I'm watching The History Channel, about -- what else? -- World War II. They have covered the Rape of Nanking, and the firebombing of Tokyo and some other things and I'm thinking, like it's a brand new thought...
One person's pain does not cancel, equal, equate to, justify, or balance the pain of another.
Yet we operate in this world as if it does -- as if my suffering is lesser or greater or more important or deserved or undeserved when compared to someone else's. It simply isn't true.
We've heard it all before, all the variations of "Make them suffer as they have made us suffer." Somehow, creating more pain and horror is supposed to erase or ease the pain and horror already existing.
I understand the impulse. When someone is hurt, especially when that hurt is percieved as coming through action of another(whether it does or not is another arguement, what matters here is perception), there is a desire to hurt back somehow. You hit me, I hit you back. Why did you hit me? Someone else hit you? If I can't hit you, I may turn and hit someone else. Action, reaction.
No one stops to say "why?" It is as if this is some eternal koan humanity is supposed to solve, this issue of "who hit first?" Who caused the first pain to another, or was percieved to have caused it?
It's an animal reaction, something belonging to the reptile part of our brains, I suspect. Unfortunately, those who work hard to overcome it are rare and very hard to emulate, because causing pain is a method of gaining power, fear of pain being what it is. Even when we consider ourselves "civilized" and "advanced" we still succumb to that rule of "you hit me, I hit you back" mentality, reducing the entire world to one big, bloody, kindergarten sandbox.
Mostly, I think, because we don't realise that someone else's pain will never erase our own. There might be a few moments of satisfaction for having power over another, but whatever pain we sustain, whatever the injury was, we have to heal it in other ways. And you can get addicted to that power to the point that you are constantly picking at your wound, never letting it heal, so you can always justify hurting someone else because your pain is still present and real.
Two wrongs do not make right, isn't that the saying? My suffering does not justify my causing suffering to anyone else, really, even to the person who made me suffer. I don't know exactly what the answer is, but I know it's a more enlightened one than we've started using.
I'll get back to you on it after I've evolved some more.