Know Thyself

Nothing in Excess
 
HomePortalFAQMemberlistSearchRegisterLog in

Share | 
 

 Revenge

View previous topic View next topic Go down 
AuthorMessage
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Revenge Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:18 pm

William Miller wrote:
"We are used to seeing Justice figured as a strong woman, bearing a sword, sometimes crowned with sprigs of a plant – laurel or grain stalks – blindfolded perhaps, and surely bearing scales. Most of us, I would bet, assume that the scales merely reproduce the message of the blindfold: that justice is impartial, not a respecter of persons, which means it is blind to the social status of the people before it. The blind- fold is a late addition to the iconography of Justice. It dates from the early sixteenth century, whereas scales have been associated with Egyptian Maat, Greek Dike, and Roman Lady Aequitas for a couple of millennia longer than that.

The scales overflow with productive meanings – for starters, are they properly represented in Justice’s hand as even or tipped? – but the blindfold quickly degenerates into absurdity if we think on it too closely. Do you want to blindfold someone with a sword? It may not be wise to have her unable to see what she is striking, unless you do not give a damn about how much it costs to do justice; collateral damage, though unfortunate, must be borne. Blind justice morphs into blind fury. And how is she supposed to read the scales, if she is blind? This troubled early representers of Justice; some thus gave her two faces like Janus, with the side bearing the sword prudently left unblindfolded.1

Blindness – or being blindfolded as in the game of blindman’s bluff, where the purpose was to make you stumble around like a fool – was never an iconographic virtue before Justice made it one in the early- modern period; blindness was traditionally associated with stupidity and irrationality, as in Blind Cupid, or with lack of righteousness, as in Exodus 23.8: “And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.” But by the late fifteenth century, blindness, at least with respect to justice, had changed its valence. It was now a virtue: it kept her from favoring the rich, the beautiful, the powerful, though it still left her to be swayed by educated accents or sexy voices, and to be repelled by those who did not smell good. Thus some early-modern depictions of her and of her judges show them with stumps instead of hands, amputated so as to be bribeproof, an image made all the more necessary because surely one of the unintended meanings of blindness was that the blind often had their hands extended begging for alms.2 And it was standard folk wisdom that many of those blind beggars were shamming their blindness anyway. Another problem with the blindfold, as any little kid knows, is that it is seldom peekproof.

Although the notion of “tipping the balance” as the decision point is very much with us, the more ancient and deeper notion is that justice is a matter of restoring balance, achieving equity, determining equiva- lence, making reparations, paying debts, taking revenge – all matters of getting back to zero, to even. Metaphors of settling accounts, in which evenness is all, run deep. If the scales are tipped we are still “at odds”; there is no end of the matter until the pans regain their equipoise. The work of justice is to reestablish right order, to restore a prior supposed equilibrium that has been disturbed by some wrongful act or some debt owed but not paid. In corrective justice, evenness, not tipping, is the end point.

Once the scales have singled you out as having to answer we must now reemploy them to determine how much you must answer for. Here the matter can be concluded only when we know the full measure of the harm you are responsible for. For this the scales need to settle finally at even, and rather than behaving irrationally they are pretending to a kind of essential rationality: the rationality of calculation and the marketplace. But the question that is answered by tipping – the ques- tion, that is, of whether to hold someone liable or whom to hold liable – is preliminary, whereas the question that is answered by evenness is the remedial question, the question of resolution, and the core justice ques- tion. And thus the iconographic and conceptual primacy of depictions of evenness.

The scales are the signature emblem of the trader, those people who are taken as the torchbearers for a particular view of rationality as economic rationality (though even they only occasionally behave as economic theory orders them to). It is a standard archaeological deduc- tion that when scales are found among the grave goods, the skeleton they accompany was involved in trade. And in the Viking Northlands a substantial number of these skeletons are female, just like Lady Justice, Maat, Dike, and Aequitas. Scales are tools of the marketplace, the stuff of everyday settling accounts. Lady Justice borrows her defining instrument from the defining instrument of precisely those people mis- trusted from time immemorial as sharp practicers. But justice cannot shake its connection to measuring value, setting prices, and exchange, so borrow from the trader it must. To this day we find it hard to conceptualize corrective justice independently of the language of the mar- ketplace, of debts incurred and accounts settled, of setting value and establishing prices, of obligations discharged in full, of paying for and paying back, and of satisfaction. In the Babylonian suq of 1800 b.c. the scales had to end up even or else there was no conclusion to the transaction. The same is true for remedial justice.

Commensuration is just what the scales hold out as the highest image of justice. And though in the end pure equivalence may not be achiev- able, we shall see that many a lawmaker, and many an avenger, was an expert at devising practical systems of equivalences. At times they were inspired to realize balance in sublimely fantastic and poetically pow- erful ways. Can’t we think that much of the poetry in poetic justice is precisely a commitment to perfect balance and fitness and to the belief that justice, and the passion for it, has a powerful aesthetic as well as moral component?

What if the societies that first used the imagery of balance, equity, evenness did not have coinage or units of account? So people buying goods or getting justice had to weigh out silver, or barley, or iron, or blood, maybe even eyes and teeth and other body parts. In other words, justice is not quite separate from the story of money and its origins, of primitive money, and how to measure value – largely how to measure human value in serious cases – and thus it is also not separate from notions of honor: how to value my honor, my kin, my life, against your honor, your kin, your life. people were pretty good at making trade-offs, at weighing and balancing harms, pains, suffering, benefits, favors, and human worth, at measuring eyes and teeth, arms and legs, this person’s life against that person’s. Although paying back, getting even, and revenge are often the subject of our most vivid fantasies, theirs was a social, political, and legal world in which getting to even was the very stuff of the practical.

Our word even is jafn in Old Norse; they are clearly cognate words deriving from the same Germanic root. Jafn lies at the core of Norse notions of justice, so that the word for justice is often rendered as evenness (jafnað); injustice, as unevenness (o ́jafnað). (The negative prefix o ́ corresponds to the English negative prefix un or in, and the ð, or eth, is pronounced as our th). A bully, a man who shows no justice or equity in his dealings, is an “unevenman” (o ́jafnaðarmaðr) (maðr= man in the nominative case). A just man, on the other hand, is even, of even temper and fair in his dealings (jafnaðarmaðr). Of one such unevenman it is said that “no one got any justice from him, he fought many duels and refused to pay compensation for the men he killed and no one got payment for the wrongs that he did.” It is not that the unevenman in question kills that makes him unjust, but that he kills and then refuses to pay for the damage. Behaving justly means paying for the people you kill, the harms you inflict. Literally paying. Then you are no longer unjust, for you have restored the balance. An even man evens things out. I do not wish to overstate the case. A rich person could not go around killing for the hell of it and then pay compensation and be excused from being blamed for his unevenness, his arrogance, or his bullying. He still had to kill under some reasonable claim of right.

But who gets to set the going price of a corpse? Does our killer give what he thinks is fair? Do the victim’s kin get to name their price? How does the balance get struck? How do we know we are even? Sometimes just about words societies have laws that tell us how much a man of a certain status is worth; they provide a fixed wergeld, or man-price, that measures his legal rank and indicates how much you have to pay his kin if you kill him. This was the case in the Wessex of King Alfred in the ninth century, or the Kent of King Æthelberht in the seventh. In other places, such as saga Iceland, the price is set on a case-by-case basis but the prices actually assessed tended to cluster around certain customary amounts. Arbitrators set the value, or the parties themselves negotiated an appropriate payment.

In this light consider the word odd. The English word odd is bor- rowed from Old Norse. Odd(i) is Norse for a point, for a triangle, for a spit of land, and for an arrowhead or spearhead; in other words, odd indicates the effect of adding a third point outside the line formed by the two points that determine the line: the odd point makes of a line a tri- angle, an arrowhead, a spearpoint. They also used odd to indicate odd numbers, numbers that were not jafn. Now the plot thickens. One of the words they used to designate the person who cast a deciding vote in an arbitration panel was oddman (oddamaðr). For us, “being at odds” means we are in the midst of a quarrel, and it meant that in Old Norse too; to resolve that quarrel you needed to get back to even.18 To do that you often had to bring in an oddman, a third party, to declare when the balance was even again if the law did not so provide or the parties could not agree among themselves as to how to strike it. You needed odd to get even or you would forever be at odds.

With two parties – an even number – the fear was that what you got was what the Greeks called stasis, gridlock, a kind of civil war, in which each side overvalues the harms it suffers and undervalues the harms it imposes on others, who think, as many of us do, that getting even means obliterating the other side.20 You needed an oddman to undo stasis, not so much to break the tie as to convince each side that they were in fact tied. Or more imaginatively, as any parent with more than one child knows, to convince each child that he actually got the better deal.21 It was the oddman’s job to prevent getting even from getting out of hand by selling both parties on a plausible conception of evenness.

In the interest of nuance, there exists also, however, a countermove- ment to the tendency to exaggerate our own injuries and understate the harms we inflict. The honor game might lead people to downplay the wrongs done them (You think you hurt me? Didn’t even feel it) and to play up the harms they inflicted if there was some doubt that they had the capacity or character to get even (I clobbered the guy). Playing down the harms done you was a much cheaper way of dealing with insult and injury than having a thin skin that exposed you to the dangers of taking frequent revenge. And if you could effectively sell others that the downplaying of the harms done you was not motivated by cowardice but by real toughness, you preserved your honor on the cheap without looking cheap.

Do not dismiss all this as merely the warped theory of justice of a bunch of axe-wielding Vikings. Aristotle too made justice a matter of price-setting and related it to notions of reciprocity and balance. Anne Pippin Burnett, a student of Greek tragedy, reminds us that for the Greeks “revenge was not a problem but a solution. It was a form of necessary repayment.” The pre-Socratics were even clearer that justice meant getting back to even; they conceived the entire cosmic order to be a matter of payback and revenge. Thus winter gets even with summer, summer with winter, hot with cold, and so on. And as Gregory Vlastos has noted, “To obtain justice was literally to ‘get back the equal [or to even].’ The underlying principle is that of an exchange: equal value rendered for value taken. The same words apply to the closure of a commercial transaction...and to the satisfaction of justice.” Early Greek cosmology’s commitment to balance, evenness, equality, and giving as good as you get was forcefully reaffirmed more than two millennia later in Newton’s third law of motion, as succinct a principle of getting even as there is, so that the horse’s hoof that strikes the earth is paid back in kind by the earth, which hits the hoof no less forcefully.

As the Teutons and Greeks, so too the Latins. Take our word umpire: it used to begin with an n. In Middle English it was noumpere when we borrowed it from French. But the n got detached from the beginning of noumpere and reattached itself to the indefinite article, so he became an umpire, as, analogously, a nadder, the snake, became an adder; and a napron became an apron...  So what is a noumpere? He is a nonpeer, that is, a nonequal. He is in short an oddman; the very same notion of unevenness, of a third man being necessary when a decision must be rendered, arising in the Romance world as in the Germanic." [An Eye for an Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:21 pm

Miller wrote:
"Take our casual use of the word just, as in “It was just as I said,” or “just now,” or “just a little while ago,” or “just awful,” or “As I was just going to say.” The word just in these instances functions as what linguists call a discourse particle or a discourse marker. Discourse particles are exceedingly hard to get a grip on. Often it is not quite clear just what meaning they bear or whether they bear meaning at all rather than serve rhythmic or grammatical functions. Really knowing how to speak a language means getting the feel for discourse markers, such as like, oh, y’know, well, of course, um, and really. Words like these in other languages seem to be the last barrier separating you from fluency. When learning another language you can memorize vocabulary lists, even learn to put together grammatical sentences on most topics, but forever be off key, because the auchs, wohls, and dochs remain elusive.

Even even functions as a discourse particle at times (as jafn does in Norse),27 more among Brits than among Americans, and more in the sixteenth century than in the twenty-first, but when even does play that role it is usually doing much the same work as just does; in fact even is synonymous with just through significant ranges of just’s terrain. The King James Bible and Shakespeare preferred even to just: “My father, in his habit as he liv’d! / Look where he goes even now out at the portal.” “He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.” And why is it that just and even do this kind of work?

That just and even should share such significant overlap bears eerie witness to how deeply embedded, in English speakers at least, is the notion of justice as getting even. That deep idea saturates the most routine of conversations. Just see how many times a day you say just or even. (We might also note, right now, that another juristic term that also functions as a discourse particle plays a similar role, right?) At the core is a root sense of exactness and precision, but exactness as imaged by getting a balance-beam scale to rest at its equilibrium position, at the point were the pans are even, just, right, and straight. These justs and evens make no sense if the end result of meting and measuring is to tip the balance rather than to get it to even.

Certain tics characterize my writing. Some I am aware of, others not. I start too many sentences with but and then try to vary them by changing some of them to still or yet. And these buts, stills, yets work less as conjunctions than as discourse particles. But actually get rid of them and structure my writing so as to avoid them? Impossible. I just can’t find a way to do it. I also get anxious that I am using too many justs and evens, and indeed I do. I undertake global searches to see whether I can eliminate some of them. I manage to exchange a couple of them for an only or a mere, but then I fear my onlys and meres are start- ing to get ticlike. A tough-minded editor would strike out maybe half of these justs and evens because they often do not affect the core sense of the proposition. But I cannot get myself to cut more than one or two because they add an indescribable justness, either just enough of a hedge or just enough emphasis, to situate my level of commitment to my own statements with significantly more precision than if I were to eliminate them. In fact, so crucial are they to my psychological orientation to my own written expression that I actually get a small feeling of vertigo when I eliminate one. Right at the moment I am about to strike it out, a bit of dizziness intervenes to save the just I was just about to delete. Nuts, you say? But it is as if I were excising a part of me. Incredible that words that mean virtually nothing mean so much.

Incredible too is that these little words often work in contrary or divergent directions. For instance, one of the functions the particle just serves is to emphasize a claim. That something is awful or appalling is one thing, but that it is just awful or just appalling is another. Just thus works as an intensifier; it invokes feelings and registers them in a way that a mere dispassionate statement of the view does not. “I can’t bear him” is pretty strong, but “I just can’t bear him” is more than just stronger. The former can be uttered in a cold and rational tone, as a pure matter of fact, but add the just and you add passion to the utterance. And by adding passion you also add possible grounds for excusing your statement as being exaggerated if later you are called to account. So it works as a hedge too.

Aggressively hedgelike at times: thus collocations like “I was just wondering” or “I just wanted to know,” in which just deemphasizes or downtones the core sense of the utterance by limiting its range to precisely drawn modest limits. It provides a way of not intruding your statement too directly on another by revealing a certain hesitancy of your own right to utter it. (Notice that certain does the same to hesi- tancy in the preceding sentence, making the hesitancy even more uncertain than a plain old unmodified hesitancy would be.) In this mode just softens, fuzzes out; that is, it ends up doing the work of politeness by adding indirection and a note of proto-apology.

Even just, then, ends up chickening out, backing off from its own aggressiveness. We can, however, bring back its muscle with ease: “Just you wait and see.” Just thus comes to be one of those words that develop antithetical senses: it means, “I really really mean it, so don’t mess with me,” and it means, “Well, I don’t want to intrude really and so I don’t really mean it, except a little maybe.” And such is our linguistic competence that we are completely fluent as to just what just is doing; we know precisely what it is up to, for, at some deep level, getting it right is just what just is all about. Even even, to a lesser extent, shows this tendency.

