Apr. 27th, 2009

demiurgent: (Poop)
The Wall Street Journal has an article on how real life murdering pirates are souring all the fun of dressing up and doing Robert Newton imitations.

I've had fun with "Talk Like A Pirate" day like a lot of people have. It's fun to shout 'Arr, matey' and make references to scuppering on a handspike else and all the rest. But it's always seemed a little weird to me -- almost as weird as the Pirates of the Caribbean movies have been, with their convoluted Pirate code and the weirdass sense that somehow we weren't talking about people who did horrible things because they wanted your shit. I hear about all the good things from pirate culture, like the funds that pirate ships would set up to compensate crewmembers for the injuries they suffered while attacking, sacking, pillaging and sinking ships and murdering their passengers and crew, or how ships were set up as democracies so the crew had the chance to elect the captain who was best at selecting targets to sack, murder and sink. Really, it was all about the sense of freedom, of living life as they chose on the open seas! The whole "killing people and taking their shit" thing? That was no big deal.

A few years back, on one enterprising Talk Like A Pirate day, I elected to do something different. I thought I'd write something close to what a pirate would actually say -- not what Robert Newton would say (the depiction of Pirates in the popular media was established by Walt Disney in the fifties and reinforced by Walt Disney in the last ten years. Real life pirates talked like... well, talked like sailors, often of questionable literacy. No 'Pieces of Eight' or stuff.) It wasn't an angry post and it wasn't a post telling folks to stop shouting 'arr.' It was just another way to talk like a pirate -- e.g., talk like someone who wanted to take your shit and was more than happy to kill you if that's what it would take.

Some folks really liked it -- they saw it, as they said, as being creative or trying to stretch the definition. Others thought I was being... well, a poop. (I think that's when I made my Poop icon.) I also got some e-mail that was... unflattering. I was, so they said, being a downer.

In subsequent years, I either quoted actual songs from the golden age of piracy or just didn't play. Not because I dislike fun, but because I had something of a bad taste in my mouth. It seemed... I don't know, less fun to talk like a pirate when I felt a societal requirement to pretend pirates weren't... well, bad people who did bad things.

And now, suddenly, piracy is getting a bad rap, because honest to God pirates have re-entered the public consciousness (they had always been around, mind -- Somali piracy didn't start in 2008) and the people they were killing or kidnapping had started to be white Americans instead of black Somalis or brown Indonesians. So reading an article written about Mark Summers -- one of the founders of "Talk Like a Pirate Day" -- describing how he's pissed off because real life criminals are making acting like a fake criminal less palatable seems... well, it seems astoundingly insensitive. Saying that there should be different words for 'pirates' and 'piracy' today because you want to mythologize the crime they're committing just seems to miss the point.

There have been a baker's dozen piracy incidents in the last two weeks. Sometimes pirates have been warded off by shipboard anti-piracy measures, Sometimes the pirates have boarded ships, taken what they want and left. Sometimes the pirates have kidnapped crew off the ships. Sometimes they have seized the vessels in toto, to bring to port, repaint and sell. Actual murder is rare these days, but happens.

Look, have fun cosplaying. Honestly. Shout "Arr, Jim-Boy" all you like. I was a Renn Faire actor -- I know how much fun it can be. When the 19th of September rolls around, have a grand old time with it.

But let's have some perspective, shall we? We're talking about killers who take peoples' shit. We're not talking about folk heroes or Keith Richards impersonators or free wheeling anarchists who'd never harm a hair on a pretty girl's head. Pirates aren't like that.

And you know what? They never were.


demiurgent: (Default)

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