Yvne: The forgotten opposite of envy

Yvne (pronounced “Iv-Knee”) is the opposite of envy. Where envy is unhappiness that someone has done better than you, Yvne is the joy and satisfaction that comes from a sense of having done better than someone else. Yvne isn’t joy in having nice things, or having done great things, Yvne is joy in having nicer things and having done greater things.

If you’ve never heard this word before it’s because I had to invent it. Its closest pre-existing equivalent in English is probably the German loanword Schadenfreude, but this is not quite the same thing. Yvne does not necessarily require that a calamity befall the other person, or that their condition be miserable, simply that your success be in excess of their own.

It’s something of a mystery why I had to invent the word. After all, Yvne is no less common than envy -the rich indulge in it all the time- and it is no less objectionable than envy either. Indeed, I would argue it is worse. Envy pits your interests against those who are doing better than yourself and gives you a reason to drag them down. Meanwhile Yvne pits your interests against those who are doing worse than yourself- it gives you a selfish reason to prevent those weaker and more vulnerable than yourself improving their station- isn’t that more sinister than envy? At least envy is about punching up, yvne is all about punching down. Yet envy is denounced as one of the seven deadly sins, while people very rarely even talk about the concept captured by the word “Yvne”, despite its dangers and ubiquity.

You may have already guessed the reason I think people talk about envy all the time, but very rarely talk about yvne. The most powerful people in society have much to fear from envy, and so wish to condemn it. Meanwhile, these same powerful people enjoy yvne as a secret wellspring of pleasure. Back when religion held more importance, it was employed by the powerful to condemn envy. Now the task falls to economists. By contrast, the opponents of Yvne have never enjoyed the same level of  funding.

Postscript, why yvne cannot be identified with self-satisfaction or smugness:

I’ve had some people argue in response to this piece that yvne can be identified with either self-satisfaction or smugness. There are two main problems with this.

Firstly, I can experience yvne even while totally dissatisfied and dismissive of my own achievements. For example “I’m a total loser, but at least I’m doing better than my cousin.”

Secondly, one can experience smugness without even thinking of others. I might feel  smug and self satisfied upon completing a log-cabin in the woods, without even thinking about other people.

There are many concepts that are “almost” yvne, and overlap in many, even most cases (schadenfreude is another one, as is pride in general), but none are quite the same thing.

If you enjoyed this, you can follow dePony Sum on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/sumdepony

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