Yet another legal term works as a discourse particle, and it is right on point. To quit or to quiet is to discharge a claim, to requite it, to even up accounts, and quit/quiet is the root of the discourse particle quite. Quite right. Just check your OED. And notice how similar quite’s work is to just’s. It intensifies and then can hedge too, but in the end it is about getting one’s stance toward one’s own uttered judgments just right.

Let me add one further data point. The word mere(ly) – which can function as a synonym for just in some settings in which only also works – is also used to play both sides of an evaluative fence. We use it now to indicate just making it – only making it and no more. Mere is dismissive. One usually finds it, sad to say, modifying academic, as in “merely academic,” in which merely and academic conspire to degrade each other. But well into the eighteenth century mere could also be an enhancer, an emphatic term expressing the notion of absoluteness, sheerness, entireness, perfection. In fact, the root and first sense of mere listed by the OED is “pure,” as in wine unmixed with water. Thus Othello ’s herald can speak of total loss as the “mere perdition of the Turkish fleet”; or Bassanio can tell Portia in that play about scales, severable bodies, and talionic justice:

I have engag’d myself to a dear friend,
Engag’d my friend [Antonio] to his mere enemy [Shylock] To feed my means.

(3.2.260–262)

And in the same play mere also bears its minimalist sense as when Portia says of Shylock, “He shall have merely justice and his bond.” Yet observe that “merely justice” still retains its sense of “perfect, full, pure” as in “mere perdition,” which is in fact exactly what it portends.

With mere too we see a word that can pretty much mean itself and its opposite, and yet both senses of mere converge at a point, the point of getting precisely there. In the obsolete sense mereness is about purity, which extends to include notions of absolute, entire, sheer, perfect, downright, the perfect instance of, the thing itself in all its unadulterated and pristine perfection. But our mereness, the mereness of barely making it, is about mere sufficiency and nothing more. There is a notion of exactitude here, too, but with a whole different feel. It is the exac- titude of having just made it across that very sharp divide separating inside and outside. Both merenesses meet at the pure thing, but from contrasting points of view: thus Shylock gets “merely justice and his bond.” Mere thus behaves analogously to just, with its contrasting movements of intensifying and downtoning. Even too can combine the dismissiveness of our mere and the emphasis of the emphatic just, as in “Even an academic is not afraid of that,” in which the even has little to do with the precision of exclusivity. When the standard set is the courage of the usual academic, even means that everyone qualifies; we are in a world of complete inclusiveness.

Enough of just and even. My point is merely to call attention to how central the notion of justness and evenness is to providing exactitud of reference in our everyday language. Even when just and even mean virtually nothing, it is often with them that we measure our words. There is a theory of justice in our most routine conversation, and it is a theory of justice as getting to even, a theory in which measuring and balancing are the name of the game." [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:22 pm

Miller wrote:
"Getting back to the zero point on the scale is part of the deep structure of other notions central to doing justice, to settling disputes, to remedying wrong, to making and keeping peace. Take the word pay: justice worthy of the name, to repeat, is about payment, payments back and payments for. Pay comes from Latin pacare, which means to appease, pacify, reduce to peace. And as the OED reports of pay, “the sense ‘pacify’ [was] applied specifically to that of to ‘pacify or satisfy a credi- tor’.” Remarkable: the English word peace, coming via Latin pax from pacare, derives from the idea of paying.

Peace is about settling accounts, paying back what you owe. Peace that does not involve evening up scores and restoring the balance is not peace among equals. Rather, it is about being subdued, enslaved, or reduced to a client; or being too lazy or too scared or too forgiving to insist that what is owed you be repaid. Peace, in other words, that is bought by the forgiveness of debts (notice that forgiveness is itself a term of creditor–debtor relations) must be carefully inspected to verify that it is not motivated by cowardice. As between equals, peace means settling accounts, paying debts, satisfying and thus pacifying those who have a claim against you.

The same notion is also embedded in German befriedigen, in which the notion of satisfaction, gratification, and pacification go hand in hand. In befriedigen it is the root meaning of peace – Friede – that generates the notion of payment, of the satisfaction and dis- charge of debts, thereby inverting the direction of Latin pacare, in which the root idea of paying off a debt generates the idea of peace. The connection of ideas works in both directions, so profoundly interdependent are they. Peace demands repayment; repayment brings peace.

The idea that peace and payment share a common core runs deep, not just in Indo-European languages but in Semitic ones too. The root of shalom, the Hebrew word for peace, the shin-lamed-mem (sh-l-m) root, has a core meaning of to pay back in kind, to make whole.36 It too is about payments, but more of the variety of an eye for an eye, in which a more exact equivalence is sought, either by restitution of the very thing taken or a reasonably identical facsimile: as in your life for my life, your tooth for my tooth. Unless accounts are in balance, there is no basis for peace. Unbalanced accounts means you must beware the avenger, for he will be out to pay you back and will be justified when he does so.

They were not na ̈ıve about this. Once the balance was struck people might well upset it again, but if they did they would be without right when they did so. The popularity of their cause would suffer, something that mattered considerably more to them than it does among us. One could seldom go it alone in these kinds of societies. Everyone except the stupid, the clumsy, or the sociopathically aggressive would think twice before rocking the boat without just cause. In the idiom of the sagas, getting to zero meant there was peace “for a while,” and that was no mean achievement. These saga people were wisely practical. Justice bought time; it was unlikely to be a permanent solution as long as there was scarcity and people were moved to compete for honor and status and other scarce resources.

And it should also be noted that the idea of paying back readily expanded beyond the concerns of corrective justice narrowly con- ceived. Thus Langland’s Piers Plowman puts the principle of redde quod debes (“pay back what you owe”) at the moral center of its redemptive vision. Redde quod debes is less about corrective justice, though that too, than distributive justice. It is about the duties of the rich for the poor. The interconnection between distributive and corrective justice runs deep, but “getting even” in its various senses is at the core of both, and thus many a social reformer and social revolu- tionary has seen fit to conceptualize claims for distributive justice in the diction of corrective justice. Property is declared to be theft. And if it is stolen the victim of the theft has a right to satisfaction, a right to get even, does he not?" [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:23 pm

Miller wrote:
"Consider our own use of what it means to get even: if you get even by bringing the pan on the left back up to its neutral position, by one account you are back to where you started, back to zero; but by another account you have been undercompensated, for, if the debt is of honor, the wrongdoer enjoyed a certain amount of time indulging in the pleasures of looking down on you and of gloating at your humiliation; he has not been made to disgorge his pleasure. Or if he withheld or took your ox, he got to enjoy its labor while he had it.

Fair compensation requires this: you had me down, and now it is my turn to have you down, to witness and delight in your humiliation as you delighted in mine. That is what is so rightly captured when we say, I’m going to get even with you. The justness of this is easy to see if it is my ox you misappropriated. I should get not only my ox back, but also the rental value of the ox for the time you had it. This is the elementary stuff of one’s first month in law school.

When the debt is of honor (and in an honor society few undischarged debts do not engage one’s honor) the notion of getting even is understood to embody a hostile intention to make the other feel your pain, to get him down, if not to obliterate him. At a minimum it means you want to make sure you (and others) can see he is as humiliated as you were seen to have been. And if we can with some degree of confidence blame the wrongdoer for having started it – that is, if his wrong can in no way be seen as merely having taken his turn in a relationship of hostile turn-taking known as feud – then the wrongdoer deserves an extra kick in the pants for upsetting the initial equilibrium. But there is nothing extra in the humiliation of the initial wrongdoer to com- pensate adequately for the humiliation suffered by the first victim. It is merely squaring the account, as any justice worthy the name would require.

Pieties as old, even older than Socrates – along the lines of two wrongs do not make a right – beg the question, for the second “wrong” of recompense is not a wrong but merely what justice demands. Or so the counterargument goes, one associated not just with bloodthirsty avengers but with no less a promoter of human dignity than Kant. Kant, however, was only restating an idea that had enjoyed a healthy life in a wide range of cultures spanning millennia. Edgar Allan Poe puts the idea nicely: “What can be more soothing, at once to a man’s Pride and to his Conscience, than the conviction that, in taking vengeance on his enemies for injustice done him, he has simply to do them justice in return?”2 And as long as that man’s internal scale is in balance, so that it measures the wrong done and the value of his payback in accord with community norms, he will indeed simply be doing justice in return.

And if the incident is but one round in a continuing hostile relationship, what then? Must getting even be thought of only as a one-shot deal, or is it merest fantasy to think that evenness can be obtained for anything more than “for a while”? Can’t the case be made that closure is a cant term to indicate that no one gives a damn anymore? When people still care enough to contend, time itself is one of the things to be set in the pans of the scale. We can thus make time (and turns, as in my turn–your turn) into a kind of money, trading unevennesses back and forth – as in now I am down for a while, now you, now me again – and it all comes out in the wash as part of an ongoing agreement to maintain roughly equal hostile relations. But to get the accounting right requires a lot of practical wisdom and patience, even courage at times." [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:28 pm

Miller wrote:
"But it is important from the start to recognize that what I call talionic cultures were not single-minded or single-purposed regarding payback. Antitalionic arguments were available and regularly made. One did not have to wait for Christianity to appear on the scene to make them. They came quite naturally, as you might guess, to people about to be whacked by an avenger. These anxious souls pressed upon the avenger of the blood all kinds of reasons why forgiveness and forgetfulness were good ideas. Thucydides records an instance, and the sagas are full of them.
They were also readily made by third parties pressing the interests of the wider community in peace. Indeed talionic and antitalionic arguments could be made by the same people, depending on their structural position in a dispute. If situated as a mere third party they talked peace, forbearance, patience; but if they were cast as a victim, then blood was their argument, although that argument could be made by third parties too when they suspected the victim was being forgiving out of cowardice. That said, it was still the case that in talionic cultures the demands of payback were the default position, the initial presumption, and the matter to be addressed.

Getting the measure right so that both parties can sense the right- ness of the measure gives rise to remarkably subtle ways of evaluating and compensating for harms. The worry about how hard it is to come up with equivalences is at the core of primitive systems of justice, and it is hardly something we have adequately resolved today. Among us, once outside the schedules of prices listed for body parts in the worker’s comp schedules, we must face the issue of how to assign a dollar value to a person’s loss. Legal scholars dispute endlessly which measure of damages will best capture the real damage so as to make the victim “whole.” Though we do not officially make criminal punition compensatory, we have not rid ourselves of the idea that it too is a payment, a discharge of something owed by the criminal, and in any event we must put a value on a particular punishment so as to commensurate it with other punishments meted out for other crimes. We thus worry about proportionality within a grid of punishments, which mostly comes down to assigning various numbers of years to different offenses depending on their badness, years thus providing the means and measure of payment, rather than eyes, teeth, lives, or money.4 That time is the measure of value and the means of payment gives a special vividness to the tired proverb “Time is money,” but what anthropolo- gists call “special use money” it is.

Consider the law of the talion, the law of retaliation, of tit for tat, whose classic formulation is the biblical eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Never mind for now that the rule gets stated in varying ways and different contexts in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, each raising its own substantial interpretive problems. It is more general matters that I wish to focus on. We take the talion as a classic statement of irrational revenge, as an emblem of a society so blind to good sense as to prefer two one-eyed people to one. We are embarrassed by it and sneer at those who advocate it, thinking them barbaric and cruel. The embarrassment of some people drives them to attempt to rescue God’s word from charges of cruelty and vulgarity by arguing that in its historical and cultural setting the talion was a limitation on revenge and bloodfeud. You are limited to only one eye or one life for an eye or a life, not two or three. They see it as an ameliorative and progressive rule, leading to a kinder and gentler world. Maybe, but that seems only half right, if right at all, for the rule provides more than just a top limit – no more than one eye or one life; it also sets a bottom limit – no less than one eye or one life, either. No letting your cowardice, that is, incline you to be forgiving. Not that the talion does not permit, even in fact require, wiggle room, but that is a complex matter that I will turn to later.

Others have argued that the biblical formulation of the talion was a rejection of the vicarious liability – hitting X for the wrongs that Y did – that accompanied the earliest formulation of the talion in the Mesopotamian laws, where, for instance, if one were to injure the son of man, it was the injurer’s son who was the object of expiation. Or if a man raped another’s wife, the rapist’s wife was to be raped in return. The biblical talion, so it is argued, limits the payback to the body of the wrongdoer alone. Leviticus and Deuteronomy are clear that this is the case, but Exodus is rather less so, for we still have God insisting in the chapter before the Exodus talion that He is “a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Ex. 20.5).

Still others have pointed out that the talion can be read as a strong statement of treating people equally, at least for those not enslaved, for the lost eyes and teeth of slaves are dealt with by giving them their free- dom rather than a right to their master’s eyes and teeth (Ex. 21.26–27).9 Philo of Alexandria offers a different reason for freeing the slave: if the master were to lose an eye for his slave’s eye he would make the slave’s life a living hell “and avenge himself on one whom he regards as a mortal enemy by setting him everyday to tasks of an intolera- ble kind.” Hammurabi’s laws explicitly limit the equalizing aspect of the talion by making the stricture applicable only within a juridical rank. Thus if a person of the awilu class takes the eye or breaks the bone or knocks out the tooth of another awilu, he is to lose his eye or tooth or have his bone broken; but if an awilu blinds or breaks the bone of a commoner, he shall weigh and deliver 60 shekels of silver. Body parts were not appropriate media of exchange across juridical status lines. The Israelite society reflected in the Book of the Covenant (Ex. 20.22–23.33), however, lacked the different juridical classes of free men of Hammurabi, recognizing, like saga Iceland, only two distinctions: slave and free. But as soon as the boundary between slave and free is crossed, the strict eye for an eye gives way to other measures no differently than in Hammurabi.

Those who advocate the equality reading argue that the talionic legislation – an innovation in Hammurabi’s code and later adopted by the ancient Israelite codes – was an attempt to have the polity criminalize what before were private matters, and thus to make sure the wealthy could no longer buy themselves out of suffering mutilation for the harms they had inflicted. For reasons I shall demonstrate, the talion did not have this effect. For now suffice it to say that the rule does less to bring the rich within the ambit of the law (they always were within its ambit, for they have assets that make it worthwhile to sue them) than to get the poor into it. For what the talion does is to give the poor assets to satisfy claims. The rule does much to help solve the social problem of the insolvent wrongdoer whose poverty makes him judgment-proof. Not having sheep to pay his debts he now has his body or body parts. The rich, as before, may well still be able to buy off the plaintiff’s knife if the plaintiff prefers to sell his right to the rich man’s eye for sheep, silver, or slaves.

You must be wondering, but what good does your eye do me? Who wants someone’s extracted eye? How can that make me whole?

It comes down mainly to this: we can satisfy ourselves today with bland assertions that one of the goals of tort law is to make the victim whole (recall that the root of shalom also involves the concept of restoring wholeness), but, as we will see, we do it on the cheap. Talionic cultures were invariably honor cultures, and that led to a more complex interplay between injury and conventional money substances than is the case now.

