Bucking the ‘REVENGE’ Taboo, Maybe Islam has this one Right
We tend to make a distinction between something called "justice" and something called "revenge." Why do we make that distinction?
The following remarks do not reflect FRN’s editorial line. The main emphasis in the below is a discourse on morality, justice, the state’s monopoly on violence, and its relation to the concept and practice of revenge. FRN is well aware that Islam’s view of revenge is perhaps best summarized in the chapter entitled Al-Nahl (Bees) of the Quran, which gives practical advice on this point. It says: If you want to retaliate, retaliate to the same degree as the injury done to you. But if you are patient, it is better to be so. – ( Quran 16:126). Also with regard to Christianity, we are also aware that the view here is best explained in Matthew 5:38-39 “38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” – ed. JF
We tend to make a distinction between something called “justice” and something called “revenge.”
Why do we make that distinction?
I am not a Muslim, but this is one of the things which I really very deeply admire about Islam – it makes revenge an integral concept within the system of justice. Damn right it should. The revenge impulse is the primordial human moral impulse.
In western Eurasia, the first temporal power to outlaw blood-feuds was the Roman Empire – Julius Caesar did it first in Gaul. St. Paul is seen by some Biblical scholars as a Roman shill. After that, Christianity (a Romanized religion appropriated by the empire to teach people to acquiesce to temporal authority) depicted revenge as an ignoble or perverse human impulse.
Why? It was simply all about normalizing the state’s monopoly on violence – the revenge-taboo is authoritarian to its core. It always has been.
The taboo concerning revenge grew stronger with the advent of early modernity. For the first time, infrastructure and communications made fully centralized nation-states with centralized judiciaries and bureaucracies possible, so the long arm of the law grew longer.
So the revenge-taboo conveniently grew stronger. And then hoity-toity liberalism (ie: secularized Christianity) took the revenge-taboo into overdrive. Make no mistake – all of this “revenge is bad” bullshit is simply political authoritarianism, originally devised to make state-violence a totality.
Honestly, I have never taken the revenge-taboo or the distinction between “revenge” and “justice” seriously. I have a lot more respect for cultural groups where people still rip each other’s guts out in the heat of anger than I do for cultural groups where that doesn’t happen.
Every society needs a certain background-level of promiscuous violence in order to defend itself from itself. Otherwise, the sociopaths just take over. In most “civilized” societies, they have. So fuck Roman Catholic forgiveness, fuck Russian Orthodox stoicism, fuck liberal tolerance, fuck all of that holier-than-thou “rise above it all” bullshit.
All of those ethical languages are merely euphemisms for castration. I have more respect for religions which DON’T attempt to rewrite human nature just in order to extend the state’s control.
Of all the major world-religions, Islam is the one with the best understanding of the fundamental morality of revenge as a human impulse. Human beings secrete revenge like bees secrete honey. To the extent that I have any conception of “human rights” at all, I must admit that it is a natural law based conception. Maybe that’s my medieval Catholic scholasticism at work, my latent Thomism.
But on that basis, because I see the revenge-impulse as such a natural human thing, something which may simply be hardwired in us, I think that, of all the major world-religions, Islam has the best ethical grasp of revenge. Human beings have a basic right to revenge, just like they have a basic right to food, water, shelter and medical care.