In concurrence with the world’s attitude towards acting on revenge, response, vengeance, and peace, whether it is the Balakot-Pulwama incident or the Hiroshima Nagasaki-Pearl Harbour incident, the following write-up aims to ask everyone, most importantly the youth, is blood really the answer? Is vengeance really the solution? Is it true that after war, comes peace?
It all starts with the innocent whining of a little child, “They pushed and snatched the ball from me, so even I pushed them back“. This pervasiveness of vengeance, though commonly associated with combat in the darkest periods of political upheaval, is already catered to by a mere child, before the social evils within and outside the circumference of his perfect society are revealed.
The events that have taken place in history and the corresponding events that are occurring today have painted a rather ugly picture of vengeance and, according to me, completely smeared the very meaning of the word itself. Vengeance by definition is a form of justice that may be enacted against the norms of formal law as a result of wrongs committed against someone. Today, it is a tool or rather a weapon used by the person who was wronged to show that they aren’t ‘weak’ or perhaps ‘equalise’ the morality scale on both sides.
If we think about it, vengeance is the most common tool used to seek justice, but what is the objective of this justice in the status quo? Justice, I feel, can be categorised into two polar opposite schools of thought. The first where justice is used to show strength and to replace feelings of sympathy with that of fear, and the second where justice serves the purpose of warning the perpetrator from committing the wrongdoing again by causing proportionate damage.
The first stream of thought lends itself to the fact that one needs to make the other afraid of them in order to ensure that they don’t have the courage to commit such a heinous crime once again. If we think of it, it is the most common way to get vengeance and to become a single unit of destruction such as the demonstration made by India by bombing Balakot after the martyrdom of 40 CRPF soldiers in Pulwama.
Morally, was showing gratitude and mourning the martyrdom of our brave cavalry the best way out? No, absolutely not, the fact that people have even the slightest speculation on the successfulness of this mission proves that along with the intention of killing the terrorists responsible, India too wanted to move the hearts of its patriotic citizens by showcasing their muscle power.
However, if one were to hypothetically imagine the consequences in the case of absence of vengeance, we would stumble upon the fact that Pakistan would get an incentive to attack once more as they wouldn’t be held accountable. Thus, we can form a conclusion that one major purpose of vengeance is to ensure that the guilty ‘does not get away from their crime’ or are punished enough that in future, they would contemplate the repercussions before doing so.
On the other hand, the second stream of thought uses vengeance to equalise the scale of bad karma and seek justice, but one often forgets the magnitude to which a mistake can be repaid and end up punishing the guilty much harsher in magnitude. This paradoxical situation often prolongs the quest to seek justice and paints a dirty picture of vengeance.
Such an example can be observed in the case of the USA and Japan, where the bombing of Pearl Harbour resulted in over 2,400 casualties. Retaliation followed in the form of atomic bombs which killed over 1,00,000 people instantly in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that to date shows the damage in the form of abnormalities due to nuclear radiation. Hence, this type of vengeance is a gross answer in the name of justice and deems itself to be a genocide.
This brings us to a question that is often left ambiguous: how does one seek vengeance in a way that serves its rightful purpose of holding people accountable while also stimulating fear?
From my lens, I think the idea of retributive justice which seeks fairness in the protection of rights through proportionate punishment of wrongs, is a fitting answer. It is true that Mahatma Gandhi once said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” but observing this in the context of the 21st century and human nature, one does not get the sense of justice until they are avenged. Even though the first instinct of a country is to seek vengeance when its citizens are harmed, it should be performed in a manner that does not stain the name of humanity but at the same time shows necessary assertiveness.
Disproportionality in punishment in the name of justice and vengeance is in no way justified, as by weighing the scale of damage on both sides, the ill effects of mass killings, bombings, etc, accompanied by an uncertain and struggling future always trumps any other force of damage. At the end of the day, humanity is a virtue that stands before anything else.
While it is important to teach a firm lesson to wrongdoers, it is also our responsibility to not compromise human morals and ethics. While vengeance itself compromises ethics and morals to some extent, one must perform their duty as a sensitive and thinking individual, country or citizen to take such course of action that serves its purpose without surplus destruction.
This esteemed quote by Mahatma Gandhi gives sanctity to Gandhi’s most treasured belief which was Ahimsa or non-violence. Gandhi through this quote expressed his feelings towards vengeance by addressing that one bad action in response to another bad action leads to a vicious cycle that does not pedestal any person wiser or more humanitarian than the other.
However, I differ from this by a small margin by resorting to vengeance in a way that is retributive in damage in order to remain in sync with the changing society today and maintaining one’s own dignity. The choices we make in the name of justice, whether as a country, citizen or individual defines us as humans and only serves its purpose when the other is cautioned.
Vengeance is a double-sided sword; beneficial when used wisely and tragic when used as a forceful weapon that may paradoxically bring pain to oneself.