If I can rightly take your eye, you will be scared of me. That is worth something; it makes the compensatory regime of the talion one that cannot help but keep honor firmly in its sights, for fear is bound up in some nontrivial way with respect and the talionic principle is above all a principle of just compensation. The compensatory aspects of our tort system keep honor out of it and we may be wise to do so, because at the official level in which our law operates, honor is a value that can be admitted only in the very restricted domains of actions for defamation and libel, which are conceived in a much narrower way than was the all-encompassing moral and social notion of honor as it was constituted in cultures of honor and revenge.

Students of honor culture know that honor and revenge were not merely backward-looking, evincing an irrational obsession with sunk costs, though that too; the successful players in the honor game also knew how to look to their future. But that does not make them util- itarians. Looking to the future meant looking to the future quality of your honor, and this meant that you really did have to look backward now and then and show you were capable of what an economist would call irrationality. There is much truth in Hamlet’s “rightly to be great / Is not to stir without great argument / But greatly to find quarrel in a straw / When honour’s at the stake.” And you could not just fake your irrationality in the interests of rationality; the smart ones saw through such faking.

Being feared was not a bad thing, as long as you were not feared too much (because that could get you killed by other forward-looking inhabitants of your culture). Taking an eye when you had a right to, at least every once in a while, might have some forward-looking virtue to it, because in many an honor culture honor was at its core captured by our maxim “Don’t tread on me.” A good modern might see in that saying how the no-harm principle needs to be formulated when there was no responsible government power worth the name or when one had to look not just to his honor but to his and his family’s safety as well. And then too one can never underestimate the basic moral and aesthetic justness of getting perfectly even. Honor has an extraordinary transformative power: it can make currency of no value, a worthless dead eye, into something of great value." [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*


Last edited by Lyssa on Mon Jun 13, 2016 5:33 am; edited 1 time in total
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:29 pm

Miller wrote:
"Heirs as we are to an antirevenge discourse that owes much to Seneca and the stoics, we think of revenge as going postal and blasting away, but revenge cultures did not think of it that way. For them, revenge was not just an ethic but an aesthetic, the aesthetic of proportion and bal- ance. People were well aware that there was a poetics and poetry of revenge, which was partly the reason it was the subject of the stories they most often liked to tell. A man who went postal and took excessive revenge was understood to be acting not only without right but also without taste. Not that such immoderate souls could not capture the imagination and become epic heroes on account of their excessiveness. Thus we have Achilles, and to a lesser extent Egil in the sagas and David in the Bible, and also Lamech, the veracity of whose exploits we must trust to his own boast to his wives, who for all we know might have been rolling their eyes. Would, though, that his saga had been preserved:

Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, hearken to what I say: I have slain a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.

(Gen. 4.23–24)

But if the Old Norse evidence is any indication, such immoder- ate people had the effect of eliciting and uniting opposition against them. The Norse even had a proverb to that effect: “Short is the life of the immoderate.” In short, an avenger who exceeded his warrant either made amends for his excesses or was taken out. (The proverb was not about gluttony.) Revenge cultures understand that wrongs must be repaid. The politics of disputing focused on three main issues: one, what the precise medium was to be employed to repay the obligation and in what amount; two, a corollary of the preceding, whom to hit on the other side; and three, when to pay it over.

What is argued over is not whether compensation is due, but in what specie payment is to be made: whether it shall be in eyes, or teeth, or corpses, or sheep, or cows, or silver, and how much. The core issues are the means of payment – not whether there will be a reckoning and payment – and the amount of payment in whatever specie decided on as appropriate. The same mercantile diction was employed whether the specie was blood or money, captured so nicely in the Hebrew root go’el, gimmel-aleph-lamed, which is translated variously in the nominative as avenger or redeemer, the person who buys back. Taking blood was no less compensatory than taking money.

The once dominant view of legal historians – a view that arose in the nineteenth century and that is untenable in the face of the evi- dence, although one still hears it recited as gospel in law schools – is that revenge systems gave way to compensation systems, which then paved the way for state-delivered justice, amidst general rejoicing at the progress. The fact is that revenge in blood invariably coexisted with means of paying off the avenger by transfers of property or money-like substances in lieu of blood. Revenge always coexisted with a compensation option. The conceptual underpinning was exactly the same in either case: both revenge and compensation were articulated solely in idioms of repayment of debts and of settling scores and accounts. Revenge was compensation using blood, not instead of money, but as a kind of money.

Thus it is that when the rabbis interpreted the talionic passages in the Torah not to require actual eyes and teeth to be paid over but rather money compensation, they were not, as David Daube has pointed out, willfully misinterpreting or missing the point of the talion but were “only work[ing] out something of which at least the beginnings were there; they did not impose upon the text a line entirely alien from it.” The rabbis recognized that the core idea was one of payment and repay- ment. The problem for early talionic culture was not the conceptual one of being too primitive to understand notions of exchange, but the practical one of how to measure value and then how to find an appropriate means of payment once value had been determined. In a sense, the problem was one of money, of how to fulfill the standard money functions of providing a means of payment and a measure of value.

Remember that the classic formulation of the talion arose before coinage was general, before there was easy and ready money that was of a given weight and purity and whose value was clear. All kinds of things were called on to play various moneylike roles. And even after coinage came into existence – first appearing in Lydia in the sixth century b.c. – it was often in short supply. The Bible contemplates shekels as a measure of value, as do the older Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian laws. But those shekels were units of weight, not coins of a specific weight of silver, not until after the Exile. Thus it is that when Jeremiah acted as go’el and redeemed his cousin’s field, he “weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver . . . and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances” (Jer. 32.9–10).

One should not think that because the sources mention units of account to measure value that the substance of those units – say, silver or gold shekels, barley or oxen – was actually paid over. The sub- stance providing the unit of account or measure of value was only occasionally also the means of payment.20 Medievalists hardly need to be reminded of this, it figuring so prominently in our sources. King Ine of Wessex (c. 700) thus provides in his laws that although wergeld is valued officially in silver shillings, actual payment can include “a man and a mailshirt and a sword, if need be, in each 100 shillings.” The measure of value is shillings, the means of payment are a live human body and defensive and offensive weaponry. In his way of thinking such weaponry was an extension of the human body anyway, one step away from being personalized and valorized as legs and arms. And is not the biblical talion functioning much as this law of King Ine?

There is a hedge I must make: we will see more than once in what follows that people did not think of payment in blood as of equal moral and aesthetic value with accepting compensation in sheep or other property to buy off their right to take blood. There was a presumption that blood was the noblest form of specie, or at least the most poetic. As I shall discuss in greater detail, people were suspicious of those who cashed in on the death of their kin, who, as the sneering Viking idiom would have it, “carried their kin in their purse” or, in the Kabyle version, who “eat the blood of [their] brother,” for whom “only [their] stomach counts,” just as today we might experience a bit of guilt or fear that we are not quite grieving over the death of a relative who made us the beneficiary of a million-dollar life insurance policy. The problem exacerbates itself: for if you demanded more money because it is less honorable to take money rather than blood, you made yourself look more suspiciously like a person who carried his kin in his purse and thus might be tempted to set up his kin in order to collect for their bodies. Suffice it to say for now that they still believed that a reasonable balance could be struck with money as well as with blood, and were rather good at finessing the issue.

So why did the ancient Hebrew legislator not prescribe, as the seventh- to eleventh-century Germanic codes would do, an eye for 50 shillings, a tooth for 6, a middle finger for 4, and trust the parties to stipulate what kinds of goods had to be handed over as a means of payment to satisfy the measure of value stated in terms of silver shillings or shekels? Was it that the biblical lawgiver liked the cadence and elegance of such a tough-minded statement of pure equivalence, of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth? Was it above all that the litany of equivalences sounded good, sent chills up the spine? And if it sounded good, why was that? It seems to have grabbed the compilers of the Pentateuch; why else did they repeat various versions of the talion three times? It has been noted by commentators, moreover, that none of the three appearances of the eye-for-an-eye formula of the talion in the Torah is demanded by the context; they look very much like interpolations inserted for emphasis and not altogether appropriately, especially in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.27 It might be that aesthetics is much of what it is about.

The biblical formulations are not limited to eyes and teeth. It is as if the legislator and compiler got too excited to stop, especially in Exodus: “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” But the subsequent iterations abridge the Exodus formulation. Leviticus adds breach for breach, to eyes and teeth, but drops the others; Deuteronomy keeps the lives, eyes, teeth, hands, and feet of Exodus but drops burns, wounds, and stripes.

The only members common to all three versions are eyes and teeth. There seems to be a mysterious force that moves to distill the rule to its most arresting formulation. And by the time we get to Jesus the abridgement had already arrived at its perfect modern form. For Jesus there is a special salience, an attention-grabbing power in “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Forget about lives, hands, burns, feet, wounds, and stripes. Says he in the Sermon on the Mount, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” It was the phrase everyone remembered, for Jesus assumes “ye have heard it said” and indeed ye have. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” was already something of a proverb in the year 30 a.d.

Daube has argued that Jesus knew that the talion as stated was not literally applied in his time. No eyes or teeth, he says, were extracted in Jesus’ day for the kinds of injuries detailed in the Covenant Code of Exodus, only money and movable property. Two centuries earlier the rabbis had already interpreted the talion to mean that money compen- sation was what the rule required. In Daube’s view, Jesus is thus using the talionic formulation more generally to argue against merely suing for money damages for the insult of having one’s face slapped. He is urging that one endure the shame with stoic passivity. Turn the other cheek; do not seek to collect damages in a lawsuit. He was rejecting the root idea of seeking any kind of compensation, whether blood or money, for injuries of humiliation and dishonor in this world.

But if Daube is right, it means that Jesus used the abridged talionic formulation solely because of the terrible beauty with which it states the principle of compensation, of getting even. Jesus was thus drawn to the graphic statement of the talion in the same way we are, because it has a compelling ring to it, because it perfectly states a general principle of just recompense that he is arguing should be rejected even in the softened form to which the rabbis had reduced it." [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*


Last edited by Lyssa on Mon Jun 13, 2016 5:36 am; edited 1 time in total
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:31 pm

Miller wrote:
"Eyes represent us at our most vulnerable and most beautiful, at our most individual, and at our most dignified and sentient, representing in the words of Philo of Alexandria “the best and lordliest of senses.” And women have them too.

Why losing a tooth, though, such common fare in all but the soft- est of sports? Surely the taking of a life, the loss of a hand or a foot, the infliction of a burn or a stripe, is more arresting than the loss of a tooth, even discounting for the special seriousness of facial disfigure- ment should one of the top incisors get knocked out. A person bent on disfiguring his enemy, making him (or especially her) so ugly that he or she becomes monstrous, cuts off the nose.

The power of the tooth as an image depends in great part, it seems, on its being coupled with the eye, and this is why it follows the eye in all talionic formulations. It is not the pain of its extraction, but that a tooth contrasts the vulnerability of the eye with the hardness of our animal weaponry. The image is of inclusiveness, everything from great value to small. Then note too that both an eye and a tooth are discrete and as such neatly and discretely extractable. Other body parts shade into one another because they are made out of the same flesh as the parts right next to them, such as ears, hands, feet, tongues, noses. But an eye can be precisely an eye, a tooth precisely a tooth; their boundaries are clear. This gives them a special salience.

Might part of the horror of the eye and tooth formulation lie in the small hint of cannibalistic fury that one fears might accompany paybacks? Thus Hecuba says of Achilles: “I wish I could sink my hands in that man’s very liver and eat it.” And Achilles to Hector: “I wish I could eat you myself, that the fury in my heart would drive me to cut you in pieces and eat your flesh raw.”

Thus Ezekiel (39.18): “Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth.”38 And though both Hecuba and Achilles, and perhaps Ezekiel, are knowingly speaking hypothetically and with grand and passionate hyperbole, there is more than a suggestion that they might do exactly as they say should the body of their enemy present itself before their rage subsides.

With these images of an avenger desiring to eat his enemy, contrast the form of gruesome revenge in which the avenger tricks his enemy into eating his own children. Thus Atreus’ revenge on Thyestes in the Greek world, Gudrun’s on Atli in the Germanic world, Titus Andronicus’ on Tamora in the Shakespearean.39 And Israel in the Hebraic, though not tricked into such repast, shall be reduced to it (Ezek. 5.10):

Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments in thee, and the whole remnant of thee will I scatter into all the winds.

These images of cannibalism are meant to be images of excess, not of balance. Can some of the evocative brilliance of the biblical talion’s eye/tooth formulation lie in the suggestion of just how fine the line is between talionic equivalence and balance, on the one hand, and reciprocity gone mad, as when fathers who eat sons are eaten in return by them, on the other?

Let’s just say that the eye/tooth statement perfectly captures the rule of equivalence, balance, and precision in a stunning way. It holds before us the possibility of getting the measure of value right. Eyes and teeth, like discrete grains of wheat and barley or peppercorns, once abstracted from their bodies, look fungible and suitable to being plopped in the pans of scales. Perfect balance of fungibles, almost like coinage – in fact very much like coinage." [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*


Last edited by Lyssa on Mon Jun 13, 2016 5:34 am; edited 1 time in total
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:33 pm

Miller wrote:
"Money gives us equivalence in the form of A = B, with two unlikes being equated by a price. But if I state my principle as a rule of identity, A = A, rather than of equivalence, A = B, then I can indulge the thought that I struck the balance exactly right. The price is a just price, an eye for an eye.

Trading an eye for an eye is not quite barter; eyes are doing money- like work in a way a pure bartered item is not. These people under- stood that money-like jobs could be done by various kinds of specie. And one of the most common forms of specie was human beings, both as a measure of value and as a means of payment. As late as the nine- teenth century, Russians (and also slave-owning Americans) measured the value of estates in units of souls, that is, serfs or slaves. One had a 300-soul estate or a 2,000-soul estate.3 The early Irish laws measured value in units of slave girls, and there is reason to believe slave girls at times also served as a means of payment.4 Even when the payment is meant to be made in gold, the measure of value may not be quite sep- arated from the human body, as when Achilles says he will not accept even Hector’s weight in gold as a ransom.5 In that case is the prime measure of value gold, or Hector’s body mass?

The Hittite laws figure humans as a means of payment and as a measure of value: “If anyone kills a man or a woman in a quarrel, he shall bring him for burial and shall give four persons, male or female respectively. He shall look to his house for it.” (If the killing were accidental the number of persons to be paid over was reduced by half.)6 So too in saga Iceland: a killer might pay himself over to the master or kin of his victim, substituting himself for the victim, occupying the latter’s vacated place. In one case a man accepts the killer of three of his servants into his household because the killer was understood by everyone to be a man of ability, worth three average men.

Under a German-brokered deal in early 2004, Israel released and paid 436 prisoners to buy back one live Israeli businessman held captive and the remains of three soldiers killed in Lebanon.

There are a multitude of provisions in the early Mesopotamian codes, the Germanic codes, the Bible, and others that figure humans as means of payment for debt.9 The institution of debt slavery from saga Iceland to biblical Israel to ancient Sumer bears witness to humans as gages for security of payment, and to the fact that they were actually paid over. Thus Exodus 21.21 refers explicitly to a slave as his owner’s money: “And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.”10 More is meant here than the slave is his owner’s property; by calling him “money” there is a hint that the slave is already a pledge for a debt owed to the owner. It is even the case that Indo-European words for “to be worth” and “value” have at their root the notion of the exchange value of a man put up for sale, or redeemed from slavery or capture.11

But parts of humans? Their eyes, feet, teeth? You can make a whole human work off his debt or replace your lost son or brother, or serve as a hostage to secure an agreement, but what can you do with a subdivided body – before, that is, the day of kidney, cornea, and heart transplants? There is an answer, and let me work toward it by degrees.

