Schadenfreude, or the feeling of pleasure at someone's misfortune, is such a useful word that many non-German speakers borrow it even when they are writing in their own languages. I have, lately, been experiencing what may be its inversion - the feeling of pleasure at one's own misfortune. It's too bad that I don't know if there is a single word, German or otherwise, for that. If any reader knows, please enlighten.
A pessimist, I have long harboured a suspicion that the multiculturalism and racial tolerance many Western countries profess to practise are no more than a facade that will slip off when faced with real interests, conflicts or collective fears.
I know it's masochistic, but I feel a sense of "I told you so" satisfaction, painful as it is, to read about reports of harassment, discrimination, public humiliation and even violence, against Chinese or Asian-looking people around the world ever since the coronavirus outbreak in China.
Seriously, eight deaths linked to the virus outside the mainland; and we Chinese have practically been accused of bringing on Armageddon!
Chinese are mocked for wearing masks in Vancouver. In Sheffield, a Chinese postgraduate student was harassed in the street for wearing a face mask. In Leicestershire, two students were mistaken to be Chinese and pelted with eggs. The Guardian newspaper has reported "shocking levels of racism" despite there being only nine cases in Britain.
Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran a cartoon featuring the Chinese national flag with viruses in place of the five stars, along with the headline "Yellow alert".
The Netherlands' oldest nationwide commercial radio station, Radio 10, played a parody song that warned listeners to avoid Chinese food which could spread the disease. It subsequently apologised.
Walter Russell Mead, a prominent academic and commentator, wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal titled "China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia".
Some restaurants in Vietnam, Japan and Italy are refusing to serve Chinese people. No doubt they will also refuse to serve Hong Kong visitors, while some Hong Kong restaurants are refusing service to mainlanders. It's truly disheartening that many Hong Kong people hate and despise mainlanders even more than anti-Chinese racists overseas.
China critics have produced erudite commentaries on its flawed response to the health crisis. But behind all the learning and analysis, you can't help but sense that many are driven by a deep sense of schadenfreude.
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