Skip

Pirate myths...they're drivin' me nuts.
June 5, 2007 8:18 PM   Subscribe

Pirate myths debunked. Slate's Explainer attacks your favorite pirate stereotypes: walking the plank, saying "arrr." Not a myth: pirate republics. Pirates formed egalitarian mini-states based upon utopian values, a prime reason for their brutal suppression by European authorities.
posted by nasreddin (126 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pirates... or Freedom Fighters?
posted by Alex404 at 8:20 PM on June 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Pirates formed egalitarian mini-states based upon utopian values, a prime reason for their brutal suppression by European authorities.

Well, that and the robbery, rape, murder, kidnapping, piracy, plundering, and so forth. I'm sure that the creation of tiny autonomous states in geographically distant lands was way, way more motivating for the authorities than the fact that the pirates were homicidal robbers and plunderers.

Making shipping lanes unsafe for trade and travel? Meh. Establishing new political states in far-off lands? Surely that was what motivated the European nations to hunt pirates.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:33 PM on June 5, 2007


Well, not simply that. Pirates were punished with a disproportionate ferocity. The pirate trials in New York in the early 18th century were much more vicious and less preoccupied with due process than any others, at least until 1742.
posted by nasreddin at 8:41 PM on June 5, 2007


This is the side of pirate life that Hollywood doesn't show. Whether there is anything to his claims is another story.

Check out this review:

"Being a expert on pirates I must remind readers and the author that fully half of all pirates were casterated before they went to sea.Also a "anus" chastity belt was in common use then.Pirates rarely if ever sodomized each other only the captain and his officers were allowed so enjoy sexual favors and they usually always raped big black slaves freshly captured from Africa.But otherwise the book is quite enjoyable I like the chapter on "hot bunking" and also the sexually charged "whale blubber rub down" were quite interesting.Any Pirate ships hiring?"

Or this:

"This book is very indepth in explain how pirates would survive on long journies abroad by sleeping nude three to a bunk like spoons. With the weather conditions, that was their only means of survival. It makes one understand that sodomy was part of their lives, as they usually had several male lovers aboard the vessel. The chapter on hot racking was especially revealing, considering 90% of all pirates engaged in that. This is a very good book about pirates and their lifestyles and I would recommend it to anyone."
posted by BigSky at 8:45 PM on June 5, 2007


Also, the image of the brutal and homicidal pirate is in large measure a product of eighteenth-century propaganda. Crews almost always surrendered, and pirates rarely sacked towns. They were mostly regarded as a nuisance, certainly not warranting the brutality of the executions.

They caused economic harm, yes, but a)mostly to the Spanish, enemies of the British, and b)less than smugglers, who were leniently treated.
posted by nasreddin at 8:46 PM on June 5, 2007


This reminds me of an album I've been meaning to buy.

Well, that and the robbery, rape, murder, kidnapping, piracy, plundering, and so forth. I'm sure that the creation of tiny autonomous states in geographically distant lands was way, way more motivating for the authorities than the fact that the pirates were homicidal robbers and plunderers.

I'm always playing devil's advocate, but c'mon, these guys were also mercenary privateers in the employ of states at war with each other. France's pirate was often England's hero. Today's state sponsored terrorism, private armies and even the war on terror itself have some precedents in the era of privateers and pirates.
posted by litfit at 8:55 PM on June 5, 2007


This reminds me of an album I've been meaning to buy.

Huh. I was sure you were going to link to this.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 9:03 PM on June 5, 2007


Pirates formed egalitarian mini-states based upon utopian values, a prime reason for their brutal suppression by European authorities.

That is, hands down, the most ludicrous sentence I've ever seen. LOL doesn't quite get there. Thank you for the belly laugh.

Pirates? Egalitarian? I don't think those words mean what you think they mean.
posted by frogan at 9:08 PM on June 5, 2007


Crews almost always surrendered...

... except when they didn't. And then they were all drowned or sold into slavery.

... and pirates rarely sacked towns.

... except when they did. And then the towns burned to the ground and the women were all raped.

Whoops, sorry! We were just spreading our egalitarian values!
posted by frogan at 9:10 PM on June 5, 2007 [5 favorites]


Ooooh excellent links. And this proves to be the beginning of a rather amusing discussion. Many thanks, nasreddin.
posted by Phire at 9:12 PM on June 5, 2007


< rant> I fucking hate pirates. Why are they seen as some model for free thinking radicals today? The fact that they were heavily involved in the slave trade should be enough to turn anyone off. And they are basically a-moral capitalists. It's not like pirates represent some Robin Hood ideal of wealth redistribution. They were out for their own fucking selves.

Plus, there are still pirates; they're particularly active in Malaysia and the Phillipines where they are known for kidnapping and murdering victims. Fuck pirates. < /rant>
posted by serazin at 9:14 PM on June 5, 2007


and nobody has ever discovered an actual pirate treasure map.

Well if I discovered an actual pirate treasure map, I'd keep quiet about it too!
posted by -harlequin- at 9:20 PM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why so many do people find pirates and pirate jokes (i.e. the one about the arrr-rated movie) so darn amusing? Is it just that the arrrr-ing and slang and ugly-clothes-wearing and parrot-feeding and such seems silly to us now? That is, pirates are funny to us now in the same way that crappy, 50s-era, Communism-paranoia-inspired sci-fi movies are funny?
posted by HeroZero at 9:28 PM on June 5, 2007


Pirate atrocities were no worse than what the Royal Navy, or the French and Spanish, did on a regular basis and on a much wider scale.

They weren't amoral capitalists, either: division of plunder was very strictly regulated for fairness, else the captain would be deposed. 'Capitalist' implies, by definition, reinvestment of wealth, but pirates never got all that rich unless they were being paid off by a merchant or a state.

Comparing modern-day pirates to the 17th century West Indies is pretty unfair, too. They're entirely different phenomena, socially, economically, and culturally.
posted by nasreddin at 9:30 PM on June 5, 2007


I trust an actual pirate to tell me about pirates, at least... some of the time. Seriously, nasreddin, at least bring out a few more links before trying to prove pirates were some kind of jefgodeskys of the sea; I'm not even sure some pirates would have been so generous describing themselves.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 9:32 PM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Libertatia is mentioned in the links above (with Naussau and Hispaniola) as one of their Utopias. However, it was probably fictional, because it is described as part of the biography of the only fictional character contained in the book, "General History of the...Pirates" by one of the pen names of the social reformer Daniel Defoe (or so it is believed, although disputed). His book probably had a greater impact on pirate lore, utopian romanticism and the entire history of pulp fiction than is currently appreciated.
posted by Brian B. at 9:34 PM on June 5, 2007


Plus, there are still pirates; they're particularly active in Malaysia and the Phillipines where they are known for kidnapping and murdering victims. Fuck pirates. < /rant>
posted by serazin


I wouldn't fuck a pirate, not even with serazin's dick.
posted by Eekacat at 9:38 PM on June 5, 2007


Japanese kaizoku often had land-based patrons they worked for.
posted by gomichild at 9:50 PM on June 5, 2007


oops borked the link: here we go
posted by gomichild at 9:51 PM on June 5, 2007


Oh, a ninja man, are you? Or are robots more your thing?
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:53 PM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


(d'oh! that was meant for Eekacat)
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:55 PM on June 5, 2007


Am I correct in thinking that this was the beginning of pirate chic? Anyway, it's gone too far now. Not too funny.

That being said, here's my favorite pirate joke. First, you have to tell a couple of other pirate jokes, such as, "Did you hear about the pirate movie? It's rated 'Arrr'." Tell a couple like that. Then, once your rube is clued in to the joke, ask them, "so, do you know what branch of the military the pirate joined?"

And the rube will say, "Let me guess, the Arrr-my?"

And you say, "No, the Navy -- they live on fucking boats, man."
posted by Bookhouse at 9:56 PM on June 5, 2007 [7 favorites]


Circumcised Ninjas vs. Dehooked Pirates?
posted by b1tr0t at 10:00 PM on June 5, 2007


Buccaneers in America exhibit at the Library of Congress.
posted by peacay at 10:10 PM on June 5, 2007


Say what ye will; pirates can't keep up with the unstoppable juggernaut of progress.
posted by unregistered_animagus at 10:10 PM on June 5, 2007


Y'all are MEAN.
posted by piratebowling at 10:14 PM on June 5, 2007 [2 favorites]



Well, that and the robbery, rape, murder, kidnapping, piracy, plundering, and so forth. I'm sure that the creation of tiny autonomous states in geographically distant lands was way, way more motivating for the authorities than the fact that the pirates were homicidal robbers and plunderers.


The authorities engage in quite a bit of all that as well.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:17 PM on June 5, 2007


The authorities engage in quite a bit of all that as well.

In other words, the pirates are OK, because Ye Olde Man is keeping us down.
posted by frogan at 10:21 PM on June 5, 2007


Oh, a ninja man, are you? Or are robots more your thing?

I wanna see a movie where ninja pirate robots battle zombie mad scientists. In the end they all gang up and kill Count Dracula, 'cause of the class thing.

Does anyone want to help write up a treatment for it?
posted by logicpunk at 10:33 PM on June 5, 2007


So, does this kill Talk-Like-a Pirate day?
posted by Cranberry at 10:36 PM on June 5, 2007


As absurd an idea as it may be, I feel compelled to be a 'voice of reason' here.

