Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Caught in the crossfire: Revenge and its path of destruction

They say revenge is sweet, and scientists have actually conducted brain studies proving that, indeed, it is. For many. But what makes people seek revenge on others? What innate, deep-rooted need is there to personally mete out some form of 'payback' by exacting revenge on others for some perceived wrong. The need for retribution goes back to the beginning of time, with biblical references to it in Exodus 21:23–27: "An eye for an eye". And though revenge may be sweet for the perpetrator (or perpetrators), it is momentary and accomplishes absolutely nothing.

Revenge can manifest itself in many different forms, from mudslinging and slander, to revenge killings, to most of the sectarian violence in the Middle and Far East. But what exactly does one gain, other than creating a never-ending cycle of violence, a cycle of retaliation that keeps perpetuating more vengeance, ad infinitum? Not a thing. And if you analyze most of the reasons for revenge, you will find that the bulk of them are cruel and unwarranted. At least at the outset.

For some, a vendetta against one person turns into a vicious game of how many people affiliated with that particular person can they 'bring down'. Innocents caught in the crossfire. Like a cluster bomb, that not only damages the actual target, but others within the projected target area. They are so consumed with rage and hatred that they will do anything to make themselves feel better, to partake of that sweet taste of revenge, regardless of the consequences or how many innocent people they harm. And regardless of whether they are justified or not. Ronald L. Shanabarger killed his 7 month-old son Tyler because his wife had refused to cut short her vacation cruise (prior to their marriage) to console him when his father died. "Shanabarger said he planned to make Amy feel the way he did when his father died. He married her, got her pregnant, allowed time for her to bond with the child, and then took his [boy's] life." So, in seeking revenge against his wife, he devastated not only her life and that of her extended family, but destroyed his own flesh and blood in the process. Then you have the 72 year old Czech man who shot and killed the Nigerian Consul (injuring the receptionist), because he had fallen victim to one of those Nigerian 419-scams. So, even though the Consul (and receptionist) were in no way involved in the scam, the Czech man felt entitled to seek retribution from innocents, because they so happened to be Nigerian. And what about all the people who have 'gone postal' , what morbid satisfaction do they derive by killing innocent bystanders? Then you have the pointless sectarian violence in the Middle East, where Muslims keep killing each other because they happen to be from a different sect. How meaningless and unjustified is that?

And slander and mudslinging can be just as destructive as revenge killings, by destroying people's lives through poisonous lies. The Duke Lacrosse players are just one of a plethora of examples. And even though most religions counsel against such things, people continue on that path of destruction, on a daily basis. Judaism says it best: "Slander kills three people: the speaker, the listener, and the subject," and is considered one of the most severe transgressions of all. As it should.

What most of these revenge-seekers don't seem to realize, is that whilst they are so busy trying to ruin other people's lives, they are destroying their own in the process, because for every action, in this world, there is a re-action. As you sow, so shall you reap. What goes around comes around. It is a law of nature.

There is an old Chinese Proverb that pretty much sums it all up: "When seeking revenge, bring 2 shovels".


Blazing Cat Fur said...

Nigerian 419 scams? What? You mean those guys aren't on the level? Oh man!!!. Gotta run be back later....

MUD said...

The simple truth is to look inside yourself. You are the source of your own happiness and god forbid you listen to your own inner voice, the source of hate.
There is just no end to the number of people in the world that blame another person/race or thing with all their problems. We know the Jews have been the target for most of recorded history. Right now we are pretty high up on the list of people that others love to hate.
I just don't understand how the "Getting Even" thought got so strong but again, it all starts in our own hearts and minds. Shame it doesn't end there.
A Mildly related side to this discussion is when people in a committed relationship look for someone else. I contend that you can truly only love one person at a a time and any "new love" must replace the "old Love". Kind of like my sobriety, I am not sober forever but today I am. About 15 years of sobriety and I can stay that way pretty easy. MUD

Panhandle Poet said...

Well said, my Closet Republican. There was a man that lived about 2000 years ago that provided the solution to the problem. The reality is, most can't accept it.

Professor Howdy said...

Very good posting.
Thank you - Have a good day!!!

Incognito said...

:-) BCF...I got about 15 of those on my hotmail business email address in the past few months. They finally stopped. I actually emailed one, but can't remember if they even responded. Decided best not to engage them. It's actually quite dangerous. People have been killed.

Incognito said...

Absolutely MUD. People always love to blame others for their misery or problems. Easier than taking responsibility.
It's just sad when innocent people are dragged into it other people's problems. Happens all the time.

I also agree that you can only truly love one person, romantically. But there are those who believe they can be in love with more than one person. I don't get it, but.... Fidelity is a whole other issue, too!

And congrats on your sobriety MUD! That's wonderful.

Incognito said...

Thank you PP! There are solutions but many just would rather not deal with them, because it is easier to hate than love.

And you have a great day too, Prof. Howdy!!

Blazing Cat Fur said...

I am just amazed that anyone could fall for such a scam as the 419, PT Barnum was right.

Alexander said...

I wrote a book about revenge. Specifically, it is about the way we all suffer from the so-called Revenge Psychology" - our desire of revenge if we were treated in a nasty way. Having read your blog I am sure you will love reading my second e-book "An Ordinary Black Cat" available in The 1st chapter is free anyway, so you can see whether it is your cup of tea. Please, let me know...

Incognito said...

It is amazing, BCF, how people get scammed all the time. particularly with the ones that are so well known like the 419. They capitalize on people's greed and laziness... their desire to make a quick buck. Very sad.

Thank you Alexander, I will check it out some time.

Troika said...

Revenge is common to us all I'm afraid.

Everytime a suicide nutter strikes in Israel, revenged is reaped, mainly on civilians. Israelis claim they are hitting major targets and Palestinian terrorists. They must mean terrorists of the future, as many of the casualties are children. I realise the suicide bombers have killed children too, but bombing them back is simply revenge.

The revenge they took against the people of Lebanon after two soldiers were kidnapped.

We Brits have taken out our revenge on innocent civilians for years. 1000 Lebanese civilians killed (US Agency for Int. Dev.)

There was almost no link whatsoever between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks - we're all there for what? Revenge.

People want to see their governments taking revenge, if they don't see it they assume their governments are doing nothing.

LettersfromLyon said...

Excellent post, as the variety, sincerity and pertinence of the comments demonstrates.

May I just add though that the theory is one thing, but actually being a victim of rape, extreme violence, psychological abuse torture or other human aberrant practices can change one's point of view, at least temporarily.

How do I know?

Because I know....

And, unless you've lived it, it is hard to understand why I say that this is no easy "one-rule" phenomena to explain or rationalise it.

Thanks, and respects to all.