In the Sermon on the Mount, before Jesus counseled turning the cheek instead of following the principle of an eye for an eye, he had already referred to eyes a few verses earlier, eyes that had committed the sin of looking lustfully on a woman. If seeing was the first attribute one normally associates with eyes, the next thing about them in Jesus’ mind was their extractability:

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

(Matt. 5.29–30)

First eyes, then hands; both, it seems, are punished for their trans- gressions. But in fact something deeper is going on with their excision. They are also serving as a means of payment. Had Jesus stopped with the “pluck it out and cast it,” or the “cut it off and cast it,” the severing would be punitive. But he justifies the severance, not by alleging the just desert of the offensive hand or eye, but by talking the language of investment and risk management. The offending eye and hand are buying insurance. Better to pay over your eye and hand now than suffer your whole body tossed into hell later.

Mere metaphor, the rhetoric of overstatement, you say? But Jesus is careful to make his metaphors still adhere to the realm of reason. When you look on a woman to lust after her and have thus committed adultery in your heart, you do not pluck out both eyes even though both were doing the desiring – only one of them. Jesus knows he is not quite offering the sinner a bargain too good to believe by asking for only one eye, but he is not asking the impossible, for two eyes, a price that no one would pay.

There were some who took him at his word, though not for eyes: thus the early father of the church, the brilliant Origen, castrated himself to make sure he was not tempted to sin, or so that others would not suspect him of sneaking a little pleasure here and there.12 Castration, recall, was not an altogether uncommon operation for Stoics and early Christians to undertake, to say nothing of the eunuchs needed to serve various cultic functions in pagan temples, which should give us pause as to what extent Jesus was merely engaging in a bit of poetic license. In fact Origen’s solution to sexual temptation was common enough that the Council of Nicea (325 a.d.) ruled that priests who voluntarily castrated themselves should be suspended.13 The Norse god Odin, too, thought it well worth it to pluck out his own eye as the price for obtaining a drink of M ́ımir’s well and with it the heavenly art of runes and verse.14

The paying of a body part as compensation is made explicit in the laws of King Alfred, which provided that if anyone was convicted of public slander “he shall compensate15 for it on no easier terms than that his tongue be sliced off (þonne him mon aceorfe þa tungon of); and he cannot redeem it cheaper than at a price estimated in accordance with his own wergeld.”16 Given that another provision in Alfred’s laws rates the tongue equal in value to an eye, which in turn is set at one- third the price of the whole person, you must pay, assuming you to be an ordinary free man, 66.67 shillings to keep it.17 And if anyone raped the slave of a ceorl (“churl, a free man”)18 he had to pay the ceorl five shillings, but if a slave raped a slave he had to “pay with his genitals.”19 While it is hard not to discern a punitive and disciplinary element to the kind of money demanded of the slave, the diction of the provision speaks of payment and compensation, not punishment.20

The body and its parts figure at the deepest core of ideas of payment, value, exchange, tribute, tax, measurement, insurance, and money.21 Even tumors, emerods (a quainter form of hemorrhoids), were sym- bolically excised as an excise,22 a means of compensation, when the Philistines returned the ark they had captured with a reparation pay- ment of “five golden emerods and five golden mice” (1 Sam. 6.4). The Philistines were desperate to rid themselves of the plague by the magi- cal means of sending away representations of it. But the Israelites did not understand the golden tumors and mice as anything other than a compensation payment for having disrespected the ark. They showed no concern that by accepting effigies of tumors they would catch the disease.

And almost too obvious even to note: corpses and body parts, if not quite given over as hostages, are nonetheless held as hostages. The Iliad provides grand example, but there are a myriad from elsewhere in the Attic world. And some also in our own time: in 2004 Palestinian militants held the head of an Israeli soldier and other pieces of Israeli flesh hostage, as Israeli soldiers combed the sand for other stray pieces of their fellows to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. The New York Times reported that the Palestinians “hoped to trade the soldiers’ body parts for prisoners held by Israel.”23

It gets hard to discern at what point ideas of punition come to replace (but never completely) ever-weakening notions of body parts as a means of payment and measure of value when they are chopped off as part of a legal judgment. It is a complex topic, but I offer three quick instances from the second code of King Canute c. 1015 a.d. §30 deals with the recidivist troublemaker who has already failed one ordeal, §53 with an adulterous wife:

§30.4: and should he be shown guilty a second time there shall be no other compensation acceptable except that his hands or feet or both be cut off...

§30.5: and if he still does greater mischief then he loses his eyes; his nose and ears and upper lip and his scalp are to be cut off, whichever of these those whose decision it is to make decide; thus one shall rebuke while protecting the soul.

§53:if a woman, whose husband is alive, fornicates with another man, and it becomes known, it shall be a total disgrace to her, and her husband shall have all her property, and she shall suffer the loss of her nose and ears.

There is a progression here. In §30.4 the idea, though somewhat tongue in cheek, is that hands and feet are a special kind of money suitable for the occasion. The butcher shop of §30.5 evinces frustration more than anything else; the lawmaker is lashing out punitively. But even here we see a small hint of Jesus’ insurance idea. Jesus, of course, kept the premium comparatively low, and he gave one the option of taking his words figuratively, rather than as a real inducement to dis- memberment. Not Canute. The knives are out. How else are you going to save the soul of such a reprobate recidivist unless you make his body pay protection money for the soul it houses?

It taxes the sympathetic imagination of people now to try to see that the concern to protect the offender’s soul expressed in §30.5 is anything but the worst kind of bad faith. And it must have knowingly been so for some of them, too, who could not deny their pleasure in the cruelty of saving souls, but those who could deny their pleasure, or in fact took none, might sincerely believe in the kindness being shown the culprit’s soul, if not his body. When we get to § though, the adulterous woman loses not only her property but also her nose and ears; the idea of compensation has lost out completely to ideas of punition, even as regards the loss of her property. The point is to render her so physically repulsive that she will have sexual virtue foisted upon her and leave her so poor that no one will be inclined to overlook the disfigurement for the benefits of her property." [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:36 pm

Miller wrote:
"One uncanny, imaginative, and not quite dismissible theory by Bernhard Laum (1924), working mostly with early Greek and Indian evidence, claims to find the origins of money and value measurement in the partibility of animal bodies. That so many words for money are also the word for cow or cattle would seem to make the observation trite at least to the extent that a live animal is meant: thus Old Norse fe ́ (cattle, sheep, money), and Old English fe ́oh (cattle, cows, property), from which we get Modern English fee, are cognate via the effects of Grimm’s law with Latin pecus (cattle), yielding our pecuniary. To be noted too is that cattle and chattel are different dialect forms of the same French word, with chattel developing a more general and money- like meaning of movable property.26 Cows and sheep are among the earliest measures of value, and their ties to the idea of money persist at the most basic levels of our money talk.

But what Laum is after is to show that the idea of the moneyness of animals comes not from their use in normal trade – the unit of a cow or an ox is too large in value, to say nothing of their large mass, to be a regular means of payment – but from their use as sacrificial victims. The place to look for the origins of money, he argues, both as a measure of value and a medium of exchange, is at the temples, in offerings and gifts to the deity. Laum finds that the whole idea of generalized mea- sures of value, the idea of standardization itself, comes from separating out ritually pure animals for sacrifice. Animals of the same species were compared with each other, and from the comparison a normalized type was created, a qualitative norm. Rules of cultic sacrifice generate rules of quality and measurement: we thus arrive at a unit of the standard sacrificial ox, bull, ram, or lamb.

These sacrifices meant roasting the animal and carving it up, handing out portions to the celebrants – with certain portions such as backbones and thighs, as in the Iliad, or breast and right thigh, as in Leviticus (7.31–32), taking on more value than other portions.29 The parting of the animal, with some parts having special value, suggests Laum, is the first small prefiguring of the symbolic representation of value that would eventually yield coinage. Laum did not use Aztec evidence. But the Aztecs, not having domestic native animals of much size to bother sacrificing, made do with humans, and as Inge Clendinnen deadpans, the body of a warrior’s victim was “nicely apportioned in accordance with a strict system of priority, with the torso and right thigh awarded to the major captor; left thigh to the second; right upper arm to the third; left upper arm to the fourth; right forearm to the fifth; left fore- arm to the sixth.”

The animals used were animals sacred to the deity, usually bulls or oxen in ancient Greece and India; in some respects the animal was seen as an avatar of the deity, so that what was being rendered to the god as a gift offering was the god’s own to begin with, or even the god himself. We can see shades here of achieving appropriateness and equivalence via identity: pay a god to the god, pay an eye for an eye. Not only in ancient sacrificial cults but in Christianity too: in what came to be the dominant theory of the Incarnation, miserable judgment-proof fallen mankind could not make proper amends to God, so God had to become a perfect man (and hence suitable for sacrifice), one of sufficient worth to square the account, by paying himself to Himself. The sacrifice of Christ is merely another manifestation of the talion: God for God, who is also a partible sacrificial lamb who is then also the object of worship.

I offer here a word of caution. A narrative whose basic structure is more than two millennia old takes the form that in some earlier and more brutal state of the society – mostly lost and obscured in primal mists – it was humans that were sacrificed to the gods. Humans were the first and obvious choice to buy off the gods’ anger or to prevent it if they were currently in a good mood. Thus we have stories of Iphigenia and Isaac, stories that we accept on their own terms as being about cultures finally coming to their senses and realizing that human sacri- fice was nasty and quite costly too. Better to offer cheaper substitutes instead.

But why assume that human sacrifice necessarily must give way to animal? Are we altogether sure that it was animals that were substituted for humans and not the other way around? Poor Isaac is under the impression that sacrifices involve sheep, and in his advanced day it does not occur to him to think that a human would be offered up, let alone himself: “And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Gen. 22.7). And what must Jephthah’s daughter have thought about the regressive tendencies of her dad? Backsliding there appears to have been.33

If God is willing to accept a ram for Isaac in the Old Testament after demanding Isaac for a lamb, He is not willing to let matters go that cheaply in the New, where no mere lamb, but only a God/man will do. In the Old a ram represents a boy/man, in the New a man/God repre- sents a Lamb, agnus Dei. We stand the metaphor on its head: the ram as symbolic man is morphed into the man as symbolic lamb, metaphors of animal sacrifice come to provide the justification and symbolism of later human sacrifice, thereby turning what the Roman authorities meant to be a ritual of punition into a ritual of compensation, and thus of redemption.

Laum’s argument follows the traditional account detailing ever cheaper sacrificial substitutions. He must be largely right, but the move- ment is not without disruptions and regressions. Laum locates the very idea of substitution and the consequent symbolization of value in the domain of the sacred and the sacrificial, in which arena he claims the idea of making one thing expiate for another first arises: a bull stands for the god, a part of a bull for the whole, eventually even the spit (the obelos, which still lives as the name for this symbol: †) on which the piece of meat is roasted comes to stand for the meat, and finally the spit becomes a kind of proto-money and provides the name for the basic Greek coin: the obel.

Rather than kill a valuable animal, why not substitute a cheaper ani- mal, then further substitute cakes baked into the shape of the expensive animal, or offer pieces of metal with animal pictures stamped on them, and lo, we are at something looking very much like a coin, which the temple authorities, according to Laum, minted, loaned, and banked. Where else would you find or need money changers but in the temple? Or at least right next door. Drive them out and there must be an end to the daily sacrifices. Even our coins cannot shake an intimate association with body parts; we give them heads and tails. The coin is thus turned into an animal, and coins invariably sport the human heads (often sev- ered heads at that, as on the nickel, dime, and quarter) of our gods – Lincoln, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Washington – but bear symbolic tails.

More recent scholarship might mistrust this account, but in the end newer theory provides more grist for our mill. The essence of religious sacrifice lies in substitution. Sacrifice simply must come to terms with some idea of substitution, whatever mystifications it feels necessary to construct around it. You can really sacrifice the god only once, and the sacrificer, in expiation, can really sacrifice himself only once. Deicide and suicide end the matter right there for all time, unless a system of ritual substitutions is devised not just for the god but for the sacrificer too. In the ancient Vedic system of sacrificial substitutions there is much manipulation of the idea of “equal,” of equivalence, as ever lower and cheaper victims are substituted, in which it is both admitted and denied that equivalence is maintained. Write Wendy Doniger and Brian Smith, “Extolling the substitute as the ‘equal’ of the original is, one might say, a stratagem for constituting it as a proper substitute.”

But surely this is much of the very story of the history of money, as people and sheep give way to ornamental metals, which give way to paper, in which for a greasy dollar a clerk hands me a glorious blueberry-swirl ice cream cone. The extraordinary amount of energy the church put into elevating the value of the communion host in the thirteenth century can be nicely seen in this light.

The same kind of self-deceptions and manipulations of the idea of equivalence are at the basis of our tort system, in which one is made “whole” with money for the loss of a limb, and at the basis of a monetary system in which the money does not also have a use independent of its money function. A paper dollar is only money; it is not also a sheep, a peppercorn, a human, or an ell of cloth. If a wheaten wafer can be God, then surely a greasy dollar can be an ice cream cone. Commensuration and substitution go hand in hand, to the great advantage of religious ritual and hurly-burly market transacting. With so much play in the joints of what can stand in the place of what, of what can equal what, a wealth of opportunity arises, and so, too, the possibility of getting ripped off.

Laum, as others have done, connects the idea of wergeld, the price of a man, with the notion of sacrifice. The origins of the Germanic word geld lay in the idea of sacrifice to the gods, and hence it came to bear the sense that produced its meaning of a tax (Danegeld), tribute, and, in modern German, money. The idea of wergeld is not, he claims, understood to be compensation for a material loss. Nor is it about restoring honor, but rather about fear of the dead not resting quietly.

My own suspicion is that Laum is mistaking cause for effect. Ideas of unquiet dead demanding that their killings be atoned cannot be separated from ideas of settling accounts, ideas of compensation; the unavenged dead person’s accounts are imbalanced, and he has an interest in setting them to rights. The religious ideas of the unquiet dead do not precede the ethics of revenge and payback; it is demands of paying back and getting even that come first and generate second-order beliefs of unsettled dead, or of angry gods who need to be appeased. That the dead are consumed with the compulsion to even their accounts is hardly surprising when the same idea is the predominant principle of justice among the living.

Others, too, keep the sacral out of wergeld; they would attribute to wergeld itself the origins of money as a standard of value rather than, as Laum does, attributing money’s origins to sacrificial dismemberments. Thus Simmel in his discussion of wergeld: “To reduce the value of man to a monetary expression is so powerful . . . [that] this tendency not only makes money the measure of man, but it also makes man the measure of the value of money . . . The value of the human being is considered here to be the principle of classification for the monetary system and as the determinate basis for the value of money.”41 Numismatist Philip Grierson adopts Simmel’s argument, adding the observation that it is highly likely that the proper etymology of the word worth derives from wer, that is, from man.42 Man is the measure of value. The idea of determining the value to be paid over for dead bodies and for damaged parts of live ones comes first and then gets extended, both Simmel and Grierson argue, to domains of trade and the market via the stepping- stones of brideprice – the purchase of wives by payment to her family – and slavery.