Are we seriously in discussion of the merits or failings of Piracy? Really? Let's ignore Hollywood and the hipster memes (of which I am a big fan...)

Pirates: murderers, armed robbers, rapists, looters, arsonists.

Vikings: murderers, armed robbers, rapists, looters. arsonists.

Mongols: murderers, armed robbers, rapists, looters. arsonists.

Cowboys: murderers, armed robbers, rapists, looters. arsonists.

Gangsters: murderers, armed robbers, rapists, looters. arsonists.

Robots: murderers, arsonists. (but looking to expand)

The thing is, people seem to like rooting for the underdog. In time that becomes cheering for the villain. And the fact is, as much as we may want the villain to be a charming and interesting rogue, most of the time, what we can expect, based on precedence is to be raped and looted by armed robbers, before they murder us an burn our town to the ground.

There is no doubt that real Pirates are interesting, but let's not forget that for the most part, they were also really unpleasant people. Good for story-telling? Yes. Not good or safe for children, women, or elders? Also true.
posted by quin at 10:59 PM on June 5, 2007 [10 favorites]


Who the fuck is rooting for pirates? Why are people getting so up in arrrrrms about this post? (sorry) Can't someone present a historical argument as just that, historical, without being accused of being some sort of pirate apologist? Christ... beans, meet overthinking.
posted by papakwanz at 11:24 PM on June 5, 2007


In days of old, when ships were bold
Just like the men who sailed them
and if they showed us disrespect
we'd tie them up and flail them
often men of low degree
and often men of steel
who'd make you walk the plank alone
or haul you 'round the keel

hoist the Jolly Roger!
hoist the Jolly Roger!
hoist the Jolly Roger!
it's your money that we want
and your money we shall have!

of all the pirates on the seas
the worst of them was Blackbeard
so damnable a fiend from hell
he was the one they most feared
any man who sailed with him
was taking quite a chance
he'd hang them from the gallows
just to see if they could dance (ha! ha!)

hoist the Jolly Roger!
hoist the Jolly Roger!
hoist the Jolly Roger!
it's your money that we want
and your money we shall have!

~Adam and the Ants
posted by bwg at 11:31 PM on June 5, 2007


Farrrmers. That's who people need to admire more. But not nearly enough of them were murderers, armed robbers, rapists, looters, or arsonists, and they rarely got into hoe-to-hoe combat while swinging from the barn rafters, and chickens are hard to balance on your shoulder, so farmers don't make good comic books or kiddie films.

The thing is, people seem to like rooting for the underdog

It's not just that. If you conveniently ignore the diseases and fleas and stench and backbreaking work and boredom and beatings and painful early deaths and being forced to suck everyone's unwashed mast, sailing around on a ship doing whatever you please and thumbing your nose at authority is just the fantasy for some folk.

But pirates weren't thinking: everyone on the crew should have had a trained ape to help him. Then rigging would have been a cinch. And imagine trying to board a ship full of orangutans trained to kill strangers.
posted by pracowity at 12:11 AM on June 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


If I may interject, I suggest that those in this thread who are criticizing pirates and/or their chosen trade are unaware of -- or are perhaps ignoring -- the fact that pirates goddamned awesome.

Discuss.
posted by brundlefly at 12:25 AM on June 6, 2007


"pirates ARE goddamned awesome." Damn it. It's late.
posted by brundlefly at 12:26 AM on June 6, 2007


Pirates are crusty seamen.
posted by pracowity at 12:32 AM on June 6, 2007


I see you linked to some PL Wilson (aka Hakim Bey) on Amazon up there - here's some text by that author on Pirate Utopias, as part of The Temporary Autonomous Zone
posted by thedaniel at 12:41 AM on June 6, 2007


I just finished reading The Republic of Pirates, which is an extremely good book. I'd recommend it to everyone here. But this has been a topic I've been interested in for a while.

As to whether pirates were moral: it really depends on who you're asking about. Some pirates, like Edward Vane or Rackham, were by all accounts murderous psychopaths. Some, like Bellamy or Hornigold, occupied a middle ground -- they weren't saints by any means, but certainly didn't go out of their way to inflict pain. Some pirates were downright honorable: Blackbeard was known for keeping his word, and went to great lengths to avoid violence. His famous visage, for example, was largely designed to terrify his targets into surrender without unnecessary bloodshed.

The point of comparison to the Royal Navies of the time is apt. In the Navies, sailors were often press-ganged into work, with little or no pay, and forced to live in horrible conditions. If you were captured or killed, your family got nothing. There are many stories of Navy captains that make most if not all pirate captains look civilized by comparison, such as the infamous British captain who tortured a cabin boy for 18 days straight simply out of spite (the details of this story really are too horrible for me to repeat).

Pirate crews, on the other hand, generally divided their plunder equally, with the captain -- who was elected -- only receiving an extra half-share. They made decisions democratically except in combat. One can certainly see why the pirate life would be an attractive alternative to enlisted men who were essentially indentured slaves, with a reported 40% mortality rate to boot. The Royal Navies ran on rum (one and a half ration a day), simply because the only way to prevent widespread mutiny was to keep the men drunk all the time.

As to African slaves, pirates didn't have any moral qualms about transporting them (nor did anyone else at the time), but generally didn't bother -- goods were more lucrative. The pirates had almost nothing to do with the slave trade, since slaves were used to work land -- which pirates didn't own. In fact, pirate crews often invited slaves to join them -- and the major limiting factor was not the pirates' distate for slaves, but the fact that many of the slaves couldn't speak the pirates' language. The mere presence of pirates in the area often led to slave rebellions. There's really no contest between pirates and governments on the slavery issue, and certainly no argument that the pirates were worse.

As a sidebar to that issue, consider that pirates generally stole goods (owned by governments or oligarchs) that had been obtained via brutal exploitation of the New World -- all those Spanish galleons didn't just fill themselves. It's not as if they were plundering from the public at large. In fact, most of the money the pirates spent would get circulated back into the colonies rather than getting shipped overseas to finance the fading Spanish Empire or wherever else it might end up.

Ultimately, in order to put this argument into context, you have to compare the pirates to the governments of the era, which were some of the most brutal in history, and most especially to the way those governments treated sailors. Even if you conveniently ignore the fact that those governments all employed pirates as privateers, the pirates would still come out looking better. The pirates of the 17th and 18th century are not even remotely like modern pirates. Not even in the same zipcode.

It seems to me that many people are misinformed here -- I can understand why you might want to avoid what you see as an overly-romanticized version of colonial-era piracy, because it really does seem at first glance like a fairytale. But it's not without basis -- I would encourage you to consider that, relative to the era, the pirates of the time were egalitarian, they often did set their captives free, and while the governments of the time were certainly more concerned about the effect of piracy on trade, they were indeed quite worried about the example that pirate communities set, given their treatment of their own sailors.

That's not to say, of course, that colonial pirates were all champions of liberty, and again, some were worse than others. But consider also that you could make similar arguments about the other contemporary proto-Republics, the new American colonies, and their leaders (many of whom, like Samuel Adams, were former pirates themselves) -- they didn't have sterling records on slavery, on treatment of the natives, nor on many other issues. But we do still look up to them because of the things they did do right, and certainly relative to the bonds they were casting off.
posted by spiderwire at 12:59 AM on June 6, 2007 [106 favorites]


I used to be a farmer, and i made a living fine,
I had a little stretch of land along the city line
But time went by and though I tried, the money wasn't there
And bankers came and took my land and told me "fair is fair"
I looked for every kind of job, the answer always no
"hire you now?" they'd always laugh, "we just let twenty go!"
The government, the promised me a measly little sum
But I've got too much pride to end up just another bum.
Then I thought, who gives a damn if all the jobs are gone?
I'm gonna be a pirate on the river Saskatchewan!!!
(arrr! arrr! arrr! arrr! arrr!!)

Cause it's a heave-ho, hi-ho, comin' down the plains
Stealin' wheat and barley and all the other grains
It's a ho-hey, hi-hey farmers bar yer doors
When ya see the jolly roger on Regina's mighty shores

Well, you'd think the local farmers would know that I'm at large
But just the other day I found an unprotected barge
I snuck up right behind them and they were none the wiser,
I rammed their ship and sank it and I stole their fertilizer!
A bridge outside of Moosejaw spans a mighty river
Farmers cross in so much fear their stomachs are a-quiver
Cause they know that Tractor Jack is hiding in the bay
I'll jump the bridge and knock them cold and sail off with their hay!

Cause it's a heave-ho, hi-ho, comin' down the plains
Stealin' wheat and barley and all the other grains
It's a ho-hey, hi-hey farmers bar yer doors
When ya see the jolly roger on Regina's mighty shores

Well, Mountie Bob he chased me, he was always at my throat
He'd follow on the shoreline cause he didn't own a boat
But cutbacks were a-coming and the mountie lost his job
And now he's sailing with us, and we call him Salty Bob!
A swingin' sword, a skull and bones and pleasant company
I never pay my income tax and screw the GST (screw it!!)
Prince Albert down to Saskatoon I'm the terror of the seas
If you wanna reach the co-op, boy, you gotta get by me!

Cause it's a heave-ho, hi-ho, comin' down the plains
Stealin' wheat and barley and all the other grains
It's a ho-hey, hi-hey farmers bar yer doors
When ya see the jolly roger on Regina's mighty shores

Well, pirate life's appealing but you just don't find it here,
I've heard that in Alberta there's a band of buccaneers
They roam the Athabaska and sail to Fort Mckay
And you're gonna loose your stetson if you have to pass their way!
Well, winter is a-comin' and a chill is in the breeze
My pirate days are over once the river starts to freeze
I'll be back in springtime but now I have to go
I hear there's lots of plundering down in New Mexico!

