Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pirates and the Lies the Liars Told Us

Now that the pirate hostage drama off the coast of Somalia has ended in bloodshed.

And the American navy is patting itself on the back...for using a missile destroyer to bring down four men in a lifeboat.

Maybe it's time to remind you of the pirate story I told you the other day.

And of the other lies they told us.

In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."

You know if I was a poor Somali fisherman I'd probably be a pirate too.

And as for those other pirates....

Pirates were the first people to rebel against this world. They mutinied – and created a different way of working on the seas. Once they had a ship, the pirates elected their captains, and made all their decisions collectively, without torture. They shared their bounty out in what Rediker calls "one of the most egalitarian plans for the disposition of resources to be found anywhere in the eighteenth century".

They even took in escaped African slaves and lived with them as equals. The pirates showed "quite clearly – and subversively – that ships did not have to be run in the brutal and oppressive ways of the merchant service and the Royal Navy." This is why they were romantic heroes, despite being unproductive thieves.

If I had lived back then..... I KNOW I would have joined them.

Although sometimes I think I have...

Here's to the poor and the oppressed of the world.

Long live truth and justice...


  1. Anonymous9:18 PM

    It's also interesting to note that piracy was the starting point of the British Empire. Stealing Spanish gold got the Brits started on the way into their new world forays. Neither the United States nor Canada would exist in their current configurations without piracy. We'd likely be North Mexico and New France.

  2. Truth is a commodity. It has been bartered since BC and stolen since AC. It's all lies, anyway. It's all for Hollywood. Enjoy the movie.

  3. Simon:

    You were quite correct in your original post to state, "Oh boy. What a world eh? When even pirate stories are complicated."

    Well, there are many sides to this story, and the pro-pirate side is just one aspect of it. It is far too complex for me to attempt to encapsulate here, or even to provide all the necessary links, but for any who are interested in educating themselves about this issue, from a progressive, non-biased point of view, I think this discussion at is a good starting point:

    Once again, though, Simon, thanks for helping to bring light to a topic that is far too often seen as a purely black-and-white issue without any nuance.

    BTW, for a better *historical* understanding of piracy and pirates, I heartily recommend Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates by David Cordingly, curator emeritus of Britain's Royal Maritime Museum.

    Here's a quickie review:

    And here's the page on it:

    Cheers, matey!

  4. While I have to commend 'berto for providing resources to learn more about the fascinating history of pirates, I have to say that until they decide to stop yanking LGBT books and books by LGBT authors from their sales lists, DON'T SHOP AT AMAZON.

  5. Hi mnfu...good point. When it's good for profits they are swashbuckling adventurers. When they are bad for profits they are evil pirates.
    And of course, history is always written by the victors...

  6. Hi Jymn...golly... isn't that a bit pessimistic? I mean I know the truth can be embroidered, but the facts speak for themselves. As for the movie... I LOVED the first Pirates of the Caribbean. But the others were very disappointing...

  7. Hi 'berto...thanks for that link. It does sound like an excellent book to read in my hammock this summer.
    With Sebastien fanning me with a palm frond and bringing me cool drinks while wearing a pirate hat... :)
    But yeah...while I don't want to defend thuggery...I do like to point out that things are almost never black and white...

  8. Hi Gay Young Liberal...thanks for pointing the Amazon thing out. I see they've finally admitted that it's their fault.
    Luckily I have NEVER ordered a book from them. And now I guess I never will....