By Johann Hari
April 12, 2009 “Huffington Post”
Who imagined that in 2009, the world’s governments would be declaring a new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy – backed by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the US to China – is sailing into Somalian waters to take on men we still picture as parrot-on-the-shoulder pantomime villains. They will soon be fighting Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the most broken countries on earth. But behind the arrr-me-hearties oddness of this tale, there is an untold scandal. The people our governments are labeling as “one of the great menace of our times” have an extraordinary story to tell — and some justice on their side.
Pirates have never been quite who we think they are. In the “golden age of piracy” – from 1650 to 1730 – the idea of the pirate as the senseless, savage thief that lingers today was created by the British government in a great propaganda-heave. Many ordinary people believed it was false: pirates were often rescued from the gallows by supportive crowds. Why? What did they see that we can’t? In his book Villains of All nations, the historian Marcus Rediker pores through the evidence to find out. If you became a merchant or navy sailor then – plucked from the docks of London’s East End, young and hungry – you ended up in a floating wooden Hell. You worked all hours on a cramped, half-starved ship, and if you slacked off for a second, the all-powerful captain would whip you with the Cat O’ Nine Tails. If you slacked consistently, you could be thrown overboard. And at the end of months or years of this, you were often cheated of your wages.
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there’s a video on this subject
Great video, thanks for the link to it, Pirate.
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It’s not normal for people to become desparados.
Perhaps this has something to do with it:
Thanks, Natureboy, good reference.
Worse than the military and normal trade ships of that period were the horrors of the slave ship and the extremely high mortality, 50%, for the crews, usually in their first year. Markus Rediker covers all this in his unique history called “The Slave Ship”. More evil than the violence of piracy was the state sanctioned evil commerce in human beings. The Somalis have legitimate protests against factory fishing by foreign companies in their fishing waters and the dumping of radio active waste.
A bad situation has only gotten worse with the new escalation in violence. Guns never solve anything in the final analysis, only make them worse, for all parties. It was only with tireless persistent and educated activism with a heavy dose of worker solidarity that turned England from the slave trade.
‘…stole I from the Slavery Ship’
Outlaw the production of munitions.
Leaving aside nodtalgia for the pirates of penzance and Bluebeard, we need to look more into why this happens.
In all their self-congratulatory militaristic triumph, do the colonialists understand why Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan/Darfur, Northern Uganda, Congo, Rwanda/Burundi, South Africa, Liberia, Zimbabwe, lately even precious Madagaskar, the whole horrible mess of Africa, how it came to pass that Mother Africa was raped, pillaged, colonialized and destroyed.
‘Oh Pirates Yes They Rob I’
Bring on the reparations.