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The Madness of Revenge

For the Teacher

"In the sleep of reason monsters come out"


If you have noticed, almost every action hero's first step would be a step toward revenge.

Take the Count of Monte Cristo as an example. Betrayed and imprisoned, the protagonist has all but one star that guided him through the endless nights inside his cramped cell: revenge to those who ridiculed and got him there in the first place. All his erudtion in both mind and body were oriented to just one single goal: how to show them that they messed with the wrong man.

The protagonist who keeps on running in "The Minority Report" also went to lead 'pre-crime' to its glory days because of one single personal experience of his only son being taken away from him without a trace. Hidden behind such an altruistic dedication to fight crime even before it happens was the worm in his heart that sought revenge for the one who erased his son's face away and placed it into mere bytes and sound clips in his home viedo collection.

Bruce Wayne himself was no stranger to the madness of revenge. He saw with his two young eyes the murder of both his parents for a mere necklace that his mother just happened to wear to the theatre. The Dark Knight had such dark intentions when he started fighting crime in the night; and one can perhaps venture as to what Mr Wayne does in the wee hours of the morning after a night of crime-fighting: he cries for his own sake, he weeps for his own loss.

What is revenge? Why is there such a phenomenon so easily felt but so difficult to pin down? Whence does it come from and whither does it go?

Obviously the roots of revenge spring from an evil that was done to a person (and only persons feel evil: the plant or the god do not experience such a 'silly' thing). Innocent and seeking for justice from above (from God or the cosmic karma) or from without (laws and justice), the oppresed person can 'take it up to oneself' or 'take responsibility' for the enforcement of the punishment back to the oppresing Other. One becomes the law, judge and persecutor in revenge; and since there is no 'check and balance' in such a government hidden in the heart and mind, there is no way to see beforehand (pre-crime) what is about to happen in such a crime of passion.

Perhaps revenge is the dark plan inside one's heart to 'get even' by perpetuating a crime that would aim to hurt the Other oppresor not only in a way that they could 'call it quits' but even more so to 'hopefully' debilitate the Other permanently, that is, to finish him.

Jean-Luc Marion in "Evil in Person" (Prolegomena to Charity) gives an axample of 'the perpetuity of evil' in a fake monetary bill. If one were to receive a fake P500 bill, what is one to do with it? Obviously the best way because just way is to take it back to the establishment or person who gave it. But what if one only realized that the bill was a fake only after receiving it and one has lost track of where he got it?

The easiest because most unjust way to be rid of a fake bill is to pass it on to another. Find an establishment that does not scan or check with a pen such bills and one would not have only gotten rid of the bill but also received something, anything from the presupposed value of a piece of worn-out paper. One's hands are then clean: free of something untrue, free of the guilt because like a hot potato it was meant to be passed on anyway. The new recepient will only do the same: pass it on to another and that other will only naturally give it away again and again and again to new recepient and a new giver.

Thus the 'perpetuity of evil' -- like the basic concept of perpetuity in business that the entity or corporation is seen to outlast persons and last until forever. Evil: always present because always 'insured' to be passed on by unwilling and innocent persons.

If this is the danger, where can its saving power grow and glow in the night; can there be a single start which will shine brightly in the night sky (Heidegger)?

That, of course, will be another story, another path.

But the Count of Monte Cristo -- like the protagonist in "The Minority Report" and Bruce Wayne / The Batman -- has already shown us the ways and byways of how evil is to be overcome and stopped on a dime by another more overwhelming power re-directed and re-oriented to the Same but Different direction.

Yet this would always have to come from a prior 'freedom to be free' from evil and enacted in one decision, that is, the decision that the buck or the hot potato stop with me.


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