Robin Hood Moved to Somalia?

Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor?

Last year Johann Hari wrote an interesting piece entitled You Are Being Lied to About Pirates. It gives some excellent background on yet another example of how there are always two sides to a story – and the mainstream media can never be counted on to tell both:

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.

Pirates were the first people to rebel against this world. They mutinied against their tyrannical captains – and created a different way of working on the seas. Once they had a ship, the pirates elected their captains, and made all their decisions collectively. They shared their bounty out in what Rediker calls “one of the most egalitarian plans for the disposition of resources to be found anywhere in the 18th century.”

They even took in escaped African slaves and lived with them as equals. The pirates showed “quite clearly – and subversively – that ships did not have to be run in the brutal and oppressive ways of the merchant service and the Royal navy.” This is why they were popular, despite being unproductive thieves.

The words of one pirate from that lost age – a young British man called William Scott – should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: “What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirating to live.”

In 1991, the government of Somalia – in the Horn of Africa – collapsed. Its 9 million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas. You Are Being Lied to About Pirates (reading entire article recommended)

I bring the article above to your attention today because of a recent news announcement regarding some pirates Robin Hood may well have been proud to share a sloop with:

Spokesmen for the so-called “Somali pirates” have expressed willingness to transfer part of their loot captured from transnational boats and send it to Haiti.

Leaders of these groups have declared they have links in various places around the world to help them ensure the delivery of aid without being detected by the armed forces of enemy governments.

The “pirates” typically redistribute a significant portion of their profits among relatives and the local population. In their operations, the “pirates” urge transnational corporations that own the cargo confiscated to pay back in cash as banks can not operate in Somalia.

”The humanitarian aid to Haiti can not be controlled by the United States and European countries; they have no moral authority to do so. They are the ones pirating mankind for many years,” said the Somali spokesman. – translated from on

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Courtesy: Throbgoblins

People wanting to find out more about what has lead some Somalians into a life on the high seas should check out the article quoted at top as well as this one and this confessions-of-a-Somali-Pirate type article from the BBC. It is interesting to note that Somali pirates rarely hurt people (they’ve even been known to give hostages cash for good behaviour) and it seems certain many are driven more by desperation than greed. It may be hard for westerners to understand from the comfort of their swivel chairs, but watching your fish stocks systematically scooped up – pirated, you could say – by western fish-factory ships and realising your oceans have become a dumping ground for radioactive and toxic wastes, must certainly be highly conducive to pirate job creation.

And, interestingly, Somalia’s pirates may well have become ocean conservationists, enabling depleted tuna and other fish stocks to make a comeback in pirate-controlled waters where fishing vessels increasingly fear to venture.

Whether any money is actually transferred to Haitians (victims of corporate pirates themselves) from these pirates is something we may never know (anyone have a direct line to a pirate accountant?) so this story may end up being just an interesting pirate PR stunt (pirates have marketing managers?). But it is interesting food for thought to compare these up-front-about-it survival-mentality people with the more pretentious/hypocritical and insidious white collar piracy of capitalism run amuck.

Merchant and pirate were for a long period one and the same person. Even today mercantile morality is really nothing but a refinement of piratical morality. – Friedrich Nietzsche



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