Cause it's a heave-ho, hi-ho, comin' down the plains
Stealin' wheat and barley and all the other grains
It's a ho-hey, hi-hey farmers bar yer doors
When ya see the jolly roger on Regina's mighty shores

Cause it's a heave-ho, hi-ho, comin' down the plains
Stealin' wheat and barley and all the other grains
It's a ho-hey, hi-hey farmers bar yer doors
When ya see the jolly roger on Regina's mighty shores
When ya see the jolly roger on Regina's mighty shores...

~ The Arrogant Worms
posted by dreamsign at 1:01 AM on June 6, 2007 [5 favorites]



Pirates are crusty seamen.
dude,
Pirates are crusty with seamen.
Read the thread and/or preview before you post, c'mon, let's see a little effort.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:10 AM on June 6, 2007


Just to drive the point home, here's a few choice excerpts from WikiPedia articles on some of the most famous (and supposedly terrible) pirates of the Golden Age, just to establish how well-founded this side of the debate is:

Blackbeard:
He would raid merchant ships, coming up on them in major channels and forcing them to allow him and his crew to board their ship. Teach and his men would take all of the valuables, food, liquor, and weapons from the ship. Curiously, despite his ferocious reputation, there are no verified accounts of him ever actually killing anyone, although he cultivated a diabolical reputation.
Benjamin Horngold, a founder of the New Providence pirate republic:
Captain Hornigold was known for being less vicious than most other pirates. One of his victims recounts how his vessel was pursued by Hornigold's. Eventually the victim struck her colours and the pirates boarded. Hornigold then, somewhat apologetically, asked the captured crewmen for their hats. This was because the pirates had got drunk the night before and thrown their own hats overboard. Having taken the hats, Hornigold left the vessel in peace.
Samuel "Black Sam" Bellamy:
Though his career as a pirate captain lasted less than a year, Bellamy and his crew captured more than 50 ships before his death at age 29. Called "Black Sam" because he eschewed the fashionable powdered wig in favor of tying back his long black hair with a simple band, Bellamy became known for his mercy and generosity toward those he captured on his raids. This reputation gained him the second nickname of the "Prince of Pirates," and his crew called themselves "Robin Hood's Band."
There are many more examples, of course... I just chose some of the more famous ones. Wikipedia's Piracy article is actually quite good -- rather than spouting baseless rhetoric like "rapin' and pillagin' and burnin', oh my!" some of y'all might want to actually go read up on the subject first. Just a thought.
posted by spiderwire at 1:14 AM on June 6, 2007 [7 favorites]


Can't someone present a historical argument as just that, historical

There's historical arguments, matey, and then there be pulling shite out of the mizzenmast, ye bilge rat.
posted by frogan at 1:16 AM on June 6, 2007


rather than spouting baseless rhetoric like "rapin' and pillagin' and burnin', oh my!" some of y'all might want to actually go read up on the subject first.

That's like asking me to appreciate John Wayne Gacy for the clown paintings.
posted by frogan at 1:19 AM on June 6, 2007


On the myth-confirming side, pirates were known to dress in loose clothing, guzzle rum and smash the empty bottles, and chase busty wenches through Caribbean ports.

OK, so the good myhts are true, then?
posted by Harald74 at 1:20 AM on June 6, 2007


Having taken the hats, Hornigold left the vessel in peace.

Wow, I love that story.
Also, uncanny, unexpected connection to losing your stetson to the Alberta buccaneers.
posted by dreamsign at 1:22 AM on June 6, 2007


Frogan, I can't tell if you're trolling or not, but if the historical background I just gave you wasn't enough, you might find this article interesting as well. Many of your assertions are quite wrong, I'm afraid.
posted by spiderwire at 1:31 AM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


The paper linked in Monjo's post is a revealing look at pirate life. It sounds like most pirates were simply trying to get away from the ghastly conditions of life in the Navy. Pirates practiced a separation of powers on their ships that preceded the one implemented in the US by over 100 years.
posted by mullingitover at 1:55 AM on June 6, 2007


Nice work nasreddin and spyderwire, it certainly makes sense that the dominant culture would vilify pirates and spread mis-information about them. It sure makes having an intelligent conversation about the subject difficult.

That concept has a familiar ring to it.
posted by asok at 2:58 AM on June 6, 2007


I don't think you can blame the dominant culture - people like Blackbeard spread terrifying misinformation about themselves, if I understand correctly.

Thanks for the stuff about pirate republics, which is fascinating. I'm sure some pirates were egalitarian amongst themselves and even idealistic.

But however charming and sympathetic some exponents may have been, piracy is still a pretty bad crime. If I had a gang of muggers, it wouldn't be much defence to say that my victims were so terrified I didn't actually have to knife them; that my accomplices and I divided the stolen property equally; and that the local police had shot many people while I myself had never yet needed to kill anyone with my own hands.
posted by Phanx at 3:31 AM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


spiderwire, nasreddin, I tip me hat to the both of ye. Aye, we pirates were murderous, thieving, drunken bastards, but them what sailed for the Crown were no better. 'Twas a lot of men what went on the account so as to find a better life than what God had granted them in the Navy or on the land. There's freedom to be had on the seas. If ye signed the articles and later learned yer Captain to be cruel, ye could put him out on a sloop and elect a better one. Ye certainly didn't have that option in the Navy.

Oh, and as for the "arr"? We're pirates, mate. We can talk however we please, and if yer a seafaring man, yer gonna meet folks from all over the world. Language travels, for a meme it be. And hells, sometimes we just make up words because they sound good. If any bilge-sucking landrat tries to tell me I can't talk like a Bristolman just because I weren't born in the West Country, I'll slit him from barnaguggle to mizzenmast, I will. Let me reiteriterate for ye: We're pirates. We're free. We do as we please. We're in the life for ourselves, and we serve our captains. Yer fancy title ain't gonna impress me, and if ye wants to boss me around, ye'll have to back up that so-called "authority" with cutlass and cannon.

IAAP. IANYP.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:32 AM on June 6, 2007 [5 favorites]


A lot of this is just Ninja propaganda.
posted by ntk at 3:59 AM on June 6, 2007 [7 favorites]


That's like asking me to appreciate John Wayne Gacy for the clown paintings.

Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole a serial killer a pirate.
posted by trondant at 4:04 AM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Aye, Cap'n Spiderwire be complainin' about our hijacking of his precious thread.

All those be wanting to make the landlubber walk the plank, say arrrrr!
posted by grouse at 4:33 AM on June 6, 2007


Well of course people dress and act like pirates ignoring the stuff about murder and theft and all that. It's a fantasy, the way Star Wars and LOTR is a fantasy.

For godsakes, kids dress like pimps on Halloween. Pimps. That's always been a lot more disturbing to me.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:43 AM on June 6, 2007


Cowboys: murderers, armed robbers, rapists, looters. arsonists.

what are you? ... a sheep rancher?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:46 AM on June 6, 2007


A lot of people seem to imagine some giant gulf between a pirate and a law-abiding seaman, yet the distinctions were often-times merely which side signed your paychecks, so to speak. For instance, the French Corsairs against the English, or the French Buccaneers in the Caribbean against the Spanish, or the British "corsairs" like Sir Francis Drake against the Spanish, or the Dutch against the Spanish, or the Ottoman Admiral Barbarossa against, well, the infidel...

In fact, the word "corsair" comes from the French term Lettre de Course, which was a document from the King of France that commissioned these privateers to perform raids on merchant vessels from other countries. These documents were essentially a blank check for piracy issued by the government. Though the word comes from the French, every major European player had their own version.

It's precisely because piracy was, more often than not, a State-backed enterprise, that its demise was so sudden. After the reformation, the entire political landscape of Europe changed; you might say solidified. Where once a King might need to rely on the efforts of privateers, an 18th century parliamentary nation with a standardized navy would never put up with it.

Also remember, the word "pirate" was often used historically to paint someone a criminal in the public's eye (much like terrorist is used today). See: William Kidd.

Final interesting pirate-fact: Cornelius Vanderbilt was related to Jan Janszoon, a pirate who's home-port of Salé became so prosperous because of his piracy that they seceded from Morocco and named him president.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:12 AM on June 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


After the reformation, the entire political landscape of Europe changed; you might say solidified.

Though not so much that of North Africa- which would help explain why the Barbary Pirates of Algiers continued into the the nineteenth century, when they were finally crushed by perfidious French colonialists.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:26 AM on June 6, 2007


Cowboys: murderers, armed robbers, rapists, looters. arsonists.


Yeah, somebody's been watching too much "Deadwood" or has read "Blood Meridian" too many times.

I mean, every culture and region has their murderers, armed robbers, rapists, looters, and arsonists. So in a community where practically all the males would be cowboys, yes, all the male criminals would be probably be cowboys. Doesn't mean it applies to everyone.

By your logic, you may as well have added "Homeboys" to your list.
posted by hermitosis at 6:00 AM on June 6, 2007


The Dread Pirate Roberts killed everyone he captured. Wikipedia says the name was inspired by Bartholomew Roberts "who, though not well known, was by far the most successful pirate captain in history." He had cool flags.

