Friday, April 25, 2008

To find luck on the sea

I've been wondering about the attractions of Pirates. Recently on TV there was a repeat of the program about Henry Morgan, who caused mayhem across the islands of the Caribbean and towns of Central America. The people of Panama would have been amazed at the generous tone in which his exploits of murder and rape were reported.

Maybe we've forgotten what Piracy is actually about - and it no doubts helped that Henry Morgan was on "our" side. But the reality we see off Somalia is poor desperate men robbing to survive.

But by ignoring this reality we can project an idealised view of the freedom of the high seas, and those, to go back to the ancient Greek and Roman meaning of the word pirata, who go "to find luck on the seas".

Anyhow, there'll be a short break from posting for a few days due to another form of long voyage.

6 comments:

SailBoffin said...

Interesting post, I was thinking something along similar lines a day or two ago. My son (two and a half years old) has a very cute Mickey Mouse shirt with MM dressed up as a pirate and the back says "Pirates Aaarrrgggh Cool". It struck me pirates really aren't cool and that romantacizing of pirates starts at a very young age.

JP said...

Great t-shirt!

Yes, it was a bit like that with my nephews and nieces when took them to Disneyland: their favourite ride was Pirates of the Caribbean, which we must have gone on about a dozen times.

Errol Flynn has a lot to answer for.

Anonymous said...

At a superficial level the answer is because the interest in pirates simply reflects the wider pop culture context. Recently there have been several versions of film franchise 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and their marketing campaigns such as the link to the VOR race. But, pirates (more or less since they were stamped out) have consistently been a pretty popular fare of popular culture. All readers of this blog will be able to conjure up a vision of young Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver, whether from Disney or directly from Treasure Island (1881) . Daniel Defoe wrote about Captain Singelton and Robinson Crusoe in 1720. Marryat wrote 'The Pirate' in in 1836, ' Captain Blood' by Sabitini in 1922 and the classic "A General History of ...the most Notorious Pyrates" by Johnson in 1724. All of which is to say that our interest in pirates may reflect something deeper.

This fascination may be in direct correlation to the extent that modern life became industrialised and regimented . Life organized for work to rigid time schedules left little opportunity for spontaneity and willy nilly adventure. The loss of such possibility was replaced by a literature of adventure, pirates, knights, and chivalry. Such romantic views infused a generation in the UK and Germany to happily march to war in 1914. In our time the labour of industrialisation may have changed to a service /knowledge economy but in many ways our time is even more constrained ,while the complexity of society has caused western society to become risk adverse and satisfied with virtual experience. The market provides these distractions, low brow celebrity culture for the TV masses, Las Vegas, movies and the romance of Pirates, Star Wars, and other CGI worlds.

As part of the fraternity of sailors, watermen, etc. we tend to be romantics. Hence your question about pirates, may reflect a larger reality of our need and desire to escape the constraints of modern life.

49 Parallel

Anonymous said...

Addendum:
Piracy in Somali is arguably not "poor desperate men robbing to survive" like some latter day Robin Hood in dinghys.

The object of this piracy is the the cash they can extort from ship owners, which in turn funds warlords in their struggles to exert power in the failed state.

Piracy is a cold fiscal calculation, hence no asset is devalued by violence or destruction. The poor and desperate stay poor and desperate or flee as refugees.

49 Parallel

charlsiekate said...

bj"And, Hump, I can tell you that you know more about me than any living man, except my own brother."
"And what is he? And where is he?"
"Master of the steamship Macedonia, seal hunter' was the answer. "we will meet him most probably on the Japan coast. Men call him 'Death' Larsen"
"Death Larsen!" I involuntarily cried. "Is he like you?"
"Hardly. He is a lump of an animal without any head. He has all my - my-"
"Brutishness," I suggested
"Yes, - thank you for the word, - all my brutishness, but he can scarcely read or write."
"And he has never philosophized on life," I added.
"No," Wolf Larsen answered, with an indescribable air of sadness. "And he is all the happier for leaving life along. He is too busy living it to think about it. My mistake was in ever opening the books."

THE SEA WOLF, BY JACK LONDON

JP said...

Thanks for the Sea Wolf quote - though not technically a pirate still a good sailing yarn :)