"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Mar 18, 2012


Does the victim have liberty to strike back at the victimizer? What are the limits you would accept to vengeance, justice, the armed response? How would you, waving a magic wand, restrict the scope of that response? Where do you lay the boundary on the appropriateness of violence, if at all? At what point, in retaliation or retribution, is the victim satisfied?

(thanks to commenter mp for the thought provocation)


Anonymous said...

Hello Jack,

In Stephen Becker's novel A Covenant With Death, a man falsely accused and condemned turns on his hangman and kills him; then is vindicated of the original crime shortly after. The judge, after much thought, decides that the wrongly-accused was outside the social contract at the time, therefore any act, criminal or not, was legal in defense of his life and liberty.
That's the only such story I know; I also know that in the NM State Pen there's a man vindicated of his original crime who's serving a life sentence for escaping, three times I believe. So while such a legal defense is possible it's clearly not often practiced. Those with the smallest sticks are most likely to be blamed for defending themselves with them.
I liked that Becker novel, though - sorry I don't remember any names as it's been years. But it makes a kind of human sense out of the 'social contract' rhetoric (and it's well written).

Justin Parker

Will Shetterly said...

Can a victim be satisfied? What's done can't be undone. My understanding is that few penalties actually bring "closure." Satisfaction and closure and feeling-good aren't what the law is designed to do.

Okay, sometimes it's designed to make the powerful feel righteous. But smugness and satisfaction are different.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Shetterly--what's done can't be undone. After the window for self-defense has closed, the victim is culpable for any act undertaken in vengeance. If the threat continues to exist, however, the motive is no longer simply revenge or satisfaction, but (again) contains an element of self-defense.

Maybe that sounds like legalistic parsing, but it's rooted in the conviction that the user of violence also does violence to herself. This in turn is rooted in very personal experience. ymmv.

yonders said...

last comment was by moi, yonders.

The Red Queen said...

My idea of satisfaction (that's not the right word for it, but I'll go with the lingo you've chosen) is when the victimizer looses the ability to do harm.

This is something I've actually thought long and hard about because it is a very personal and pertinent question to me. Do I have justice, no. Do I have vindication, no. But by giving up the quest for those things and focusing specifically on removing someone's ability to do me harm- I won.
Or to phrase it the way I put it to myself- do you want justice or safety. You can't have both. Which is more important?

Philboyd Studge said...

Justice is something that, in moral philosophy, is really hard to convincingly explain. The more you think about it, the more complicated it gets. I wouldn't restrict the scope of anybody's responses, personally - beyond the obviously disproportionate - but I would recommend this alternative with as much force as possible: mercy.

Pied Cow said...

If someone whacks me, damned sure I'm going to whack him back. And I don't care if I'm justified or not. I'm simply going to retaliate.

I think this logic works insofar as the goon who assailed me is my equal, in terms of general size and strength.

The more difficult problems arise when the assailant is either significantly stronger or weaker.

The response presented by a weaker assailant is probably just to shake my head and order another beer.

The response presented by a much stronger opponent is probably to pick up my pool cue and whack him with that.

In none of these situations do I categorize either my assailant or myself as a victim or victimizer.

I'd continue on to talk about when bigger groups are involved, but I don't like to read lengthy blog comments.

So I'll practice what I preach.

Five by Five said...

"Does the victim have liberty to strike back at the victimizer? "

They ought to, but often do not, which is why someone/something felt free to victimize them in the first place.

"What are the limits you would accept to vengeance, justice, the armed response? "

Proportionality (filthy as that word's connotation is in the American Empire) I think, is key. The response to a slap should probably not be a bullet to the head. But I am quite unsure at this point as to whether a useful and consistent singular principle exists outside the context of reality. It might be advisable to start with "Never unnecessarily take life or inflict great harm."

"At what point, in retaliation or retribution, is the victim satisfied?"

A personal question for each victim. In the multitude of instances throughout my own life where violence was visited upon me I have reacted (and sought redress) in a number of ways, all with varying levels of effectiveness.

ms_xeno said...

I liked Red Queen's response, actually.

You mention elsewhere on this page that you have issues with protesters who eschew violent protest. And you cite your own experiences as a victim and witness to violence.

Honestly, I wouldn't tell somebody else how to deal with their desire for vengeance, and I'm certainly not free of wanting revenge against others for even relatively petty offenses. (The knowledge that the offenses in question are petty doesn't matter much once you pile them up high enough, fast enough.) But since you've spoken here at length about the violence that men feel entitled to perpetrate against women, it might be worth considering: Some of us recoil at violence because we've seen/lived through more than our share of violent men in a lifetime, and even violent men who claim to be "on our side against the enemy" can be scary as fuck.

Just a thought.

DPirate said...

That's what made the blood feud such a civilized step up from slaughtering everyone.

yonders said...

even violent men who claim to be "on our side against the enemy" can be scary as fuck.

this is something that was difficult for me to come to terms with when a dear friend went through some nasty abusive shit. I got literally sick with anger, and had the most incredible visions of violent revenge, but of course the last thing she needed was another volatile, angry dude around. I ran a lot of miles that winter.

Richard said...

Who are victims and who are victimizers?

It isn't always so easy to tell. For example, a lot of sexual abusers are now victimizers after having been victims.

And sometimes people are victims and victimizers simultaneously. In fact, its pretty common. Fassbinder, for example, made a lot of films about this phenomenon. Usually, the victims pick out someone more powerless than them to victimize.

Jack Crow said...

Been busy, unwell, too many physicians this week.

Hope to have some sort of thoughtful reply tomorrow.