William Langewiesche's "Anarchy at Sea," (podcast interview) from the September 2003 Atlantic Monthly, is about modern piracy.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:35 AM on June 6, 2007


I too want to make a nitty criticism of quin's post!

"Robots: murderers, arsonists."

Citation please? I just see them working their ass of at the auto plant.
posted by BigSky at 6:48 AM on June 6, 2007


Cowboys: murderers, armed robbers, rapists, looters. arsonists.

I'll watch my back next time I head down to the feed store.
posted by yohko at 7:23 AM on June 6, 2007


I don't think you can blame the dominant culture - people like Blackbeard spread terrifying misinformation about themselves, if I understand correctly.

Yeah, that was his admitted strategy. He learned early on that if his group looked scary enough, they could often scare people into surrendering without a fight, which meant that both ships were undamaged, and minimal loss of crews and treasure. So he made himself up to be a literal visage of death, and it worked.

Of course, you could also make the argument that it was the governments of the time who created and promoted many of the stories about how horrible and evil pirates were, in order to prevent fencing, mutinies on naval ships, and interruption of trade. Blackbeard and others were merely turning that propaganda to their advantage.

As a side note, something I find interesting is that many pirates like Blackbeard and Bellamy were often trying to "trade up" their ships to build mini-armadas -- so if they added a ship to their armada, they'd almost always give their old ship to the other crew and send them on their way.

A lot of people seem to imagine some giant gulf between a pirate and a law-abiding seaman, yet the distinctions were often-times merely which side signed your paychecks, so to speak.

Another interesting point is that many famous pirates, like Hornigold and William Jennings, were legitimate privateers, but were in the wrong places at the wrong time when peace got declared, and ended up losing the support of their governments and being declared pirates. Jennings was a famous pirate, but had never wanted to be -- he always thought of himself as an English privateer and didn't attack English vessels.

It's interesting that the real explosion of Caribbean piracy was after the War of Succession ended -- the nominal peace meant that the Spanish Coast Guard just took to de facto piracy -- they would stop vessels and search them, and if they found any Spanish currency (which was inevitable, since it was the standard money of the region), they'd impound the ships. It was in that environment that many English merchants turned to privateering -- not least because if a sailor was imprisoned because of one of these "raids," they wouldn't get paid.

It's precisely because piracy was, more often than not, a State-backed enterprise, that its demise was so sudden. After the reformation, the entire political landscape of Europe changed; you might say solidified. Where once a King might need to rely on the efforts of privateers, an 18th century parliamentary nation with a standardized navy would never put up with it.

Actually, as I just mentioned, that's the opposite of what happened, at least initially. New Providence (the Nassau port) was established as a raiding base to attack the Spanish directly in the wake of the War of Succession. (In fact, one of their defining characteristics was that many of them were Jacobites.) Basically, the whole region was hung out to dry (think of it as a mutual agreement by the European governments to screw the population of the New World), and pirates stepped in to fill the void.

If you're talking about the general pardon that King George offered later, then I'd argue that the effect was more to just weed out the somewhat more honorable pirates like Blackbeard and Bellamy and leave only the hardcore pyschopaths like Vane and Rackham.
posted by spiderwire at 7:48 AM on June 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


Hornigold then, somewhat apologetically, asked the captured crewmen for their hats. This was because the pirates had got drunk the night before and thrown their own hats overboard. Having taken the hats, Hornigold left the vessel in peace.

Speaking without hyperbole, that is easily the best thing that has ever happened, anywhere, at any time.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:59 AM on June 6, 2007


Henry Morgan; Pirate and later Lt. Governor of Jamaica.
Bart Roberts lives on. And finally "Privateering and National Defense: Naval Warfare for private profit" pdf
posted by adamvasco at 8:05 AM on June 6, 2007


The point about there being, historically, a somewhat blurred distinction between privateers and pirates is absolutely right, but in principle I don't think state-sponsored activity is piracy - contemporaries would have found the distinction highly important (the difference between hanging and a knighthood), surely?

Some of the things Francis Drake did, for example, may have resembled the kind of things a particularly bold and well-equipped pirate might have done, but that doesn't make him a pirate. The Argentines called the British fleet which was sent to the Falklands 'las piratas' if I remember correctly (possibly an own goal presentationally).
posted by Phanx at 8:08 AM on June 6, 2007


Bellamy became known for his mercy and generosity toward those he captured on his raids.

Nothing could be more moral or good-natured than that. Except perhaps NOT GOING ON RAIDS AND CAPTURING PEOPLE.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:09 AM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Going on raids and capturing people, giving them backrubs, and then transporting them to utopia with a hearty farewell hug—well, that'd be quite moral and good-natured.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:19 AM on June 6, 2007


"what are you? ... a sheep rancher?"

Was that a Rustler's Rhapsody reference?

"Robots: murderers, arsonists."

You've obviously never seen the RapeBot 2000.

(And God spare me from wikipedia links presented as gospel.)
posted by klangklangston at 8:20 AM on June 6, 2007


I think that a lot of the kneejerk anti-piracy sentiment on this thread is that, Pirates v. Ninjas jokes are freakin' stale, ancient and played out on the Internet timescale.

Heck, it's been, what? Six years since the Real Ultimate Power website started making the rounds?

In internet terms it's like listening to teenagers rhapsodize about the comic genius of the Odd Couple. Someone needs to come up with a new mascot for awesome.

so, who would win in a fight? Vikings vs. samurai? Mongols vs. Apaches? Stalin vs. Teddy Roosevelt? Come on people, the well's running dry.
posted by bl1nk at 8:25 AM on June 6, 2007


so, who would win in a fight? Vikings vs. samurai?

According to Mythbusters, a Viking's sword would shatter a katana like glass.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:30 AM on June 6, 2007


Stalin vs. Teddy Roosevelt?

Ooh, I like that one.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:32 AM on June 6, 2007


Stalin vs. Teddy Roosevelt

Boxing or wrestling? I give the former to Roosevelt and the latter to Stalin.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:40 AM on June 6, 2007


“Stalin vs. Teddy Roosevelt?”

Broadswords in a pit? Breath holding? Sniper duel? Mustaches at 30 paces? Sneering? Coffee breath? Falconry? It's all about the context.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:43 AM on June 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Spiderwire-

I like reading your comments. It's cool to learn more details about this history.

I can't agree with you that it's useful to compare pirates to the Royal Navy etc EXCEPT to say that for many men, piracy was the only escape from the brutal endentured servitude of 'official' sea life. Besides that point, so what if the governements and capitalists of the time were more brutal than pirates? I'm not on the side of the French East India Company either. Do I have to like pirates just becuase I dislike the established thiefs? That's like saying I should be a fan of Saddam Hussein because the US government is so fucked up.
posted by serazin at 8:43 AM on June 6, 2007


Do I have to like pirates just becuase I dislike the established thiefs? That's like saying I should be a fan of Saddam Hussein because the US government is so fucked up.

Ah, but that is the infantile reasoning of so many people. If the folks that are supposed to be the good guys and who most people believe to be the good guys are actually pretty bad, then the folks that are supposed to be the bad guys and whom most people believe to be the bad guys and who are also actually pretty bad must then be better than the good guys. Because hypocrisy and being disillusioned really, really pisses people off. Being pissed-off is one of the three pillars of moral judgment. The other two are the urge to sanctimony and the rationalization of self-interest. Truth and Justice are decorative flourishes.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:03 AM on June 6, 2007 [7 favorites]


hermitosis : Yeah, somebody's been watching too much "Deadwood" or has read "Blood Meridian" too many times.

Actually I was thinking of the net result of our policy of Manifest Destiny.

By your logic, you may as well have added "Homeboys" to your list.

Yes, absolutely. And like the other examples I gave, there is a fascination with the gang culture. I probably should have added the mob as well.

BigSky : "Robots: murderers, arsonists."

Citation please? I just see them working their ass of at the auto plant.


The MQ-1 Predator seems a good place to start.

We've given them a taste for our blood now. It won't be long before the revolution begins.
posted by quin at 9:39 AM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


urge to sanctimony

I have their first album.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:39 AM on June 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


The Dread Pirate Roberts killed everyone he captured. Wikipedia says the name was inspired by Bartholomew Roberts "who, though not well known, was by far the most successful pirate captain in history." He had cool flags.

holy crap, those are the first time I've seen svg images without actively looking for them.
posted by juv3nal at 10:04 AM on June 6, 2007


Another excellent book on pirate history, which makes the antecedent-of-democracy argument well: Under the Black Flag.
posted by Miko at 10:09 AM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


“Stalin vs. Teddy Roosevelt?”

Roosevelt was challenged to a duel when he lived in the badlands of North Dakota. The Marquis de Mores issued the challenge over something Roosevelt had said. The Wiki article is somewhat inaccurate according to Roosevelt's biographers. Roosevelt wrote the Marquis a letter - he apologized and said he hoped the apology would be accepted. If not, then he had the choice of weapons and he chose hunting rifles at 30 paces. The Marquis accepted the apology.
posted by Ber at 10:45 AM on June 6, 2007


Do I have to like pirates just becuase I dislike the established thiefs? That's like saying I should be a fan of Saddam Hussein because the US government is so fucked up.

Well, no one's saying that you have to like anyone, but as EB says, you're begging the question by comparing the Caribbean pirates to the Hussein government and the colonial powers to the United States.

