Saturday, August 5, 2017

avast Crow!


A group of Crow's unusual friends stopped by earlier today to carry him off on a cruise. Before he left he mentioned a few things about pirates it's not currently fashionable to know even though there's always been something romantic about the idea of piracy.

We've long been told by those who control information that pirates were thieves, yet the truth is far more complex. Sailors aboard Royal Naval ships and merchant marine vessels were some of the sorriest men alive, 'caught in a machine from which there was no escape, bar desertion, incapacitation, or death' as one writer of the day put it. Many of them were press ganged into service, many were debt slaves or had been criminalized after losing their farms when the English Commons were abolished.

As the great fleets discovered and annexed previously unknown lands many dispossessed people the world over became desperate. The merchant ships of the 17th and 18th Centuries were the engines of the emerging global capitalism but the seamen were totally excluded from the wealth they worked to generate. The decision to 'turn pirate' was a choice made to wrestle back some autonomy, and when they did, life on a ship changed dramatically. Officers were democratically elected. Food was shared equally among men of all ranks. When booty was collected the Captain only took two shares where the lowest took one - income differentials that would make a modern CEO faint. Loss of a limb aboard would be met with a payment of around $30k in today's money - an amazing form of early health insurance.

It could be said that far from being simple thieves, pirates were perhaps the original anti-capitalist protesters. The reason they were hunted down and suffered savage public executions was because the powers of the day were petrified of the consequences of the pirates' ethos. One hundred years before the French Revolution it was pirates who coined the phrase 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity'.

Of course, piracy in those days was hardly all fun and games but they were hard times for most people everywhere. We're not often brutalized, beaten, or left unpaid, but our lives are no less reduced, narrowed, and restrained by powerful forces far beyond our control. Wouldn't it be nice to see the Jolly Roger raised again to restore to life some democracy, some fairness, and perhaps a little merriment too?

Avast Crow. I hope you enjoy the warm sea breeze off the shores of far Tortuga.

14 comments:

  1. 8 o'clock is indeed early to carry someone off on a cruise. :)
    [Writing this while drinking a pint of Störtebeker.] Did you ever hear/read about Klaus Störtebeker?

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    1. Don't you remember the part about sailing with the tide?

      No, I hadn't heard about Klaus before now. From the stories in your link it appears he leaves thrash death metal bands well in the dust. Hope you enjoyed your pint.

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  2. Replies
    1. Ha ha ha ha ... now you mention it, Andrew. Ha ha, can't stop laughing. ...

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    2. Crow has always been portly, Andrew, but you must make allowance for his feathered cape blowing in the sea breeze.

      Did I miss something, Sean?

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    3. Compared to other paintings Crow in this one looks proportionally taller / bigger than his companions. That's why I laughed about Andrew's remark.
      I admit I had put on my silly hat yesterday evening; even before the first drop of Störtebeker had flown down my throat. :)

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    4. Ah! Now I see what you both meant. In my attempt to counterbalance the ship it looks as if I stretched my artistic licence a bit. :)

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    5. Crow is sufficiently other-worldly he can be as big or as small as he wishes, I'm sure.

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  3. Hi Susan,
    Don’t tell me Crow's unusual friends who stopped by are from the pirate crew of the Sea Shepherd, fresh from their stay at the Paestum Beach Report of Eboli, Italy, where he joined in delight to watch the first early baby turtle hatchlings ?.
    If so I thought they might at least have offered him transport on one of the more modern speed boats rather than the old whaler boats that had to rowed.

    They did still fly the “Jolly Roger” even when they last berthed in Melbourne if my memory serves me well, and it looks like they wrote the informative reference link you provided on the history of pirating.
    Interesting to have a look around their vessel and leave a small donation. Wonderful picture with great colors to go with your interesting post.
    Things were pretty grim back in those days and it was very difficult to tell who the real crooks were although some might argue in that respect not much has changed today.
    Best wishes

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    1. Hi Lindsay,
      Maybe I ought to have noted these were historic friends of Crow rather than contemporary ones. Yes, the Sea Shepherd has made some excellent contributions in making people more aware of the debts we owe our oceanic friends.
      I'm happy to know you like the illustration - one that was a lot of fun to draw and paint.
      I agree that on the grim scale not a lot has changed.
      All the best

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  4. Hi Susan,
    Not quite – meant only in relation to today not being able tell who the real crooks were. Can’t really compare 17th century existence of struggles, war, poverty, famine and plagues with today’s world, flawed as it may be. Best wishes

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    1. Hi Lindsay,
      So far as I can tell struggles, war, poverty, famine and plagues continue to bedevil the modern world too. The news has too many examples to list here.
      All the best

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  5. I'm going with the moral of this story, not being one of the 1%...:)

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    1. That's good to know, TB, and just what I would expect of you. :)

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