Have you ever heard of Schadenfreude? No? Then you’re obviously not a Boston Legal fan – but I digress. Schadenfreude is the unpleasant delight that some of us humans take in the sufferings of others. Hitler, I’m sure, would have been a major proponent but then of course he never got the chance to watch much telly – not when he was busy with other things like invading Poland and murdering Jews.

After all, being a house painter must get pretty boring after a while and you would be almost forced to take up another hobby before you went postal. Thankfully however most house-painters of my acquaintance don’t go in much for genocide – the odd paint-roller melee perhaps but not genocide I was reminded of Schadenfreude this week by the Paris Hilton rolling sideshow that has been taking place in all the papers. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock in Siberia this past week or so let me recap. Paris has been a naughty little rich girl and has been caught driving with a suspended license once too often to the exasperation of the local courts and has thus invoked the full weight of the Californian legal system. A system let me remind you that recently let drunken racist Mel ‘Sugartits’ Gibson off with a stern warning and a get out of jail free card so that he could release sado-masochistic movies like Apocalypto upon the unsuspecting world.

He should most definitely have been slung in jail for that, never mind being drunk and disorderly and driving the wrong way up the freeway. Ditto his racist ill-advised compatriot Michael Richards, who was lovable bumbling Kramer in Seinfeld and is now unlovable shunned ex-Kramer no doubt standing in a dole queue someplace far far away if we’re lucky. But I was talking about Paris. She was released from jail after only three days for undisclosed ‘medical reasons’ and then was unceremoniously ordered back by a judge who was not amused – at all.

She broke a nail perhaps or her hair extensions fell out, we may never know. That being said though shouldn’t we have even a modicum of sympathy for her? She is not a hardened criminal, has never murdered anyone to my knowledge and does not peddle drugs or her body on the streets – well, in mags and home videos maybe, but not the streets. Is it fair that she should be incarcerated, in solitary confinement, in a jail that evidently houses hardened criminals and pond scum and bears more resemblance to the ‘Big House’ than a disciplinary institution more suited perhaps to punishing people like Paris who violated her probation? Yes I know she had been caught driving again in defiance of her probation order which was meted out in the first place because she was caught drunk at the wheel. But she had not injured anyone and you would have expected the court to have removed her license for an extra term – a year or two perhaps – and slapped a largish fine on her. In many countries the penalties for drunk driving escalate according to the number of convictions which is only right and proper for those with blatant disregard for the law and the reckless endangerment of others.

But Paris had not been caught driving drunk again – she drove on a suspended license. Now that was very naughty of her, not to mention, some would say, arrogant and typically air-headed . But if we imprisoned every stupid person in the world we wouldn’t need jails we would need an entire continent to house them all. Believe me; I’ve met most of them driving up highway 7.However, I take no delight in seeing Paris dragged screaming back to jail – if Martha Stewart could be sent to an ‘open prison’ then why not Paris? And let’s face it – if people like OJ Simpson can get away literally with murder why should Martha or Paris be there in the first place? Do we wish to make an example of them just because they are rich and famous and we’re not? Is there perhaps a teensy weensy bit of jealousy at work here? But Justice should be blind should it not? Take away her civil liberties perhaps – her right to vote, her right to be famous for nothing more than being famous. But there are lots of people guilty of that – Britney Spears comes to mind. And what about that silly bitch Lindsay Lohan? Throw her in jail too? 

Incarcerating someone like Paris, or any of us normally law-abiding citizens for that matter in a cold bare cell for 23 hours out of 24 with nothing but a scratchy blanket and no iPod is cruel and unusual punishment. Come on now – haven’t all of us transgressed the law at some time in our lives? Fess up now. Haven’t we ever been guilty of some infraction even if it’s lying to the tax man and inflating our resumes and wouldn’t we be guilty of even more if we thought we could get away with it? What about the military for example – if you become a soldier does that give you the right to behave like an animal once society’s sanctions are removed? We can read about it for ourselves in the papers – and don’t think it’s some other country’s military and not ours – think about Guantanamo Bay, Phnom Pen, and Mai Lai if you need any more convincing.

Taking delight in the misery of others is Schadenfreude and howling for the blood of people like Paris seems unseemly, sadistic and cruel to my mind. If you disagree then that’s your right of course, but just consider this – it’s a short step from laughing as someone else falls into ruin and despair to tripping over that step yourself. The quality of mercy and all that stuff ….

Thisbe – http://thisbe.wordpress.com/

Be Sociable, Share!