5.29.2008

Vengeance, one of the five basic human passions

Via good Mr. Schneier, who always has such fascinating things to say...

Mr. Schneier pointed out some interesting comments on Vengeance as a driving force in an article in the New Yorker (seemingly on an entirely unrelated topic!), and I highly recommend clicking through for that alone, but it particularly struck me that the author juxtaposed Vengeance beside four other human passions: love, anger, grief and fear. It is interesting to me, first, to consider vengeance as a seperate passion from anger. But more interesting to me was that the other four passions are, as the article's author points out, at least considered to be morality-neutral by most societies, now. They can be good and they can be good. They have a definite social purpose. But, we think of vengeance as having no social purpose whatsoever - it's a wicked, primitive urge that we don't pay attention to. But, then, on the other hand, we play off it all the time in society - we use it as a uniting force, for instance, when we start a war - 'Remember the Alamo' was really just a thinly veiled way to see 'get those b****s who shot our folks back'. I'm not sure what this means, that we're more primitive than we imagine, or that we as a culture need to learn more enlightened ways to understand vengeance. I just don't know.