8 Reasons You Are Morally Justified Operating Above The Law
The legal system is great. It's the reason we have compelling dramas, and a healthy powdered wig industry, and torts. But as with any system wrought by man, it is imperfect, and people can sometimes find themselves in a situation where the law doesn't treat them fairly. To obtain the justice they crave, they must operate outside the law.
"Yeah chief, it's bad. Looks like someone's been reading Cracked articles again."
Now, breaking the law is probably illegal, so I won't tell you how to do it. (It almost always involves capers in my experience.) But I will document the occasions when the world's top philosophers theorize that operating outside the law might actually be moral, or at least fun.
You Just Need To Park Here For A Minute. Five Minutes, Tops
See what a small thing this is? A parking ordinance is just about the smallest possible law to break, and barely even moves the needle of a standard morality meter. Heck, in some cases, like if maybe your town has unusually draconian parking restrictions, parking illegally might even be the noble thing to do.
Six minutes for a quarter is bullshit.
Even if it is a little immoral, it's still the kind of thing that just doesn't add up to much when we go through the mental calculus we use when making decisions about things like parking. Parking illegally is a pretty airy thing when considered against weighty counterarguments like "I'll just be a minute," or "I have to get my kids from daycare now," or "That ambulance isn't even honking THAT much."
"I'm just getting a Blizzard real quick. Does your guy need anything?"
You're Defying Corrupt Officials
I love officials and authorities and think they're always right, and because their powerful minds are too busy to make their way through compound sentences, we can get real now, and acknowledge yeah, sometimes they're bad. Sometimes authorities are not good. Whether it's a corrupt small-town sheriff, or a paid-off politician, or an entire justice system that doesn't like the color of your skin, people around the world often have to deal with corrupt, immoral authorities.
Who doesn't know a crossing guard gone mad with power?
In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., "one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws." Obviously this is a topic far beyond the scope of a list-based chuckle venue, and as a hyper-privileged babyman, I can't even claim to have a very good perspective on such matters. So you'll have to rely on your own judgment about whether the law or authority you're defying is truly unjust.
If it matters, I believe you'll do the right thing.
Also! In my experience, pushing over a parking bylaw enforcement officer -- even a corrupt one -- usually doesn't qualify in the eyes of most observers. So keep that in mind.
You're Accused Of A Crime You Didn't Commit
Although people are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, in practice it is very common for a person's rights and liberties to be deprived prior to this. Maybe you'll be held without bail, or prevented from leaving the state or country, or something like that.
Swept up into the drunk tank again.
Worse still is a case where that danged imperfect law system actually convicts you of a crime you didn't commit. At which point you'll find -- at least in your eyes -- that the law is now working against justice. Under normal circumstances your representatives would now work to prove your innocence, but if you don't have representatives due to some kind of personality or odor problem, this might prove impossible. So what choice do you have but to operate outside the law?
I'm not saying you should escape from prison and disappear into the Los Angeles underground to prove your own innocence. Again, that's now something I can legally advise. But it would certainly be morally correct, along with making for a thrilling roller-coaster ride of a movie or television series, which is also an extremely correct thing to be.
You're Accused Of A Crime You Very Much Did Commit
This is basically the same deal as the last one, except you don't even have to waste your time proving you're innocent of assaulting a parking bylaw enforcement officer, and can get right to living in Thailand under an assumed name.
Don't pick Blonde Thunder. That's mine.
You're Following The Dying Wish Of Your Sensei
There are some commitments we make which are higher than the ones we make to the society around us. For example, you might do something extremely illegal if it meant protecting the life of a spouse or child. And with that in mind, consider the most important commitment we have in our lives: the one we make to that special someone who teaches us martial arts.
"Your enemies will suffer at my hands, Sensei Kevin."
Why your dying sensei has asked you to operate outside the law is an open question, though we can make a few guesses based on what we know about senseis. They may have been cursed by some kind of magical artifact, or been murdered by corrupt parking bylaw enforcement officers, or some kind of third reason. Having watched many Steven Seagal movies I can state pretty confidently that martial arts experts operate outside the law pretty much all the time, so ...
Oh shit, that reminds me.
You're Steven Seagal
Steven Seagal, bless him, has operated outside of the law for almost his entire career.
Also outside the bounds of taste.
Obviously only a fraction of my readers are Steven Seagal (fewer than 5 percent I'd estimate), so this won't apply to most of you. And for those of you it does apply to, sir, I can hardly offer any advice you don't already know, you having stabbed so many corrupt parking bylaw enforcement officers on the decks of decommissioned battleships over the years. You know your business and the contours of this moral landscape better than I.
See? I'm sure you know what you're doing here.
More than a few things will be thrown into stark focus when you find out you're dying, in particular the priorities you place on various things in your life. And your relation to the law may very well be one of the things which finds itself suddenly downgraded.
Also your relationship with cholesterol.
There are degrees here; finding out you're dying won't necessarily make you into a remorseless killer. But it will make things like library fines or public nudity ordinances a little less menacing to you; naked library time won't seem quite the insurmountable hill it once was.
And while dying itself isn't technically illegal, it does bring me to ...
You're Legally Dead
People almost never end up legally dead, but it's a plausible enough case to consider here. If you've faked your own death, or pissed off the county's record clerk, or are on the run with Steven Seagal, you might very well find yourself in a situation where you're legally dead. And if the legal system considers you dead, almost everything you do will be outside the law. None of this has to be immoral at all; again, this isn't going to turn you into a killer. But breaking the law is more or less unavoidable, if for census reasons only.
Hitting books with a hammer? Yes, even that.
How you conduct yourself in this lawless nether-existence is entirely up to you, and will reflect your true moral character more than anything else you've done in your life. Will you work tirelessly to restore the justice that was robbed from you, via a series of capers? Fight against your enemies back-to-back with Steven Seagal in the parking bylaw office in the middle of the night? Or will it simply be more naked library time?
It's what Sensei Kevin would have wanted.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and has less than a 5 percent chance of being Steven Seagal himself. As the author of the amazing novels, Freeze/Thaw and Severance he thinks you should definitely go buy both of those now. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
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