To be noted, too, is that splitting up an animal, if not a human, may be a purely secular matter of determining legal damages. There is not a whiff of the sacral in Exodus 21.35: “When one man’s ox hurts another’s, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the price of it; and the dead beast also they shall divide.” The live animal is worth more alive than split up dead; it is therefore to be sold so as to transmute it into more readily partible substances, like silver or barley, which can be easily and accurately divided. But the provision does not require the carcass of the wronged ox to be sold and the proceeds of it split, for the carcass is now readily divisible in kind without any further loss in its value. The provision, in effect, splits up two animals – the live one by splitting up the proceeds of its sale, the dead one by carving it up with cleavers and saws. Each of the contending humans gets just as much life and just as much death as the other."

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:45 pm

Miller wrote:
"What exactly is Jesus doing at the Last Supper by making the bread stand for his body and then ripping it into pieces and having his followers ingest them? Or what of the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the communion host, to say nothing of the common practice of stamping images of Christ or the Lamb onto it? Here we again have striking symbolic reminders of the partibility (and digestibility) of bodies. And even here there is a hint of money: do we not have the idea of the part representing the value of the whole, indeed the part bearing the congealed value of the whole, where the symbol, like a coin or a bill, becomes the object of value because it is accessible, transferable, and uniform? What of eating sacrificial lambs, as well as eating with them as in the Last Supper, if it be not that both eating them and eating with them are about creating and fulfilling obligation?

Eating together joins people in knots of reciprocal obligation, and eating them literally binds them to you as the god becomes your sus- tenance and your fleshly substance, either when you eat the kabob on the obelos or the bread that Jesus hands you. You are what you eat. And the faithful are to eat their gods/God. There are more than a few medieval miracle stories in which doubters bear witness to the truth of the Real Presence by seeing the communion wafer turn into a child at the moment the priest elevates it, who is then adored, torn into pieces by the priest, handed out, and chewed up.46 There is no separating feasts and feuds, bodies and money, eating, obligation, and exchange.

The same set of ideas, embodying the centrality of eating, tearing apart and distributing, obligation and debt creation, is embodied in our word lord, which is a contraction wrought by time on early Old
cutting up bread, cutting up the body English hlafweard, literally “loaf guard, loaf owner.” And by slow decay hlafweard becomes hlaford, then hlaverd, then laverd, then lord. And the name for servant or household member? Hlafæta, loaf-eater. And like the disciples of Jesus, the loaf-eaters owed their lord obedi- ence and loyalty, and some of the burden of avenging him if slain. The lord’s bread is the lord, his very substance, and hence it “becomes” you in every sense of the word. And those you eat bread with also become companions, that is, people who eat panis (bread) with (com) each other. The idea of paying homage to those you eat – whether it be Jesus or sacrificial beasts, or your prey, or your host’s wherewithal – runs deep, and it is almost an anthropological commonplace that we compensate those we eat by making them into lords, masters, and gods of a sort.48 The fish, Dagon, is the god of fishing people; the bull and ox of the ancient Greeks, the lamb of the Christians who trace their descent to shepherds. One even can see in the totemism of cartoon animals – the Looney Tunes gang, Gary Larson’s cows – an attenuated form of this kind of worship.

Thus, too, consider the medieval obsession with worshiping parts of saints’ bodies, pulling them apart, putting them in silver and gold encasements and transferring them, stealing them, holding them for ransom.49 The trade in relics was a trade in body parts every bit as active, and often as like a gray or black market as the trade in cadavers is for body parts and medical research now.50 And the relics of saints were no less medicinal; infused into water and drunk, they had the power to cure. Thus ingesting the saint also created an obligation to further venerate him and perhaps compensate those who administered his shrine.

And circumcision? Jewish males have for more than three millennia bound themselves in a covenantal relationship with the deity by paying over a piece of flesh, and one of the services God undertakes in return is to play the go’el, the avenger, the redeemer on our behalf. It was about sealing a deal for the purchase of protection. And sometimes it could be about buying a bride, as when Saul put a price on the hand of his daughter Michal of a hundred Philistine foreskins.51 David paid that and added a hundred-foreskin tip (sorry) to boot (1 Sam. 18.27). In the Christian exegetical tradition Jesus’ circumcision prefigures the Crucifixion and the sacrifice of his entire body (as was the case with those two hundred Philistines who first fell to David’s sword before they would sit still enough for their nether parts to be excised by his knife). Thus Milton’s meditation upon Jesus’ circumcision:

He who with all Heaven’s heraldry whilere Entered the world, now bleeds to give us ease. Alas! how soon our sin
Sore doth begin

His infancy to seize!

...

For we, by rightful doom remediless,
Were lost in death, till He, that dwelt above High-throned in secret bliss, for us frail dust Emptied his glory, even to nakedness;
And that great Covenant which we still transgress Intirely satisfied,
And the full wrath beside
Of vengeful Justice bore for our excess,
And seals obedience first with wounding smart This day; but oh! ere long,
Huge pangs and strong
Will pierce more near his heart.

God and His son surely understood that blood and body parts work as money and as obligation-creating and obligation-confirming sub- stances. In the ancient Mediterranean world – in Greece, Rome, and Israel – covenants, alliances, and contracts, reports Burkert, “[could not] be made without sacrifice” or cutting off some bits of flesh. Thus the Hebrew verb “to cut” (karat) is also used to mean “to make a covenant,” or as we might say “to cut a deal.”

The Hebrew metaphor of cutting a covenant could be revivi- fied to brutal comic purpose if its original vividness had become a dead metaphor.

The men of Jabesh sent to Saul for help; the messengers found him herding oxen. Saul took a yoke of these oxen and “cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the borders of Israel” not only to give those who thought not to heed his call an object lesson of what would happen to their oxen if they did not come, but also to oblige them formally to respond to the summons.

And if Nahash can make grim jokes about cutting convenants so can an angry God, furious because the people who had released their Hebrew slaves persuant to a decree of King Zedekiah immediately set about reenslaving them. Says God:

You have not obeyed me by proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother and to his neighbor; behold, I proclaim to you liberty to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine. . . . And the men who trans- gressed my covenant and did not keep the terms of the covenant which they made before me, I will make like the calf which they cut in two and passed between its parts.

(Jer. 34.17–18)

God is making reference to the same ceremony that Saul used to summon the people to attack Nahash.

The cutting up of the calf is what “cuts” the covenant and suggests also the sanction to be levied against those who breach it.

God too delights in playing with talionic equiv- alence by playing with words so that the failure to liberate a slave earns one the “liberation” to the sword.

Bodies and body parts were understood by them to be measures of value (clearly), as obligation-creating (clearly), and also as a means of payment – that is, as obligation-discharging (clearly in the case of whole bodies, as in matters of debt slavery or chattel slavery, marriage, fostering, and hostage taking, but also, a little less clearly to be sure, with body parts).

Let us repair for a moment to the Twelve Tables of Rome (usually dated to the fifth century b.c.). The first law to be noted for our purposes, from Table III, though much debated as to its exact meaning, speaks to the body offered as security for a debt. Several provisions allow for the creditor to fetter the debtor and load him with weights, but when a debtor is bound to several creditors and has been unable to satisfy his obligation on three consecutive market days, his body is to be divided among the creditors, apparently by carving it up, for the law stipulates that if one of the creditors cuts more or less than his share it is not to be held against him.4 With that provision from Table III consider the famous statement of the talion assigned to Table VIII: si membrum rupit, ni cum eo pacit, talio esto: “If he destroys a limb, unless he compensates him or makes peace, let there be retaliation.”

The first provision from Table III deals with an insolvent debtor whose body is to be cut in pieces to satisfy his multiple creditors. This is not a matter of the talion. There is no doing unto the debtor what he has done unto his creditor. In matters of money debts, after all, the talion would simply require repayment of the money with interest. The talion proper is in Table VIII, and it deals with extracting compensation from a tortfeasor. What the Twelve Tables do, as we shall see, is put both contract and tort creditors on very similar levels of bargaining power.5 Pay back your loan, or we carve you up; and pay for my leg you destroyed, or I destroy yours.

If the Twelve Tables give the contract creditor bargaining power like that of the tort creditor, the Torah does no such thing. Just because the talion might be the rule for standard kinds of bodily harm in the Exo- dus Book of the Covenant does not mean that the corresponding debt collection rules need follow the harshness of Roman practice. The rab- binic tradition is remarkably indulgent to the plight of the debtor, and the rabbis took their warrant from ample provisions in the biblical text. There is, for instance, a positive command to lend to the poor (Deut. 15.8–9); rabbinic tradition forbids appearing before one’s debtor, even to pass before him, lest he take fright or feel ashamed; the debtor’s tools and phylacteries are exempt from levy; one must not take a pledge from a widow, even a rich one (Deut. 24.17); the creditor cannot use self-help to distrain property but must go through court process, nor can he search his debtor’s house to see whether he is withholding assets (Deut. 24.10–11); even the court’s representative cannot enter the debtor’s house. Most remarkably, the debtor still gets to use any pledge he gives over to his creditor who must return it to him during the hours he needs to use it (Ex. 22.26; Deut. 24.12–13). This leads Maimonides to wonder what the value of the pledge might be to the creditor. He finds it in this: “that the debt will not be canceled by the advent of the Sabbatical year." [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:50 pm

Miller wrote:
"How do we develop the capacity to remember in spite of our interest in forgetting, in spite of desires to live in a very shallow present such as the one lived in Belmont? Creditors, it seems, if not debtors, have an inter- est in their debtors’ capacity for memory. They may even develop ways of creating memory in their debtors, arriving at all kinds of ingenious mnemonics, such as making them put something at risk they cannot forget: such as their hands, their testicles, their son or daughter, their pain receptors.

As is often the case, Nietzsche got to the heart of the matter, a bit overstated, as is his wont. “How,” he asks,

can one create a memory for the human animal? How can one impress something upon this partly obtuse, partly flighty mind, attuned only to the passing moment, in such a way that it will stay there?

One can well believe that the answers and methods for solving this primeval problem were not precisely gentle; perhaps indeed there was nothing more fearful and uncanny in the whole prehis- tory of man than his mnemotechnics. “If something is to stay in the memory it must be burned in: only that which never ceases to hurt stays in the memory” – this is a main clause of the oldest (unhappily also the most enduring) psychology on earth...Man could never do without blood, torture, and sacrifices when he felt the need to create a memory for himself; the most dreadful sacrifices and pledges (sacrifices of the first-born among them), the most repulsive mutilations (castration, for example), the cru- elest rites of all the religious cults (and all religions are at the deepest level systems of cruelties) – all this has its origin in the instinct that realized that pain is the most powerful aid to mnemonics.

Debt, obligation, memory creation, and body parts seem to keep coming together. The idea runs deep in the Jewish confession of faith in Deuteronomy in which memory is kept alive specifically by alleging as the grounds of original group memory the experience of slavery, the bound body: “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the ordinances which the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt . . . ’” (Deut. 6.20–21).

But Nietzsche also knows that it is in the debtor’s interest to cultivate memory too if he wishes to be trusted and lent to again. He must be able to show to others that he is “calculable,” predictable. He must be able to make promises and commitments. And so at the end of the very painful process of beating a memory into mankind at the cost of pounds and pounds of flesh, whippings, and debt slavery is created “the sovereign individual.”

The proud awareness of the extraordinary privilege of responsibility, the consciousness of this rare freedom, this power over oneself and over fate, has in his case penetrated to the profoundest depths and become instinct, the dominating instinct. What will he call this dominating instinct, supposing he feels the need to give it a name? The answer is beyond doubt: the sovereign man calls it his conscience.

Nietzsche sees conscience as the internalization of the creditor’s interest, not the Freudian father’s, and the creditor’s interest is what gives psychological depth to the individual by giving the flighty Bassanio-like debtor, forever consumed by present pleasure, a way of recalling the past so as to make himself predictable and responsible in the future. We thus acquire a social, legal, and moral future by having a legal past beaten into us. Conscience compels us to pay back what we owe, thereby putting paying back, and thus revenge itself, at the core of the fullest sense of personhood.

‘Play’ comes from a West Germanic verb, plegan, meaning not only to exercise, but to plead for, stake, risk. It is the source also of the verbs ‘pledge’ and ‘plight,’ the latter developing from Old English pliht, danger, peril . . . Play, as Hamlet understands it, is not to be opposed to work or seriousness: that it is in fact a form of dangerous committal and that the player is essentially, not passive, but at stake.” [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Wed Jul 01, 2015 1:45 am

Miller wrote:
"Kant himself opposed dignity to price: “In the realm of ends everything has either a price or a dignity. What has a price is such that something else can also be put in its place as its equivalent; by contrast whatever is elevated above all price, and admits of no equivalent, has a dignity.”1 Our talionic peoples, though, had a different way of talking about something very closely akin to dignity, and it had a price.

We have seen that pretty near everything – the body, life, and even more abstract goods like honor – had a price, for even though you could not quite buy honor, you could surely buy honor back, or redeem it. In fact, the surest way of proving you were entitled to it was to reacquire it when it got taken away. And you could sell your right to buy back your honor in blood by accepting wergeld or compensation payments instead, which as we have seen could also be an honorable outcome, though with its own attendant ambiguities. Those tough- minded people of honor who populate the Icelandic sagas recognized a principle of maximal negotiability: “Everything is compensable.”

The idea is embodied in the Germanic word mund. It means “hand” and derives from the same Indo-European root that yielded the Latin word for hand, manus. Fairly early on, as early as our earliest written records in the Germanic languages, mund had already acquired a legal sense, which ended in pushing its root sense “hand” to poetic uses. Though it still served to mean plain old hand in Beowulf, even there mund is not used as much as hand or hond is.3

In its legal sense mund is usually translated as “protection” and is compared to the authority of the Roman pater familias over his household members. It contains within it the idea of guardianship, thus the modern German word for guardian: Vormund. Mund, in this extended sense of protection, protector, guardian, figures as the second element in names like Edmund, Sigmund, Gudmund. Æthelberht’s laws set a value on the mund of the various social ranks, which then must be paid to the person whose mund is violated. The king’s mund is worth 50 shillings, a churl’s is 6, and a “best widow of the ‘eorl’ class” has a mund, like the king, of 50 shillings, special upper-class widows qualifying as queens of a sort.4

How are we supposed to understand Anglo-Saxon mund?5 It is not wergeld. It is not what is paid to your kin for your death. Instead, it partakes of several notions, such as sanctuary, personal space, jurisdiction, quarter, protection, and “peace,”6 as in the king’s peace. Even certain selected uses of the idea of hospitality are invoked. Here hospitality bears more than its usual sense of gener- ous entertainment of the stranger; it also means a jurisdictional space that the host controls and in which certain breaches of behavior, such as bearing arms, are a breach of the host’s hospitality.

