So, here we are, ending 2008 like we started it here at 3rdworldimagineer—sick as a dog. Granted, the Jan 08′ vintage was a tad stronger than the ’09 looks to be (unless the Berkeley Department of Public Health has something to share with the class) but it’s still enough to knock us on our ass, barely able to keep up with a hectic schedule of impossibly small cigarettes and Civ Revolution. Indeed, we are both sick and nerdy here at 3rdWI. [LAUGH TRACK]
(If you want to read about my Grinchy Schadenfreude surprise, skip to the jump)
Yes, in addition to micro wars (Gaza&Georgia), major elections (Kenya, Pakistan, Russia & the grand ole’ U.S.A.), the rise of a phoenix (Junot Diaz) and the long, agonizing fall of a giant ( the Los Angeles Times). It was the end of an era (Coney Island, Bush, George W.) and the coming of a new dawn (Barack Obama); situations that got worse (Sri Lanka, Mexico, Afghanistan, Burma, the Global Economy) while others seemed to improve (Cuba?) if only for a short time (China, Pakistan, Zimbabwe); on the American stage, we have witnessed a year of unprecedented comeuppance. And more often than not, more often than was appropriate, more often even than we noticed it, we were laughing.
We laughed in September at the fatcats who got caught in their own game, and in November at the inept politicians who thought they could buy and con their way through democracy. We laughed because snark has become our linga franca. We enjoyed their humiliating pain.
Fortunately, this sickness has a name: Schadenfreude. Only Germans could have a word like this. And, at least by 18 person consensus in my bootcamp class, 2008 has been the year of Schadenfreude.
You may not think you participated in the orgy of cruelty that was this year, but let’s take a closer look, shall we? If you laughed at Sarah Palin, her winking, pitbulls, Downs Syndrome baby, pregnant daughter, Wasilla, helicopter hunting, seeing Russia, or even something that had nothing to do with the Republican ticket, you did your part. And just to prove I’m not judging, and in the spirit of how much I hate X-mas I am going to share my special, New Years Schadenfreude with you.
It is my personal policy never to hold more than a 3-month grudge against anyone who has committed less than a felony. It all has to die by Kol Nidre anyway, so why drag it out? Unfortunately, this year, a major feud erupted in the Days of Awe, and achieved only cursory resolution (furnished by two excellent Palestinian movers—thank you Yohan!) before G-d’s judgement was delivered. Which is sort of like when you’re about to sneeze… and then you can’t.
So, thanks to That Guy (B”H), I had to drop it, take the high road as it were by way of 112th and B’way. And just like that, everything fell into place for me, starting in Brighton Beach and ending an amazing semester with —and, the last time I mention it i swear—an article in the New York Times. After years of tolerating criminal abuse and humiliation from a certain Bay-based publication, I finally feel human.
And then, at almost the instant of my year-end success, from a bilious diatribe as acrid as coal strip-mined out of China, the fat man in pajamas left me a canary diamond in my Facebook News-Feed. Unfortunately, somebody reloaded the page a few days after we first discovered the precious jewel, and so I don’t have the real McCoy here (I had hoped to reproduce a few choice lines, including the one where Ms. X refers to me as a “person of low moral character”) for your enjoyment. Allow me to summarize:
Ms. X is a member of our program, who unlike some of us had her choice of graduate schools, who spent her undergrad years at an elite private uni. She is one of the privileged few who is born with some intelligence and almost no obstacle to her success, the only child of parents of means. What a blessing, no? Unfortunately, Ms. X is deeply unsatisfied with the program, which, though I don’t share it, is a fair sentiment.
What is not fair is shredding the staff in a public forum of which they and all their colleagues, and Ms. X’s, are members. What is not fair is calling them “soulless” and declaring that they lack “human compassion”, that they were never real journalists and only bureaucrats (which is demonstrably false) and generally deploring their character for 1,000 words in public because you DIDN’T GET YOUR FIRST CHOICE CLASS.
We at 3rdworldimagineering would like to remind you that LIFE IS NOT FAIR, though it is far, far fairer to you than it has been to us, and far fairer to us than it has been to at least 6.1 billion other people currently living. Is it fair to laugh at people for whom this is anguish? Is their anguish less or more than ours because the cause of ours is empirically worse? Can pain be empiricised?
Technically, yes, but here at 3rdWI, we believe all people are equal and all suffering is truly felt. Did we laugh at the mindboggling narcissism of posting it online anyway? We did.
May 2009 be the year of gracious compassion.