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  • Writer's pictureGreg

Freudenfreude and Democratic values

You may be familiar with the idea and experience behind the German term Schadenfreude.  It is defined as pleasure derived from another’s misfortune.  It is certainly the basis for many of the TV clip shows with someone’s pratfalls choreographed to clever music or sound effects.  With Schadenfreude we are happy when others fail. 

It is a sadly zero-sum view of the world where your success takes away from me.  Therefore, when you fall, I smile.

While not yet an official dictionary entry there is also a term: Freudenfreude, defined as the enjoyment of another’s success. With Freudenfreude, I can celebrate your new job or new car with you, rather than  letting it rankle me. I may still be a bit envious while being happy at your success, but your success does not take away from me.  In considering Democratic values and the political platforms they create we can see Freudenfreude at work. 

Democratic policies work to expand the success for all of us. Policies like expanded credits for child care create opportunities for both parents to pursue working careers if they so choose which expands the economy for us all. The just signed Respect for Marriage Act protects the right of same sex couples to marry and have all the rights and protections straight couples have enjoyed.  It takes nothing from me that my gay neighbors down the street can enjoy such protections as joint insurance, child custody and so forth.  In fact, the solidity of their marriage makes my neighborhood and community a better place with one more solid household added.  

The Republican Party seems stuck in schadenfreude.  As the Republicans prepare to take over the House of Representatives they are focused on investigations and inquiries to reduce the success of the Biden administration.  They view the Chips Act, the Infrastructure bill and the reductions in Covid infections as things that must be investigated rather than celebrated. Biden’s success is considered a negative and a loss for the Republican Party and must be opposed and destroyed. It is important that we, as both individuals and as Democrats, continue to practice freudenfreude.  We must support principles and philosophies which understand social progress is an achievement rather than a failure. And we must work towards a Democratic country that is a land of inclusivity rather than exclusivity. And we must also accept, one’s success is everyone’s success.

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