One of the more notable aspects of life is that there are frequently massive penalties for retaliation that are not present for antagonizing. I have always found this to be troublesome. As a child, for example, I frequently found it unjust to be punished for responding to the provocation of others when those others were not held responsible for provoking in the first place. It has always offended my personal sense of justice that what was viewed as troublesome was not the provoking and antagonizing that others did, but my own ferociously hostile response to it. We live in a world where the behavior of others is not under our control, but our response to it is under our control. There is on many people an expectation, and it is not an unreasonable expectation, that the world will be full of provocation but that we are to be above it. At least that tends to be the justification between the widespread difference and injustice between the first mover and the second mover when it comes to provocation. The provocation is simply the way that the world works, but the response to that provocation is what creates a world full of violence.
As a fan of watching sports, this tendency is certainly easy to see in sports like football, where it is all too common to see a flag and a personal foul assessed for someone retaliating for jawing or a little push and shove while the initial provocation escapes a penalty whatsoever. Similarly, we find this sort of phenomenon in the rap world, where someone can fire subliminal shots over and over again, but it’s the initial reply to those subliminals that sets someone else as an insecure rapper and sets up the devastating response that often wins a rap duel. Indeed, the provocation can often be part of a strategy to get someone off balance by provoking someone else to violence allowing someone to pretend that they are the innocent party when massive retaliation is made. It does not always work out to be that way, but it works often enough to make it a reasonable strategy, since it has been repeated since ancient history that those who are easily provoked can bring themselves into great trouble.
The essential difference between provocation and retaliation is that provocation is to be expected in our world. There will always be things about others that will annoy us, even when people are not seeking to provoke us. By and large, provocation is the weapon of the weak to use the strength of the strong against them by making their response of anger and frustration into a weakness by making others look at them as bullies and abusers, and thus creating a coalition of people who can be motivated to respond to provocation and retaliation that would not support the aims of someone originally until they appear as an innocent victim of violence from a stronger party. When people provoke you, it is a sign (whether or not you recognize it or not) that you are seen as a strong party in some fashion, and that your strength has drawn envy, and that your strength must now be restrained or one will be subject to the self-righteous hostility of those who feel it is proper to be violently hostile to those they see as bullies and abusers, while not recognizing their own injustice.
And this is a great problem in our world. If we stand as an outside observer, we can see that violence is often undertaken in a tit for tat fashion. If one side is viewed as being justified in engaging in the destruction of life and property, then those who are opposed to them, not without reason, think themselves justified in so doing, regardless of how gaslighting and framing is viewed in order to paint some forms of violence as preferred to others, and some people as being able to behave violently but not others. In a world full of evil, we can assume that people are going to behave in a hostile fashion towards us, but often in a form that is designed to attack our honor while being engaged with plausible deniability, as if they were being “mostly peaceful” with us regardless of the hostility in their dark hearts. But our commitment to retaliation means that we are now in a world where violence is undertaken by all and not resisted by anyone. And that is a dark place to find oneself in. And it is the last column that collapses causing the well-being of society as a whole to fall that is blamed for the fall, even if it was pushed.