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Author Topic: What is the point of revenge?  (Read 1577 times)

Sefiru

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What is the point of revenge?
« on: September 27, 2017, 06:43:34 pm »
I have been wondering about revenge lately (more for writing purposes than for real life) and not really coming to any conclusions. Culturally, I've got a lot of mixed messages; on the one hand, 'turn the other cheek' and 'two wrongs don't make a right'. On the other hand, 'give as good as you get' and 'payback is a b*tch'.

What I have been wondering about:
- What is revenge supposed to accomplish?
- Is revenge an effective way to accomplish point 1?
- Under what circumstances is revenge morally acceptable?
- What is the cultural appeal of revenge?


Louisvillian

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Re: What is the point of revenge?
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2017, 09:27:49 pm »
I have been wondering about revenge lately (more for writing purposes than for real life) and not really coming to any conclusions. Culturally, I've got a lot of mixed messages; on the one hand, 'turn the other cheek' and 'two wrongs don't make a right'. On the other hand, 'give as good as you get' and 'payback is a b*tch'.
My personal view is that this a result of the blended cultural baggage the West has. The pre-Christian societies never completely dissolved, and many of these societies were "honor cultures" where one's family and reputation were everything. Revenge is a more acceptable course of behavior in honor cultures, as many of the taboos were not legal violations, but social/cultural ones, and could only be dealt with extra-judicially. Greece and Rome display a developed legal tradition to act as an alternative course of justice, as cycles of revenge could be rather problematic from a social standpoint. Other societies were developing such legal systems too, it's just that we know much less about them compared to the well-documented Hellenistic-Roman system, which formed the basis of both Western and Byzantine law.

On the other hand, we have Christianity and its theological and moral emphasis on guilt and repentance. And with it, the narratives of Jesus and other saints' martyrdom and suffering the face of adversity rather than falling into the cycle of revenge and violence.

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- What is revenge supposed to accomplish?
- Is revenge an effective way to accomplish point 1?
To my understanding, it's a way of achieving what one feels is "justice", or at least face-saving satisfaction, in situations where the legal system cannot or will not sufficiently do so. I don't exactly feel that it is effective or constructive.

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- Under what circumstances is revenge morally acceptable?
That's just straight-up gonna depend on your own moral tastes. I personally find revenge to be distasteful, as I take the myth of Orestes very seriously, but I understand the appeal. I get why someone would want to take revenge.

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- What is the cultural appeal of revenge?
As said above, it's tied in heavily with cultural concepts of honor, "face", and satisfaction for perceived or real slights. My interpretation of it, is that the person gaining revenge knows, unambiguously, that they are achieving their expectations for justice; whereas going through a different way, such as the court system, may not meet their expectations.

Yei

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Re: What is the point of revenge?
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2017, 09:52:06 pm »
I have been wondering about revenge lately (more for writing purposes than for real life) and not really coming to any conclusions. Culturally, I've got a lot of mixed messages; on the one hand, 'turn the other cheek' and 'two wrongs don't make a right'. On the other hand, 'give as good as you get' and 'payback is a b*tch'.

What I have been wondering about:
- What is revenge supposed to accomplish?
- Is revenge an effective way to accomplish point 1?
- Under what circumstances is revenge morally acceptable?
- What is the cultural appeal of revenge?

I think the answer depends on if you mean revenge in the context of a narrative, or in real life. In a story, Revenge is a very simple, clear, motive for the protagonist. Yet, it can be developed in many different ways, making it a flexible central premise. One has:
1) The standard, uncomplicated, version. Evil guy, commits atrocity. Survivor seeks revenge. Simple, and easy for audiences to sympathise with.
2) A slight twist, where the revenge is undercut at the end, by the protagonist questioning the morality of revenge itself, or because the protagonist becomes a new vilian
3) Where the revenge is undercut, because the antagonist is transformed through the narrative into a sympathetic figure. They were either justified in their initial actions (which the protagonist was unaware of), or because they have reformed.
4) The protagonist is actually a villain, and the thing they are seeking revenge for is completely unjustified.
And there must be dozens of other variations.

