Home > Politics, Uncategorized > Conflict Motivation: Revenge vs. Profit

Conflict Motivation: Revenge vs. Profit


Hannibal Sacking Rome

People attack each other for two reasons – revenge and profit.

The first one is easy to understand. One group wrongs another or is perceived to have wronged the other and so revenge or justice is sought. Revenge has the added flavor of irrationality in it – which means people are not thinking rationally, but they are seeking to retaliate and they feel they are right to do so. Justice only comes in if they really are right to do so and if the punishment fits the crime (i.e. is not more extreme than the crime committed). Of course, the person that is retaliated upon may view the retaliation as being too extreme and so will seek retaliation of his/her own.

The second one is not so easy to understand and often causes the first. This is the more important of the two to understand, and so I will focus on it the most. There are two kinds of profit to be gained by attacking – material and political. The most important of these two is political profit. While it may be possible to make a big haul on loot, the political profit is what frightens enemies, warms supporters, and gains acute attention. This is what allows the conqueror to increase holdings and embark on more campaigns or gather other powerful people.

As an example of all of this, I would like to use the opening bank robbing scene in Batman: The Dark Knight. It starts off as a bank robbery – we understand this, and it is interesting, but it doesn’t “wow” us. We see a great deal of backstabbing amongst the robbers – these are attacks for material gain. At one point the bank manager threatens the Joker – which is our promise of revenge. However, afterwords, the Joker burns a large portion of money in front of the people he stole it from. Why? He does it because it is politically profitable. By doing that he shows these people that his priorities are more far-reaching than money. He shows them that he is willing to do what they will not, and that is why he should be leader. Basically, he is telling them “I can play your game better than you”. In this way, he has assaulted their sensibilities and their pocket books and taken from them their admiration.

In the old days, this was called “glory”. It was all that was needed to rule countries, move the populace to some action or even to prevent assassination just by virtue of the presence of the glorious person.

This is still true today. Glory is won today by overcoming adversity in a public forum. Take Obama for example: he was a bit of a nobody right up until near the end of the Democratic primary, and then when he won that he was pole vaulted into this sterling role that McCain couldn’t overcome – even with a female running mate. Obama still has his blind followers that follow for no reason other than they are chasing his glory.

The most interesting thing about glory, and the most important, is that how the glory is obtained has no bearing on the quantity or quality of the glory. A bloody conqueror that sets his throne on a pile of dead bodies is just as imposing as one that moves nations just by speaking. Most often, glorious people are a mix of the two.

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Categories: Politics, Uncategorized
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