My last post dealt with the richest man in the World, and the fact that to qualify as being ultra-rich one would “only” need a net worth of $30 million: a tiny fraction of Jeff Bezos’ $200 billion fortune. We live in a World where millions of people still live in extreme poverty, without access to the very basics of existence. In the UK, one of the wealthiest countries on Earth, an increasing number of families rely on food banks. Even those who have work in this country often have no savings and, as the current pandemic has shown, are one pay cheque away from financial disaster. At the other end of the scale, globally there is an increasing number of millionaires, billionaires, and indeed centibillionaires! What must it be like to go through life never having to worry about how to put food on the table, how the bills are going to be paid, and how you are going to set aside enough money for your retirement (if you live that long)?
I first wrote a blog post about schadenfreude on 31 May 2007 (see “Die reinste freude ist die schadenfreude”). As I stated then, a good translation of the German word is “the malicious glee experienced as a result of someone else’s misfortune”. I made the point that it was, at that time, by far the most popular word listed on Wordie (a fabulous website devoted to words and language which, sadly, no longer exists), and that it forms the basis of much of what we think of as humour. I also expressed the opinion that schadenfreude is one of the main reasons that people still buy our doom laden newspapers.
I recently came across an article on npr.org entitled “Your Doomscrolling Breeds Anxiety. Here’s How To Stop The Cycle.” It refers to the habit that many of us have on social media where we flit on our phones from one depressing news story to another, almost compulsively. It makes the point that the COVID Pandemic has produced a virtually endless supply of bad news stories, and that lockdown has given many of us even more time to doomscroll. When done before bedtime, it is probably a significant contributor to the recent increase in insomnia.
“The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory, is that conspiracy theorists believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is actually chaotic. The truth is that it is not The Iluminati, or The Jewish Banking Conspiracy, or the Gray Alien Theory.
The truth is far more frightening - Nobody is in control.
The world is rudderless.”
I previously made the point that social media platforms can provide an invaluable means of spreading useful public health information about the coronavirus crisis. Unfortunately, the pandemic has also generated a variety of bizarre beliefs, and these have spread throughout the World, largely through social media. Social media services have also allowed individuals to denigrate effective measures, such as social distancing, and to promote totally ineffective coronavirus “cures”.