In real life, that's much more complicated. I think though, that the theme is attractive to people because of several factors:
1) First is the limitation of structured justice. There are plenty of cases where the justice system is completely unjust. The concept of revenge provides a means of achieving 'justice' without relying on what may be a dysfunctional system.
2) Human agency. Even if it functions, a justice system is a depersonalised construct, that removes the victim from the action. They are not allowed to participate in dispensing justice, which is monopolised by the state. Revenge returns the dispensing of justice back to the wronged party, rather than impersonal agents of the state. I think that most people have had an experience where someone 'wronged' us, but in a way that would either be unrecognised by society, or impossible or impractical to seek legal retribution. Revenge provides some comfort, and a means of restoring a sense of personal control over our lives.
3) Remember also that 'justice' is often conflated with 'law and order' even though it is obvious that the two are not the same. This flows on from the previous two points. In fact, 'law and order' can often be used to defend or maintain inherently unjust social positions. Revenge therefore allows for the restitution of wrongs within the social order, which traditional justice cannot do.
4) Following from the previous, what is the difference between revenge and justice? Is it possible to have justice without any sense of revenge? Is it possible for revenge to be just? This is complicated by the fact that everyone has different standards of what constitutes justice.
5) Lastly, revenge is partly a power fantasy. To take revenge on someone, without relying on others, or worrying about consequences. One who takes revenge defines justice without regard to social conventions. This makes it very attractive as an idea.

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Re: What is the point of revenge?
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2017, 01:53:19 am »
I have been wondering about revenge lately (more for writing purposes than for real life) and not really coming to any conclusions. Culturally, I've got a lot of mixed messages; on the one hand, 'turn the other cheek' and 'two wrongs don't make a right'. On the other hand, 'give as good as you get' and 'payback is a b*tch'.

What I have been wondering about:
- What is revenge supposed to accomplish?
- Is revenge an effective way to accomplish point 1?
- Under what circumstances is revenge morally acceptable?
- What is the cultural appeal of revenge?
The main reason for revenge is that the person choosing to take revenge thinks it will make them feel better.  And sometimes to "serve justice ".

Is it effective?  Sometimes. Depends on the kind of revenge. The saying "living well is the best revenge " can be very true - because you took the high ground. Works for me and my husband (we both have ex spouses that cheated on us). But killing or hurting or ruining some one?  The smut on you may not be worth it.

When is it worth it?  That is a very personal decision.

The cultural appeal?  If you can't get justice through the law, it might seem the only choice.


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Re: What is the point of revenge?
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2017, 09:02:01 am »
The main reason for revenge is that the person choosing to take revenge thinks it will make them feel better.  And sometimes to "serve justice ".

Is it effective?  Sometimes. Depends on the kind of revenge. The saying "living well is the best revenge " can be very true - because you took the high ground. Works for me and my husband (we both have ex spouses that cheated on us). But killing or hurting or ruining some one?  The smut on you may not be worth it.

When is it worth it?  That is a very personal decision.

The cultural appeal?  If you can't get justice through the law, it might seem the only choice.


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I agree with this wholeheartedly. My partner and I both have horrible exes, too. And I'm sure it kills both of them to know that we're happy without them. There were several times in the divorce/custody battle that I could have been vindictive and vengeful. In the end it would have looked badly in court, so I took the high road.

I think deep down we want our own form of justice. Let's face it; sometimes Karma/consequences/God/threefold law takes its good, sweet time, and we want to see people pay for what they've done. I think it makes us feel like the universe makes sense and reassures us that doing the right thing is worth it in the end. If taking the high road never pays off, what is the point?

In regards to Christianity, it is encouraged not to seek justice/revenge in order to receive rewards in the afterlife. In my experience it's not REALLY about turning the other cheek in most cases. It has more of a feeling of "just wait, they'll get punished when they're dead." So the revenge is still there, but like the Lord says in the good book "Vengeance is mine."

Is revenge ever worth it? It depends on what is on the line. I had to decide if the system would do the right thing by me and my son. If I was convinced that it  wouldn't, I would have most definitely played dirty.
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Owl

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Re: What is the point of revenge?
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2017, 01:27:01 pm »
I agree with this wholeheartedly. My partner and I both have horrible exes, too. And I'm sure it kills both of them to know that we're happy without them. There were several times in the divorce/custody battle that I could have been vindictive and vengeful. In the end it would have looked badly in court, so I took the high road.

I think deep down we want our own form of justice. Let's face it; sometimes Karma/consequences/God/threefold law takes its good, sweet time, and we want to see people pay for what they've done. I think it makes us feel like the universe makes sense and reassures us that doing the right thing is worth it in the end. If taking the high road never pays off, what is the point?

In regards to Christianity, it is encouraged not to seek justice/revenge in order to receive rewards in the afterlife. In my experience it's not REALLY about turning the other cheek in most cases. It has more of a feeling of "just wait, they'll get punished when they're dead." So the revenge is still there, but like the Lord says in the good book "Vengeance is mine."

Is revenge ever worth it? It depends on what is on the line. I had to decide if the system would do the right thing by me and my son. If I was convinced that it  wouldn't, I would have most definitely played dirty.
I let my ex know 2 things. We were not friends.  And if he didn't play nice, I would take every penny he made for the rest of his life. We had been married 15 years.


