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Everyday Ethics


heh heh heh (2).jpgSchadenfreude
noun
satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.


I once had a boss so mean I woke up in dread each morning, and lay awake every night fearfully, fantasizing about what terrors lay ahead for me the next day. She belittled me, berated me, treated me with contempt–even called me stupid to my face. She criticized the quality of my work and made it impossible for me to do my job well. She was mercurial and temperamental and I never knew when she’d snap at me for no reason at all.

I’m sure we’ve all had one of those.

Anyway, she used to make me open and photocopy her private bank statements and investment portfolio information. This practice made me uncomfortable, as I could see all of her private income, but I did what I was asked. Finally, the day came when I quit–rather precipitously, as a matter of fact, and I tried to put the whole experience behind me.

Until Bernard Madoff made the news.

At first I was just shocked and curious like the rest of the world, angry and appalled at the chutzpah of this guy who defrauded so many.

Then I remembered the return address on those many envelopes I opened for my erstwhile employer. Bernard L. Madoff.

Could I be remembering it right? I recalled thinking at the time that the enormous profits she’d been reaping (I couldn’t help peeking while I was photocopying, though I tried not to) seemed far out of line with what the market was doing at the time, though I was no expert.) Thinking about it, I was pretty sure my mean former boss was indeed a client of the world’s largest Ponzi schemer.

And I was feeling pretty gleeful about it.

Is it karma? Pure chance? Her own greed? I don’t know. But the truth is, while I feel terrible for the many innocents who lost their life’s savings to this man’s treachery–particularly the charities–I am not the least sorry this nasty woman suffered. Maybe this makes me petty. In fact, I’m pretty sure it does. Yet I’m unable to access my better nature in this case. 

How would you respond?

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