I was particularly struck by the observation Russell Brand is a “mensch” in showbiz gossip website TMZ.com’s story today that he’s not seeking the $20 million he is estimated to be entitled to in divorcing Katy Perry.
“This divorce is as amicable as it gets, and Russell was a mensch (Yiddish for a good person)”, a source told TMZ.
The exclusive was sparked by the filing of the comedian’s divorce papers as he closed his 14 month marriage to the pop star.
There is a depth of meaning in the word mensch, which resonates with me over and above the “good person” definition.
What I like most about the word is that this tribute has to be conferred on you by others – in the light of your action.
You cannot, for example, say “I’m a mensch” and the statement have any value.
“He/she’s a mensch” said of a third party (unlikely to be present) suggests foremost that the person being praised has done the right thing (whatever it may be) at the right time.
A good person will naturally do the right thing at the right time. More impressive is the “not-good” person, who still does the right thing at the right time.
Of the two, the medal for bravery should go to he who knows fear rather than he who is fearless.
Returning to Russell Brand’s position, he’s a mensch if a principled outlook on the world made the decision not to seek alimony from such a short marriage a no-brainer.
To my mind he is an ubermensch if every fibre itches to ‘punish’ Perry for her apparent immature behaviour but chose to quit the brief marriage with dignity.