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Situations in Which Laws Become Worthless

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Most people know at least one meaning of the world mutiny: it is an usually violent situation that occurs when sailors and officers stop obeying the orders of a ship's skipper, and that happens normally due to fear, betrayal or great discomfort with the way in which the captain runs things onboard. Maritime laws as well as other codes prescribe that mutineers will usually be severely punished, but in some cases like Nore mutiny and what happened onboard H.M.S. Bounty, at the end of the eighteenth tell us a different story: in both cases, authorities were extremely lenient with almost all mutineers due to the particular circumstances in which both events took place and for political reasons, since the admirals of the British navy were at the time very worried by the ascent to power of revolutionaries in neighbouring France.

Hence, showing themselves and the British state as utterly cruel could potentially have sparked the same revolutionary feelings in England, Wales, Ireland or Scotland. To be honest and fair, the mutiny onboard H.M.S. Bounty did not take place because of the captain's cruelty, but due to the particular and very extenuating nature of the voyage. Mr. Bligh was even less cruel and far more reasonable than most of his colleagues of similar rank and standing in the British navy at the time, as logs and statistics show: after both mutinies, many rules were silently changed in the royal navy.

After the Black Death in the fourteenth century, the feudal system collapsed: half the population in Europe perished in just over two years and the whole fabric of society was gravely damaged, and despite the fact that landlords and the Church still had the same laws that gave them total pre-eminence in the thousand years before the plague, there was no real way to continue enforcing those regulations. Simply put, the death of scores of serfs and villains put common people in a much better bargaining position: landlords and clerics, for the first time, had to make concessions if they expected realistically to have people labouring their lands - almost the only source of money back then -, for there was no more surplus of cheap labour.

In some countries like in Argentina and Brazil, where government authorities are rather corrupt, a great deal of people simply refuse to pay taxes, and also, there is no real way to enforce the law in this regard. People simply believe that the government is stealing their money for they receive nothing in return for their payments and indeed, corrupt officials know that and don't want revolts to start.

In the case of survival and extreme situations, formal leaders, like military officers and company executives should also exercise restrain in the application of the authority that they have been granted by means of documents like contracts, regulations and even laws, for under strenuous circumstances with uncertain future common people tend to fear less punishment and begin to thing in practical terms quite rapidly. A leader remains so under such circumstances if he or she proves to actually lead people in the right direction, and no one should feel surprise if revolts and mutinous behaviour begins to appear after incompetent leaders try to hide behind a sheet of paper.

Law and order should be maintained even during emergencies of any kind, but those in charge of doing so should also understand reasonably that human nature has indeed some limits, especially when and where there is an exacerbated survival instinct.

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