“Somewhere… somehow… someone’s gonna pay!”
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Commando (1985)
ON JULY 12, Hizbollah ambushed an Israeli army unit on the Israeli-Lebanese border. Three I.D.F. soldiers were killed and two captured. In retaliation, the Israelis launched a devastating month-long assault on southern Lebanon that killed hundreds and left much of the country’s infrastructure in ruins. As the region knuckled down for yet another bloody round of reprisal and counter-reprisal, the New York Times asked Harvard Professor Daniel Gilbert to explain the psychology that fuels such protracted strife. (He Who Cast The First Stone Probably Didn’t, July 24.) Professor Gilbert explained that in conflict situations such as the Middle East (or indeed in Northern Ireland or the former Yugoslavia) each side tends to see their own aggression simply as a response to what was inflicted on it before. “Because our senses point outward” he wrote, “we can observe other people’s actions but not our own. Because mental life is an internal affair, we can observe our own thoughts but not the thoughts of others… [Therefore] our reasons for punching will always be more salient to us than the punches themselves – but the opposite will be true of other people’s reasons and other people’s punches.”
It’s a neat explanation. But, if it were offered by some idiot in a bar, rather than an articulate Harvard professor, you might be quicker to notice that it’s also a pretty fucking elementary one at that. That is because, at its crux, the revenge dilemma is an extremely straightforward one: If you exact revenge on someone who’s done you wrong, you may set in train a bloody cycle of reprisals in which there are no winners, only losers. But if you don’t, pretty much everyone you know will think that you’re a pussy.
So revenge may be sweet or revenge may be bloody. But, most of the time, revenge is something we mean to do, but never quite get around to. Here are a few people who did…
“PETE” vs THE TEMPLE BAR MUSIC CENTRE (2001)
“We were really hyped up about seeing the Strokes in the TBMC and, I suppose, we probably had a fair bit of Buckfast and whiskey and other stuff beforehand. The Moldy Peaches were supporting and they were dressed up in a rabbit suit and a frog suit. They had a song called Who’s Got The Crack? so I started shouting ‘We’d want to be on fucking crack to be listening to this shite’. Maybe I gave the barman a bit of grief about selling BSE-infected burgers too. Well, he must have been selling burgers – I don’t remember. Anyway, next thing you know I’m out on my ear. Cunts wouldn’t let me see the Strokes.
“I went over to Eamon Dorans for a few pints and just sat there stewing, absolutely stewing. Of course the boys had a ball at the Strokes, pints of Guinness with yer man Julian afterwards, everything. Already there was a plan forming. Those bastards weren’t getting away with it, cos what the fuck did I do? Shouting at a rock concert? We went to a club or something first. Then we we went back to the flat. Grabbed my backpack and grabbed some other stuff. White and navy hoodies and a baseball cap.
“We were living on Jervis Street and there was a building site next door. So I grabbed a few bricks from there and put them in the backpack. Crossed the Millennium Bridge at half four in the morning. The streets were quiet. Unzipped the backpack and took out a brick. I thought I might need two shots but the first one went straight through the front window so I bolted. I took off the white hoodie and put on the navy one. Abandoned the backpack. The window was covered over the next day. Any regrets? Nah, fuck it. Cunts wouldn’t let me see the Strokes. I’d paid my ten pounds.”
NICHOLAS BARTHA vs HIS EX-WIFE, PAEDOPHILE SEX TOURISTS, NEW YORK CITY SMOG ORDINANCES, THE COMMUNISTS, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, JERRY SPRINGER, THE COMMUNISTS ETC.
“When you read these lines your life will change forever. You will be transformed from a gold digger into an ash and rubble digger…” When Dr. Nicholas Bartha sat down to compose a suicide note on July 10th 2006, there were a few things he really wanted to get off his chest. Quite a few, actually. The 66-year-old had just lost $4 million to his ex-wife in a bitter divorce settlement. His case probably hadn’t been helped by the fact that he’d been “intentionally traumatising” his wife Cordula Bartha (who was Jewish and born in Nazi-occupied Holland) by posting “swastika-adorned articles and notes” around their home.
To settle, Bartha would now have to sell the property – a 19th century town house located between Park and Madison Avenues worth $6.4 million. And as the doctor mulled it all over, a few things suddenly became clear. Communists had evicted his family from their home in Romania when he was a child. A lesbian judge had sided with his wife against him. There had been a myriad of other gripes and grumbles that had bedevilled him down the years. But these weren’t arbitrary events, he realised. It was all one great melody – a single concerted campaign against him conducted by the world at large. He would have his revenge. But first he would write the longest and most convoluted suicide note in history. The email – to his wife, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Fox News and anyone else he could think of – ran to 7,500 words. The following are the very edited highlights:
“The courts in NYC are the fifth column… I wish President Bush had been at Yalta… Dutch abortion ships sailing for Ireland… the restaurant was built despite having NO DISABLED ACCESS… she tried to get her husband a job in the Kerry administration by sending him to Niger… it is very difficult to do a sonogram after midnight… the Parliament in Transylvania issued the famous Edict of Tolerance in 1568… Cindy Sheehan is desecrating her son’s memory… I will leave this house only if I am dead… Paul, I hope your vacation was good…”
By the time he pressed ‘Send’ the house had already been filling with gas for several hours. When he lit a match the resulting explosion cast fireballs high into the sky and smashed the place to smithereens.
