Ever since I was a young boy, I've dug pirates. Maybe the appeal the swagger, the tattered finery, that peer into a dangerous world from a safe place (much like the typical child's fascination with dinosaurs). As I've grown older, I've learned that the pirates of
Many of the pirate crews operating during the "Golden Age of Piracy" were run in a shockingly democratic manner. Potential members of these pirate ships signed a document known as Articles of Agreement before signing on. The articles spelled out the division of loot, proper conduct, and adjudication of disputes. Disputes were typically adjudicated by juries. In cases where a crew member were injured, a bounty was paid, a precursor to modern Workers' Compensation insurance. The compensation for the loss of the use of a body part is remarkably like the modern Scheduled Loss of Use, in which a percentage of the use of a body part (determined through a medical examination) corresponds to a dollar amount equal to a number of weeks' salary.
The officers of a pirate ship were not backed by the force of an autocratic government, so life on a pirate ship was typically better than life on a naval vessel, where the rum, sodomy, and the lash model, though perhaps exaggerated, held sway.
Even the depredations of the pirates weren't all that bad compared to the near constant state of war that characterized their era. They were thieving cutthroats in a age of thieving cutthroats. They were bit players in an age of unconstrained plunder. As "Black" Sam Bellamy is reputed to have articulated (hat tip to Thom Hartmann):
Damn ye altogether: damn them for a pack of crafty rascals, and you, who serve them, for a parcel of hen-hearted numbskulls. They villify us, the Scoundrels do, when there is only this Difference: They rob the Poor under the Cover of Law, forsooth, and we plunder the Rich under the Protection of our own Courage.
Now, that is a quote that is as appropriate in this day and age as it was when Bellamy uttered it. Maybe we don't need "Talk Like a Pirate Day", maybe we need "Live Like a Pirate Day".
For the record, my favorite pirate is Granuaile, who I have mentioned in a couple of previous posts. She was a revolutionary and a feminist as well as a pirate, a true role model for fierce, fearless women. She was also a wit- she chided a son who tried to hide behind her in a battle by yelling something like, "Are you trying to crawl back to where you came from?"
As far as local history goes, Captain William Kidd was active in the Hudson and was reputed to have engaged in smuggling with the slave-holding plantation owner Frederick Phillipse I.
Enjoy your Talk Like a Pirate Day, folks, and remember to thank the scurvy sea dogs who helped to lay the foundation for our democratic society.
Now, how about a little 1980's style goofiness?
I think Adam Ant is a hoot, though the opinion is far from universal. It's funny, though, I think that Malcolm MacLaren must have inspired the whole "piracy" thing, because Bow Wow Wow also referenced piracy in one of their songs from the era. It's like MacLaren took the Sex Pistols' version of Frigging in the Rigging and decided to launch a mini-career based on it.