I can't agree with you that it's useful to compare pirates to the Royal Navy etc EXCEPT to say that for many men, piracy was the only escape from the brutal endentured servitude of 'official' sea life. Besides that point, so what if the governements and capitalists of the time were more brutal than pirates?

Because you have to read these issues in historical context. No one is claiming that the Caribbean pirates were saints, merely that they should be intelligently evaluated against their historical background. Most revolutionaries, of whatever type, have slightly blemished records. Though Jefferson and Washington were certainly better than their peers in this regard, they were both slaveowners. I think that Washington is one of the most noble figures in our history, but I don't discount the fact that, even if you give him credit for freeing his slaves, he was a racist towards the Native Americans. Samuel Adams and his kin were pirates, flat out. Ben Franklin was a lecher. They were all traitors, by definition, and by any account were each responsible for more deaths than a host of Blackbeards.

But I don't think that makes their achievements any less impressive. One of the things that defines Washington for me is his insistence that German and British captives be treated as guests, even though the Hessians were mercenaries and both the Hessians and British followed a 'no-quarter' policy toward the Americans. After the Revolutionary War, the use of hired mercenaries fell into international disfavor as a direct result of Washington's policies. I think there's a strong analogy there to Blackbeard, who despite his fearsome reputation was famed for never killing a captive and always keeping his word. That's quite exceptional considering his profession and his peers.

You also seem to be wilfully ignoring a number of policies that the pirate crews adopted that don't just speak in their favor relatively, but absolutely. No one forced them to elect captains democratically or to share plunder equally. Nor were they forced to set their captives free, as many did (among them the most infamous, like Bellamy, Jennings, and Blackbeard).

This isn't to say that you can paint pirates with a broad brush as saints, any more than you can call the colonial governments benevolent dictatorships, but I don't think that prevents you from making meaningful comparisons between the two.

Let's talk about some of the specific points made above. The slave trade was essentially the sole province of the colonial governments. The rape and plunder of the New World was perpetrated entirely by the colonial governments. The brutal treatment of sailors who were forced by press-gangs to serve on ships for years on end at a 40% mortality rate (and more often than not, without pay) was the policy of the colonial navies. The colonial governments did 99% of the raping, pillaging and burning -- New Providence, for example, was burned to the ground four times by the French and others before the pirates made it their haven. Pirates had no motive to burn down the towns where they fenced their goods. More to the point, pirates generally spent their gold in the New World rather than ship it back to Europe to support feeble governments like Spain.

Remember, all the profits that resulted from all that spilled blood went straight to the coffers of the colonial governments and powerful oligarchs, who lived in luxury at home off yearly incomes from slave plantations. The colonial governments had no problems hiring privateers (at a percentage) to attack each others' ships, and then hanging those same privateers out to dry as outlaws (like William Jennings) as soon as peace was declared -- which meant, usually, that the governments involved would merely collude to stop all vessels and just plunder themselves. (This is exactly what happened after the War of Secession ended, as I mentioned earlier.)

That's not to say that some pirates weren't also horrible -- like Roberts, Rackham, Vane, et. al. -- but there's just a few more things to keep in mind.

First, the reason those particular pirates rose to power was that England offered a general pardon in the early 18th century -- so the relatively moderate pirates who were running things (like Hornigold and Jennings) took the pardons and left, and the only pirates remaining were the bloodthirsty psychopaths.

Second, the reason there was a market for piracy in the first place was a direct result of various brutal policies enacted by the colonial governments, as mentioned above. Certainly, that's not a blanket excuse, but you could make a similar argument about British treatment of the colonies prior to the Revolutionary War -- remember that the British felt (perhaps rightly) that their taxation policies were justified to pay for the exorbitant price of the recent French-Indian War.

I think I've said more than enough here, but the general upshot is just that you're taking an overly simplistic reading of what's a very interesting history. That's your loss, but you should at least know that you're missing out.
posted by spiderwire at 11:06 AM on June 6, 2007 [4 favorites]


Well, no one's saying that you have to like anyone, but as EB says, you're begging the question by comparing the Caribbean pirates to the Hussein government and the colonial powers to the United States.

I'm not sure I was saying that. But I agree with your position on this pirate thing and I think you've argued your side well and respectfully.

On the other hand, I do really dislike the whole I hate the good guys I discovered are bad and I like the bad guys that I discovered aren't maybe as bad as everyone thinks and did I mention that I really hate the supposed good guys and, hey, those supposed bad guys are pretty cool! thing.

Which is sorta what I thought I was trying to say. At any rate, thanks for your information and links on pirates. It's interesting and enlightening.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:25 AM on June 6, 2007


But spiderwire, I'm telling you that you don't have convince me that colonial powers were fucked up. I'm in total agreement with you on that point. Probably, I feel even more strongly than you do about it. And while I see the importance of taking pirates in context, and I believe that all human beings have good qualities, I think that arguing that pirates are good in comparison to colonial powers just isn't saying much.

Even in the 1600s, even among European industrialized societies, there were other models to look towards. A quick google search tells me that Quaker abolitionists were arguing against the slave trade at that time, Diggers in England were fighting for common sharing of land and resources, and Maroons were escaping slavery to set up free African societies in the New World. None of these groups were without problems (some Maroon groups held slaves themselves, although from what I understand their form of 'slavery' was based on an African model where slaves could leave their position eventually, and children were not born into slavery), but by my standards, these folks all represent a better model than pirates. Especially for today's radicals and lefties who inexplicably want idealize pirate society.
posted by serazin at 11:41 AM on June 6, 2007


many of whom, like Samuel Adams, were former pirates themselves -spiderwire

Thanks for your informative posts, spiderwire, but when exactly was Samuel Adams a pirate? I know that he was good friends w/ John Hancock, one of the biggest smugglers in the colonies, but I can't recall any piracy in Adam's bio. A "terrorist", yes, if you think of his actions w/ the Sons of Liberty . . . . If you could elaborate, and if everyone else could stand the derail, I'd appreciate it.
posted by landis at 11:51 AM on June 6, 2007


From the Wikipedia article on Jan Janszoon:

Most famous were his notorious pirate sons Abraham Jansz and Anthony Jansen van Salee. Both followed their father’s double life as a pirate and adventurer. His sons later opted to join the very early settlers of New Amsterdam (later New York City) in the New World. Anthony Jansen van Salee's more famous descendants are Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jackie Kennedy and Humphrey Bogart.

Are you fucking kidding me?
posted by LooseFilter at 12:17 PM on June 6, 2007


...trying to prove pirates were some kind of jefgodeskys of the sea...

Wow. I'm an archetype. Awesome!

But mostly, anything I was going to say here, Spiderwire already said.
posted by jefgodesky at 12:37 PM on June 6, 2007


I had no idea that this would turn into a debate about morality. As far as I am concerned, whether or not pirates observed the Geneva Convention or the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights matters not one whit. We are not called upon to judge the morality of historical figures--that's a project that, when attempted, results in pointless debates like this thread (which ultimately reduce to insipid body count comparisons). There is an essay by the great Henry Steele Commager which makes this point, but I'll be damned if I can find it.

Looking at pirate utopias isn't supposed to provide you with life ideals. They are a moment in history which provided a republican counterpoint to the centralization and stratification of early modern society. That's why I think they're interesting: the historical narrative of the time has almost always been written with reference to states and empires. A society which subsisted outside the imperial system can provide us with a welcome sense of perspective.
posted by nasreddin at 12:52 PM on June 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


landis: Sorry, that was imprecise of me, and you are correct. Hancock and the Adams cousins were smugglers, not pirates, although the British certainly thought of them as such. Unless you count the Boston Tea Party. :)

(Although I do recall my U.S. History teacher telling me that Samuel Adams was rumored to be connected with the Gaspée Affair more intimately than he admitted. If I'm wrong, I blame my teacher -- but now my curiosity is piqued, so I'm going to go do some more research. I might just be confusing general Sons of Liberty actions.)

serazin: If the specific issue is slavery, I'd still argue that many of the pirate crews were in many respects better (and more effective) antislavery models than the examples you cite, although once again with the caveat that pirates were a heterogeneous bunch.

In general, I find it telling that pirates were often willing and ready to take on slaves as full members of their crews, whereas blacks simply could not serve in the colonial navies, let alone as equals.

The sparse records we have indicate that what generally limited pirates from taking slaves on their crews was not prejudice, but that slaves were often unskilled laborers who only spoke their native tongues. There are direct records of Blackbeard capturing a slave trader and taking on to the crew members of a tribe known to speak English, and leaving the slaves from the non-English-speaking tribes with their former owners.

Furthermore, there is much evidence that slaves were not limited in the ranks of pirates. For example, John Julian, the pilot of Bellamy's famous Whydah, was only one of many former slaves in Bellamy's crew.

The Caribbean pirates fought actively with plantation owners in the islands and in South Carolina (another favorite pirate target). Of all the groups on the ocean, only pirate crews had former slaves as equal members. Personally, that strikes me as more interesting and useful than basic politics or misguided relocation projects. Nevertheless, I think that the issues are probably orthogonal to one another -- pirates simply didn't have much to do with slavery, and to the extent that they did, they did more to discourage it than the other way around.

