Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Retaliation

Frater RO posted a link to a blog that I found humorous in its arrogance. I liked this line the best "Make absolutely clear that no “laws” will prevent retribution that exacts from them at least ten times more pain than they have caused."

This makes some fundamental assumptions that I disagree with.

I have caused pain in people's lives. There were times when I should have known better. There were other times when I was just oblivious. Other times, I have tried to avoid causing pain and did so anyway. There have been times where I've caused pain (from the other person's point of view) and I'm clueless as to why they feel pain.

I can not think of a single instance in my life where I actually woke up and said to myself, "I am going to cause pain to person X." What good decent human being does that? Well, apparently, the author of the post thinks intentionally causing pain is a good thing as it discourages the causing of more pain (or so I assume). No. It actually causes more.

Why do people cause pain? Let us put aside the mentally ill (with compassion) and the asshole who actually enjoys causing emotional pain. In my life as an adult, my observation has been there are very few of the latter relatively speaking.

What of the rest?

Much anger and upset is the result of variances in expectations. Everyone has dated someone that hide higher expectations of romance than one can meet. That other person gets hurt every time. There is hardly a cause for retaliation times ten!

Sometimes expectations are wildly different. I once felt emotional pain not when women turned me down for dates but because she lied to me to do it. I'd have felt much better had they just said "no thank you," rather than making some social excuse. While I expected truth, they were trying to spare my feelings OR they simply lacked the backbone to say no. Either way, my expectations caused my pain. They were not trying to hurt me. So, should I follow this guy's advise and cause ten times the pain I felt? No. Yet, this example matches his point. A lie caused pain therefore retaliation is in order.

People are hurt by layoffs at work. Assuming the causes are purely economic in origin and the result of no illegal or immoral activity, should those people on the unemployment line go burn down the business owner's house? No.

There are a million more examples of pain caused purely for accidental reasons. Retaliation is never appropriate.

Lets move on to over the top reactions. Let's say someone gets the wrong change in a grocery store and rather than politely pointing this out the person has a tirade. His or her yelling and screaming is emotionally painful to the sales clerk. There are several options.

One, we could teach the obnoxious bore that an accidental five dollar short doesn't deserve that kind of response by stealing his shoes causing him to spend fifty to replace them.

Two, we could do violence unto him so that he no longer shouts at people.

Three, we could escort him out of the store and tell him not to return.

Four, we could empathize, for all we know the man just lost a job and is terrified financially. For all we know he suffered a severe beating as a child for not coming home with the right change. We have no idea what this person has been through. We could refrain from judging him a brute and simply see a flawed and wounded human being.

Five, with four in mind, we try to talk to the person and treat him better than he treated us.

Six, we could reflect upon our own past behaviors and learn how to improve ourselves.

We could take the writer's advice and perform the necessary actions to make items 1 and/or two happen. But what if four is true? By upping the pain level this guy feels, we've put him in a higher state of anxiety on the issue. While we've likely decreased our chance of him causing us pain, we've increased it for the rest of society. Even if four isn't true and he is just a jerk, what have we done? We've increased his pain level, which will be externalized on the next hapless clerk. So, we've harmed another by proxy. Wonderful.

Item 3, is the default in my mind for a kinder society. Defuse the situation.

Four and Five are acts of compassion. Does our author find this to be weakness? Perhaps. It is only weakness if you have no backbone and are never willing to stand up to extremes. I've committed some acts of compassion that some would feel extraordinary and been burned hard but I'd rather the occasional burning than the cold heart of one that needs to retaliate against every perceived offense.

There is a line in the Golden Dawn Neophyte ritual that I try to apply, "Unbalanced mercy is but weakness that allows evil to flourish; Unbalanced severity is but cruelty and barrenness of the soul."

Six should be the default for every spiritual person no matter what other action is taken. When we improve ourselves we cause less pain in others.

The goal of my life as a magician is to make the planet a slightly better place. Given that I am as flawed as the next fellow, my hope in doing that lay with the balanced approach of the Golden Dawn with a slight lean toward the merciful side of things. When in doubt I am merciful. Where no doubt exists about intentional infliction of pain, I have every right to be severe. Yet, how often can we be that sure of someone else's intent? Often, it is merely our own expectations, judgmental attitudes and personal whims that claim to be without a doubt.

My personal out clause is this. Some people can be good people in many respects but their particular issue is so toxic to my issues that I can not tolerate them in my sphere. These people (very few of them) I excuse from my life but I do so with the realization that I have an 'issue' that must be addressed as well. The people that retaliate are unlikely to see their own issues. And are therefore doomed (assuming they are not perfect) to cause pain to others through their own ignorance. I wonder if they feel that retaliation times ten is appropriate in reverse? Usually not.


Note: When I was done with this, I realized it could have been organized better. It is late. I am going to leave it as is. Sorry folks.

4 comments:

petoskystone said...

i don't know where this fits into your list, but i have yet to meet a person/event which caused me pain worth the concentrated effort & energy necessary to exact retaliation.

Frater POS said...

I must agree with you.

I've defending myself against on going events on rare occasions. There has been one person in my life where I can fully see how someone else would have retaliated with great force. I was just vocal about it.

It must be a very sad life where the need to retaliate happens often. In a quieter way, it is sadder still to expect those around you to adhere to such rigid standards all the time. I don't know about the writer but most of my friends are human and they do occasionally make mistakes.

Suecae Sounds said...

Very thoughtful post. I have been thinking along these lines quite a lot, and perspectives such as yours are always appreciated.

quintaldo said...

It's fun that what you wrote has little to do with the original piece by the guy I quoted.
And also that you picked karmic justice as a topic to argue against.
I have no personal fondness with a "10 times retribution" theory or the 3 times classic wiccan one.
The subject matter is retribution, balance, action-reaction law beyond the physical realm.
Does each action produce an equal and opposite reaction beyond the physical realm or is this law only running in that material realm ?
It's somewhat surprising, intellectually, that magicians who are big believers in the reality of other more subtle realms of existence would discount the possibility of the existence of this simple action reaction law which, at least in our mundane reality, seems indispensable in order to keep reality going.

The guy i quoted is a strong supporter of ethics in personal actions. As such I found him more than refreshing. He ties personal success to integrity, which is an aspect of said ethics. It is quite a loop to make, obviously gratifying to ethical losers like me, but still... I'd expect more reactions to it than ego driven rejections, as has been what Rufus Opus' mention of my post has produced in many if not all commenters.
Magic without ethics? No thank you.
And yes, the action-reaction law is the cornerstone of ethics. (golden rule etc.)