prison isn’t like college life.

I know its popular to dogpile on the condemned but I just can’t participate in that.
Do I feel sorry for him? No.
Do I want him to suffer? No.
He’s paying the price for his crime. No need to get out the torches and pitchforks.

Bri_L's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic – If something I wrote gave you the impression that I “want him to suffer more than he will?” that was not my intent. My intent was to point out that I believe he is getting what he deserves and I am comfortable with what feeling I get knowing that at least one person so far is being held accountable. How is that wanting him to “suffer more than he will?”

chyna's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic Did you ever see the prison Martha Stewart went to in WV? It was Alderson Prison and yes, it resembles a college, the rooms are like dorm rooms. It is a federal prison. I don’t want him to suffer more than he will as you put it, but to simply pay for his crime. He has not been remorseful and maybe living life “not so high on the hog” will let him reflect back on his misdeeds. I did not say I wanted to torch him or pitchfork him, so please, do not voice for me, things I did not say.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@Bri_L My apologies if I made an incorrect conclusion.
I see a lot of people incensed about his behavior, as am I. There’s not much more we can do to the guy though. He’s already going to die in prison. I don’t know what more people want.

@chyna Yeah, I’m not buying this whole idea of “prisons aren’t tough enough.”
We can’t make him sleep naked on broken glass in the rain with a sandpaper blanket. Prison is NOT living high on the hog and he’ll have plenty of time to reflect on his misdeeds before he dies in disgrace.

What I’m not understanding is how a life sentence in prison isn’t tough enough for some people.

YARNLADY's avatar

In a perfect world, he would be required to personally give back as much of their money as he possible could, to each and every one of them, and then work for them free for the rest of his life.

Bri_L's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic – No worries,eh? It would be much better if we didn’t have to pay to feed, house and medicate him but, rather, put his knowledge to use somehow.

@YARNLADY – I couldn’t agree more, PLUS interest.

I don’t know how many remember a while back when the Green Bay Packers Mark Chamura got caught up in a scandal at a party with high schoolers. Well the house that took place at was my bosses. Huge house on a golf course. WAY to big for the size company and money it brought in. Well my boss was also involved.

Our whole company rallied to keep his company running while he dealt with it. We dealt with the phone calls. People parking outside, calling our houses. Finally, after it was over, he not only refused to work with the man who ran the company in his absence and try to recover the serious lack of money coming in from no sales (due to his being involved in the hearing for months) he gave him self raises and bonuses.

Then he let people go based on how much they made. When he let me go, 3 months before my first child after lying to me for weeks leading up to it, he looked me straight in the face and said “my wife has wanted to add another deck off the hot tub for 3 years, what am I supposed to tell her?”

About 9 months later I find out, through the paper, he is being brought up on Fed tax charges, some of which were due to the fact that instead of taking the money his employees asked to be taken from their check and put into their 401k, he was keeping it. He wasn’t just not matching it without telling anyone, he was pocketing some of it and using the rest for the business.

His penalty. He moved on to another job. And, by way of a business transaction paid some of the money he stole back.

That is just small potatoes to what we are talking about, but it explains why I have no problem whatsoever with him sitting in that cell.

marinelife's avatar

I think you are happily in schadenfreude territory as long as you are quietly enjoying his well-deserved misfortune rather than gloating to his face.

In this case, however, his victims deserve to be dancing. As one woman who has lost everything said, “Madoff is not the only who got a life sentence.”

trailsillustrated's avatar

schadenfruede is meaness. and it has nothing to do with justice. but its sort of a mild meaness, and weve all felt it at sometime or the other.

JLeslie's avatar

The only time I get a little scadenfruede is when someone has done something really awful and I get pleasure when they finally learn their lesson. I do not mean it as a punishment, but just that they have an experience that may enlighten them to what they have been doing to others. And even in that case, if the person truly does have an epiphany about past behaviors, then I feel bad for them that they had to go through pain to learn this lesson. I would never wish bad things on others just so I can feel superior, that is pure meanness, and would give me no pleasure. I really don’t experience schadenfruede often.

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