Monday, August 18, 2014

How to be a Pirate

Have you ever daydreamed of actually being a pirate? Do all the stories about the Golden Age, when ships were wooden, men were iron, and everyone partied nonstop, make you long to ditch your office or your classes and run off to the Caribbean to do something illegal?

I can’t condone actually robbing people. You’ve got to remember that robbing folks is what got pirate hung in the city square. But life is about having fun, and there are some things that you can do to add a little pirate panache to your everyday life.

By all means, party. Pirates knew their lives might end any day, so they lived every day to its fullest. In today’s life, that means not sitting around the house, not getting sucked into TV or the internet. Go out… explore. Real pirates sailed from the Caribbean to Africa to Asia, just on a whim. If you can’t afford this kind of world travel, make a simple effort to get out to a nearby festival, drive to a city you’ve never visited, meet new people. (But don’t rob them.) Be a participant, not just a viewer.

And please remember, real pirates were patrons of the arts. They performed in shipboard plays, and employed musicians. So go out and see something live! It’s part of being alive all the time, and it will enrich your life.

Real pirates were never jaded or disaffected. They had no time to be bored.

Swashbucklers during the Golden Age of Piracy did not judge others based on nationality or skin color. Pirate crews were white, black, Indian (both East and West), Chinese and even Japanese. So if you want to be more piratical, make an effort to meet and get to know a wide range of people. And don’t judge. Pirate culture was the one place, back in the day, where race, religion and even education didn’t matter.

And speaking of education, it wouldn’t hurt at all to become a lifetime learner, someone with an open mind, even a philosophical bent. We have evidence that pirate ships were places where knowledge was shared, such as it was. It was a place where working class people had enough leisure to pick up skills like reading for the first time. On a higher level, the art of navigation was also taught and studied. It was important to know where the ship was. Navigation involved a lot of advanced mathematics, but these guys just tucked in and learned it.

So if you want to be more like a pirate, keep your mind open and learn what you can.

If you have a desire to fight in battles, I suggest joining the civil rights movement. Pirates left the safety of life as a common sailor because they wanted to be recognized as human, with dignity and rights, in a world that didn’t offer those things to people with little property and no fixed address. Admittedly, the world is a lot better now, but there are still many battles to be fought. Just check out the news if you doubt me.

But, you say, this isn’t as exciting as firing a cannon or waving a saber. Don’t count on that. If you belong to a group that meets in person and does work for social justice (Occupy is still a presence in many places, and there’s also Amnesty International, the NAACP, SouthernPoverty Law Center, The Innocence Project and many, many more.) you will form the same kinds of battle-forged friendships that people who have actually fought together.  Fighting these fights is challenging, legal, and will help to make the world a better place.

Remember, pirates were out after justice, and went as far as putting ship’s captains on trial to decide if they deserved to be punished for treating their crews unfairly. So, in a manner of speaking, fighting for justice is one of the most piratical things you can do.

An additional thing that you can do that real pirates really would have approved of, something they fought and died to achieve, was to VOTE. Pirates, and later working-class people of all kinds, fought and died to earn the right to vote on things that affected their lives. These folks would never understand why someone who has been given the ability to vote wouldn’t use it. The fact that pirates risked their lives just to have a voice was probably one of the most amazing things that I discovered, but it’s true. Read more of this blog, or do some research on your own, and you’ll see that it’s true.

I dress up like a pirate, and I certainly drink rum. But I also fight the good fight, take a few risks, and do my best to help out those less fortunate than myself.

How about you? Ready to be a pirate?

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