In the Berber world we can see the same notion embedded in the idea of h’urma, or in the idea of honor itself among Yemeni tribesmen.7 Thus the grim jurisdictional aspect of the case of the Levite’s concubine, mentioned earlier, in which the host assumes the prerogative, without consultation, to put his guest’s concubine out of the safety of his house, with obligations of hospitality to a male stranger trumping the safety of any women, even the host’s own daughter.8 And although the guest ultimately puts out his concubine himself to spare the host putting out his daughter, the host assumes from the start the right to offer the Levite’s concubine:

As [the Levite and his host] were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, base fellows, beset the house round about, beating on the door; and they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brethren, do not act so wickedly; seeing that this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do with them what seems good to you; but against this man do not do so vile a thing.” But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine, and put her out to them.

(Judg. 19.22–25)

This is grim stuff, yet even here we see an instance of bodies doing money-like work. The Levite’s poor concubine finds herself offered as a means of payment, and, like a coin, she is a symbolic substitute for a deeper value she represents. She is not enjoyed by the base fellows as a woman but as a substitute for the man they wanted and asked for. The woman stands in the place of the man, her vagina passing for his anus, the less valued being substituted for the more valued in much the way sheep or money replaces the more valued blood as a means of payment in revenge.

The Levite’s host exercised considerable power in his space. In the Germanic world this hospitable power was mund. But it is not just about the powers you assume; it is also about the duties and liabilities that come with it. Granting someone admission to your space alters legal and quasi-legal relations, in a way that is somewhat similar to the permitted admissions that are the substance of sex.10 Once persons or things enter the domain of your mund you end up responsible for them, as the host for a guest. In other words, there are liabilities, not just benefits, that attend this version of “dignity,” the dignity of being entitled to an inviolable space that is your own. Is it not the case that the ability to incur liabilities that are your own is a sign of a deep respect for you as a person, a fully legal person?11

We can get an idea of how magical the space of mund is from this law issued by Kings Hloþhere and Eadric of Kent (c. 680 a.d.):

If a person entertains a visitor for 3 nights in his own home – a merchant or other person who has come across the border – and he gives him food, and he [the guest] does evil to any person, that man [the host] shall bring the other to justice or do justice.12

This gives new meaning to the old saying about fish and guests who stay beyond three days. If a stranger by invitation comes within your space, the domain of your mund, he has three days for it not to mat- ter – three days in which your youness will not rub off on him, or his hisness on you. But combining the spatial magic of mund with the temporal magic of three days metamorphoses the social and legal iden- tities of you and your guest. He becomes part of you. You become liable for his wrongs, chargeable and even killable for his offenses; if he is killed you are to avenge him or undertake legal process on his behalf.

But it is not only space and time; it is also about eating together. The magic also depends on a hospitable mini-communion. How nicely our prior themes come back to haunt and to assist: sharing food binds one person’s matter with the matter of others, making guest and host – just as they are etymologically cojoined, being different forms of the same word13 – into a cojoined person. He took food from your hand, he becomes you. This is hospitality with a bite.

The Kentish laws give us more mundane matters of mund. If a man kills someone on the king’s premises he owes the king his mund of 50 shillings independent of any wergeld he may owe to the kin of the vic- tim; if he kills someone at an eorl’s residence he must pay the eorl his mund of 12 shillings. Similarly, sexual relations with the householder’s serving women are violations of the householder’s mund and cost 6 shillings.15 Suppose you invite some people over for a party and one of your guests insults the others or punches one of them: in such cases not only does the person directly insulted or assaulted have a claim against the unruly guest, but you, as the owner of the place where the incident took place, have one against him too.16 Your space has been violated, your hospitality, your peace, your honor. It is an affront to you to the extent that a certain holiness of your space has been desecrated; your space is accorded a certain sacral quality that has a price: the mund.

From whence this holiness? I like to think that mund is still present with us in the idea of a sacrosanct personal space upon which intrusions give rise sometimes to legal offenses, as in rape or assault, but mostly, among us, to social offenses and moral demands. The moral body does not really stop abruptly at the skin; there is an ever-weakening force field that extends out from it that establishes a space we claim by moral right as our own. Our mund asserts itself in that domain; in one sense it is that domain. It is the space in which we justly feel that others must reckon with our demands for certain treatment or stand in a relation of formal offense toward us; it is a space in which we also owe duties of protection, those duties often subsumed under notions like hospitality, when we allow others admission.

One can see a good portion of the writings of Erving Goffman to be devoted to parsing the parameters of one’s jurisdictional immunity, one’s mund. He notes that we are not quite at the geometric center of our jurisdictional space. It extends out in front of us, for instance, considerably farther than it extends out from our backside, or lat- erally. Certain parts of the body function as spacers and are meant to come into contact with others so as to ward them off from more sacred domains: the elbows are the best example, but shoulders and the butt also play this role. Some body parts can never play this role: lips, penises, breasts, except for those big-bosomed middle-aged British matrons who employ their breasts as battering rams.17

Probably no two parts of the body have a more complex role in this jurisdictional game as protectors and assertors of our jurisdictional bubble than the hands and the eyes. The eyes ward off with a glare, which is manifestly not a stare and which is often the hostile response a stare elicits. Eyes intrude and give offense not only by the kind of look they give but also by how long they look and by what they see. They also ward off offense; they tell the intruder to back off, just as they signal permission or invitation to a desired person to get closer. We wear a special look when we are trying to recognize a person we have never seen before whom we have arranged to meet, and so subtle are we in reading that special look that we seldom have to scan more than a few faces before we correctly identify the person.

Like the eyes, hands work as defenders and offenders, qualified for defense because so well qualified for offense. The hand defends by warding off and pushing off; it also protects and defends by assum- ing the offensive with grabs, throttlings, and punches. Unlike the eyes, which can work across space and can be cast – a glance can also be thrown – the hands are more limited as to their reach. To let them get more than an arm’s length away either we must resort to throwing stones and spears, pulling triggers, or we must give them more expan- sive powers by metaphorical interposition. Such is mund. The hand of mund extends itself into real space with moral, social, and legal force beyond the physical range of the enfleshed hand attached to the body. Because the hand can claim things by grabbing and holding, it comes to be able to grab and hold by ritual and metaphorical extension. That is why I can still be understood to possess the things I own when I leave them on a chair I mean to return to; that is why I still possess the contents of my home when I am away on vacation. They are still in my hand’s grip, or mundgripe as the Beowulf poet would say.

The mund extends itself morally and legally to protect and claim its jurisdictional space. There are thus handshakes, handclasps, hand- sels that bind, accept, transfer; there are manumissions, emancipations, manucaptions in Roman law; and mainprises in French and the com- mon law, even mortmain, the dead hand of control from beyond the grave. The hand in every one of these rituals extends itself, now to grant, now to grasp. Hands are implements of possessing, of having and holding, of grasping and seizing, giving and “handing” over. The hand’s work of seizing and grabbing is the stuff of asserting a claim and then protecting and defending it. It means the hand becomes the image of possession and protection of what it possesses. It thus symbolically controls children and hands them over in fosterage and marriage. And the mund is that space to which my hand so conceived extends, the space in which I claim a right or an interest in all that happens. The mund then is more than just my turf; it makes no very clear distinction between my space, my things, my self, and my honor.

Does this not look like post-Kantian dignity that is more than a hope and a prayer? It has teeth. So serious is dignity conceived in this way that it grants you the rights of a king. You can exact fines for breaches of your peace; your jurisdictional power gives you the right to mulct those who do not respect the hospitality of your domain. This is a serious way to give some backbone to the notion of respect. The mund also embodies a basic no-harm principle, but even more expansively than ours, for it recognizes affronts to dignity as compensable in silver to be sure, but in blood too.

A lot of moral and figurative force grows out of the hand. A king can extend his hand, his mund, by alloying it with his word.18 Thus Æthelberht (§2) claims for himself his 50-shilling mund if anyone inter- feres with his men riding to attend him after he has summoned them. The word of summons carries with it a virtual hand, claiming to pro- tect those within reach of a word. I can even use my word, my writ, my letters patent, to suggest that my hand is where my seal is. And although it is unwise to lump Anglo-Saxons together with continental Germans and see them as part of one big happy Germania, I find it a bit uncanny that among the Franks the notion of the verbum regis, the word of the king, meant quite simply being within the king’s special protection, within his mund.

I likened the jurisdictional bubble of mund to a sacral space, to a holy place. In medieval Iceland the idea of mund was largely subsumed into the notion of helgi, the word being cognate with English holy.20 Helgi (like mund, prominent as a name – Helgi, Helga) is the immunity a person has not to be intruded upon. It embodies the no-harm principle and it is the possession of every free man or woman. Even slaves and dependent people had some version of it. In Iceland you were not within your rights to have sex with your own female slaves if they were married to a slave; indeed the slave husband could rightly kill you if you did.21

The idea of helgi, like mund, marks off a space with the body at its core, a real defended space that extends socially, morally, legally, and physically beyond the skin. How far it extends beyond the skin is a function of power and honor and varies by age, gender, and juridical rank. Do not tread on someone’s holiness lest you lose your holiness as against the person whose state of helgi you violated. She or he can kill you for it. Violation of it comes at a price. Helgi sees the person as his own sanctuary, a place where he resides free of harm, and a space within which he grants protection to those admitted, a space not even insulting words have a right to enter. Now we are talking respect.

Helgi, unlike mund, makes no reference to a body part, with the part standing for the whole; helgi is about wholeness, not parts at all. The holy, helgi, and the whole have a common philological origin. Holy and wholly are not a bad pun, a fortuitous homophone; they come from the same root. One can tease out the constellation of values that gener- ate both the idea of holiness and the idea of wholeness: the holy is an inviolate wholeness, hale (also a member of the same family of words) and whole. Interesting too is the connection across many cultures that requires the holy to be whole; thus sacrificial animals must be perfect before they are split up and ripped apart and eaten to make the recip- ients healthy and whole. The very idea of wholeness suggests vulner- ability to partition, suggests it horrifically at times: “When Hyrcanus [the high priest],” writes Josephus, “fell down at his feet, Antigonus, with his own teeth mutilated his ears, in order that he might never again resume the high priesthood...for a high priest must be physi- cally perfect.”22 We are never far from blood and guts in these kinds of worlds, even in ours, especially when it comes to matters of health and healing, both words also deriving from the same Indo-European root as holy, whole, and helgi.

Satis in satisfy means “full” in Latin. The idea of filling a void – not the idea of discharging or emptying out a build-up of pressure – is another way of conceiving of satisfaction. It is about eating and drinking, filling up the emptiness that is hunger or thirst, not about fornicating and discharging fluids or energies. Thus too the Germanic word fulfill, which gives us a double dose of filling up, for both the ful and fill go back to the same root. To fulfill is “to fill up full,” leading to satisfaction, fulfillment, fullness.

In Old English the word sad, as in, “I am sad to see you leave,” meant “full.” An Old English translation of Psalm 78.29 – “So they did eat, and were well filled” – is rendered “Swiðe ætan and sade wurdan,” or to translate the Old English more precisely, “They ate a ton and were full.”6 Sad is cognate with Latin satis; they come from the same Indo- European root. The history of sad subsumes the whole sad story of the dissatisfaction of satisfaction: from having a good meal in abundance, to the heaviness of being full, to gravity of disposition, to suppression of laughter and smiling, to plain old modern English sad, which already could mean sorrow by as early as the fifteenth century.7 And that is only the depression that comes in eating’s wake; we have not even gotten to the depression of satisfying sex: post coitum omne animal triste, which captures both the sadness at the cessation of intense pleasure and the sense of feeling a bit foolish and befuddled at having invested so much effort in the whole thing.

As with sex and eating, so too revenge. It is a pleasure; perhaps there is no greater. But it is as equally fraught with the problems of let- down, rebound, befuddlement, anxious doubts, and purposelessness." [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Wed Jul 01, 2015 1:46 am

Miller wrote:
"Our best-known revenge tale – Hamlet – is largely about the inability of the avenger to find any motivating sentiment, or at least one that is capable of satisfying him. And in the end he botches the revenge badly, because in fact he avenges his father only as an accidental by- product of avenging his mother in a moment of mindless fury. One hardly senses that Hamlet is satisfied. And neither are we by how he concludes matters. Instead of true vengeful justice we get a partial poetic justice and a rather dissatisfying one at that, where Claudius and Laertes die more by their own plots recoiling on their heads than by Hamlet acting as an avenger. And what satisfaction we experience is one of cathartic exhaustion, in the Aristotelian sense, at the sad- ness of it all, but not because of satisfying revenges; we are drained, wiped out.

Feuding cultures cared less about this for several reasons, one of which will suffice for now: they were as likely to visit the revenge on a relative of the actual wrongdoer as on the wrongdoer himself; hence the state of mind of the expiator, other than seeing he feared you, if even that, was pretty much beside the point.

Contemporary philosophers – for example, Robert Nozick – insist that the wrongdoer needs to know why he is dying or being punished and that the avenger must take care to give him that information.18 What satisfaction could there be in not letting your target know what hit him and for what reason? But this view depends on seeing revenge mostly as a one-on-one affair, say, of two warring spouses or ex-friends, whose behavior is exclusively concerned with its effect on the other, the avenger being wholly obsessed and consumed by the other and not giving a damn what third parties might think; getting to the mind of the other is all. Some avengers in the Jacobean drama concur. Thus Vindice in the Revenger’s Tragedy:

Oh, shall I kill him a’ th’ wrong side now? No.
Sword, thou wast never a back-biter yet.
I’ll pierce him to his face; he shall die looking upon me.

(2.1.376–378)

But honor-based feuding cultures, model payback cultures, did not always operate this way. Views differed. Nozick’s view simply assumes away the various forms of group liability of many a revenge culture, in which getting anyone of a certain dignity on the other side is all that matters.

When Hamlet forgoes his perfect chance to stab Claudius in the back while the latter is praying, it is because, Hamlet says, he might send Claudius to Heaven by killing him in the midst of his prayers. Hamlet couldn’t care less about stabbing him in the back unawares. In fact, the perfect death he imagines for Claudius is taking him fully unawares as he sleeps or as he is engaged in sex, to kill him “When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, / Or in th’ incestuous pleasure of his bed, / At game a-swearing, or about some act / That has no relish of salvation in’t.”

Revenge was seldom, if ever, a two-party affair; it was invariably played before an audience, and much of the satisfaction one took in one’s own revenge was “caught,” like a disease, or like laughter, from the response you observed in others to your actions. If they liked your performance, then you most likely would like it too; if they did not, it would be like ashes in your mouth. They scored your performance, and there was no reason you could not get a high score for dropping your target completely unawares with a single shot that took considerable marksmanship. Grettir’s avenger, Thorstein, who gained honor for avenging Grettir out in Byzantium. The person who got his head sliced off by Thorstein did not know who or what hit him or for what. No matter; it was a glorious revenge.20 Informing your victim of why he is about to die is not a necessary component of a perfect revenge."

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Wed Jul 01, 2015 1:48 am

Miller wrote:
"Mercy offers other perverse pleasures to the avenger, such as the extra chagrin your enemy suffers when you deny that your most excel- lent revenge is revenge at all, the very denial being part of the revenge. St. Paul and the Stoics long ago recognized the brilliance of this move: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” (Rom. 12.19– 20).22 Paul does not mean to leave God much work to do, for if Paul is not quite advising killing your enemy with kindness, he surely means you to torment and frustrate him, indeed he means you to drive him crazy.

