Empty Days

Tuesday, July 06, 2004



Can one live for revenge?

Though the obsessed Unabomber lists revenge as one of the main driving life-forces, on par with love and sex, I doubt this intense yet extremely reductive sentiment should be placed in that category. It is of course possible to be carried by hate and rejection to incredible heights of personal achievement but the seed is rotten from the start and every fruit born out of it will be full of venom.

Yes, hate is a strong passion - but it's also a strong poison. At least it tends to turn toxic when mixed with guilt and remnants of a moral view of the world. Morality basically regulates relations between humans. You can indeed develop a view of the world that excludes a number of humans out of your structure, so you don't feel any moral obligation towards them - but this process also destroys and deforms your own relation to the world: it becomes a thorny enclosure surrounded by venomous snakes and despicable reptiles who are all out to get you.

Such is the world of hate and revenge - it does look very much like hell that Bosch painted.

I wonder if it's possible to really enjoy seeing others suffering from your deeds - to actually experience uninhibited pleasure from such a sight. I wonder what cruelty is made of. I wonder whether killing an enemy leaves anything but a sense of emptiness instead of the fulfillment promised by revenge. This is the kind of questions relatives of a murder victim struggle with when the culprit is sent to the electric chair - what does it do except make the emptiness even more empty?

Revenge is based on a sense of justice - but this sense of justice is itself mechanical, it drives you from cause to effect as if along an insuperable logical argument, justice is a sort of syllogism - cold and essentially inhuman. It's a logic. With logic certain causes always produce certain effects. You can't get away - eye for eye and tooth for tooth, as if there were only eyes and teeth in the whole wide world.

I was tempted into experiencing whether my revulsion to revenge by violence was based in fear or in real disgust. I overcame fear easily and performed all the actions required by revenge. I feel no fulfillment - only disgust. At the same time the feeling of hate has subsided. It has been replaced by contempt - both for the victim and myself. The torturer can only feel contempt for his victim: never hate. But you can't feel better about yourself if your actions are directed against something you despise. Revenge is a vain exercise.

I will have to wait and see whether my ongoing disgust is still based in fear of retaliation. I can't know right now because fear is such a sneeky sentiment: it creeps in under a hundred forms and only declares itself for what it is when proper triggers are released. Oftentimes fear manifests itself as guilt. Maybe this is the case here. In a way I wish I didn't have to hate all these people so much or experience their hostility. But I guess it's got something to do with my general powerlessness - I can't undo it. I've always had a hard time resisting to unwarranted hostility. Sometimes people just hate me for no particular reason and I do wish I could just ignore this and forgive it from my own strength. But maybe I haven't got any and that's why I can't forgive or ignore, and have to automatically respond with hostility.

It's a pretty bottomless pit, all of this.





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