A photo of an icecream vendor, a mamang sorbetero, went viral last June 11. The photo showed the sorbetero straining to push his cart against the heavy rain. The caption went like this: “Tell your struggle to people who struggle more than you and you will realize how blessed your life is.”
The caption irked me.
This romanticism of poverty and the glorification of the struggle to eke out a living is severely misplaced. What we should’ve have seen is the glaring poverty that forces the poor to work despite the harsh conditions.
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Poverty makes everyone vulnerable and the poor are forced to try to survive to the point of compromising their safety. This should not be about comparing your personal struggles to this mamang sorbetero because, in the class analysis, they will never be equal.
And even if I take this post’s argument, making yourself realize that you’re more blessed than others by foolishly comparing their struggles to yours and judging them to be heavier than yours is insensitive, uncaring, and twisted.
We have a word for this: Schadenfreude. This is a German word that means to experience pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.
So next time, check yourself and your values. It is never right to feel good, much more to feel blessed at the expense of some other person’s troubles. Stop trying and encouraging people to validate their happiness by comparing the current situation with other worse situations. They are simply not equal.
Banner photo: Return to the Convent, by Eduardo Zamacois y Zabala, 1868. Note the group of monks laughing while the lone monk struggles with the donkey.
Dom writes for pay by day and writes for passion by night. He is a Japan major at the University of the Philippines. He’s fond of ramen and anime but not of nice people.