Edith Whar- ton puts it this way: “The civilized instinct finds a subtler pleasure in making use of its antagonist than in confounding him.”23 The pleasure must be very subtle, for this kind of revenge is not much different from a business deal in which one party comes off slightly better than the other. Wharton’s world is one in which true revenge has been redefined so that it largely disappears into a multitude of petty revenges while all cordial relations are maintained, no single act of vengefulness ever rising to a level that it cannot be denied to be what it is.

True revenge contemplates some passage of time – for stewing, for fantasizing, for plotting, for terrorizing the other. As the Viking proverb had it, “Only a slave avenges himself immediately, though a coward never does.”27 The sense is that the slave is too stupid to be strategic; he is all anger and fury and hits back in dumb reflex. Still, his stupidity is morally superior to doing nothing; that is the coward’s way, unless you can sell your doing nothing as a grand gesture of forgiveness granted from a position of strength. So even though Hamlet engages in paroxysms of self-loathing for deferring his revenge, in fact his delay is his best revenge against Claudius, for he succeeds in making Claudius a nervous wreck. The point is that a skillful avenger wants more than to kill or to make his enemy suffer a lifetime of misery if kept alive: he wants him to experience the torment and terror of anticipating the revenge that eventually must come.

In Hobbes’s scheme, killing your victim is a sign of hatred and not of what he calls vengefulness, which aims at humiliation and domination.

Hobbes’s view that the best revenge is to keep your adversary alive for a life of abjection is hardly suitable for all occasions. Too many people and cultures have decided that it is best to go for the kill.

There is something awfully final about killing. Even though people who engage in bloodfeuds know that killing is a move in a continuing exchange of corpses, killing still provides dramatic closure in a nar- rative that limits its story to one offense and one payback. There are practical matters, too, not just matters of narrative closure, or of crow- ing and glorying over a humiliated foe. People don’t like being humili- ated, and they will avenge their humiliation if they can. To avenge their degradation is about the only way they can ever recover their moral and social worth. So it might be better to kill your foe as a practical matter, even if less satisfying, especially if he is kinless and you do not have to worry about his brothers or sons.

In saga Iceland, among those true aficionados of feud and revenge, the perfection of revenge lay less in its aesthetic characteristics than in whether it worked; practical issues trumped aesthetic or emotional ones. Whether anger or hate was being indulged, neither should be indulged to the extent that it was stupid. The hard practicality of opting for killing rather than subjugation led Montaigne to argue that it is cowardly to kill the object of your revenge, because to do so is evidence of your fear of his reprisals.

The enemy has only one life to give, and one little life may not be enough to satiate the thirst or hunger driving the avenger if his satisfaction depends on satiation, or to discharge the hate or fury, if his satisfaction depends on release. Such an avenger does not just want to kill his enemy, he wants to keep on killing him. One death is not enough. No wonder the Greeks kept stabbing and dragging and mutilating the corpses of the enemy. So too Othello: “O that the slave had forty thousand lives! / One is too poor, too weak for my revenge” (3.3.445). And later, “Had all his hairs been lives / My great revenge had stomach for them all” (5.2.73). But neither is Othello sure whether it is not preferable to make the one death a long slow torturous one: “I would have him nine years a-killing” (4.1.175). Killing your foe was insufficiently satisfying, and not killing him was not satisfying either; you wanted to destroy his being, but resurrect it so as to destroy it again, to visit upon the foe the image of his own corpse.

Justice required measuring and meting that was meet, but meetness meant accepting a certain practical roughness. Portia was overprecise and picayune expressly to deny justice. Rough justice can thus be rough in more than one sense. To us “rough justice” means unofficial revenges taken out on the body; that kind of justice was rough because it contemplated pain, fear, and blood as part of the payback, the roughness serving as both a just means and a just end. But justice also meant that roughly getting it right was to get it right plain and simple. The demand for excessive precision could lead to perverse cruelty if it were achieved, or to paralysis at the near impossibility of meeting the demand of an overprecise precision." [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Wed Jul 01, 2015 1:49 am

Miller wrote:
"Recall the Old Norse word for even, jafn. The Norse combined the word with the word for “man” thus: mannjafnaðr, literally, man- evening, man-balancing, man-comparing. It was used to describe two distinct actions.17 One: it referred to the balancing of dead bodies in arbitration settlements discussed earlier, the offsetting of the dead Hoskuld against the dead Skarphedinn. Two: it was the term for a quasi-formal contest, a kind of slanging match, which seemed to figure regularly at feasts, espe- cially when people were in good spirits with drink. The game was to choose the best man in the district, town, or hall.

Arguments were made and reasons were given, for honor was a complex matter. Honor could inhere in physical toughness, to be sure, but not in that alone. One got credit for belong- ing to an honorable family, credit for being a successful and generous farmer, a good poet, a great athlete, a brilliant scholar, a cagey lawyer, a wide traveler. No matter. It was all ranked and compared. It was not easy to do, but people did not fold their intellectual tents by declaring impossible what is merely difficult. There is no judgment of noncomparability. The disputes are over the criterion and getting the measure right, or arise over simple frustration at another’s refusal to be convinced by your arguments. There would be no point in playing these games again and again if people were not mostly in accord on the principles and standards of judgment. Above all, these very games were a way for people to think about the norms of merit and demerit, to acquire and to advance an understanding of the standards of excellence, the norms of right action, in their society.
A lot depended on these competitive rankings...

More tense than the mannjafnaðr game was the feast itself where the ranking games were played, for the host had to seat his guests and the seating arrangement was its own man-comparing game. The seat in the center of the long table was the seat of honor, and the proximity of your seat to that seat indicated that the host considered you higher than the man one seat further down. The arrangement was not just that farmer’s whim... His decisions had to be reasonable and defensible. Everyone generally had an idea of who belonged where; they would also make allowances for the host having to favor certain people to whom he had special obligations of kinship or clientage. Still, fights broke out... The most famous and bloody of saga feuds had its origins in the anger of one woman who was forced to move to a less honorable seat in deference to another.


The man-comparing contest was not about reducing the value of men to money. It was about ranking them according to honor; mate- rial wealth was only part of the equation. Commensuration does not require coin, though some types of trade-offs are easier to make when there is a ready way to monetize values. The difficulties talionic cultures had in pricing life were not moral or conceptual; they were practical. Their problems with pricing what we think of as priceless were the inevitable problems of finding a workable medium of exchange.

Coin, as I noted earlier, may not yet have been invented and once it had been, it was in chronically short supply. One had to select among various kinds of money substances, some providing the measure of value, others acting as the means of payment. Thus it was that people, pigs, silver, grain, peppercorns, cloth, hides, blood, or oxen could now be a measure of value, now a means of payment, some more likely to play one role than the other. Even when there was coin, the exchanges were hardly much easier, for coins, with their varying weights and silver content, presented the same problems of quality that sheep or humans did when they served money-like functions. Just as some animals and some humans are more valuable than others, so too not every silver shilling was in fact a silver shilling. That is why merchants did not aban- don scales as a tool of their trade until quite recently. It behooved the careful merchant to weigh and assay the legal tender. Yet if exchanges were not always easy to make, they were still made. People had rules of thumb about setting values and exchange rates even when markets were distant or held infrequently; they looked to respected members of the community who had reputations for getting appraisals of value right.

Setting prices on the most sacred of things was not a dirty notion among them. On the contrary: a high price was how best to express something’s intrinsic value. But, as I have observed on more than one occasion, there was still something less honorable about taking silver than taking blood. Does this show that for blood there was a certain incommensurable je ne sais quoi, a certain moral virtue to it that was beyond compare? Hardly. There was no disputing that prices could be set on anything. The problem was not in measuring value. The problem was in the more specialized money function of finding the appropriate means of payment. Their moral qualms about blood versus money were over which of the various types of moneys used as a means of payment was best suited in any given situation. And sometimes blood was quite simply the best money, the best means of payment, and they understood exactly that to be the case. One did not even have to transport it to the place of delivery. The vengeance target carried it there with him. But even though blood had its special virtue, that too had a price; it could be traded off. Remember what Thormod said: “Everything is compensable.”

Here is the crucial point: might it not be that these people were so much better than we are (“we” means to include economists as well as incommensuralists) at commensurating what the apples-and-oranges people claim are incommensurables because they did not have ready access to a single standard currency or plentiful coin? Talionic peo- ples were used to making difficult and complex calculations because there was no single easily available money substance, and for some – the biblical Hebrews, the Germanic medieval north – not even Arabic numerals. All transactions, I reemphasize, involved negotiating not only the price but also the means of payment. They were not lulled into analytical laziness by thinking that if dollars or shillings couldn’t work to measure the differences in value then nothing could. They were startlingly resourceful and intelligent." [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*


Last edited by Lyssa on Wed Jul 01, 2015 1:52 am; edited 1 time in total
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Wed Jul 01, 2015 1:49 am

Miller wrote:
"In her unfailingly interesting book Pricing the Priceless Child, Viviana Zelizer traces the history of damage awards for accidental death of American children. In the nineteenth century, damages were based on the loss of the child’s wages to the household; and the awards as a result were low. Children were not worth much when their value was a matter of their economic contribution, especially if they had not been working. The sacralization of children changed that. They became too precious to work. But with child labor laws preventing all but certain types of proper kids’ work – selling newspapers, babysitting, acting, and farm work – the price of a dead child dropped to almost zero. Jury awards of $50 or even $1, the classic slap-in-the-face award to reflect a technical harm too trivial to value, were not unknown. But now the low valuation started to scandalize a public that felt that damages should reflect a child’s new moral value. The “useless child” (Zelizer’s mischievous phrase) became the “priceless child.” The useful working child of the nineteenth century went cheap. But that changed: “Unlike the nineteenth century when price determined value, value would determine the price of a sacred child.”" [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*


Last edited by Lyssa on Wed Jul 01, 2015 1:51 am; edited 1 time in total
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Wed Jul 01, 2015 1:50 am

Miller wrote:
"One can believe in the commensu- rability of values and still believe that certain things should not be sold. The story is an old one: the seller and his quest for money was believed to dissolve values, status, and dignity into a soup of tawdry slop, one spoonful as bad as the next. The trader disrupted certain useful illusions; he created and fed cravings. He offered everything for a price; he was a pimp, a go-between, a purveyor; money went a-whoring or made everything and everyone a whore; nothing meant anything because everything was for sale.18 Selling for a price polluted the thing bought and sold, the person buying and the person selling.

The imagery is familiar and I need not rehearse it at any great length. But this view is hardly an objective view of money or of the people who deal in it. This view keeps bad company with lazy aristocrats and energetic anti-Semites, those who looked down for various reasons on trade and the trader. This is an irony that should give some pause about the company one keeps: the antimarket, antitrader, anticommer- cial, antibourgeois spirit of the PC left academic makes him or her the heir of the old aristocratic distaste for working in trade, whether that view is embodied in the person of an Achaean warrior, a sixteenth- century English duke, or a nineteenth-century impoverished habitue ́ of St. Moritz looking for a rich American heiress to fund his uselessness. The people? Hoi polloi? They higgle and haggle, or in more successful guise they were the fathers of those rich American heiresses, men who hawked their daughters to old European blue bloods at fancy watering holes to gain grandchildren who would soon learn to be ashamed of them for having been in trade.

It should hardly need to be pointed out that money is as money does. The antimarket people want money, too, but they want it to know its place and to be devoted to purposes deemed dignifying, or paid out indirectly via various subsidies, just as aristocrats wanted it via inheritance or by marrying rich spouses and felt it should be devoted to the glorifying, because wasteful, purposes of sumptuous display. If through its history money has been demeaned as barren metal or filthy shit – it is never quite clear whether sterility or fecundity is what makes it revolting – at least as excrement it can fertilize schools and the arts.

In addition to the claimed moral revulsion at putting the sacred up for sale is the serious concern that the producers for many such markets would be overwhelmingly poor people whose kidneys, wombs, or babies might be their most valuable and readily tradable assets. A few noticed an even more ominous cost.19 Rather than money and the market reducing everyone to indistinguishable commoditized cloned mass-produced units as Simmel and others have argued, it would do quite the opposite: it would rank, categorize, and distinguish with a vengeance.

A market in babies would discriminate powerfully among babies. Some babies – healthy white ones – would go for very high prices, and others – not white or not healthy – would have lower prices, some even having negative prices because there would be no takers unless the babies came with a subsidy. The image of such a divorce between price and “value” would be a truth we would not wish to see so starkly revealed. The market would rewrite the wergeld ranking system on infants. It is pretty much that way now, although adoption agencies veil the ugly truth a little better than markets would. These are the kinds of things better kept obscured, swept under rugs, in the name of dignity. So what if it is an elaborate deception, or a secret everyone knows; it may be, the argument goes, that we gain so much more from the deception even if we have to pretend to be deceived.20

In other words, the moral claim, the beneficial moral claim that dresses itself in the idiom of the pricelessness of human dignity and human life, risks being made a joke were we to see just how cheap most of us are in dollars – kill a worker, $7500. How do we keep up a belief in the dignity of each individual human when most of us go so cheap? It may be that the unseemliness resides less in putting the sacred up for sale than in the horror at discovering the ease with which the market values it. The so-called incommensurable and priceless stripped of its pretenses turns out often to command the price of a low-end widget.

In the end it may be a good idea not to force upon us the knowledge of just how much cheaper we are in a dignity culture than we would be in honor-based talionic cultures – if, that is, we managed to lead middlingly honorable lives. As long as a few jury awards reach a mag- ical multiple of a million for a wrongful death action here and there, the illusion of pricelessness continues to be nourished.21 One wonders whether the discourse of human dignity, its commitment to priceless- ness, is itself a new coinage designed to compensate us for the failure of the dollar value of our lives to confirm our moral beliefs as to their “true” value. We cannot bear to see price so completely unhinged from what we think is “true” worth.

Talking pricelessness talk might bind us to behave in ways that are kinder, gentler, more mannerly, more consistent with some form of a belief in a rough equality (remember that honor cultures, too, were fiercely egalitarian within the honor group) and at no great cost either.24 But maybe we should also, when we talk this way, be mindful of how much richer we are because of the work of those “moral menials”25 – the actuaries, social planners, and politicians – who must keep their heads and put a price on how much we are going to shell out for the various “priceless” values we hold. Someone has to decide how to allocate limited resources among things like cancer research – whether prostate or breast – AIDS research, highway construction, national defense, rescue missions, firefighting, police protection, performance art. You get the picture.

But the discourse of hard-nosed economists, the faux toughness of the marketeers, of those economists who wish to measure commit- ment and caring by a “willingness-to-pay-in-dollars” standard, is no less parasitical on dignity talk than the apples-and-oranges position is parasitical on fairly healthy amounts of filthy lucre. The everything- is-about-self-interest crowd, the market priests, the willingness-to-pay guys, know that their game is played for pretty safe stakes, not just because they make a living by flattering and being serviceable to the rich and powerful, but for the very reason that no one will kill them for their tastelessness and bad manners, for letting money speak with a megaphone in our ears, for telling us that we are motivated by nothing more than a painfully risible view of human behavior as driven solely by self-interest, because, well, the life of a person who argues that the reason to leave a tip is that it signals a willingness to abide by social norms has a priceless dignity independent of the views he articulates.