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Sefiru

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Re: What is the point of revenge?
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2017, 09:38:30 pm »
5) Lastly, revenge is partly a power fantasy. To take revenge on someone, without relying on others, or worrying about consequences. One who takes revenge defines justice without regard to social conventions. This makes it very attractive as an idea.

I think you put your finger on something I was missing while thinking about this whole concept.

arete

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Re: What is the point of revenge?
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2019, 07:03:46 pm »
What I have been wondering about:
- What is revenge supposed to accomplish?
- Is revenge an effective way to accomplish point 1?
- Under what circumstances is revenge morally acceptable?
- What is the cultural appeal of revenge?
Revenge has to do with feelings, in my opinion. when someone causes you harm, you feel bad. Revenge is giving back the feeling. If revenge is destroying someone, then this is not revenge but pure malice.

TaniksHunter

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Re: What is the point of revenge?
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2019, 01:58:21 am »
I personally find revenge to be distasteful, as I take the myth of Orestes very seriously, but I understand the appeal. I get why someone would want to take revenge.


I'm a bit of a newbie, but could I ask you more about this? It's not directly related to the topic, and I fully get if you aren't comfortable answering my questions.

Sefiru

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Re: What is the point of revenge?
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2019, 05:42:16 pm »
when someone causes you harm, you feel bad. Revenge is giving back the feeling.

So the next question is, do you think this is a good thing to do or a bad thing? Do you think taking revenge makes people feel better, or does it just end up with everyone feeling bad?

arete

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Re: What is the point of revenge?
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2019, 04:51:04 am »
So the next question is, do you think this is a good thing to do or a bad thing? Do you think taking revenge makes people feel better, or does it just end up with everyone feeling bad?
In my opinion, someone who caused harm, if we take revenge on him, the pain will make him see the wrong he did and maybe he will change. Revenge, in my opinion, is to correct harmful behaviour. But most people take revenge only to satisfy their ego.  :-\

Klaw

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Re: What is the point of revenge?
« Reply #11 on: June 10, 2019, 10:09:12 pm »
I have been wondering about revenge lately (more for writing purposes than for real life) and not really coming to any conclusions. Culturally, I've got a lot of mixed messages; on the one hand, 'turn the other cheek' and 'two wrongs don't make a right'. On the other hand, 'give as good as you get' and 'payback is a b*tch'.

I think the key point in whether it is ok to take revenge comes down to if you can live with yourself and if you are willing to take the responsibility. I personally have no issue if said revenge is taken in self defense. The opportunities to include revenge in the plot of a book sounds like a lot of fun. Even if it is from the perspective of a big part of the story being the very struggle of whether or not to take revenge.

My first marriage was horrible and the split a nightmare. I considered something like this, but took the high road. He however did everything he could to ruin my relationship with our daughter. Thirteen years later it is still a struggle. Karma however has been on my side. He had a heart attack at forty, ruined his relationship with our daughter, was divorced by wife number two and is now living with his mother working part time at Wal Mart.


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Re: What is the point of revenge?
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2019, 05:55:27 pm »
I have been wondering about revenge lately (more for writing purposes than for real life) and not really coming to any conclusions. Culturally, I've got a lot of mixed messages; on the one hand, 'turn the other cheek' and 'two wrongs don't make a right'. On the other hand, 'give as good as you get' and 'payback is a b*tch'.

What I have been wondering about:
- What is revenge supposed to accomplish?
- Is revenge an effective way to accomplish point 1?
- Under what circumstances is revenge morally acceptable?
- What is the cultural appeal of revenge?

This is an issue which my God has been dealing with lately in my life. I'll admit it; when I see some oily pharmaceutical executive stand up with an unctuous smile and explain how his company had to jack up the price of a lifesaving medication (such as insulin, which was never patented and has always been in the public domain) by 500% due to "economic pressures," there's a part of me which very much wants to take a billy club and immediately and painfully remove every one of those orthodontically perfect pearly whites...and then get started on his kneecaps.

But what would the point be? Even assuming that I could do so without reprisals...and really, in the long run, would it be good for me as a personality to see myself as above the law?...what good would it accomplish? Would it restore life to any of his victims? Yes, perhaps it might deter others from following suit for a time...but history shows that the real skanks will find some other outlet, legal or illegal, to prey upon the innocents. And history also shows that reprisals are sure to follow. I believe that there's a reason why the Old Testament commands, "eye for eye, tooth for tooth (Deuteronomy 19:21 and elsewhere)." Yes, to us that sounds barbaric at first glance. But what about this quote from an almost-contemporary movie?

Quote
You wanna get Capone? Here's how you get him. He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone!



You see, the Old Testament injunction can actually be seen as a limitation on the ongoing escalation of violence! Which history also shows follows as sure as night after day when two cultures or groups feud. Hatfields and McCoys, anyone? At some point, someone has to make the decision that "the pain stops here" and break the cycle. Which we Christians believe happened in the ultimate sense at Calvary.

