2033) Why ‘Old School’ is the Best

Image result for mutiny on the bounty movie gibson images

Mutiny on the Bounty, 1984 movie poster


From The One Year Book of Amazing Stories, by Robert Petterson, (2018, Tyndale), pages 532-4.  


     Why does it still fascinate more than two hundred years later?  The mutiny took place on the smallest of British, naval ships, with a crew that numbered only forty-six, on an ignoble mission of carrying breadfruit plants from Tahiti to the West Indies as cheap food for slaves.  Yet the mutiny on the Bounty has generated endless studies, novels, and major movies.

     Could it be that the conflict on that speck of a ship is a metaphor for the battles of our own age?  Captain William Bligh represented God and king, law and order, discipline by the book, and duty before pleasure.  He was willing to sacrifice himself and every member of his crew for the good of ship and country.  Opposing him was master’s mate Fletcher Christian, the man who put individual rights above the common good, romanticism over reason, happiness before patriotism, and unfettered freedom ahead of the rule of law.  Bligh was old school, while Christian was the champion of a new morality.  In every movie about the mutiny, Bligh is the bully and villain, while Christian comes off the hero.  It makes sense because way back in 1789 Fletcher Christian personified the values of today’s Hollywood.  But Hollywood movies seldom tell the rest of the story.

     When the mutineers put Bligh and seventeen of his loyalists in a tiny twenty-three-foot open boat and set them adrift out in the middle of a vast ocean, they might as well have been sentencing them to death.  Yet somehow this law-and-order villain of Hollywood movies managed to pull off history’s greatest feat of seamanship.  In an epic forty-seven-day test of endurance, he willed his men through cannibal islands and across stormy seas 3,618 miles to safety!  And old-school Bligh lost only one man in the process.

     On the other hand, the rebel without a cause took his mutineers back to the sexual pleasures and unfettered freedoms of Tahiti.  Then fearing the hangman’s noose, they took their women to a desolate island called Pitcairn.  There the fugitives from British justice scuttled the ship and turned their island into a den of mayhem and murder.  A few years later, an American whaling ship would discover a single fugitive mutineer and a few others.  The rest of the crew had been murdered or died of illness, and Fletcher Christian was long dead.

     Hollywood doesn’t tell you the end of this story, but we ought to recall the fate of the HMS Bounty when we put Captain Bligh and traditional values adrift and turn the USS America over to those who promote unfettered freedoms over moral absolutes and compassion over law and order.  Bligh might not be as likable as Fletcher Christian, but his old school type is more likely to take us to safety.  That surely beats the depravity of Pitcairn’s Island.

     Aristotle put it well:  “At his best, man is the noblest of all creatures.  Separated from law and justice, he is the worst.”

(Tomorrow’s meditation will tell the rest of the rest of the story)


Jeremiah 6:16  —  This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the old paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Psalm 119:47-48  —  I delight in your commands because I love them.  I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees.

Psalm 116:7  —  Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.


Almighty God,
You alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners:

Grant Your people grace to love what You command and desire what You promise;
that, among the swift and varied changes of the world,
our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Book of Common Prayer