If your argument is simply that we shouldn't idolize pirates, then I agree, but that also strikes me as pat -- I don't think we should idolize the Founding Fathers either, but that doesn't prevent me from acknowledging their unique and laudable accomplishments along with their failures. Your definition of 'idolatry' seems hollow to me. What exactly is your methodology for learning about politics from history?
posted by spiderwire at 12:53 PM on June 6, 2007


Oh, naz' comment reminded me that I first came upon the topic of pirate utopias in the Peter Lamborn Wilson / Hakim Bey piece that's linked above. (here and here)

As with much of what PLW/HB writes, it's not historically accurate (we discussed Libertatia upthread), but it's fascinating reading and it spurred me to actually learn about pirates, which really is just as interesting even if stripped of the romanticization.

As an aside, I had a similar experience resulting from the mention in that piece of Gabriele D'Annunzio and the Free State of Fiume. Now that's a weird story once you get into it. Weirder even than Bey gives it credit for. Puts the pirate stuff to shame. Even the hat tale.
posted by spiderwire at 1:02 PM on June 6, 2007


I think that arguing that pirates are good in comparison to colonial powers just isn't saying much.

Ditto.

We are not called upon to judge the morality of historical figures

What the hell does that even mean? Who's "calling on" anyone? Are we "called on" to judge anybody's morality, living or dead? If you, personally, choose not to "judge the morality of historical figures," fine, but don't turn it into some sort of World-Historical imperative. Most of us prefer not to turn off our moral sense even when reading about history. (I'm currently reading about the Russian Revolution(s) and Civil War, and if you can read about that shit without your moral sense going off like a smoke alarm in a barbecue shack, it's probably missing in action.)

Hornigold then, somewhat apologetically, asked the captured crewmen for their hats. This was because the pirates had got drunk the night before and thrown their own hats overboard. Having taken the hats, Hornigold left the vessel in peace.


I concur with those who have pointed out the awesomeness of this.
posted by languagehat at 1:30 PM on June 6, 2007


Sorry to add more noise to the thread, but I really want to say that I'm on-board with making Teddy Roosevelt the new Paragon of Awesome. Ain't nothin' but a Bull Moose Party, y'all.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:50 PM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know who else had a ferocious reputation but had no verified accounts of him ever actually killing anyone?



Batman.



“I think that arguing that pirates are good in comparison to colonial powers just isn't saying much.”

Meh. You’re all scumbags compared to the Houyhnhnms.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:52 PM on June 6, 2007



What the hell does that even mean? Who's "calling on" anyone? Are we "called on" to judge anybody's morality, living or dead? If you, personally, choose not to "judge the morality of historical figures," fine, but don't turn it into some sort of World-Historical imperative. Most of us prefer not to turn off our moral sense even when reading about history. (I'm currently reading about the Russian Revolution(s) and Civil War, and if you can read about that shit without your moral sense going off like a smoke alarm in a barbecue shack, it's probably missing in action.)

I am not saying that we should attempt to be dispassionate when reading history. I am saying that the morality, or lack thereof, of historical figures is not a productive route of historical investigation and debate (my original phrasing was a poor attempt at a paraphrase of Commager, so sorry for the ambiguity). As far as I'm concerned, the valid questions in this thread are: did pirate utopias exist? What was a pirate utopia like? How did pirates behave with respect to their victims? How reliable is our information regarding pirate society and culture? Despite my know-it-all tone, I don't really know these answers thoroughly, and they would be a fruitful topic of investigation.

"Who was nicer, the Royal Navy or L'Ollonais?" is not a productive question, because it presupposes an ahistorical and decontextualized standard of judgment. Even if such a standard were to exist, finding a definitive answer to such a question does not give us any useful or interesting information at all. Thankfully, we are long past the days when history was supposed to teach us moral lessons.
posted by nasreddin at 1:53 PM on June 6, 2007


Thankfully, we are long past the days when history was supposed to teach us moral lessons.

Wow. Two of the most ludicrous sentences I've ever read, and they're both in the same thread!

If history doesn't teach us moral lessons (or rather, if we don't continually examine our history as a compare/contrast guidebook for today), how will we ever learn anything?

Or are we soooo superior now that we don't need to learn anything ever again? Solved it all, have we? Where's my jetpack?
posted by frogan at 3:36 PM on June 6, 2007


Gotta agree with frogan here. Sorry, nasreddin, you're one of my favorite posters here and you clearly know a tremendous amount, but "we are long past the days when history was supposed to teach us moral lessons" is both supercilious and wrong. One of the main reasons for normal people (i.e., not professional historians) to study history at all is to gain some moral perspective, something hard to achieve when history is happening right there in front of you. If by "a productive question" you mean "something that the professional journals will publish articles about," well, I can't speak to that, but most of us find such questions extremely interesting. Without such questions, history is just a dusty bag of dates and "issues."
posted by languagehat at 3:54 PM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Or are we soooo superior now that we don't need to learn anything ever again? Solved it all, have we?

At least we can take comfort in the fact that you have the One-line Troll Problem solved, although not nearly so elegantly as many in the past.

You seem to be laboring under the impression that snideness substitutes for discussion; perhaps you could enlighten the rest of us as to some of your specific points of disagreement, if you're done making throwaway John Wayne Gacy jokes.
posted by spiderwire at 3:56 PM on June 6, 2007



If history doesn't teach us moral lessons (or rather, if we don't continually examine our history as a compare/contrast guidebook for today), how will we ever learn anything?

Or are we soooo superior now that we don't need to learn anything ever again? Solved it all, have we? Where's my jetpack?


Look, frogan, your only arguments in this thread so far have been "What's that you say? Ludicrous! Pfft!" That's not a proof, that's an assertion, and your sneering and posturing don't give your argument any more credibility.

From Tacitus to the eighteenth century, the purpose of historical research was supposed to be the edification of the young through inspiring examples of heroism and demonstrations of the negative consequences of villainy. Eventually we figured out that this approach does not lead to "moral progress" or spiritual perfection, as it was supposed to do. Instead, it turns history into a bundle of crass distortions intended to uphold the dominant values of society: Livy, for instance, deliberately falsified the historical record because he thought the figure of Horatio at the bridge would turn Romans into patriotic citizens.

Your rhetorical question masks two incorrect assumptions. The first is that it is actually possible to "examine our history as a compare/contrast guidebook for today." This is false because every historical situation is, by definition, unique. It is always possible to make the argument that such-and-such a situation possesses similar structural features to another situation--but it is also always possible to point to differences and therefore deny the isomorphism. Parts of political science are dedicated to locating structural similarities in historical situations and analyzing them. As we all know, political scientists have therefore risen to be the chief and most effective moral educators in our society.

The second assumption is that is actually possible to learn something from history that applies to individual moral behavior. Unfortunately, that is only possible when your interpretation of a historical event is strictly black and white, moral and immoral. The more you study any historical event, the more you realize that such unequivocal judgments are almost always impossible, and are rendered meaningless by later events (the Crusades involved the brutal wholesale slaughter of non-Christians, but they led to an expansion of trade ties between Europe and the East that is in the last analysis responsible for every intellectual and technological development in subsequent European and American history).

Thus your attitude leads to the conclusion that in order to draw moral lessons from history, we must ensure that we know as little about it as possible, with that little bit being maximally tendentious and biased.

Or are we soooo superior now that we don't need to learn anything ever again? Solved it all, have we? Where's my jetpack?


I have no idea what this means. Smells like a strawman, though.
posted by nasreddin at 4:04 PM on June 6, 2007


One of the main reasons for normal people (i.e., not professional historians) to study history at all is to gain some moral perspective, something hard to achieve when history is happening right there in front of you.

I'm not a "normal person," I guess (normal? hnyeh! we call them "muggles"). So I'd like you to explain what you mean by this--I am genuinely curious. When you read about the Russian civil war--the murder of the Kronstadt sailors, the other Bolshevik and White atrocities, etc., what precisely do you gain? Surely you already thought that killing lots of people was wrong, and you didn't need some stuffy academic telling you so. Does the pleasure of history come from finding out exactly how bad the Bolsheviks really were? That seems to be a poor reward for a lot of effort.

History is my one true love, but I don't like reading it because it teaches me moral lessons--I like it because I can find out how people who lived long ago thought about things: their place in the world, the perfectibility of man, how much they like that scurvy wench that hangs out in Mrs. McGibbon's coffeehouse. I've read letters and diaries written by dozens or hundreds of people in the past, and it just doesn't make any sense to me how these, mostly average, shlubs are better equipped to provide me with moral lessons than anyone today.
posted by nasreddin at 4:18 PM on June 6, 2007


spiderwire-
Upon which ship do ye sail? I do be likin' the cut 'o yer jib.
posted by baphomet at 4:38 PM on June 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Another problem is that if you're dead set on finding a moral lesson in history, you can find lessons that teach anything at all--unless you already have a well-developed moral sense, in which case you don't need history to teach you.

Some examples:

Francisco Franco, the piously Catholic Spanish dictator who imprisoned thousands in his labor camps and who was responsible for massive killings and repressions, was never toppled, and died in power, peacefully, in his bed, like he always wanted to. Therefore, mass murder and religious intolerance are good.

Tamerlane left pyramids of skulls and piles of corpses throughout Asia, yet he never fell from power--and he is still revered in Persia as a great conqueror. Therefore, large-scale conquests and massacres are a great way to assure yourself a good name for posterity.