But this does not mean that we forego justice! One of the key tenets of Christianity is that Christ is, in fact, coming to judge the world. And I do believe this with my whole heart. We see only an instant in the time stream; I believe that if we could see the whole thing we would see an enormous region where justice has been done and souls are living in happiness and in harmony...and, as a small fringe on the border, the current nasty now-and-now which we know. Which keeps moving on...but keeps shrinking as it does so. My own opinion from observing current events is that our enemies are at present doing everything in their power out to try to gain some "extended play"...out of sheer desperation.

And that's another thing. Our human vengeance, in my opinion, targets the wrong person(s). Yes, I lash out at that pharmaceutical executive...but what about the generations of lawyers and government officials that set the stage for him to practice his slimy ways? What about the unseen spiritual forces which are beyond the reach of my billy club? Do they get away scot-free? Even if not...I'm now convinced that the Evil One is the original sadomasochist. If I were to somehow accomplish the spiritual equivalent of knocking his teeth out, he might just enjoy it...and plan as to how he could do the same, and even more, back to me.

Which, I believe, is the reason why in my belief system it is commanded to leave vengeance in the hands of my God. Believe me, he shares the same emotions about that pharmaceutical executive that I do...and then some! He wants to execute justice! But he wants it to be true justice, appropriate and proportional to the offenses, and which falls equitably upon all of the parties at fault. I believe that he would much prefer restitution going to the benefit of those who have been defrauded to the present common solution of a "fine" which is promptly passed on to consumers as the company's stock price then goes back up. "Vengeance is mine, I will repay (Romans 12:19)," states the Apostle Paul, freely quoting Deuteronomy. I believe that he's right...and that if I try to "improve" matters in my own strength and own initiative, I'll merely set matters back even more.
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Where's the KABOOM? There was supposed to have been an Earth-shattering KABOOM!

Failivrin

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Re: What is the point of revenge?
« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2019, 05:47:06 pm »
What I have been wondering about:
- What is revenge supposed to accomplish?
- Is revenge an effective way to accomplish point 1?
- Under what circumstances is revenge morally acceptable?
- What is the cultural appeal of revenge?

Here's an interesting case from the Pagan past, which I first discovered in Sagas of the Icelanders. The Vikings killed lots of people; that was their lifestyle. Their calendar had a harvest season and a raiding season. But for all of that, they weren't lawless barbarians. Consider the fact that Iceland had no king (It was mostly settled by political dissenters and refugees), but Iceland nevertheless had written laws and a functional judiciary. Among the laws was a formalized system for taking revenge. I don't have the charts in front of me, but it went something like this:

-If you are wrongfully killed, your father has the right to avenge you.
-If your father is dead or disabled, the responsibility goes to your son.
-If you have no son, or your children are too young, your brother is next in line. Then your uncle. So on and so forth through about fourteen tiers until we get to your most distant cousins.

Obviously, this sort of thing can cause a whole chain of murders. Example: I kill you, your son kills me, my uncle kills your son, your brother kills my uncle...

But despite appearances, the system was designed to exhaust itself. Revenge was no simple feat in the Viking age: It might have involved traveling great distances over sea, risking your own life to challenge fierce and brutal killers. And for what... for the honor of your third cousin, whom you may never have even met?

The alternative to killing for revenge was suing for were-gild. Example: You killed my kinsman, but if you give me and his dependents a heap of money equivalent to his worth, we'll forget this whole thing happened.

Judging by the sagas, it seems many people would accept were-gild in the case of an accidental killing, or a drunken bout that went too far. But even in a serious case of cold-blooded murder, once the right of revenge came down to extended family, people were usually willing to propose and accept a low settlement rather than risk more needless death.

...Of course, I'm not saying we should revert to the Viking model, but it may be interesting to consider whether modern cultures could accept revenge within a stable legal framework, and if so, what would that look like?
« Last Edit: June 17, 2019, 08:50:41 pm by SunflowerP »

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Re: What is the point of revenge?
« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2019, 08:52:28 pm »

A Reminder:
Hi, Failivrin,

We don't mind long posts here, but to avoid having a hard-to-read wall-o'-text, hitting "enter" twice every few lines adds some white space and makes it easier to follow - I've edited yours to add those breaks, but it's a really good habit to get into yourself.

They don't have to be the "proper" place for paragraph breaks (we're interested in readability more than technicalities), or a complete change of thought - some thoughts take a lot of lines and need to be broken up into sub-thoughts - as long as they're there.

This isn't a formal warning, just a reminder. No reply is necessary, but if you have questions or need clarification,  please feel free to contact a member of staff privately.

Thanks!
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