Leftists, Take Note
Envy: The Underrated Sin
As my wife will attest, I often suffer from futterneid. This is the term Germans use to describe the envy we feel when, for example, someone orders a better meal than ours. I'm also prone to schadenfreude, the tendency to take pleasure in the misfortune of others. So if I get the braised short ribs and you get stuck with the snail tartare, your futterneid will fuel my schadenfreude.
Perhaps it's no coincidence the Germans have so many words for the chillingly petty emotions that run like cold streams through the human heart. Poor, dark and divided, Germany was an ideal location to harbor resentment against one's neighbor, be he a slightly more prosperous farmer, a Jew, a Catholic or even a nation.
Latecomers to unification, industrialization and empire, Germany's 20th-century thirst for war and conquest might be blamed less on high-fallutin' philosophical theories or Romantic poetry and more on plain old envy. The Germans craved their "moment in the sun" and they were going to have it, no matter what.
Don't worry, this isn't a column about Germany. Rather, it's about envy, which Thomas Aquinas defined as sadness for the good of others.