Misanthropy, Thy Name is Heather

There are many men in London, you know, who, some from shyness, some from misanthropy, have no wish for the company of their fellows. ~Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Recently a friend introduced me to the writings of Florence King, whose work I’ve been enjoying immensely. One of King’s books in particular, With Charity Toward Nonehas stuck with me simply because it is an exploration of misanthropy in society. Remember how, a few days ago, I wrote a nice little touchy-feely piece about altruism and the values of giving to others freely? Well, the lady whom I gave to burned me to the tune of $100 unauthorized on the check I gave her. I’m willing to bet it didn’t go toward her so-called child’s prescription. So much for peace, love, and goodwill toward men. The whole experience has made me more Scrooge and less Bob Cratchit. I’ve been pretty damned misanthropic most of the day.

But am I a misanthrope myself? That question isn’t easily answered. As an Aspie, it’s part of my social fabric to distrust and avoid most people. I have to self-preserve by remaining, well, aloof. Getting through each day is the emotional equivalent of running a gauntlet. If I’m energetic enough to greet you politely and invite you to share tea and scones, that’s a good day. More likely I’m apt to crash and burn like a homemade glider. It doesn’t mean I hate people. I need to be plugged into my re-charge port, which usually involves solitude.

And, unlike some of the genuine sociopaths among us, I don’t actually wish harm on people. I don’t want to steal from them or deceive them or steal everyone’s left shoe. In fact, this will sound crazy from someone whose fictional heroes include John McClain, Hannibal Smith, and Xena, but I actually abhor violence. Yes, I sometimes fantasize about Chuck Norris riding in on a T-rex to take out some of my choicer nutso customers. But I don’t want to do it myself. That would be uncivilized. I am a lady, not some barbarian.

Where I really veer toward misanthropy, though, is my weird individual sense of Schadenfreude, one of those wonderfully evocative German words. This, in a nutshell, is the ability to laugh your head off (inwardly, at least…remembering our manners) when the kid you’ve told to stop running falls and sprains his ankle, or when the guy who cut you off on the interstate gets busted by the state patrolman two miles down. I limit my Schadenfreude-ness to the karmic revenge sorts of misfortune. I won’t laugh at the lady whose shopping bags came apart on a busy city street; I’d be too busy being gallant and helping her pick up her baguettes and apples.

So what of my con artist-cum-buyer of sick children’s medications? I could wish her a slow and painful death, or an abduction by a motorcycle gang, or for her own money to be stolen. Rather I simply hope that justice is served and that she gets what she deserves. Despite being agnostic, I am a firm believer that we all eventually get what is coming to us. If that means a swift divine kick in the pants, so be it. I am not the judge of those sorts of things anyway.

I also refuse to be Scrooge or the Grinch during Christmas. I may have lost my money (hopefully I’ll be getting some, if not all, back), but I have not lost my essential generosity. And I won’t be stealing anyone’s Roast Beast…even if they secretly deserved it.


Do you consider yourself a misanthrope, an altruist, or something in between? Do you think people are basically good or more susceptible to evil?

~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on December 11, 2012.

4 Responses to “Misanthropy, Thy Name is Heather”

  1. I couldn’t tell you if I am misanthropic or not. I know when I am meeting people for the first time face to face I tend to be a bit reserved before I am comfortable allowing them near my personal space. As for the schadenfreude see “Avenue Q”.

    NP: Twisted Sister – I Am (I’m Me)

  2. Introvert is not at all the same as sociopath! Sociopaths can be quite sociable and fool many people into thinking they are nice people, but they lack empathy. You have plenty of empathy, so you have nothing to worry about on that score 🙂 I’m also an introvert. I like people as individuals, not so much en masse. I too have been stung by my generosity trying to help people which is why I prefer to donate to carefully chosen charities, usually small ones whose work I know is good and which don’t overspend on advertising. It does lack the personal touch, but is better than nothing.

    I’m with you on your version of schadenfreude too 🙂

    PS maybe give cash next time!

  3. I wrote a really rants post not that long ago outlining all the reasons why I think it’s right to be misanthropic. I think everything from physics to neurology to psychology guarantee that the average person you meet on the street probably deserves your mistrust. Anyone who disagrees with me should go spend half an hour at an airport baggage carousel. Then come tell me humanity doesn’t suck.

  4. I think that less than 1% of society can’t be trusted. I am always amazed at how honest people are. It is that desperate, hungry, hooked on drugs or alcohol person you have to look out for.
    Hey. I just gave 4 bucks to a guy who didn’t have any teeth. He was outside a grocery store so I hope he went inside to buy soup!

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abandonen toda esperanza aquellos que entren aqui


You - philosophical, thoughtful, witty. Me - still thinks fart jokes are funny. We should DEFINITELY get together!

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