Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Schandenfreude Alert Goes Bonkers

As I've noted here before, I have a Google alert set to the word "Schadenfreude." Usually there are one or two stories featuring the word each day, but yesterday it suddently went crazy. The collapse of Lehman Brothers, and other bank woes, are apparently giving people a sense of... glee.

"Is it me or is Schadenfreude on the march?" wrote Guy Dressler in Reuters.

It's not you, Guy.

The New York Times put "Schadenfreude" in its headline: "As Europe Watches Wall Street Fall, Schadenfreude Gives Way to Worry."

"I only watched the news last night to have a good laugh at the bankers carrying out their belongings," wrote someone basking in the anonymity of the Internet. "Naturally I feel sorry for the admin and IT staff who weren't subject to the bonuses that the bankers get. I'd love to listen in to one of their conversations when they got home. 'Sorry Tarquin, we're going to have to put you in a state school from now on because daddy spent his disgustingly huge bonus on a Ferrari which he can't sell because of the Credit Crunch.' Welcome to our level. Merry Christmas."

This was one of many such items posted in response to a story in The Guardian which posed the question:"Investment banking: one of the most reviled professions?"

Over at, Ricardo Aleman of "America's Got Talent" fame, writes: "...they are all out of a job, but need to find a way to pay their next month's bills fast. I eagerly await the Women Of Lehman Bothers Playboy issue."

After describing his intial sensations of Schadenfreude, Will Self of the Evening Standard concludes that it isn't really the right emotion at all:

"No, schadenfreude isn't really called for here, not when people are posting their house keys through the door and going on the run because they can't keep up interest payments. What's required is a far stronger emotion: anger. Anger towards those at the top of the heap who went on gambling with other people's futures, and anger towards those in government who were seriously comfortable with the seriously rich — no matter how they made their money."

Incidentally, September 18 is the anniversary of the "Panic of 1873" when 37 banks and brokerage firm Jay Cooke & Company went under. Shortly afterwards, the New York Stock Exchange temporarily shut down, further damaging faith in the economy. The federal government's efforts to stem the panic were fruitless and the depression lasted through 1879. Happy Anniversary, Baby!

[Cartoon from Geraldgee.]

You Never Give Me Your Money - Sarah Vaughan