Are we Bipolar about Pirates?

Last Tuesday, I had the rare opportunity to put aside all work and go enjoy a day away from my master, all computing devices.  I went to the Inner Harbor in Baltimore to have lunch and catch the natural rhythms of a spring day by the sea. I am a magnet for technology and was quickly drawn to a tour of the USS Constellation. This magnifient ship just called me to come listen to its legends. The USS Constellation was a war ship commissioned to protect US interest during the US civil war. 


 We got to tour all four floors of this sleek embodiment of technology, listen in on  the daily lives of the crew,  touch the cold steel of its the many hot lead projectiles (guns for you in Port Royal).   We had an enliven conversation with an African American sailor on deck, but that sharing is for another time.   Our final stop was , you guessed it, the gift shop .


 Can you guess again what the featured character was? I am glad this is not the Price is right as I would have a larger hole in my pocket.You guess it, AARGH – Pirates.  Pirates of the Carribbean, Treasure Island, Erol Flynn, musicals, the Pittsburg Pirates, pirate jokes  all leave romantic notions about these set of characters. Just look at this painting.


 What emotions do you experience here?


For those of your who are not into art interpretation, try this on for size.


Now imagine that the pirates of Port Royal led by Henry Morgan were resurrected in 2009? Sir Henry Morgan was the chief poster boy of this “wicked” period in Jamaica.  Have you ever wandered how Morgan got such an esteemed title such as Sir? Well, remember the global competition between the world powers of the day, the Spanish, and the British.  He was commissioned as a privateer, i.e. a British officer and a pirate.  He was well networked as his uncle was lieutenant governor of Jamaica and he married “well”, his cousin Mary, daughter of his uncle Edward.


 Now, what do you think these pirates would be doing on the carribbean seas? Would we be  yatching, or relaxingly taking cruises and doing your Island hopping thing?

Not without your heart taking up residence in your throat.  Just the thought of the possibility knocks the giggle factor out of our thinking.


As to the present piracy in Somali, we need to examine the pirate economy 2009 style.  The images of piracy that we seek these day are the hands, not the brains, not the Henry Morgans of today. There are pirate bases on land in places like Eyl, and Xarardheere, Somali. These land post operate mother ships that serve as platforms for the speed boats that attack the vessels. If you were one of the captives, it would have been no fun spending  an average of 6 months in some Somali city. The Ethopians had been used to try to tamper down this situation back in 2006, but they have recently uttered “No mas”.


So, what is the lesson we can take away from this situation? – and praying for an earthquake is not an option.


J. Peter Pham framed it well, where he sees piracy as a crime of opportunity.  It flourishes where anarchy is normal.  It seizes upon those at the margins of life and uses them to wreak havoc for a maga  material gain (for the hands), while the brains walk away with the majority of the plunder with zero capital gains tax.


 When we broaden our view of piracy as not being a sea based enterprise, but look at the evil syndicate that empowers it we may learn some lessons to help us deal with the chronic crime issue that we in Jamaica wrestle with. Holding people accountable while creating alternative opportunities is a tough balancing act for any government (especially one that is resourced-constrained) , but what is our alternative?


Let me leave you with the true image of piracy.


By now, I hope you know I would never leave you on a downward note, so read this challenge.

Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”
— Japanese Proverb