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My word not to live by

Published on 30 March 2018

Some of my co-editors at Progressive Dairyman have been sharing words they’ve chosen to help guide their lives, single words that serve as simple and quick reminders to get and keep them on track.

For example, last April, Peggy Coffeen chose the word “fearless” and, in the March 12, 2018 issue, Emily Gwin emphasized “joy.”

This month, I’m going to join my editorial mates – but from a somewhat different point of view. I’d like to suggest a word you should choose not to live by. It’s a word you may have never heard but probably have felt or witnessed nearly every day. It’s a word especially prevalent in politics these days and, seemingly, the preferred method of communication in the social media world.

The word is “schadenfreude.”

Don’t let its unfamiliarity or length scare you. Schadenfreude is a combination of two German words: schaden (“damage, misfortune”) and freude (“joy”). In short, it means to gain pleasure or enjoyment from someone else’s problems.

It’s actually kind of fun to say (scha·den·freu·de). Think Darth Vader in Star Wars and, if you can feel your neck and throat muscles get tight when you say it, you’re probably pronouncing it correctly.

Last Aug. 7, schadenfreude was the Merriam-Webster website’s “word of the day.” That by itself is pretty amazing since, as a dictionary, Merriam-Webster has at its resources every word ever written, spoken or thought.

We’re not immune from schadenfreude within dairy, of course. Maybe you have even felt schadenfreude set in when a dairy of a different management style or size suffers from a bad decision or a natural disaster. After all, they had it coming.

I try to refrain from schadenfreude, although I admit it creeps into my life when it comes to a certain Midwest football team that wears purple and plays indoors. Lately, though, this word has been showing up more frequently in one form or another in my email inbox.

Since Dean Foods announced it was terminating milk supply contracts with about 100 dairy farmers in several states, the nut branch of the vegan movement has been especially vocal in its schadenfreude. Apparently, this faction doesn’t like milk or meat, but they love blood, especially if it’s from someone who raises livestock or milks cows. They’re taking great pleasure in what they perceive as the demise of the dairy industry.

Most of the posts dwell on the fact fluid milk consumption is on the decline as proof the whole world is pushing dairy out of its diet. Sometimes disguised as physicians and planet savers, they tell their version of the nutrition and climate stories – and have somewhat limited capacity to do math. While nut juice consumption is rising and fluid milk sales are dropping and concerning, per-capita consumption of dairy (on a milk equivalent basis) is on the rise; we’re consuming our dairy in a different form.

So even though we’re in a lengthy downturn in terms of prices, dairy exports are up, and financial institutions like CoBank suggest international interest in the U.S. dairy market is accelerating and spurring collaboration and investment.

By some of the emails and phone calls I’m getting, many of you are pretty upset dairy isn’t fighting back loud enough as farmers contend with lost markets and low prices. It makes my blood boil, too. But I’ll leave it to the dairy promotion and social experts to figure out how to respond, since I’ve generally found you can’t out-stink a skunk, especially when it’s trying to cross the road in front of me. 

So remain fearless, find joy, and avoid schadenfreude (unless it has to do with a football team wearing purple). end mark

Dave Natzke
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