Thomas Hutchinson, the last royal governor of Massachusetts, loved his country. He thought the best way to secure its advancement was working with the British government to assure a fair, equitable, and constitutional distribution of power. The people he wanted to help burned him in effigy and set fire to his house, mocking him and calling him a slavemaster. He died in exile, a broken man--and if people know his name today, it's as a minor loyalist who tried to prevent the Manifest Destiny of American independence. Find a moral lesson in that one.
posted by nasreddin at 4:46 PM on June 6, 2007


nasreddin -

I can't resist taking the bait. The fact that Franco died in his sleep means he was good? WTF???

I do draw moral conclusions from studying history, but I'm not such a simpleton that I conclude that the victors of history are the ones who were 'right'. In most cases, I believe the opposite to be true.

I am interested in learning about Franco and the fact that he died peacefully primarily because he was an evil bastard, so that we can avoid Franco-like figures today.

Why did Franco succeed? In part because the US refused to intervene on the behalf of the anarachist/communist alliance that opposed him. Some (many?) historians believe that Hitler's ascent could have been prevented had we acted earlier and with force in Spain.

Isn't it worth studying the moral repercussions of Franco for the exact and express purpose of planning our actions today? When we think about where and when to take action militarily, isn't Spain a useful example of a time when our intervention could have done some good?

Or at least, isn't it useful to explore the reasons why we didn't intervene, to better understand the long-standing motivations of our government and its military? By knowing where, when, and why we acted, we can better understand what the US state interests really are. And only when we understand those interests do we have some chance of changing them to interests that are more humanistic.
posted by serazin at 5:08 PM on June 6, 2007


serazin -

I think this is a confusion over the meaning of the term "moral." The term, as I understand it and as I employed it earlier in the thread, pertains to the "goodness" or "badness" of individual choices. A "moral lesson" is something that teaches you, the individual, how to conduct yourself in your life. This is what was supposed to be the purpose of history: Diligent did his homework and became President, Doofus smoked weed and became a serial killer.

What you are describing is not a "moral lesson" at all. It's a practical lesson on how to achieve an end the morality of which you've already decided on (I disagree that such practical lessons are worthwhile, but I don't want to pursue that in this thread).
posted by nasreddin at 5:22 PM on June 6, 2007


"Another problem is that if you're dead set on finding a moral lesson in history, you can find lessons that teach anything at all--unless you already have a well-developed moral sense, in which case you don't need history to teach you."

Oh ye of certainty and arrogance.

The argument that every instance is unique, while charming, makes you sound like a young idiot. Every waiter is unique too, but that doesn't mean we treat them all as such. Every cola is, especially if we measure moles, unique. Does that mean that we can't learn a decent enough approximation of what a cola tastes like? Not necessarily the Platonic form of a cola, but a good enough mental taste to know a Coke from a Sprite?

The dig at political scientists was cute, but cute is facile. First off, those political scientists you're describing are descriptivists, not prescriptivists. You might as well rail against lexographers for not telling you when it's OK to say "ain't." It ain't their job.

Further, when regarding history with an eye toward ethics, it's easy to draw moral lessons— would I have done the same thing as Historical Figure X (or even Racer X)? Why or why not? Reading about the Russian Revolution makes sense when you move away from the thought that killing people is always wrong (and you were the one lashing out against simplistic analysis!) and think "Was this justified? Was this right? Are there some times when a Trade Unionist has to die?"

And even beyond that, and here I strive to make this as simple as possible so that you may see what an incredibly childish stand you're taking— What do we learn from in our own lives? Our experiences and the experiences of others. When Languagehat tells me to go see Happiness, he's giving an informal history of his experience. My life is different, and I may or may not enjoy the movie, but he has, and I can conjecture from what I know about him enough to help me make my decision. No person lives life isolated, and no one lives without learning from others. Pretending that unreliability or historical distance makes that impossible is both foolish, and speaks to a sense of apparent moral superiority (which I think was touched on earlier)— The only person who doesn't need to learn from history is someone who is already perfect. Our moral senses develop throughout life (unless you're on some metaphysical bullshit tip, and then I can't help you). If all you get from the Soviet massacres or from pirates is that killing is bad, then you're either not looking to learn or are too dense to do so.

PS to Smedley— Batman killed plenty in his first couple issues, and has done so occassionally since.
posted by klangklangston at 5:26 PM on June 6, 2007


klangklangston, I do not think you're being fair to me--but that's beside the point. I am not pulling these arguments out of my ass, and I have reached the conclusions I currently adhere to after considering other arguments--the ones in this thread included. This debate has been carried on in the historical profession for hundreds of years; my own ideas are mostly taken from Sir Geoffrey Elton, who died decades ago and whose book The Practice of History you'll likely find illuminating. Elton may have been a fool, but he was an old and experienced fool.

Also, just because I disagree with you does not mean I am arrogant and childish. Frankly, your condescending ad hominems are pretty offensive.

The argument that every instance is unique, while charming, makes you sound like a young idiot. Every waiter is unique too, but that doesn't mean we treat them all as such. Every cola is, especially if we measure moles, unique. Does that mean that we can't learn a decent enough approximation of what a cola tastes like? Not necessarily the Platonic form of a cola, but a good enough mental taste to know a Coke from a Sprite?


Yes, as I mentioned in the comment you quoted, there are structural similarities between historical events. The questions are: a) what is the nature and significance of any given similarity? b) what is the nature and significance of the differences? Brilliant scholars find radically different answers to these questions for the same situations. Compare Gibbon and Toynbee on the fall of Rome, Marx and any contemporary scholar on feudalism or Attic slavery, Roger Champagne and Bernard Friedman on the New York Assembly elections of 1768, Werth and Conquest on World War II, etc. etc. ad nauseam. The fundamental inconclusiveness of historical truth makes founding your behavior on history fraught with danger: what if you ruled a state and tried to make it a Marxist one, whereas, say, Southern turned out to be correct? That's why I think history is a poor guide to policy.


The dig at political scientists was cute, but cute is facile. First off, those political scientists you're describing are descriptivists, not prescriptivists. You might as well rail against lexographers for not telling you when it's OK to say "ain't." It ain't their job.


I acknowledge that it was facile, but political scientists are enormously influential in policymaking, and yet I do not see their brilliant historical insight reflected in successful or virtuous policy. Neoconservatives, for example.


Further, when regarding history with an eye toward ethics, it's easy to draw moral lessons— would I have done the same thing as Historical Figure X (or even Racer X)? Why or why not? Reading about the Russian Revolution makes sense when you move away from the thought that killing people is always wrong (and you were the one lashing out against simplistic analysis!) and think "Was this justified? Was this right? Are there some times when a Trade Unionist has to die?"

This is an excellent point, and I concede it. Still, the practical usefulness of such a method of reading history presupposes a more or less superficial understanding of historical agency--in other words, it interprets historical figures as unconditioned free agents, which tends toward great-manism and is inaccurate anyway. A deeper analysis requires answering the questions I posed earlier in the thread (e.g., how reliable is our information).

Pretending that unreliability or historical distance makes that impossible is both foolish, and speaks to a sense of apparent moral superiority (which I think was touched on earlier)— The only person who doesn't need to learn from history is someone who is already perfect.


Just to be clear, I do not believe I am morally perfect, and I acknowledge that we learn from others. I learn morality from people I know personally, but I do not learn morality from characters on television, people in novels, or NPCs in video games. The people we know from history, even the ones we know intimately through their letters and diaries, are fundamentally fictional narrativized representations--and in any case, my not knowing them personally prevents me from learning from them. Plato would say that they need to establish why I should trust them before they can teach me anything.

If all you get from the Soviet massacres or from pirates is that killing is bad, then you're either not looking to learn or are too dense to do so.

Well, enlighten me, then. What moral lessons do you draw from pirates and Bolsheviks?
posted by nasreddin at 5:58 PM on June 6, 2007


What klang said (but hey, man, I did not tell you to see Happiness! don't go telling people I said that, because you could see Happiness and not only look at me all weird but think "man, that dude told me to see that sick fucking movie, he must think I'm as sick as he is!" and then I'd feel awful).

Surely you already thought that killing lots of people was wrong, and you didn't need some stuffy academic telling you so. Does the pleasure of history come from finding out exactly how bad the Bolsheviks really were?


Uh, yeah, I did, and no, I didn't need that, and no, it doesn't. You're missing the point. The Revolution/Civil War can be seen as a test case for the effects of certain views about how people should be treated with regard to the Greater Good of Mankind. You think the ruling class needs to be displaced: fine, how far are you willing to go? Voting them out? Expropriations? Murder? These are not dry theoretical issues; these are things every thinking person at the time struggled with and every thinking person who studies the period has to wrestle with. Gorky was appalled by the mob violence involved in the revolution he in theory approved of. How do you decide which way to jump? What appals you most? It's one thing to consider these issues in the abstract, quite another to smell the blood. Before WWI it was all very well for intellectuals as well as hearty huntin'-and-fishin' aristocrats to say their country "needed a good war" to "toughen up our moral fiber"—they hadn't seen what a modern war would be like. When they saw it, they realized they hadn't known what they were talking about. That's what history is for—so we'll know what we're talking about when we face similar decisions.
posted by languagehat at 6:03 PM on June 6, 2007


On non-preview:

my not knowing them personally prevents me from learning from them

That's... bizarre, but I guess it gives me a better idea of where you're coming from. You must realize, however, that very few people feel that way.
posted by languagehat at 6:05 PM on June 6, 2007


Okay, I guess I have to say that much of this debate is due to my own lack of clarity. The original points of contention, from my point of view at least, were two:
1) "Was the Royal Navy nicer than L'Ollonais?" is a stupid question to ask, because the answer isn't going to be useful or interesting. ("Yes." "OK.")
2) History teaching via Doofus and Diligent-style examples--which is what I meant when I said that we were past those days--is pointless and tainted by ideology.