And as long as he follows the social norms he does not have a clue to understanding, and even comes up with dollars-and-cents reasons that he thinks are motivating him to abide by the norm, we will not put him in jail or even beat the living daylights out of him. But should he deem it cost-effective not to leave a tip and cease faking being a member of civil society . . . Well, then: thine eye shall not pity." [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Wed Jul 01, 2015 1:51 am

Miller wrote:
"I have talked of scales, of talionic equivalence, and of getting even, of revenge and redemption. I thus introduced “oddmen” (the arbitrators) and “unevenmen” (those who refused to submit to arbi- tration and refused to pay for their wrongs); we have seen how people equilibrate, commensurate, evaluate, and price pretty much everything when called on to do so. Redemption, the foundation of their moral edifice, requires no less. We have seen them mint coin in the strangest of substances: in living flesh, dead flesh, animal or human, parted or whole, in blood, grain, and peppercorns, as well as in what we have come to think of as traditional money substances like silver and gold. I have spoken of the play in the joints of actual instruments of measure- ment, and the play, the ambiguities, in the conceptual joints of payback and redemption so that peace and “satisfaction” could be achieved, at least for a while.

Justice and obligation are treated by political, moral, and legal philosophers so abstractly. They lose sight of the fact that matters of justice and matters of obligation are concrete, practical, and homely: justice was first a matter of paying back, of buying back, of determin- ing the amount of the obligation owed or the value of the thing or person to be redeemed. In the end it was never far from being a matter of blood, flesh, and bone. Remember: “peace” and “paying back” – whether from Latin pax/pacare or Hebrew sh-l-m – were part of the same constellation of values. There was no separating the determina- tion of value – prices and payment – from peace and justice. Peace worth the name meant getting even, settling accounts, and that was their description of justice too. Justice meant creating the conditions of peace, debts quit, accounts settled.

The seminal imagery of peace and paying, of justice and getting even, does not allow for separating, practically or conceptually, things we think of as being as diverse as revenge, justice, obligation, debt, blood, bodies and parts thereof, measuring, meting, meat, eating, hos- pitality, mund/helgi, honor, and inviolability. These things shared so much genetic material that each partly contained the others and was in turn contained by them.

Ideas of balance, evenness, and justice led us to the talion, and the talion to ideas of commensuration. One smart character in an Icelandic saga written eight centuries ago came up with a remarkable way of solv- ing the problem of commensurating pain. The talion, I have suggested, was a way to teach fellow-feeling. If I can take your eye in payment for your having taken mine, then I know you will feel my pain, as we are wont to say in our New Agey way, and we will be able to put a just price on it. I then, in an effort to set a good example, have shown how much fellow-feeling I could generate on behalf of Shylock, my brother, in hopes that you too would cheer him on.

We saw too how remembering was a necessary addition to the tough family of obligation, redemption, and debt repayment. Memory was never the mere recollection of prior mental images but rather was about the discharging of obligations of flesh and blood. Recollection neces- sarily meant debt collection; remembering, as the ghost of old Hamlet knew, meant revenge.

Again, let me emphasize, this is not so much academic overinter- pretation and false drama. Very little interpreting was necessary: the ancient and medieval sources were so up-front about the linking of bodies alive and dead and their body parts to the measuring of value that even an academic could not miss it. The early Germanic laws, especially those of King Æthelberht of Kent, brought home the point in cold detail. The first laws in English did not begin with a preamble about abstract rights; they got right down to the business of pricing harms to people and their property. Price-setting did not demean some prior conception of human dignity but instead provided the force to notions like honor and their versions of dignity. Mund was not an abstraction; it was the jurisdictional power you wielded in your space, your domain of sovereignty. It started with the real hand and emanated outward, along with the glance of an eye and the sound of a word. And it had a value and a price.

I then took a psychological turn. The language of debt discharge, of getting even, of being satisfied, we saw, got internalized in the strangest of ways, when the idea of satisfying a debt supplied more than one lan- guage and culture with competing theories of the emotions. What was satisfaction? Was there agreement as to what the most satisfying pay- back was? No. It was not even clear whether satisfaction required dis- charge of built-up urges and tensions so as to let off steam and restore us to a relaxed equilibrium, or whether satisfaction meant filling up a void. Was the satisfaction of payback more akin, that is, to fornicating, or to feeding?

And finally when arriving at our own day we confronted what it meant to talk tough about valuing and pricing. I took what was some- thing of a plague-on-all-their-houses position, going after, on the one hand, those who are wary of the moral costs of making comparisons of values – the apples-and-oranges people – and, on the other, those, mostly associated with a simplistic theory of motivation at the core of much legal economic literature, who think that a robotic notion of self-interest makes making comparisons no harder than breathing, but who are so mind-numbingly wedded to valuing things in dol- lars that they can’t hold a candle at playing their own game to those oddmen in the sagas and elders at the gate in the Bible, who knew how to value moral matters in something other than dollars – they measured and traded in honor and blood, eyes and teeth, as well as silver.

Against them both I offered an account of how complex is our strong desire to rank and order, how inventive we are at devising measures to justify our rankings, and how inadequate dollars are for measuring value in most of the rankings we engage in, though the values at stake are no less comparable, and thus rankable, for that. It is by means of the very process of devising measures to rank the bizarrest of things that we hone our critical sense, that we teach ourselves and others how to appreciate what makes things what they are. It is how we educate our tastes, acquire them and change them; it is how we forge our judgment and our critical capacity.

I sing the virtues of honor cultures long since dead that left literary remains to die for: the Hebrew Bible, the Iliad, Beowulf, the Icelandic sagas. When closer to home in space or time I see not much to admire in urban ghettos or in the Islamicist Middle East, which are sometimes declared to be honor societies in the same breath as they are declared models of dysfunction, as if it were honor and the talion that made them so. But these are not dysfunctional because of their views of honor and justice, but because they deviate in some important ways from the model of the well-functioning talionic society one sees in the sagas, in other heroic literature, or in the ethnographic accounts, say, of the Bedouin.

The inner city has no old men with property, who have the means therewith to threaten, bribe, and control the aggressive young males who hold their communities captive. These communities are bereft of the class of elders who have the power to keep the violence of the young within responsible, because compensable, limits. In a well-functioning honor society the young men were not allowed to run the show; they did the bidding, within some fairly broad limits, of their elders. And the community was in complete agreement that “unevenmen” were not to be tolerated; either they learned to live by the rule of “even” or else. The pastors and the grandmothers in the inner cities, try heroically as they do, are simply outgunned and lack the resources.

The Islamicist Middle East introduces a religious ideology that comes close in some of its more extreme versions to devaluing life on earth to the zero point, thereby undoing much of the compensatory force of the talion, whose thrust, recall, was to make life on earth expensive. The problem is not just young men, who are a problem for the structures of social control in any society. The problem is the old men, the clerics and political leaders, who welcome the resource that the young men provide them. The young are thus used not only as human bombs against the enemy but also to gun down the young men of other factions with whom they are competing to blow up the enemy. This can be seen as a way of controlling their young men, too, for at the end of the day they will have gotten rid of quite a few of them. The problem need not be intrinsic to Islam as a general matter. Contrast the Bedouin, whose commitment to Islam was once such that it blended very nicely with the assumptions of their classic honor culture. Will the culture of jihad disrupt their internal equilibrium too?

But in functional honor societies, the clerics, or whoever occupied the status of wisemen, were the class from which the society drew its mediators and arbitrators; these were the people who were counted on to have a talent for peacemaking, for engineering imaginative com- promises. And a talent for peacemaking, recall, was inseparable from a talent for pricing, for knowing how to value harms to property and harms to honor, within the constraints of what people could actually be expected to pay. The Islamicist clerics might well answer,“We meet your description of the skilled wiseman to a T. Our followers quarrel and feud among themselves; they come to us to judge their disputes, and we come up with a price that buys peace. We strike the balance and even up accounts – within our group. But outside the group we do not feud, nor quarrel, we war unto the death. Compensation and balance is a principle to be applied only within the honor group; Jews and Christians – and even in certain matters a Sunni to a Shi’ite, a Shi’ite to a Sunni – are outside the rule of balance, the rule of equal. We owe them nothing, for the principle of holy war means that the offense of the Other is his mere existence.”

Can they possibly be surprised that the Other might object, even find such a view an offense not to be borne?

The well-functioning honor society elicits admiration, if not quite nostalgia. The conditions in which such societies thrived are not avail- able to us, nor would we want to make them available to us if we could. Honor societies tended to be small and poor, and the cost of the tough virtue I so admire was in part their poverty; they seldom generated enough surplus to support lordship, let alone expensive governmen- tal institutions. And they made sure that no one did too well for too long because that way lay serious inequality. Remember: they clipped the wings of those who were getting too big for their breeches. And prudent people might keep their talents and ambitions within limits that would prevent eliciting murderous envy from their jealous neigh- bors. This tough policing of the conditions of rough equality comes at enormous social cost – to innovation, to experimentation, to certain forms of productive ambition.

The value that our material wealth provides is not to be sneezed at, though the moralists always feared it would lead to softness and a kind of moral laziness, and, as is often the case with moralists, they have a point. But honor and a modified form of talionic justice still are with us in restricted, roughly egalitarian domains: on the playground, in school, at the workplace, in church (yes, there too). In these domains we still recognize as the core principle of justice, the central moral principle that one “good” turn deserves another, the quotes indicating that good means both bad and good. Reciprocity, paying back what you owe, means everything to your moral standing, to your character. And the fuel that maintains this moral economy is the desire to have a bit more honor than your neighbors; the pleasures of looking slightly down upon them seem to match those of being mildly deferred to – nothing untoward, mind you. Both the desire for deference, and the looking- down upon, must always be deniable; that is, they must be indulged in tastefully so that the large principles of rough equality and of treating honorable people honorably are maintained." [Eye]

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Mon Jul 13, 2015 6:36 pm

Satyr wrote:
"I now seek revenge!!!! And the best kind, I am told, is to live well."

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Fri Jul 17, 2015 8:08 pm

Forgiveness between two individuals is one thing, but forgiveness having involved an oath on a great soul would be a mockery of it.

A promise upon one's mother, one's teacher, one's hero, one's genii are sacred stones upon whose elevation, we uplift our being.
There can be no forgiveness when a promise upon noble beings are involved.
It would be an obliteration of every single deed they have stood for.
Some things cannot be "lived lightly".

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
OhFortunae

avatar

Gender : Male Scorpio Posts : 2478
Join date : 2013-10-26
Age : 23
Location : Land of Dance and Song

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Fri Jul 17, 2015 8:19 pm

Lyssa wrote:
Forgiveness between two individuals is one thing, but forgiveness having involved an oath on a great soul would be a mockery of it.

A promise upon one's mother, one's teacher, one's hero, one's genii are sacred stones upon whose elevation, we uplift our being.
There can be no forgiveness when a promise upon noble beings are involved.
It would be an obliteration of every single deed they have stood for.
Some things cannot be "lived lightly".

The sacred reminder of having value in what you say; as a child I gave promise by including my hero Alexander. Everywhere I go, people tell me that they did not actually expect me for their experiences with people who betrayed their already rotten tongue, invitations, promises and trust - not betrayel actually, living up to their worthless hearts.
Back to top Go down
View user profile https://plus.google.com/u/0/109705167311303906720/posts
Hrodeberto

avatar

Gender : Male Capricorn Posts : 1343
Join date : 2014-07-14
Age : 31
Location : Nova Universalis

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Fri Jul 17, 2015 9:00 pm

It's never actuated as a betrayal of the other, but rather by breaking the promise or covenant or unison between two or more, it has its genealogy traced back to a betrayal of oneself, and which breaking could explain the after effusion into the other, or in other words, why it hurts so much to be betrayed, reconsidering that it is also felt as a self-betrayal to have been betrayed because we apportioned ourselves to be the incumbent of it.
The other, and its codependently ascribed salience, is used as an interdiction so as to prevent betraying oneself. This arises a paradox: since by acting in order to inhibit the process of self-betrayal sometimes we self-deceive or betray ourselves.

The efficacy of oath in addiction can work wonders, provided that the oath isn't indiscriminate. For instance, the Dad who promises his baby daughter, who doesn't even understand, that he will quit cigarettes.

This is probably how the stature of Gods advanced.
I knew (bridge burned) this Italian woman who lived heavily on her Roman Gods. She got passionately upset when I assumed, not hastily, that she was blessed by Fortunae.
Back to top Go down
View user profile
Lyssa
Har Har Harr
avatar

Gender : Female Posts : 9035
Join date : 2012-03-01
Location : The Cockpit

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Sun Jul 19, 2015 1:08 pm

Supra-Aryanist wrote:
It's never actuated as a betrayal of the other, but rather by breaking the promise or covenant or unison between two or more, it has its genealogy traced back to a betrayal of oneself, and which breaking could explain the after effusion into the other, or in other words, why it hurts so much to be betrayed, reconsidering that it is also felt as a self-betrayal to have been betrayed because we apportioned ourselves to be the incumbent of it.
The other, and its codependently ascribed salience, is used as an interdiction so as to prevent betraying oneself. This arises a paradox: since by acting in order to inhibit the process of self-betrayal sometimes we self-deceive or betray ourselves.

The efficacy of oath in addiction can work wonders, provided that the oath isn't indiscriminate. For instance, the Dad who promises his baby daughter, who doesn't even understand, that he will quit cigarettes.

This is probably how the stature of Gods advanced.
I knew (bridge burned) this Italian woman who lived heavily on her Roman Gods. She got passionately upset when I assumed, not hastily, that she was blessed by Fortunae.

Yes, very good, but when I said elevation, I meant that, not the "creeping up" of Parasites who climb up with false oaths in the name of false beings.

What is Islam, but an oath that begins with "In the Name of God, Most Merciful", etc. and then carries out its jihad, its venegeance... in the name of an absent absolute...

What is Xt. "forgiveness" or Crusader "Vengeance" in the name of Christ, the son of god, etc.

If you are a lowly being, you give yourself height by clambering onto skyhooks and taking oaths on such extravagant, hyper-inflationary beings where vengeance/forgiveness can be made to become righteous, because all can be made to look equal from such a height as the J.-Xt. God resides.

_________________
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://ow.ly/RLQvm
Anfang

avatar

Gender : Male Virgo Posts : 2069
Join date : 2013-01-23
Age : 34
Location : CET

PostSubject: Re: Revenge Sun Aug 20, 2017 3:11 pm

Revenge to power

Being in a situation of powerlessness and experiencing an event which is deemed unjust can lead to a desire for revenge. This can manifest in a will to become more powerful, more powerful to dominate future events. Once the level of power has been reached to dominate the desire for revenge dissipates. Depending on the level of self-awareness one might even acknowledge those who initiated this growth in power for what they did.
When the desire for revenge has disappeared it comes to justice. This is where man reasons what is to be paid, given or taken based on an understanding what these actions will bring about in the longterm and what vision of the good is being projected.

At least for one kind of man.
Back to top Go down
View user profile
Sponsored content




PostSubject: Re: Revenge

Back to top Go down
 
Revenge
View previous topic View next topic Back to top 
Page 1 of 1
 Similar topics
-
» Revenge
» a man hits my head
» Revenge of the Nerds

Permissions in this forum:You cannot reply to topics in this forum
Know Thyself :: AGORA-
Jump to: