“27. No matter how bad your day is going, somewhere in the world a fat man just dropped his ice cream.”
—- The website Ink Tank, in the process of listing “60 of the world’s happiest facts.”
Ink Tank’s list of “happiest facts” is a trivia-fest of cute, charming, or otherwise amusing factoids, some of dubious reliability ( 25. Rats giggle when you tickle them…), some of historic interest ( “7. On the day of his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. had a pillow-fight in his motel room”), some with “Awwww!” value (“15. Otters hold hands when sleeping so they don’t drift away from each other”), some with really dubious reliability (“47. Cows produce the most milk when listening to the song “Everybody Hurts” by REM”), some that are older than Methuselah (“31. It takes seventeen muscles to smile and forty-three to frown”), some snarky (“30. The next Star Wars will not be directed by George Lucas.”), and some that are just plain stupid (“46. At the time of your birth, you were, for a few seconds, the youngest person on the planet”). That’s all par for the course in these kinds of ubiquitous web lists.
#27., however, comes out of the blue like a drive-by shooting. What kind of person gets joy from the thought that somewhere in the world a stranger is suffering through one of life’s stinging tragedies, just as he is about to partake in one of life’s inimitable innocent pleasures? An ice cream cone! An iconic symbol of summer days, childhood, family excursions and fun! Taking the delicate, waffled cone in an eager hand, admiring the substance and swirl of the lovely confection, anticipating the bracing cold on the tongue and lips, the sweet creamy taste and then…plop!—all is ruined. I hate that! Who doesn’t hate that? When I worked for Baskin-Robins, we were told to always replace a fallen scoop of ice cream or a dropped cone gratis, whether the victim was 4 or 40. Since my ice cream shop days, I have bought replacement cones for other people’s children, because that stricken face of shock, hurt and disappointment the second the scoop hits the ground will haunt my nightmares if I don’t.
This monster, the author of the list, whoever he is, thinks the sudden loss of an ice cream cone by people he doesn’t even know is one of the happiest thoughts he can imagine. Forget about the Golden Rule, to which this position is a flagrant insult; never mind caring for others, compassion, empathy, sympathy and benevolence, which such an attitude explicitly mocks. What is this guy’s problem? Does he hate fat people? All fat people, random fat people? Winston Churchill and Herman Kahn and Santa Claus and Orson Welles? William Howard Taft and Oliver Hardy and Lou Costello…and anyone who has waistline similar to them, all over the world, whether or not they are saints, fathers, philanthropists, toy-makers, heart surgeons—anyone, regardless of accomplishment, achievement or verifiable proof of goodness and virtue, as long as they are chubby? What did any of those people do to him?
Yes, it is just a thought. Such a thought, however, rejects the very concept of ethics, which seeks better lives and happiness for all through the recognition of mutual respect, regard, and concern. Enjoyment of anyone’s misfortune is a regrettable uprising of an unethical instinct, Schadenfreude, a bane of human nature; glee at everyone’s tragedies is a symptom of encroaching evil; and happiness at the very thought of anyone’s ice cream cone disaster, provided they are male and fat just adds misanthropy, prejudice and hate to the mix, revealing a heart as cold as a triple scoop of Rocky Road.
Update: (1/29/13) Well that didn’t take long! Ink Tank removed that #27, and replaced it with a video having nothing to do with ice cream or fat guys. Good.