Revenge is sweet, or so the saying goes. Yet, most Holy Writ will tell you that it is not something a human on the higher path should ever seek. Instead, we are taught to turn the other cheek, giving our cloak also when someone demands our coat. Revenge comes from a heart that is so hurt by a loss that said heart feels something must be done to “even up” the score. To the left is a picture of a statue honoring Nemesis, the goddess of retribution. It was her job to see that those undeserving of good fortune did not get too much, and that those who deserved punishment, received it.
Revenge is harmful action against a person or group done for the purpose of responding to a real or perceived wrongdoing. Although many aspects of revenge resemble or echo the concept of justice, revenge connotes a more injurious and punitive focus as opposed to a harmonious and restorative one. Whereas justice generally implies actions undertaken and supported by a legitimate judicial system, by a system of ethics, or on behalf of an ethical majority, revenge generally implies actions undertaken by an individual or narrowly defined group outside the boundaries of judicial or ethical conduct. The goal of revenge usually consists of forcing the perceived wrongdoer to suffer the same or greater pain than that which was originally inflicted.
The difficulty, of course, is that if one is out for revenge, one is generally too close to the issue to stop at just recompense. It is far too easy to go too far, and where a severe beating with some bruises would have more than repaid the perpetrator for the crime committed, death often is the result, or something else that could be worse. This, of course is the purpose of the judicial system, where a judge and jury can look at the crime and weigh all factors, and in the best of all possible situations, render a just and fair verdict. Of course, that is the best of all possible worlds, and ours has a couple of flaws, so that hope for the highest and best sometimes gets derailed. Sometimes technicalities cause essential evidence to be withheld from the view of the jurors, sometimes the jury or the judge or both have undergone some form of tampering. However, in our world, where we cannot see all factors, a good judicial system is a far better solution than vigilantes, or anything comparable.
I have surprised several of my peers in my stance on capital crimes. I believe if there is no question regarding the guilt of the criminal, i.e. there is more than just circumstantial evidence. And the criminal has shown this to be a pattern, (killing more than once or raping more than once) that a simple, austere, humane means of putting the criminal “down” as one would do an animal that was ill and one wished to end it’s misery, be found with which to end the criminal’s life. This is not as a matter of punishment, but rather as a means of ending a life we do not know how to “fix”. I understand the psychiatrists who wish to study said group of criminals, and if there is found some way to guarantee that they cannot again be released into a free society, my blessings as long as the studies are aimed at learning what caused the dysfunction to begin with and preventing such events or damage from being repeated with the next generation.
I do not wish such criminals harm, however, repeat offenders that have shown criminality to be a lifetime pattern ought not to be in the same prisons with first time offenders where there is some hope of rehabilitation. Nor do I wish to have less than survivable circumstances in the prisons. There is no need for them to be pampered, but, there is no need for them to be kept in uncivilized circumstances either. I want adequate health care for them, I want a decent library, though I must admit that the idea of a complete law library in a prison, where the criminal learns how to beat the “rap” so to speak makes my blood run a bit cold. And I wish there were a way to do away with prisons altogether, though that cannot happen until we learn to do only good to one another and not harm.
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you this is an edict from G-d, just my personal opionion, so it may not be worth much.