I was not alive in the 1950’s or 60’s when, let the elders tell it, everybody loved one another, looked after the neighbor’s kids and said “Good morning” to anyone who passed them by. However, I do suspect that we- as part of the larger American society and as a people – have gotten worse than ever at participating in, delighting at and finding pleasure in the pain of others. While not all situations may be compelling enough to make one want to ‘help a sista out’, why do so many folks find it necessary to kick someone when she’s down?
Look at Ted Williams, the Ohio fella with the ‘golden voice’ who became an overnight celebrity via viral video. This man has a long history of substance abuse issues, has been homeless for years…it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to anyone that instant fame and fortune would find him tempted to dance with his demons again. When Williams agreed to enter rehab after a bizarre appearance on pain pimp Dr. Phil’s daytime talk show, the papers and blogs were abuzz with folks lamenting his rise and ‘fall’. A just-finished-being-homeless man is discovered for his talent and now has the resources to get much needed professional help AND has a chance at having a career waiting for him on the other side? Where’s the fall? Why is the immediate reaction of the public to look down on this man instead of hoping for he best?
Celebrities (the traditional ones who sing, dance or act) have long since had to contend with the public’s dual obsession with making them huge and watching them screw up, but the internet and the rise of reality TV have given ‘regular’ people the opportunity to experience the same love/hate. Its disheartening to see how much joy people get from watching a reality star- even an obnoxious one- lose her home, or by watching an actress kill herself with drugs. If someone else’s pain is your pleasure…you might want to consider a new high.
I had an experience myself last week that made me wonder, ‘where is the love?’ I made a major error in my work; it wasn’t so much a bad judgement call as it was a rookie mistake made in ignorance. It could have very easily been an ‘all hell breaks loose’ situation; lucky for me, my supervisor is a kind spirit who trusts me and my intentions. However, a group of slightly older and better trained professionals in my field (one of whom who shares my alma mater and another, a friend of friends) mocked me on the Internet for what I had done. It was embarrassing and disheartening. It seemed that they took actual pleasure in watching a sister f*ck up. What I did wrong was no one’s fault but my own, regardless of the reasons, but for that to be fodder for a public giggle fest just seemed mean-spirited.
Mean-spirited…that’s a good word. A lot of straight up mean-spirited-ness in the world these days. It’s one thing to enjoy the downfall of the wicked, the nasty and the despicable (Dear Sarah Palin: To paraphrase New Jack City, “your soul is required in Hell” and I will gladly watch you fall until that time comes). It’s understandable to root for the failure of those who may have hurt you or caused you grief. But to simply take pleasure in the problems of others simply because you can is just awful, ‘least as far as I see.