July 6, 2011

Revenge, the Wikipedia article.

A report that the wife of Dominique Strass-Kahn is seeking "revenge" got me thinking about the specific meaning of the word. Surely, it doesn't include merely remembering who kicked you when you were down.

My curiosity about the concept was sufficient to get me to Wikipedia, where I was, first, interested that there was an article at all, and second, interested that it was as short as it was. It wasn't super-short, like a dictionary definition. If you're going to purport to cover the history of revenge and its function in society and religion plus that famous saying, how do you keep the length to 2 screens?

Presumably: editing! Wikipedia is all about editing. People load crap in. That's the easy part. The miracle of Wikipedia is in the editing.

Oh, come on, Althouse. It's not a miracle. I mean, check it out:  "A miracle is an event attributed to divine intervention."

No, no. I'm not going there. The Daily News used "revenge" to portray a specific individual in a negative light for the titillation of readers. I used hyperbole, in a complimentary sense, to refer to the behind-the-scenes work of thousands of editors who deserve some extra praise and thanks.

Both miracles and revenge play a part in human storytelling, but revenge is a much better story. "Deus ex machina" is not the most admirable plot device, as Aristotle explained:
It is obvious that the solutions of plots too should come about as a result of the plot itself, and not from a contrivance... There should be nothing improbable in the incidents; otherwise, it should be outside the tragedy....
Revenge makes a good tragedy. See "Hamlet."  If you haven't seen it already.
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. 
For this penetration.... a good image, when we're talking about rape. But what of the false accusation of rape? That too is a penetration.
"And to right the balance truly, the retribution must be exactly, strictly proportional to the original encroachment."
I think revenge asks for more.  Nussbaum explains the moral aspect of revenge, not the passionate edge that wants more than justice. There is passion, but wait...
Revenge is a dish best served cold.
That is the saying about revenge. And it doesn't suggest becoming dispassionate. You're not using your measuring spoons and cups, preparing a dish "strictly proportional to the original encroachment." The cold dish that is the best revenge is not a calibrated diet dish.

Nussbaum's Heart-Healthy Justice Salad is not revenge.

41 comments:

Shanna said...

"Deus ex machina" is not the most admirable plot device,

I was watching Dodgeball this weekend and noticed for the first time that the chest of money at the very end had “Deux ex machine” written on it. Cracked me up but then I ended up having to explain to everybody else what it meant.

t-man said...

Last week, in a bar, one of my colleagues said that there were only four thems for drama. He offered the "quest" theme. I thought that four was too few, but said "revenge" had to be one - offering up Hamlet as the example. Is revenge in the air?

Scott M said...

Well, first you have to venge someone. Then you go back and do it again, correcting any venging mistakes you made the first time.

rhhardin said...

Revenue is best served cold.

rhhardin said...

An ex machina is an old computer of yours.

Ann Althouse said...

"Cracked me up but then I ended up having to explain to everybody else what it meant."

It means the script writers went to college. In my day, it would have meant the script writers went to high school.

traditionalguy said...

Revenge is the first attempt to live in a peace with a powerful neighbor.

It uses balance of power concept and says that if you kill 1000 of this tribe, then you can be sure that we will kill 1000 of your tribe and quit.

The only other method is to exterminate the other tribe at one blow.

But by exterminate is meant "Kill the male adults" and take (Rape is the correct verb) the women and children to become the winning tribes new members to be used in service roles.

Plus take the livestock.

Young women captives especially serve as child bearers for the leadership of the winning tribe. New warriors must be raised up and trained to replace the dead ones.

So revenge was a political activity for the tribes, such as the Sicilian tribe of Corleone.

Ann Althouse said...

Writing this post, my thoughts drifted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. I wondered who might be cooking up a dish right now, to be served cold. The hot dish was served a couple weeks ago, but the short-order cook Bill Lueders. But perhaps there's an abler chef in a fancier kitchen somewhere, assembling a diet-busting frozen dessert.

traditionalguy said...

Hamlet was a comedy based upon a "cracked up" young Prince who feels trapped into a duty of revenge. Young Hamlet jokes about his predicament all the play long.

MadisonMan said...

tl;dr

Shouting Thomas said...

Yes, Althouse, I'd like to know what revenge means to you.

Clearly, when you were a young woman, you were caught up in the revenge movement that was feminism.

You were and are a privileged suburban white woman who's never wanted for anything.

As the lies of feminism fall away for you, how do you view yourself as a young woman, wallowing in the stupid revenge fantasies of feminism?

The lies are collapsing, Althouse? Now that you know that you were seeking revenge for a non-existent injustice, how do you feel about yourself?

We were all stupid when we were young, Althouse, just in different ways. Me, too.

Scott M said...

