pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others or from causing others
pain or misery.
The term 'sadism' is derived from the
Marquis de Sade, who much exulted in sexual
pleasure derived from the infliction of pain and of cruelty to others,
and who wrote many books in praise of sadism, especially in the defined
When sadism is defined without necessary involvement of sexual
pleasure, but in effect as the human-all-too-human joys derived from
malice, it may be seen that
sadism, thus defined, accounts for many human acts, especially against
those whom the perpetrators dislike, consider as enemies, or believe to
Indeed, there is much more sadism in
human beings than
most are willing
to admit: Very many people derive much pleasure from being in
of power and by hurting, denigrating, demeaning or displeasing
others. It probably does not arouse most of them sexually,
but they wouldn't do it if it did not please them. And this kind
pleasure seems to be one of the
strongest motivators of those who desire to be boss: To let others feel
they are inferior.
"We never hurt each other but by
error or by malice."
Robert Chambers, possibly inspired by Dr. Johnson)
Together with stupidity,
sadism explains two famous and mostly correct observations on
"History is little else but the
register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind"
l'Histoire n'est qu'une suite d'horreurs."
For clearly most of the harm that human beings have done to human
beings - millions upon millions killed, tortured, raped, exploited,
starved, persecuted - was done on purpose, and willingly, and for the
noblest sounding moral pretexts.
Accordingly, this 'human-all-too-human' desire to hurt, harm, demean, denigrate,
abuse or exploit
others is one of the normally unacknowledged forces of
history, as is
It is probably the normal human reaction to
personal unhappiness: Make others suffer at least as much as one does
oneself; demean those who seem better of than oneself, if one can do so
without danger to oneself; and take vengeance for one's own pains, miseries
and disappointments by
wrecking even more of the same on the supposed enemies of one's society,
or on social deviants or dissidents, since then one also gains moral
credits easily, with the majority of one's peers.