Friday, 27 September 2013

Swept away

It really annoys me when people look down their noses at someone who's got into some horrible mess and declare that it's all their own fault and they should have known better.

They stubbornly believe that the reason they've never stumbled into the same sort of mess themselves is their own superior character - their innate common sense, self-discipline, intelligence, or whatever.

They're too blinkered and obtuse to realise that we're all capable of screwing up our lives if the circumstances allow it, and that what brings it about isn't wilful irresponsibility but some personal weakness we're simply unable to resist.

If they haven't succumbed to such a weakness, it's not because they're inherently superior but because they've just been lucky enough not to land up in a situation that exposes that weakness and triggers it off.

People who have disastrous affairs, or go broke, or get themselves sacked, or are caught shoplifting, aren't merely "lacking in self-control". They've been so smoothly tempted or charmed or beguiled or persuaded into something risky that they're simply helpless to resist, despite their better judgment, despite their gut-feelings, despite everything. They just find themselves swept away and powerless to do anything about it.

Whatever we may think, we could all find ourselves on that slippery slope. There are plenty of stories of people who thought their lives were going fine, that they were sitting pretty, and a few months later everything's in ruins.

The sight of people crowing and gloating over other people's unexpected misfortunes is something I find quite sickening.

21 comments:

Bijoux said...

I agree with you that gloating, etc. is not right. But you seem to imply that everyone who does wrong has been tricked into it. I think many people willfully make the wrong choice, but don't really care because they think they can get away with it. Then they are only sorry when they are caught.

Grannymar said...

I too am with you about the gloating.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Not exactly tricked, though that may be so in some cases. Just so tempted by something that reason and self-control desert them and they do something quite reckless without properly considering the consequences.

Grannymar: The gloaters might one day find the boot is on the other foot and other people are gloating over THEIR misfortune.

Jenny Woolf said...

I don't like to see people gloating over others' misfortunes, but sometimes when people get into the same kind of stupid situations again and again, I think you have to say that perhaps it's something to do with their character.

Nick said...

Jenny: Then maybe there are habitual weaknesses in their character that lead them to make stupid mistakes? And while others can see the obvious stupidity, they keep missing it?

Secret Agent Woman said...

I guess I'll only say that behavior is overdetermined. Virtually nothing has a singular cause. Difficult circumstances, unfortunate genetics, childhood trauma, and poor choices all can lead to horrible messes. But yes, gloating is repulsive and compassion is the better path when you can take it.

Nick said...

Agent: Indeed, there can be several factors involved as well as personal weakness. Which is why suggesting people are deliberately irresponsible is both simplistic and condescending.

Suburbia said...

Yes, me too Nick. You never can tell what's around the corner, I just thank my lucky stars for now!

Nick said...

Suburbia: True. However fortunate we are right now, there's no guarantee it will continue.

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm with SAW on this, Nick. So many factors some at an extremely unconscious level.

As to gloating? A friend of mine is going through this right now and it is devastating for her. She had a charmed life and it has collapsed around her and her friends are taking such pleasure in it. Luckily she has a husband who is completely supportive. I think if he wasn't around she would have done something drastic.

We just never know, do we.

XO
WWW

kylie said...

i will totally gloat over anyone who has been indiscreet about good fortunes and then suffers some bad luck.
people who are muted and respect others' difficulties will always have my respect, no matter what hard times befall them

Nick said...

www: I think the things Agent mentions all contribute to the personal weakness that is ultimately the person's undoing. Like a childhood trauma may keep on triggering self-destructive behaviour.

How disgusting that your friend's so-called friends are treating her so nastily. As you say, lucky she has a very supportive husband.

Nick said...

Kylie: Well, personally I still wouldn't gloat, but I agree that someone who brags about their good fortune is not going to get much sympathy when they come a cropper.

Yes, other people's difficulties always deserve respect. We could all have the carpet ripped from under us, however secure we imagine ourselves to be.

Rummuser said...

It is a pity that the English language does not have an equivalent to Schadenfreude. It is indeed sickening to see that in real life. You would have found from many of my stories of real people in my blog that very often circumstances play havoc with lives and to blame character or lack of it or whatever for such misfortunes without going into the contexts, is living superficially and without grace.

Nick said...

Ramana: True, we need an equivalent urgently! As you say, if you look at the context of someone's misfortunes, you often find they were overwhelmed by a chain of events they simply couldn't control.

Living superficially and without grace indeed.

bonsaimum said...

Some people are just downright nasty. They surround themselves with 'yes'people and god help those who have a different opinion. It seems to be a theme in many workplaces these days.There never seems to be a shortage of people who love to make another human beings life a misery, whether its about looks, clothing, family etc. If they put all that energy into compassion, helping,listening etc, what a better world this would be. Ok, I'll get off my soap box now. :)

Nick said...

Bonsaimum: Absolutely, more compassion, helping and listening are what's urgently needed. I know your husband is being badly treated at work, and I hope he manages to get a fair hearing.

You're right about "yes" people. In my last workplace, a new boss promptly sacked four of the staff, including me, and replaced us with a bunch of his old cronies.

blackwatertown said...

And yet... Is it treating others (and ourselves) with dignity to assume that we have no responsibility for our own actions? That we can't be expected to govern ourselves?

Though I'm with you on the gloating - there but for the grace of God go I.

Nick said...

Paul: Oh, I'm not saying people have NO responsibility for their actions. I'm saying that even the most responsible, sensible person can have some personal weakness that lures them into something disastrous despite themselves.

Jenny Woolf said...

re your comment, Nick, yes, I think some people are incapable of seeing the weaknesses in their own character. In fact I would go so far as to say that most people are. It's only JUST dawning on me at this late stage what some of my weaknesses of character are and this is after having been well and truly clobbered as a result. I think sadly that if we cannot get rid of them we will continue to suffer from them, and life should be a process of self improvement. But as for sneering at people because they fail to measure up - well, that in itself is a weakness of character.
There is all the dfiference between conceding the truth of a situation and sneering at it.

Nick said...

Jenny: I'm finding that too, that I'm only now becoming properly aware of some of my biggest weaknesses. As you say, we easily overlook them or deny them. I agree we all need to focus more on self improvement - as opposed to self obsession which is not the same thing at all!

Indeed, seeing the truth of a situation shouldn't involve sneering and scoffing.