Almost all of us have heard of it, seen enough of it and sometimes wrung our hands at the very despicable things people do to one another just so they can get even with the other party.
If there is enough revenge in the world, there is every bit of a chance of the world going blind, Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi once said.
The late Mahatma’s life and bid for independence was underpinned by innumerable episodes of torture and torment. He was incarcerated for something nothing more the something purely innocuous as for campaigning for his constitutional right to be free.
Like the Mahatma, South Africa’s former president Nelson Mandela was a touch like the crusading, divine rod his mentor and idol was, doing and campaigning just for the very things the Mahatma before him in India sought. In his words when appearing before an Oprah Winfrey show in the 1990s was that revenge ‘was the province of a weak man’.
Both of these seminal figures embodied moral courage, a far more attractive human ideal for as the case always is in the world, moral courage of the kind exuded by both of these men is simply to few to curate nor narrate.
Little wonder they became the conscience of the world and no tribute is more fitting than the Nobel Peace Prize. A no less personage is Aung San Suu Kyi who like Mandela and Gandhi also championed moral courage and won the Nobel Prize in her own right.
But revenge is something we rarely discuss as we do not want our baser instincts known to others.
Yet it is foolish to deny that revenge is one of the deepest instincts we have. Anybody denying it, can never be seen as speaking the truth. We have all heard of Clint Eastwood’s “Go ahead, make my day’ in Dirty Harry resonating across generations. Out of control revenge, attack and counterattack, can be blinding and destroy the lives of all involved. But our instincts and emotions usually serve a purpose.
Many a social scientist believe that revenge is a form of establishing justice or even some kind of protection.
That somewhat explains China’s recent behaviour in the international arena because she believes she has been wronged that she could grab our Terrexes’ and not make amends, for that is her way of establishing justice and warning Singapore of what she can do to us, if we cross her. Revenge is giving her a good feeling and also a just feeling.
But so long as the stakes are not stacked against her, she feels a sense of relief even as the conscience of the world is arrayed against her for the very unlawful grab of Singapore’s assets.
Perhaps, the Chinese leaders would have done better if they are heeded one of their sage’s Confucius great sayings, ‘Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves’.
That is just how counterproductive revenge can turn into?