‘Tis Arrrgust, It Is

“In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labor; in this {piracy}, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power.”–Bartholomew ‘Black Bart’ Roberts

Shiver me timbers! I finally got around to noticing it’s Arrrgust. The month we backhandedly poke fun at pirates. In lore, pirates of the past were an equinaminous bunch of skalawags–there’s a certain honor among thieves. During Arrrgust we turn a blind eye to the brutal truth of piracy. It’s all about dress up and fantasy that takes place upon the Seven Seas.

One wonders why pirates, Vikings, and other outlaws are romanticized. Why do we glorify swashbuckling days, and robbers from olden days? Perhaps it is the fog of time that obscures the brutality and high criminality that took place during the golden age of pirates. The fact is, that the modern day Somali pirates have more in common with terrorists than they do with the likes of the fictional Jack Sparrow.

The fun we have with pirates in contemporary entertainment has little to do with old fashioned terrorism and more about our fantasies of freedom and leaving the rat race of modern life. We imagine sailing away on a sailing ship to the Carribean with our treasure maps in hand to find our buried chest full of gold and jewels. In our mind’s eye, nobody gets hurt and everybody can do whatever brings us pleasure.

Then there are the movies and television shows that help to popularize pirates. “Pirates of the Carribean” and similar films recognize some danger and underhandedness, but do so in a humorous manner. Jack Sparrow is not a terrorist; he’s just an impish fellow with sticky fingers. Sparrow is an anti-hero who is easy to love. That movie pirates are somehow cool is rooted in the fact that societies glorify violence. We see this played out in depictions of the “James Gang”, “Bonnie and Clyde”, or gangsters such as Al Capone. These anti-heroes speak to our darker nature–the sides of us we try to keep hidden. There is also that not so hidden part of us that wants free stuff. If we cannot win the lotto, we can cheer for the Jack Sparrow types.

Fiction aside, there is something about pirates and contemporary small time criminals that tugs at our collective conscience. For example, the Somali pirates began as local fishermen whose livelihood was ruined by illegal corporate fishing and the dumping of toxic waste in their fishing waters. Out of desperation, the fishermen discovered that hijacking commercial ships and taking hostages is more lucrative than trying to fish in depleted, poisoned waters. The victimized corporations and nations labled them as terrorists and pirates. Like many terrorists, they were “created” by their victims. This is not to say that pirates were morally justified–pirates arose out of frustration and lack of other options.

There have been conquerers like Alexander the Great and the bands of Vikings who roamed the globe in search of territories and riches. The Vikings sailed in artistically carved boats, used intricate swords, and wore great helmets and clothes. Pirates were the unglamorous opposite of the Vikings. They were opportunists in search of a quick buck. They sailed in stolen, decrepit ships, their clothing was ragtag. They really did not have hidden treasure chests.

There were certain old time pirates who were romanticized in their own days–the British pirates who raided Spanish vessels as sailors of fortune for the British Crown. They victimized the Spanish, but they were seen as dark heroes in Great Britain. The hero pirates included Francis Drake who was promoted and knighted. This fact adds some legitimacy to our current romanticization of pirates.

Although we have fun with pirates, we cannot overlook the dangers from modern day pirates. The new breed hacks victims’ computers to empty bank accounts and steal identies for nefarious purposes. Modern pirates not only sail the Seven Seas, they do so in speedboats armed with AK-47 rifles and black market rocket-grenades. Modern pirates seize vessels and hold crews for ransom or kill them outright.

Anyhow, it’s OK to have a little bit of fun and to humor our dark side for awhile. However, we must not forget the intrinsic outlaw nature of the pirates of lore.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes abolitionist, essayist, lecturer, and transcendentalist philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson. “In politics and in trade, bruisers and pirates are of better promise than talkers and clerks.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Meanderings. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to ‘Tis Arrrgust, It Is

  1. Ahoy matey! I liked pirates for their adventurous nature. Enjoy Arrrgust!

  2. Ahoy matey!
    Many thanks for the fun pirate facts some not so fun. We are on our Narrowboat in the UK and so we say that many times😃🇬🇧
    At night it’s cool to look out the window and see the lights from other boats reflecting off the water like Pirates of the Caribbean.
    Yo ho ho!

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