Revenge

September 16, 2018

We are often told to forgive and forget rather than bear a grudge; I am not sure I agree with this advice. 

 

It is important not to act in anger when wronged but forgiveness does not mean that revenge cannot be pursued nor that slights should be forgiven. The modern world, Twitter aside and some stand-out basket case nations, is unrecognisably civilised and the era of centuries old blood feuds has thankfully been put to an end. 

 

Martin Luther King famously said that “an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind” and this is but one of many quotes from individuals of note that sensibly point towards the futility of revenge. A little like the emotion of anger, revenge appears to be a once universally recognised act that has now been demonised and is rarely even discussed in modern culture. If you met a mate in the pub over the weekend and enquired about his week to which he detailed enacting revenge amongst his usual routine, I suspect that you would be taken aback.

 

As is often the case, it seems to me that the pendulum has swung too far the other way when it comes to revenge and the current perceived wisdom of rejecting it entirely is too extreme. I believe that revenge should be discussed, explored, debated and that it is a perfectly sensible and acceptable pursuit in certain cases.

 

Some would argue that you should simply rely on Karma to provide payback to those that have wronged you, or in extreme circumstances to instead entrust the authorities; unfortunately these solutions are often naive.  Life is not fair; there is not a powerful Karmic Justice righting wrongs daily and the Law can often be an ass. It is not until you have become the victim of intentional malice or inflicted tragedy that you can really appreciate how impossible it is to simply accept that a cosmic justice will be applied to those that have wronged you or that justice will be appropriately served in the Courts. Some things in life should not be delegated to others and I believe revenge is something that is personal and should be planned and enacted personally, when justified.

 

This desire for justice, a justice that can only be found through your own actions is one that is deeply relatable and one that has been core to some of the most popular stories in history. One of my favourite books is the Count of Monte Cristo. It is an epic tale of deceit, desperation and finally a delectable revenge. Like all works of art the interpretation of the themes of the book should be individual. For some this tale highlights the futility of revenge, for others it demonstrates the power that revenge can provide an individual when channeled positively. The revenge is hard-won, meticulously plotted and totally satisfying. As Dantes, the lead character, states; “How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure”. 

 

Alas in the modern world, it seems the act of revenge has been replaced by the act of litigation; this has added a monetary value to being a victim and has both encouraged the idea of victimhood and transferred the act of revenge from being something personal to something commercial. This undoubtedly has had a civilising affect and reduced the likelihood of individuals taking personal acts of revenge out on others but has also reduced peoples ability to take responsibility for their own actions. By no means should revenge replace the importance of taking personal responsibility for your own decisions. It is all too easy to simply blame others rather than take that responsibility for yourself and your own actions; it can be very comforting to hide away from your own short comings within that warm blanket of victimhood. But when you can point to a deliberate act of malice having been enacted on you or your loved ones, then that is the time when revenge should be pursued and from which there is an honour to be gained. 

 

And so, in extreme cases, I believe that revenge can be appropriate and that while you can forgive others it does not mean you should also have to forget their deeds or leave others to adjudicate their actions and dole out a punishment that they deem fair. There are times when it is incumbent on us all as individuals to take control and act. In such times revenge should be pursed with patience and honour and should be a perfectly acceptable act. 

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