One would think that dead horse is pulp by now, ST.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I can't think of the term "revenge" without the clip from A Fish Called Wanda. (one of my all time favorite clips)

REVENGE

When taunted by classmates in school for being a nerd or whatever, my mother always said:

"Success is the best revenge".

traditionalguy said...

A frozen dessert? LOL. Maybe Grandmother Shirley will bake Prosser a cake as a peace offering, but lace the cake with viagra and methamphetamine, and then provoke Prosser into angry reactions in front of National Enquirer cameras she has set up.

Trapper Townshend said...

Of course that would be Martha Nussbaum's definition of revenge. Why look around you at the real world when you can "arrive" at definitions and insights through the power of your impressive and impeccably credentialed mind?

Shouting Thomas said...

One would think that dead horse is pulp by now, ST.

The horse is very much alive.

Witness the latest rape hysteria over DSK and Diallo.

Witness the numerous men falling over themselves to rescue the damsel in distress in these comments.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Revenge is a dish best served cold

I always understood that to mean that if you are taking revenge....take your time. Don't act in the heat of the moment.

Revenge is best served cold, when it comes unexpectedly, long after the event that needs to be revenged.

Patience and planning.

I also have a friend who stated that there are only 26 plots (not themes) in drama.

traditionalguy said...

ST...So we like Damsels. What's your problem? Ever since Adam met Eve we have thanked God for his superior Damsel Design skill...art work like no other.

t-man said...

DBQ -

You are correct, it was plot, not theme. But twenty-six seems too many (and four seems far too few).

Shouting Thomas said...

ST...So we like Damsels. What's your problem? Ever since Adam met Eve we have thanked God for his superior Damsel Design skill...art work like no other.

I'm very fond of damsels.

Experience has taught me to be skeptical of Damsel in Distress stories.

Carol_Herman said...

The other shoe fell in Paris.

Plus, today, at the NY Post, there's an article that the DA is "talking about dropping the case," with DSK's lawyers. So, there's an assumption to what type of "deal" he would take.

My guess is "exoneration." And, the disappearance of evidence from the Sofitel.

The management of the Sofitel says it has no evidence that the maid practiced prostitution. That this information has been received. And, they've investigated.

Notice that's where it stops, at the hotel.

The DA's office has lost a number of high profile cases, now. Not just with accusing cops of a rape, where the jurors said NO. And, the DNA evidence from the DA's office, was found to be incompetent. This is what happens inside court;s, where evidence meets cross-examination.

There is also a Trifecta loss to the DAY's office ... over a charge that the Deuche bank caused deaths ... by severing a pipe. While the 9/11 fires had been caused.

The case is now also in France. Where the french will decide if DSK is a rutting chimpanzee. Or not. Their system takes years to process.

You get to project possible outcomes.

ONE: France ignores the charges.

TWO: French women turn on the socialists. And, vote for Sarkozy.

THREE:

Dominique is not thrilled to go back to Paris, when the judge hands him his passport.

FOUR: The new york city case might not be dropped?

FIVE: The maid's case against the journalists at the NY POST, could proceed. And, we'll get more information, not less, as the LIBEL suit will expose the gutter tactics of assassination a person's character ... Hand in hand with the NYPD.

SIX: Everybody will stop caring.

We will go back to business as usual. And, the maid not only won't get her job back; she's not going to be earning enough money from her civil suit ... to make the "pay off" worth it in contingency fees.

But, Thomapson may turn out to be one terrific lawyer!

In Florida, the prosecutor couldn't believe the jurors found reasonable doubt.

Regular people, who serve on juries, take their roles seriously. And, they do hold up legal standards.

What will the french do?

I have no idea!

edutcher said...

Christianity essentially teaches that, in the end, revenge isn't worth it. It costs you at least as much as the person who is the object.

The Kennedys lived for revenge ("Don't get mad, get even") and seem to be living proof it always comes back to bite you.

Willie and Hilla are the same way. It's going to be interesting to see how they revenge themselves on Little Zero and what it costs them.

ndspinelli said...

Revenge is a dish best served cold is not so much about dispassionate concoction. It's about the target not expecting it. It's makes the revenge stealthy and more lethal. However, it requires patience..in our impatient culture.

Shouting Thomas said...

Here's a little story that I hope none of my sisters ever reads. I doubt that they read this blog.

When I was a lad, I was very close to one of my sisters who was only 10 months older than me. We were what is called "Irish twins."

When we were, say, younger than 10 or 11 years old, if she got really pissed off at me, she would pull down her panties and show me her stuff.

She would then run off screaming and yelling to my dad:

"He made me do it! He made me do it! He pulled down my panties and looked at my junk!"

(Of course, it wasn't referred to as "junk" in those days. The term had not yet arrived on the scene.)

My dad bought it every time. Down went my pants. Over his knee. A good spanking.

