Social Question

DigitalBlue's avatar

Is there anything wrong with seeking revenge?

Asked by DigitalBlue (6454 points ) April 15th, 2013

Are revenge and justice one in the same? Should they be?

I see a lot of comments on social media today, regarding the events in Boston, suggesting that when they find the person(s) who did this that we ought to “string them up with piano wire” and we need to “bring back public execution.”

In a lot of high profile cases I notice people wishing torture, rape and death upon the convicted.

Is violence a solution against violence? Does it say anything about our culture (and/or humanity) that we embrace violence or death, as long as we feel it’s justified?

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21 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Revenge takes you down to the other person’s level. Justice is the high road. Sure I’d like to stand the person on a bridge with some piano wire and some cement blocks, but does that make me any better than them? After the Atlantic Olympic bombing they were ready to lynch an innocent man. Justice gives us a better chance of getting the right parties.

marinelife's avatar

I think that the people saying that do not represent the majority. Also, a lot of it is passion in the heat of the moment.

All I want is for the perpetrator(s) to be found and convicted in a court of law.

Revenge is not the same thing as justice. In fact, revenge is a failure of societal norms. Our society does not condone revenge. That’s why we have laws and courts.

Blackberry's avatar

Your example is nothing but ignorance mixed with emotion: the same thing that had everyday american-arabs and muslims afraid to walk the streets after 9/11.

There is a line between revenge and justice.

filmfann's avatar

“Revenge is never a straight line. It’s a forest, And like a forest it’s easy to lose your way… To get lost… To forget where you came in. ” —- Hattori Hanzo

woodcutter's avatar

The death penalty is probably the ultimate revenge for a killer. So far it hasn’t stopped murder.

rooeytoo's avatar

Yes, but that doesn’t prevent me from wishing for it in certain situations.

woodcutter's avatar

@rooeytoo are you guessing, or….assuming right there

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Probably, but I still have a vengeful nature.

Symbeline's avatar

My ideal would be to try and solve problems, although unfortunately, it seems that really isn’t what justice is about haha. Is it wrong to want revenge? Well it’s probably natural but I don’t see how it solves anything, and justice is supposed to protect and help people. And you can’t do that by just fucking shit up. You gotta fix shit up.

Butt shit, when I live in a system where a petty thief gets one year of prison against a man who killed his two kids and only gets two years, I’m done hoping. If those two kids were mine, I’d sure as hell want revenge, no matter how much of a savage that would turn me into. I’m pretty much already there, anyways

Not that I claim to know of a solution, understand. My approach and reasoning here is vengeance like enough that if my toes were penises, I’d be deep throating like mad at this point. (foot in mouth I mean, always gotta clarify shit on here)

rooeytoo's avatar

@Symbeline – glad you clarified that, I had no idea what it meant!

@woodcutter – I think I am guessing or perhaps I am assuming that I think I am guessing!!!

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

As long as you are focused on revenge, you are unable to move forward in any constructive manner. Feeling anger is reasonable but you must not let it eat you up inside.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’m guessing that revenge is genetically hard wired into us as a remnant from when our ancestors dropped from the trees and started to form small societies. If a group member hurt another person or stole the food supply the rest of the group pounded him so he learned to behave. The groups that did not do that fell apart and did not survive.

I’d like to see every member who ran in the marathon pledge $100 to a reward fund that will be paid to the person who with turns the guy in – dead or alive.

Apparently despite my job, education, and NPR listening habit, I am not as evolved as I think I am. If someone intentionally hurts me or the people I love, I will not run to the police. I will do everything in my power to prevent him from ever doing again. Call it revenge, call it payback, call it god’s will, call it justice. It does not matter. Just call me with the perp’s name and address.

newtscamander's avatar

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
Gandhi

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Symbeline That is probably the best description ever of human nature. A little abstract, but when I think about it that is so on the money it’s amazing. I wish I could give you 100 GA’s for that.

thorninmud's avatar

Revenge gives us such cherished institutions as the Crips and Bloods, and the Middle East crisis.

Yes, revenge is a built-in impulse, the function of our reptilian brain. But evolution has endowed us with neurological upgrades in the form of higher cortical processes that are capable of vetoing impulses that are counter-productive.

Humans seem to be somewhere on an evolutionary cusp: We have the neural hardware to understand the consequences and implications of our actions, but we’re still not very skilled at mobilizing those resources when our reptilian brains howl. But our species’ survival depends on mastering that skill.

The people against whom we seek revenge are for the most part people who are lousy at using their prefrontal cortices to suppress their impulses. That’s why they do these shitty things. You can say that it’s perfectly natural for the victims to want to lash back; that’s true enough, because we all have that reptilian brain down there at the base of the skull. But it’s also perfectly natural to exercise our human prefrontal cortices at that point and see how that will just tend to perpetuate the cycle. That’s the path humanity has to take.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Maybe there a genetic-mathematical reason for revenge.
Figure there are many more good people in the world than bad. As a crazy example, say there were 50,000 good people at the marathon and there was one nut job. (I don’t know the real numbers, it does not matter.) If the bad guy does a heinous act against a good guy and another good guy kills him on the spot, the net is an improvement in the good to bad ratio. Life gets better for the rest of the population.
Of course now we have court systems that supposedly take care of the bad guys when they do evil. Unfortunately the courts take a long tome, are expensive, and are not always correct. Neither is vigilante justice – but it sure saves time and money.

muppetish's avatar

The media isn’t interested in quoting a pacifist.

jca's avatar

Yesterday I heard in the local papers about a 67 year old man who is in jail for raping a 3 year old girl. The girl went to the man’s wife’s day care center (New Rochelle NY, google it). I thought to myself that the man should be taken out in a field and shot. It made me feel better to think that way, right or wrong.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

^^ I agree, wholeheartedly.

augustlan's avatar

Just the very idea of revenge kind of repulses me. There’s often this underlying gleefulness (for lack of a better word) about the nature of revenge, and that makes it ugly to me. Sort of like when people were dancing in the streets after Bin Laden was killed. That literally made me feel sick to my stomach. It’s not like I was sorry he was dead, but I certainly wasn’t celebrating it. If I ever actually took revenge on anyone, I don’t think I could live with myself afterward.

To be honest, I don’t really understand the impulse toward revenge. To the best of my recollection, I’ve never wanted revenge – not even for things that happened to me or my family. I mean, I might as well be the 3 year old @jca mentions, but I never even wanted revenge on my abuser. I did want him put away, but not as punishment for what he did to me. Just to prevent him from doing it to any more little girls – and only because I didn’t think he could be rehabilitated.

Which brings up an important point. The ‘justice’ we have is a lot more like revenge than actual justice. Real justice, to my mind, would result in the victim(s) being made ‘whole’ again, which really isn’t possible. The next best thing would be to rehabilitate the criminal so he could go on to be a ‘force for good’ in the world. (And let’s be honest…we don’t even really attempt to do that.) In cases where rehab just isn’t going to work, go ahead and lock ‘em up for life, but not unnecessarily in some horrible environment. The goal shouldn’t be to punish the criminal, but to protect society. However, our criminal justice system is all about punishment, and that seems an awful lot like vengeance to me. Don’t even get me started on the death penalty!

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