On what is wrong with vengeance

Over at (kottke.org) is a really good review on Jared Diamond’s New Yorker article on vengeance. What struck me was this quote from Vengeance:

“Diamond argues that the New Guineans’ everyday open embrace of such a strong emotion is not necessarily a bad thing and that modern society can circumvent people’s need for vengeance, resulting in feelings of dissatisfaction that can create unbalanced emotional lives.”

At first I read that and for a moment thought: yes, vengeance could be good. Then the moment passed. I thought of Shakespeare instead. I thought of Romeo and Juliet and how much unhappiness and suffering come about as a result of vengeance. Vengeance appears to be seeking justice, but its partiality prevents it from being seen that way. What is necessary is for justice to occur, not vengeance. Vengeance is the justice of the gutter. Our culture and civilization is about getting above that, for everyone’s sake. Even the sake of those who, like the relative of Jared Diamond, lost so much.

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