My sister would rub it in (not the junk but the insult) with glee afterwards.

I learned over time to avoid being in situations where my sister could show me her junk.

This was the beginning of a lifetime of similar lessons on a variety of levels. Men are easily manipulted by their chivalrous desire to rescue the Damsel in Distress.

And, incidentally, I love my sister. She's a very nice woman. And my dad was a wonderful man.

ricpic said...

Revenge is best served cold, when it comes unexpectedly...

Yes. It's the unexpectedness that makes the wounding of the SOB who did you dirt and with the passage of time has almost forgotten the incident doubly painful to him, a bolt out of the blue as it were, and doubly pleasurable to you, the originally wounded party and revengee.

themightypuck said...

When I think of revenge I think of Edmond Dantes who definitely served his dish cold. Of course Dantes would have loved to have been accused, arrested, had his reputation sullied, and been released after a couple of weeks.

SunnyJ said...

Revenge has a memory like an elephant...go about your business, work hard, be successful, laugh and enjoy life...trust the process and when the opportunity arises, pull out your elephant gun and take your best shot.

ndspinelli said...

Shouting Thomas, Your dad must be great..to keep that sister off of the stripper pole proves his greatness. As Chris Rock says..w/ fathers and daughters it's pass/fail. Keep her off the pole, you passed. If she works the pole, you failed. Sounds like your dad rescued your sis from that pole!!!

Word verification: BONER..NO SHIT BONER.

Shouting Thomas said...

Shouting Thomas, Your dad must be great..to keep that sister off of the stripper pole proves his greatness.

My dad was great. His results do speak for themselves.

Jim S. said...

Not all accounts of miracles are Deus ex machina scenarios, as that phrase is usually understood.

Chris said...

You're not using your measuring spoons and cups, preparing a dish "strictly proportional to the original encroachment." The cold dish that is the the best revenge is not a calibrated diet dish.

Nussbaum's Heart-Healthy Justice Salad is not revenge.


Althouse channels The Tick.

Luke Lea said...
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Luke Lea said...
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Oligonicella said...

"And it doesn't suggest becoming dispassionate."

Yes it does. The emotional part comes after the serving. You need dispassionate plotting to ensure success. The entire reason of becoming cold-blooded in your revenge is to abort any emotional but ill-timed actions.

"The cold dish that is the the best revenge is not a calibrated diet dish."

It is if you want the recipient to understand on a fundamental level that they were the pawns in the final setup.

Luke Lea said...

Revenge is a rough kind of justice Bacon wrote in one of his essays. And revenge is sweet as the saying goes.

I sometimes wonder whether revenge might be one of the greatest unacknowledged forces in modern history. Think Marxism (revenge against the bourgeoisie); Nazism (revenge against the Jews); Freudianism (revenge against the goyim).

Ok, I know, this last one sounds like a stretch. However read the fascinating chapter on Freud in The Ordeal of Civility

Ann Althouse said...

"Clearly, when you were a young woman, you were caught up in the revenge movement that was feminism. You were and are a privileged suburban white woman who's never wanted for anything."

Where did you get this information? I married a writer, when I was 22, and we lived in New York City, in relative poverty. I wanted to be an artist, which I didn't get, and my day job paid about $6,500 a year. I read magazines and wrote code numbers in them with china markers. My husband had a day job that paid only slightly more than that. He read bad manuscripts and typed bullshit letters to the deluded writers of those manuscripts. We lived in tenement on East 91st Street.

Bob_R said...

Is The Count of Monte Cristo the best pure revenge story there is? Far better than Hamlet in that regard. (Probably the only way that it is better, but give it it's due.)

ricpic said...

Freudianism (revenge against the goyim).

To the extent that the goyim in Vienna set the haute-bourgeois standard for the only way life should be lived and Freud bought into that standard so totally that he invented a system that demanded total repression of every spontaneous unbourgeois impulse in the goyim (and the Jews for that matter) you could say he was taking revenge on the goyim. It's very convoluted. First you admit that you want to kill your father and blank your mother. Then you ruthlessly suppress that knowledge or any conceivable act in accord with that secret knowledge in order to live a "civilized" life. Freudianism is finally revenge by Freud on Freud.

Phil 3:14 said...

Bible and revenge. A few tidbits.

from God to Moses:

"It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them." Deut. 32:35

familial revenge. Absalom avenges the rape and humiliation of his sister Tamar, 2 SAM. 13:23-38


Jesus regarding revenge:
"“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. " Luke 6:27-28

Mark Allen said...

"Revenge is like serving cold cuts." Tony Soprano

Bradley Kruger said...

One of my friends is an admin in Wikipedia. Ha has told me that some of the wikipedia admins take money in order to make biased edits and ban users who oppose them. See this also - wikicash9.blogspot.com