Men Who Stare and Gloat

May 3, 2011

Postcard showing a human-shield, German forces in Belgium, 1914

Image Credit: Atrocities in Belgium

I am not sure how I feel about the news that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Or about US President Barack Obama watching on TV the real-time images of the attack on the Compound.  What is this?  Another action movie in the Die Hard franchise?

Osama bin Laden’s final act was one of cowardice, and US officials admitted it was Navy Seals who had killed the terrorist’s wife.

“There was family at that compound, and there was a female who was, in fact, in the line of fire that reportedly was used as a shield to shield bin Laden from the incoming fire,” counter-terrorism official John Brennan said.

Pressed on reports the woman shot dead by Navy Seals during a firefight at a compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan was one of bin Laden’s four wives, Brennan told a White House briefing: “That’s my understanding.”

Osama Bin Laden’s death ~ a moment in history.

What is it do we believe we “understand” here?

Bin Laden’s body was buried at sea having been administered Islamic religious rites, US officials said. “We wanted to avoid a situation where it would become a shrine,” one said.

Oh….how little we understand.  There is a hole in the ground that has long been Bin Laden’s shrine.

If revenge is a dish that is best served cold, I have long lost my appetite for this fool’s banquet.

Sabian Symbol  15º Cancer: A group of people who have overeaten and enjoyed it.
A turning to superficial things for self-strengthening. Self-indulgence in sensations. Unintelligent satiation; Dullness.
Kozminsky Symbol 15º Cancer: An auctioneer’s hammer lying on a heap of gold money and bank-notes.
Denotes one who acts with craft and sagacity towards his point of attainment and who will ever struggle hard to hold what he gets. His attitude brings material gain, and his methods bring others under his influence. His life will not be without its disappointments, but he is not the man to yield to “set-backs.” His philosophy is self preservation. It is a symbol of Disregarding.

Schadenfreude is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.  This German word is used as a loanword in English and some other languages, and has been calqued in Danish and Norwegian as skadefryd and Swedish as skadeglädje.

Little-used English words synonymous with schadenfreude have been derived from the Greek word epichairekakia (ἐπιχαιρεκακία).  Nathan Bailey’s 18th-century Universal Etymological English Dictionary, for example, contains an entry for epicharikaky that gives its etymology as a compound of ἐπί epi (upon), χαρά chara (joy), and κακόν kakon (evil).

 A popular modern collection of rare words, however, gives its spelling as “epicaricacy”.

An English expression with a similar meaning is ‘Roman holiday’, a metaphor taken from the poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” by George Gordon, Lord Byron, where a gladiator in Ancient Rome expects to be “butcher’d to make a Roman holiday” while the audience would take pleasure from watching his suffering. The term suggests debauchery and disorder in addition to sadistic enjoyment.

Another phrase with a meaning similar to Schadenfreude is “morose delectation” (“delectatio morosa” in Latin), meaning “the habit of dwelling with enjoyment on evil thoughts”. The medieval church taught morose delectation as a sin.  French writer Pierre Klossowski maintained that the appeal of sadism is morose delectation.

An English word of similar meaning is “gloating”, where “gloat” is defined as “to observe or think about something with triumphant and often malicious satisfaction, gratification, or delight” (gloat over an enemy’s misfortune).

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