Back in Genesis, after Cain kills Abel God marks him so others will not kill him and escalate the cycle of violence. If someone kills Cain it will end up with a seven fold vengeance. A scant few verses later Lamech boasts that his death will bring reprisals seventy fold thus indicating that the cycle of retributive vengeance has really gotten out of hand.
Today North Korea said it will initiate a retaliation that makes Cain and Lamech look like a couple of school yard bulllies; it has promised to "get back" at the US a hundred or a thousand fold. Seven or Seventy has now become 100 or 1,000 fold retribution.
Lately I am astonished by naive liberalism which postulates that we are evolving as a species, we are getting better and better. Yet our political responses, our military actions far surpass anything the biblical tradition ever imagined when it came to reciprocal violence. I am certain that the CIA is working on regime change in North Korea, after all that is their job. But I am afraid that it will be for naught; what we need as a species is not just a political makeover, but a true, real and lasting change of heart, a change of anthropological vision, a change away from violence toward forgiveness. Politics is all about just retribution, but that is an oxymoron, all retribution is unjust because my retribution is justice, yours is just plain evil.
No wonder Rene Girard has become so pessimistic about our chances of survival as a species. His new book on Clausewitz, coming out later this year from Univ. of Michigan Press will be a depressing read for many I am certain. Yet is it pessimism or realism to say that we have not really evolved and in crucial ways have actually devolved, at least emtionally and spiritually, as a species. Time will tell...until then maybe we should start practicing getting under our desks again like we did the 1960's...