P. Edronkin

Is It Right To Violate The Law In Order To Survive?

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If you have to opt between two evils; always opt for the lesser one.

While I was still at high school, I had a geography teacher that was considered fearsome by everyone. He was a Darth Vader of sorts who didn't like to be interrupted by flies fooling around while he was talking. But the old man always said that if you had to go to the W.C. you should do so without asking for any kind of permission.

Surviving sometimes implies doing things illegally; performing some things or pursuing some goals may also. Sometimes, those goals and deeds prove indispensable to sustain life or so favourable that judged from a historical perspective some time after they have taken place, it seems proper and justified that their perpetrators acted illegally in principle, like in the case of the Horten brothers. Their story is a prime example about how laws and regulations actually operate against progress and thus, breaking such laws is in the end and paradoxically, a good thing.

Of course, these are exceptional cases and my thesis shouldn't be taken as a free-for-all license to do just about anything; however, it demonstrates - I guess - that the "empire of the law" is really a non-existent entity because laws, taken to extremes, can be as bad as the absence of them.

In survival scenarios usually similar things happen: self-defence, cannibalism, evasion and escape of political prisoners and situations of similar calibre are very hard to judge either from a legal or parochial perspective. Survivors often find it imperative to break the law, but written norms have little or no value under dire circumstances anyway. Can we blame someone for killing another person in self-defence? Or if you were sentenced to death, wouldn't you attempt to escape? Perhaps Socrates wouldn't, but he was old and tired anyway when he was judged… How about you?

In other words, survivors have the right - no, the obligation to themselves - to renounce laws and regulations because people under such pressure, finding themselves otherwise trapped, retain not a right but an instinct, which is, of course, the will to survive. Laws cannot go against nature and thus, the so-called empire of the law has its exceptions. Of course, this argument shouldn't be used as an alleged justification of just about any sort of criminal act.

Survival is to do anything at hand to stay alive. In such circumstances, illegality is just a way of doing things and there shouldn't be any taboo, any barrier or forbidden threshold to consider. You have to survive, period. However, while laws have limitations, responsibility doesn't; you could be judged in many different ways aside from legal ones after the emergency passes, and your inner self will judge you as well, so do things in the best way possible, even in necessity.

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