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Revenge (synonym vengeance) is a harmful action against a person or group as a response to a (real or perceived) grievance. Although many aspects of revenge resemble the concept of justice, revenge connotes a more injurious and punitive focus as opposed to a harmonious and restorative one. Whereas justice generally implies actions undertaken and supported by a legitimate judicial system, by a system of ethics, or on behalf of an ethical majority, revenge generally implies actions undertaken by an individual or narrowly defined group outside the boundaries of judicial or ethical conduct. The goal of revenge usually consists of forcing the perceived wrongdoer to suffer the same or greater pain than that which was originally inflicted.

Function in society

In some societies, it is believed that the punishment in revenge should be more than the original injury, as a punitive measure. The Old Testament "an eye for an eye" (cf. Exodus 21:24) validates the concept of proportionate revenge, in which there would be a simple 'equality of suffering'. Detractors argue that revenge is a simple logical fallacy, of the same design as "two wrongs make a right."

Of the psychological, moral, and cultural foundation for revenge, philosopher Martha Nussbaum has written: "The primitive sense of the just—remarkably constant from several ancient cultures to modern institutions...—starts from the notion that a human life...is a vulnerable thing, a thing that can be invaded, wounded, violated by another's act in many ways. For this penetration, the only remedy that seems appropriate is a counter invasion, equally deliberate, equally grave. And to right the balance truly, the [[Retributive justice|retribution]] must be exactly, strictly [[Proportional justice|proportional]] to the original encroachment. It differs from the original act only in the sequence of time and in the fact that it is response rather than original act—a fact frequently obscured if there is a long sequence of acts and counteracts".

History of Revenge

Vendettas or "blood feuds" are cycles of provocation and retaliation, fuelled by a burning desire for revenge and carried out over long period of time by familial or tribal groups; they were an important part of many pre-industrial societies, especially in the Mediterraneanmarker region, and still persist in some areas. During the Middle Ages, most would not regard an insult or injury as settled until it was avenged, or, at the least, paid for — hence, the extensive Anglo-Saxon system of "wergild" (literally, "man-price") payments, which placed a certain monetary value upon certain acts of violence in an attempt to limit the spiral of revenge by codifying the responsibility of a malefactor. The story of Wimund the Bishop illustrates the typical implacability of the time: its hero, though blinded and imprisoned, would avenge himself against his enemies "if he had even but the eye of a sparrow".

In Japan's feudal past, the Samurai class upheld the honor of their family, clan, or their lord through the practice of revenge killings, or "katakiuchi" (敵討ち). These killings could also involve the relatives of an offender. Today, katakiuchi is most often pursued by peaceful means, but revenge remains an important part of Japanese culture.

The motto of Scotlandmarker, 'Nemo Me Impune Lacessit', is Latin for 'None shall provoke/injure me with impunity'. The origin of the motto reflects the feudal clan system of ancient Scotland, particularly the Highlands.

The goal of some legal systems is limited to "just" revenge — in the fashion of the contrapasso punishments awaiting those consigned to Dante's Inferno, some have attempted to turn the crime against the criminal, in clever and often gruesome ways.

Modern Western legal systems usually state as their goal the reform or re-education of a convicted criminal. Even in these systems, however, society is conceived of as the victim of a criminal's actions, and the notion of vengeance for such acts is an important part of the concept of justice — a criminal "pays his debt to society" evinced by countries such as the United States continuing the practice of capital punishment.

Interestingly, psychologists have found that the thwarted psychological expectation of revenge may lead to issues of victimhood.

Proverbially

The first written appearance of the proverb "revenge is a dish best served cold" is often wrongly credited to the 18th century novel Les liaisons dangereuses; it does not, in fact, appear there in any form. It is also said to have been borrowed by late 19th century British writers from the Afghan Pashtuns. However, its earliest identified appearance in European literature is in the 1841 French novel Mathilde by Marie Joseph Eugène Sue: la vengeance se mange très-bien froide — there italicized as if quoting a proverbial saying — published in English translation in 1846 as revenge is very good eaten cold.

The popularly familiar wording can be attributed to The Godfather by Mario Puzo, a major bestseller in 1969, but the 1949 film Kind Hearts and Coronets had it as revenge is a dish which people of taste prefer to eat cold. The familiar wording more recently appears in the title sequence of the Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill: Vol 1, accredited as an "Old Klingon Proverb", referencing its use in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which so cites it.

The proverb suggests that revenge is more satisfying as a considered response enacted when unexpected, or long feared, inverting the more traditional revulsion toward 'cold-blooded' violence. In literature it is used, usually, to persuade another to forestall vengeance until wisdom can reassert itself.

See also



References

  1. "Equity and Mercy," in Sex and Social Justice [Oxford University Press, 1999], pp. 157-58
  2. Halliday, Tony (ed.). 1998. Insight Guide Pakistan, Duncan, South Carolina: Langenscheidt Publishing Group. ISBN 0887297366 (retrieved 19 February 2007)
  3. http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1580



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