Schadenfreude

It’s everywhere. There’s no possible way of avoiding it. And no, I’m not talking about war, genocide, G8 meetings or the fact that a recent study shows that women still earn almost 20% less than men. Nope. I’m talking about Paris Hilton’s “vacation”. I spent all weekend trying to think about another topic to post about, but alas, the ubiquity of Paris updates in real-time made it well nigh impossible for me to clear space for other things and so, I'm sorry to admit, this blog will take a brief break from its usual Paris Hilton-free mandate, although I am hoping said break will be limited to an illustrative example of the larger point.

I've been thinking about actions and consequences. About bad behaviour, apologies and rehabilitation. This pondering was triggered (this time) by aforementioned Ms. Hilton, who at 26 appears unable to handle the consequences of her actions. Previously, I've thought about these concepts whenever the headlines have been hijacked by another celebrity behaving badly and attempting to explain it all away by conveniently becoming "sick", blaming other factors up to and including hangnails. It makes me wonder where we’re going with the victimization, blaming our actions on… well, if you’re Mel Gibson, your anti-Semitic, sexist tirade was because you have an addiction, and if you’re Isaiah Washington, you blame temper-induced use of the f-word (no, not fuck, I have no problems using that) – well, I can’t quite remember what, point is that like Gibson, he hurried off to rehab (for what? Prejudice??). It all makes me wonder why we have come to the point where when someone - at least a celebrity someone - acts like a jerk, all they have to do is enter rehab, then do the talk show rounds of mea culpas, publicly engaging in a show of humble, self-flagellating psychobabble et voila! all is forgiven.

I find it astonishing that people can attempt to absolve themselves of personal responsibility by claiming illness - and we're not talking a psychiatric condition. I know people who due to a disease have done or said things they’d otherwise not and it offends me to hear the rich and famous excuse what’s frankly just bad behaviour with the label of “disease” - whereas alcoholism is a disease, I doubt very much bigotry is. Although given the trend, maybe it’ll be added to the 2015 edition of what might by then be the DSM-XVII, thus completely eradicating the concept of personal responsibility from our culture... Am I the only one who boggles at the endless parade of people - celebrities or non- - on TV, in articles and starting in my actual life who increasingly reply to a challenge of inappropriate behaviour, hurtful language, etc., by saying "it's not my fault, it's because...", claiming the blame lies elsewhere, anywhere, just not within them?

Which brings me back to Paris. Because, maybe I’m not the only one. Maybe the unabashed and unseemly glee with which every media outlet in the known (North American) world has documented every second of the woman’s legal adventure and her emotional reaction is not just based on our hunger for seeing the alleged mighty reduced to lower levels. Maybe the disproportionate and distasteful dose of schadenfreude colouring the coverage is a concentration of disgust over the parade of “not my fault” skirting of responsibility that increasingly pervades our culture.

(yes, I am aware that I sound like I’m 93. Any minute now, I’m going to start using the terms “back in my day” and “whippersnappers”).

What do you think? (not about me acting 93. The other bit)

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