Why We Are Delighted By Others' Suffering

It is a strange sensation that tickles our bodies, no doubt, when we encounter a friend or a stranger who hopelessly expresses his or her sadness and failure. We, naturally, attempt to sympathize with that hopeless creature; but, oddly enough, the enigmatic gratification and belongingness that we derive from the realization of the existence of suffering in other people-- sadness, status anxiety, failure, etc.-- forces us to question our benevolence and level of sympathy. Nevertheless, behind those seemingly wicked sensations that we feel lie an innocent, lonely, and a hurt person who deems himself as an aberration in the midst of a seemingly perfect ambience. So the question is, why suffering and sadness have come to represent themselves as odd abnormalities among Homo Sapiens?


We live in a bizarre world where people's well-polished mental imaginations about themselves can be easily projected into social media platforms-- only to beguile us into believing that those projections accurately match their capricious realities. While aloofly slouching and staring at your Instagram, you'll never cease to witness the wide grins, jubilant picnics, gregarious nature of your friends. You'll be, after a quite abortive day, aimlessly watching T.V. and the "ubiquitous" success stories of our times-- ambitious Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg coming out of an antique garage to become young men with great affluence and potency; men and women rising to the top of the food chain despite the arduous condition in which they lived; motivational, best-selling books that strikingly and constantly pepper us with the extraordinary success stories and immense wealth of other "normal" people. In short, with the facilitation of the media, happiness, and success, the things that have statistically proven to be meager, are thought of those ubiquitous, natural, and healthy features of our times, which will inadvertently place us in the province of eccentricity.

In modern day, Capitalism, with its aim to reach a meritocratic society, operates with a vicious ideology that suffocates us with self-pity and low self-esteem: if you assiduously rise to the top, it's you, along with your esoteric aptitude, who gave you the ride to the top; It is only hard work and talent-- not luck and fortune added to the formula--that count for your success. Inadvertently, that basic axiom of meritocracy, mixed with a dispersed notion of individualism, will also suggest that if you are poor, if you are on the breadline, then the blame is on you, you alone for your failure. In astute societies, such as Ancient Rome, fortune and luck were paramount factors that account for one's success: the destitute in Ancient Rome had a description, as all classes and types of people do, which was the "unfortunate"-- one whom the Roman Goddess Fortuna did not bestow adequate fortune and luck. In contemporary societies, however, many of the impoverished and the famished among us, who fell as victims of broken political systems, are simply in our eyes, people who failed miserably and therefore, losers. That's why feeling as a "failure" put you in the province of eccentricity as well.


It is no coincidence, then, that many of us feel an overwhelming pressure by society, a sense of loneliness, and detachment from other people. We feel that our sadness, failures and grievances are aberrations; seldom it is the case that people pour their hearts out to others; invariably we scroll down on our social media profiles to encounter our friends celebrating their seemingly ever-lasting, cheerful lives with their partners. That's why, when we land an eye on or lend an attentive ear to a friend under severe suffering, it somehow brings us a peculiar type of joy-- a potent indication that we are not the only ones stuck in darkness and suffering. Our grievances and suffering are echoed in other sensitive creatures that we once deemed flawless and jubilant; we feel an inexplicable sense of connection through the knowledge of the normalcy and ubiquity of suffering and sadness. And through that innate need of belongings and connection being fulfilled, we, due to the political and social structure, delight ourselves in witnessing others' suffering. In other words, suffering delights us because it is the thing that binds us all together.



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