ME vs ANTO
My mate Anto had one of those annoying voice mail messages that goes: “Hello…? Hello…? Sorry… I can’t hear you very well… Hello…? Who’s this? Hello…?” After falling victim to this stupid prank about twenty-five times I decided, on a whim, to try and hack into his voice mail and change it. I entered the default code of 0-0-0-0 and – whaddiya know – it worked. At the time, Anto was working in his father’s convenience store while he was looking for a job.
So, after changing the access code so he couldn’t delete it, I recorded this new voicemail message just for him: “[Monotonous voice] How’s it going? This is Anthony. We’ve just taken delivery of the latest issue of Readers Wives so I’ll be down the back of the storeroom for a few minutes… Just burping the baby, if you know what I mean. [Sleazy laugh.] Leave a message!” By the time I gave him the new code, there were messages from four companies he had a applied for work with. He never called them back.
WWF vs STEPHANIE MCMAHON
The daughter of World Westling Federation chairman Vince McMahon, Stephanie was just 23 when she was abducted by The Undertaker. He tried to force her into an unholy union, but she was ultimately saved by the intervention of Steve Austin. Though Vince had pretended to be horrified at his daughter’s abduction, it later emerged that he and The Undertaker had been in cahoots the whole time. When Stephanie and her mother Linda sided with Vince’s nemesis “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Vince responded by having the Undertaker kidnap Stephanie a second time.
That summer Stephanie began a relationship with wrestler Test. This led to a heated feud between Test and Stephanie’s brother Shane, who thought Test was not good enough for his sister. After Test defeated Shane at SummerSlam 1999, Shane dropped his objections and went out of his way to defend his sister and Test. Stephanie and Test got engaged but, during the in-ring ceremony, Triple H showed a video which revealed that he had drugged Stephanie and taken her to Las Vegas where they were married in a drive-through ceremony.
At first Stephanie abhorred what Triple H had done, but later she came to accept him as her husband. With Vince out of the way, Stephanie and Triple H seized control of WWF. The McMahon-Helmsley era was short-lived though. The couple split acrimoniously when Triple H discovered that Stephanie had gotten involved with Kurt Angle, who defeated Triple H at No Way Out 2002 with Stephanie’s assistance. Triple H literally complied with their fifty-fifty divorce settlement by giving Stephanie the front half of her Corvette. There’s no doubt about it – Stephanie has had a turbulent life. But no matter what the WWF has thrown at her, she has always come out fighting.
GEORGE W. BUSH vs SADDAM HUSSEIN
“Let’s not forget,” said George W. Bush on the eve of the 2003 Iraqi war. “This is the guy who tried to kill my Dad.” And so the scene was set: A young gunslinger was going forth to avenge his father. Dubya was Michael Corleone. Saddam was Sollazzo. Iraq was Louis’ Restaurant in the Bronx. And WMD was the piece he was hoping to fuck he’d find hidden behind the toilet bowl. Or so we were supposed to believe.
You see, depending on which way you look at it, the Bush/Hussein imbroglio is either (1) the valiant struggle, over three decades, by two generations of one illustrious American political dynasty to bring a murderous tyrant to justice. Or (2) a high stakes game of geopolitical one-upmanship between a strict father and his booze-guzzling turned God-bothering son, in which a hapless Middle Eastern dictator became the whipping boy in an Oedipal battle royale the like of which the world had never seen. Or its (3) something else. But let’s examine the second option, shall we?
George Bush Sr. expelled Iraq from Kuwait in 1991, but he balked at going after Saddam. “Whose lives,” he asked later “would have been on my hands if I, unilaterally, went beyond international law, went beyond the stated mission, and said we’re going to show our macho? We’re going into Baghdad. We’re going to be an occupying power – America in an Arab land – with no allies at our side. It would have been disastrous.” His Defence Secretary Dick Cheney agreed. An invasion, he stated, would only get U.S. forces “bogged down in a quagmire inside Iraq.” Dude, what kind of moron would do something like that?
Step forward, George W. Bush. Dubya’s relationship with his father had long been fraught. In 1972, he was sent to Alabama when his partying proved embarrassment to his father. That Christmas, after taking his 16-year-old brother Marvin drinking and driving, his father angrily confronted him and Dubya suggested they settle their differences “mano a mano”. On election night 1994 (when junior won the governorship of Texas but his brother Jeb lost the race for governor in Florida) the governor-elect talked to his father on the phone and afterward complained that: “It sounds like Dad’s only heard that Jeb lost. Not that I’ve won.”
Bush Sr. counselled his son against invading Iraq. But a desire for revenge against Saddam for ordering that assassination attempt on the ex-President in Kuwait in 1993 could still have been a motivation for that invasion, right? Yes, but its unlikely. The evidence used by the President Clinton to justify retaliatory airstrikes against Baghdad that year has long since been discredited. The supposed plot was almost certainly the invention of the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry, designed to scupper any possibility of a détente between Saddam and the new administration. And even Dubya would surely have been aware of this.
So you see the Iraqi war was never about George W. Bush’s wish to avenge his father. It is, more likely, about George W. Bush’s repressed desire to sexually possess his own mother. Hey it’s science, people!
[N.B. The WWF bit was mostly copied from Wikipedia]