“Revenge is like politics, one thing always leads to another until bad has become worse, and worse has become worst.” – Jonas Jonasson in The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
Now, there was this story, not sure if it is true or not, about South African leader Nelson Mandela while studying law at the University. A professor, whose last name was Peters, disliked him intensely for reason he only knew.
One day, Peters was having lunch at the dining room when Mandela came along with his tray and sat next to the professor. “Mr. Mandela,” the professor said, “you do not understand, a pig and a bird do not sit together to eat.”
Mandela looked at him as a parent would to a rude child and calmly replied, “Don’t worry professor, I’ll fly away” and went and transferred to another table. Peters, reddened with rage, decided to take revenge.
The following day, in a class, the professor posed the following question: “Mr. Mandela, if you were walking down the street and found a package and within was a bag of wisdom and another bag with money, which one would you take?”
Without too much ado, Mandela responded, “The one with the money, of course.”
Peters, smiling sarcastically, said, “I, in your place, would have taken the wisdom.” Mandela shrugged and replied, “Each one takes what he doesn’t have.”
The professor, by this time, was about to throw a fit, seething with fury. So great was his anger that he wrote on Mandela’s exam sheet the word, “IDIOT” and gave it to the future Nobel Peace laureate.
Mandela took the exam sheet and sat down at his desk trying very hard to remain calm while he contemplated his next move. A few minutes later, he got up, walked up to the professor and told him in a dignified polite tone: “Mr. Peters, you signed your name on the sheet, but you forgot to give me my grade.”
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines vengeance as “the punishing of someone for harming you or your friends or family, or the wish for such punishment to happen.” Its closest synonym is revenge, which means “action against someone to punish that person having hurt you.”
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a burn for a burn, a life for a life. That’s how all this got started,” Jenny Han wrote in Fire with Fire. “And that’s how it’s going to end.” To which American singer-songwriter Emilie Autumn added, “There is no such thing as justice, all the best that we can hope for is revenge.”
But multiple Grammy winner and actress Madonna has different view: “We learn our lessons; we get hurt; we want revenge. Then we realize that actually, happiness and forgiving people is the best revenge.”
“Revenge is never the answer,” said Kasie West in The Fill-in Boyfriend. English cleric and writer Charles Caleb Colton also said, “Revenge is fever in our own blood, to be cured only by letting the blood of another; but the remedy too often produces a relapse, which is remorse – a malady far more dreadful than the first disease, because it is incurable.”
English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley agrees. “Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time; as aromatic wine it seemed, on swallowing, warm and racy: its after-flavor, metallic and corroding, gave me a sensation as if I had been poisoned.”
English author Samuel Johnson is one person who would get even with those people who would exploit him. When he was completing his dictionary, a London journal published two anonymous “previews” of the book. The articles were favorable but superficial. When he learned that the wealthy Earl of Chesterfield had written them, he was furious.
After all, he had applied to him repeatedly for patronage while writing the dictionary, but the earl had been cheap, giving the poverty-stricken writer no more than ten pounds. Now, Johnson felt, he was trying to take credit as a patron. In the dictionary, he defined patron as “commonly a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery.”
Irish author George Bernard Shaw had also experienced embarrassing moments. After the premiere of Arms and the Man (1898), he took the stage to make a curtain speech. When the applause subsided, there was a solitary boo from London critic Reginald Golding Bright. Shaw looked directly at Bright and said, “My dear fellow, I quite agree with you, but what are we two against so many?
“There is nothing more entertaining than leaving someone speechless,” Shannon L. Alder once said.
At a dinner party one evening, there was a heated exchange between British statesman Winston Churchill and a female member of the parliament. At the end of the argument, the lady said scornfully, “Mr. Churchill, you are drunk.” Replied Churchill, “And you, madam, are ugly. But I shall be sober tomorrow.”
Finally, here’s another story that should end this column. A cigar smoker bought several hundred expensive cigars and had them insured against fire. After he’d smoked them all, he filed a claim, pointing out that the cigars had, in fact, been destroyed by fire.
The insurance company refused to pay, and then the man sued. The judge ruled that because the insurance company had agreed to insure the cigars against fire, it was legally responsible.
The company had no choice but to pay the claim. Then, when the man accepted the money, the company had him arrested for arson.
“Justice, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder,” said the fictional character Emily Thorne in the ABC television series aptly titled Revenge. “Some see an innocent victim. Others will see evil incarnate getting exactly what’s deserved.” – ###