The Art of Revenge (Alternate Working Title: F-U Sun Tzu)

Do any of you know anything about hedgehogs? Hedgehogs are amazing animals. When you disturb them, their cute little harmless raccoon faces ball up into their little house of spines. Those spines are sharp and pretty much impenetrable to anything less destructive than a nuclear bomb. And people look at a balled up hedgehog and think to themselves “How cute is this? Li’l fella can turn into an urchin when disaster strikes. D’awww… Cute little coward. Just runs and hides. He’s a good hider, that cute little coward. Awww..”

But hedgehogs have another defense.

They are immune to snake poison.

Most people don’t know that hedgehogs more or less eat snake poison like most Americans eat Fruit Loops. Pretty much any snake poison you can think of. That shit is like candy to those little bastards. And every once in awhile, the hedgehog decides “Hell man, I feel like fucking with a snake today because fuck snakes. Snakes suck. They slither through the grass fucking with everybody.

Not today, asshole. Not. Fucking. Today.”

A hedgehog has been known to engage in the sport hunting of snakes. Sometimes it eats the snake it kills but mostly it just slaughters them in cold blood and moves on.

Because fuck snakes.

Salman Rushdie said this once: “I didn’t want to become some embittered old hack getting his revenge for the rest of my life. But I didn’t want to become some scared creature cowering in a corner either. I remember telling myself not to carry the hatred around so i put it away, although I know where it is. I have it in a trunk in storage.”

Never underestimate my ability to haul that dirty bitch out any time i want.

If you want to get into the philosophy regarding the quality of revenge, then there is some valuable truth in the old saying that living well is the best revenge. This old gem isn’t suggesting that you fuck over everything that moves in a desperate and myopic journey to becoming drunk with power so that you can puke the contents of its hangover all over your childhood tormentors. Besides, the whole ‘Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die” style of revenge is played out. Romantic, yes but impractical in today’s world and even more than that, a badge to just how much his nemesis had controlled him all of those years. Sure. He became an artistically skilled fencer. Sure. He made some great friends along the way. Sure. Eventually he killed the six fingered man. And i’m sure that it felt good. Why wouldn’t it feel good to kill the object of a lifelong obsession? He had to kill him, not because the six fingered man had once killed his father but because Montoya’s obsession with that dirty rat-bastard was the only driving force in his life. And what did he get for his happy ending? A sobering realization that he now had no idea what to do with his life.

And all the six fingered man had to say to him? “Oh yeah… I think i remember you…  I wanna say…Ted right? You seriously spent your whole life plotting my revenge? Dude…”

Classical revenge is a selfish activity necessitated by nothing more than pampering a narcissistic wound. And any narcissistic wound means that your tormentor has already won. Whether you get your revenge or not. Knowing that you ruined someone’s life is power. The ultimate power. More power than your revenge can ever take away.

Before you destroy someone who has done harm, you need to analyze it objectively. Will the world be a better place if this person didn’t function as a part of it? Are you serving your own needs by eliminating this presence? Or are you truly and honestly making the world a better place?

Repayment of a slight is revenge. But removal of a cancer is justice. Put away your hatred until you know for sure which category it’s in.

Once you’ve decided you’re dealing with a cancer, planning is everything. You need to think in terms of risk assessment. There is a graph of damage dealt (hit points) and there is a graph of damage received (health) and the point at which the two meet is your sweet spot. So some research is needed. You need to know your enemy. Your resources. Yourself. The many confines and loopholes of the law. Don’t eat poison and expect your enemy to die. That just doesn’t work (i mean.. unless you’re a hedgehog. And if you’re planning your life around the whole What Would a Hedgehog Do strategy, I recommend you consider a different strategy as there are almost zero points of intersect that can be identified between your resources and those of the average hedgehog.)

Knowing your enemy is the best place to start. What are his strengths? His weaknesses? His vices? And more importantly, how does that intelligence measure up against those same metrics you identify with regards to yourself?

The most important thing to understand when you are tallying up the weaknesses of your enemy is that the measure of his greatest strength is his ability to make his weaknesses look like strengths. What is an animal doing when it bristles its fur? It is giving you a sure signal that your size intimidates it. A cat never hisses and arches its back at a mouse. Why should it bother? The mouse is a fraction of its size. It saves this technique for dogs. The ability to feel bigger is not a cat’s strength. it’s the ability to make you feel relatively smaller that makes that cat intimidating. Your enemy’s ability to make its fear look like bravado is the key to exploiting that fear.

Revenge is serious business and if you’re going into it without knowing as much as you can about everything in that list, you are sure to bungle the thing badly. Never put yourself in a position where you could wind up in prison. The nice thing is that the law is ugly. There are LOTS of legal provisions for those who feel they have been wronged. There are lots of actions a person can take against someone who consciously chose to harm them that are perfectly legal and beautifully devastating. Do your research. Don’t get caught up in the temptation to fantasize about the ideal world. Keep your energy focused on the world that is. This is the most important thing. For the love of god, keep it within the confines of any legal loophole at your disposal. This is the science of revenge.

And take your time. Take your good, sweet, patient  time. Crushing the complacency of someone who has done you harm before you wield the ax is what makes revenge not only fitting, but sweet.

This is the art of revenge.