As far as I can tell, no one has disagreed with 2. That's okay, because it's a pretty obvious point.
As for 1, I think I can propose a point of agreement. Moral questions about history which can be answered in one word are neither useful nor interesting. (that's, erm, what I was driving at).

The rest of the debate is a history of me painting myself into a corner. Obviously I do not think that history teaches us nothing, otherwise I would not be a historian. The definition of "teaching" employed by serazin, languagehat, and klangklangston is one which I don't really recognize because it is so fundamental to what I do--except, to me, that's "understanding" history, not "learning" from it. When I hear someone asserting that the story of the pirates has a moral meaning, I assume that they mean the Doofus-and-Diligent business--because otherwise they would be asking different questions. About, for example, the characteristics of a lawless egalitarian pirate utopia or the ideological contradictions underlying Bolshevik massacres.
posted by nasreddin at 6:28 PM on June 6, 2007


That was an excellent comment, well worth making twice! Graceful retractions are hard to do, and I don't think we have serious disagreements; I can certainly see how one can have a blind spot with regard to something so fundamental to what you do in your profession. To us outsiders, it's much more salient! And yes, it's the murky, difficult questions that are interesting, not the one-worders.
posted by languagehat at 7:11 PM on June 6, 2007


HI I'M ON METAFILTARR...
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:09 PM on June 6, 2007


Doofus and Diligent could choose the weapons and Goofus and Gallant would still win the duel, anytime, anywhere.
posted by breezeway at 8:40 PM on June 6, 2007


SLATE: Debunking pirate myths with blanketing, contrarian statements completely unsupported by a shred of evidence since 1784.
posted by tehloki at 9:16 PM on June 6, 2007


Look, frogan, your only arguments in this thread so far have been "What's that you say? Ludicrous! Pfft!" That's not a proof, that's an assertion, and your sneering and posturing don't give your argument any more credibility.

Well, I apologize if you felt it's sneering for sneering's sake, but seriously, I think some of your points appeared, on their face, to be coming so far out of left field, so inflected with navel-gaving for navel-gazing's sake, that they couldn't possibly be responded do in a lengthy way, other than to say "you're off-base; you need to back up and re-evaluate."

Languagehat and klangklangston (can't believe I'm in that guy's camp in a discussion) made all the points I'd want to make anyway, only with more words.
posted by frogan at 10:03 PM on June 6, 2007


"Plato would say that they need to establish why I should trust them before they can teach me anything."

This actually sounds a bit more like Socrates than Plato. Can you give me a source were Plato says this?
posted by oddman at 10:52 PM on June 6, 2007


It's actually Aristotle (I'm an idiot). The "ethos" component of his rhetorical categories (ethos, pathos, logos) refers to the character and reputation of the speaker, and, by extension, his trustworthiness.
posted by nasreddin at 11:08 PM on June 6, 2007


Oh yeah, and pirate corn is on sale at QFC.

Its a buck an ear.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 1:29 AM on June 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: sounds a bit more like Socrates than Plato
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:04 AM on June 7, 2007


Ah, OK. That sounds fine, then. One quick question. Did Aristotle think you need to successfully employ all three categories in order to form a good argument or an optimal one? In other words, while a well-reasoned, passionate (let's just make this the loose corollary of pathos) argument presented by an authority in the field is certainly the best argument, and will therefore yield the most, best education. Is it still possible to be educated by an argument that is only, say, well reasoned and by an authority (lacking pathos)?

Are the three conditions jointly sufficient and individually necessary, or is a subset enough to provide some enlightenment?
posted by oddman at 5:51 AM on June 7, 2007


The Dread Pirate Roberts killed everyone he captured.

Of course, the REAL Dread Pirate Roberts has been retired fifteen years and living like a king in Patagonia!
posted by inigo2 at 8:42 AM on June 7, 2007


Just to correct myself above, it's Charles Vane and Henry Jennings -- I juggled some first names. It's hard to keep them all straight since it seems like half of them were named "Edward."
posted by spiderwire at 8:46 AM on June 7, 2007


Whatever the real historical pirates were actually like, those fake pirates can make for a damn good movie.

Yes, of course I mean Captain Blood.
posted by Tehanu at 9:09 AM on June 7, 2007


"Yes, as I mentioned in the comment you quoted, there are structural similarities between historical events. The questions are: a) what is the nature and significance of any given similarity? b) what is the nature and significance of the differences? Brilliant scholars find radically different answers to these questions for the same situations. Compare Gibbon and Toynbee on the fall of Rome, Marx and any contemporary scholar on feudalism or Attic slavery, Roger Champagne and Bernard Friedman on the New York Assembly elections of 1768, Werth and Conquest on World War II, etc. etc. ad nauseam. The fundamental inconclusiveness of historical truth makes founding your behavior on history fraught with danger: what if you ruled a state and tried to make it a Marxist one, whereas, say, Southern turned out to be correct? That's why I think history is a poor guide to policy."

That they draw different conclusions is both good and necessary. Certainty's dead, but there is no other reasonable guide save history. Different interpretations show that we still have individuals ultimately responsible for policy. Without any sense of history, what would you have us base policy on?

"I acknowledge that it was facile, but political scientists are enormously influential in policymaking, and yet I do not see their brilliant historical insight reflected in successful or virtuous policy. Neoconservatives, for example."

Way to choose the most ahistorical theorists around— most of their platform is based on the idea that ideology is more than a match for history. However, I can guarantee that FDR looked to history when constructing the New Deal, and Abraham Lincoln looked to history when deciding to free the slaves (let's leave off the Zinnish arguments over whether that was more a strategic or moral decision).
And, frankly, political scientists are not really all that influential on policy, especially not the good ones. I mean, look at Juan Cole— his historical expertise in the Middle East led him to oppose the war, and he was right. It was looking at the Middle East from a perspective of ideology first that got us in the quagmire.

"This is an excellent point, and I concede it. Still, the practical usefulness of such a method of reading history presupposes a more or less superficial understanding of historical agency--in other words, it interprets historical figures as unconditioned free agents, which tends toward great-manism and is inaccurate anyway. A deeper analysis requires answering the questions I posed earlier in the thread (e.g., how reliable is our information)."

No, it doesn't. While the Great Manism is there, the historical constraints of any actor are of immediate import when evaluating their choices. History gives us more nuance, not less, especially when you look to unreliable history (and the generally reliable research done on it).

"I learn morality from people I know personally, but I do not learn morality from characters on television, people in novels, or NPCs in video games. The people we know from history, even the ones we know intimately through their letters and diaries, are fundamentally fictional narrativized representations--and in any case, my not knowing them personally prevents me from learning from them. Plato would say that they need to establish why I should trust them before they can teach me anything."

Well, I'm going to disagree with you here. While it might not be active, studied learning, we are all socialized by all media we encounter. You do learn morality from TV characters and novels, even if it's oppositional morality. Obviously, there's more active interest granted to people we know personally— I'd wager that your parents were probably the prime moral teachers in your life (granted you grew up with your parents, etc.), but that doesn't mean that you saw Bert and Ernie as only puppets, or that you can watch Resevoir Dogs without understanding and being shaped by the moral conflicts they portray. Unless you spend your entire life in a sociopathic disconnect, fictional (or distant) characters are constantly challenging or reaffirming your worldview.

"Well, enlighten me, then. What moral lessons do you draw from pirates and Bolsheviks?"

From Bolsheviks? Well, to be aware of ultimate costs of totalizing ideology mobilizations (to be brief). The dangers of the "democratic" reforms of Lenin. I've always been curious about Trotsky's later writings, but have to confess that I've never gotten around to them.
One of my fundamental beliefs is that people very seldom believe that they're acting against their interests, or that they're in the wrong, and I think that Lenin is a great example of someone whose rhetoric and actions reflect illuminatingly on each other.
Oh, and I think that Lenin's approach to political parties, while with antecedent in Czarist parliament, has done the most to damage modern Russia's political institutions, especially the efficacy of democracy. That's a moral— that the internal subversion of democracy in the name of efficiency (which is the topic of another ongoing thread) has ultimately done more harm than good in Russia.

But, in scrolling down, I see that we're largely in agreement, though I'd quibble with your points (I'm a quibbler), in that I do think that one-word answers and Goofus/Gallant stories can both be educational and worthwhile. But for the one-worders, they're just not AS educational and worthwhile as a deeper, more complex question (but I think that, especially as a teaching technique, it can be really handy to start out with a simple question and then work to elaborate it); and I think that the Goofus/Gallant stories often tell us more about what the upper classes considered their moral values to be, and are interesting in that sense. The Bible's much better as a reflection of the ethics of a weird little tribe in the Middle East than as a literal history.
posted by klangklangston at 9:20 AM on June 7, 2007


Henry Morgan; Pirate and later Lt. Governor of Jamaica....Not necessarily the Platonic form of a cola, but a good enough mental taste to know a Coke from a Sprite?

Captain Morgan and Coke. Yummy, yum, yum...and a Yo-ho-ho while we be at it. Is it cocktail time yet?
posted by ericb at 12:41 PM on June 7, 2007


I know its a bit late but here is the Weekly Piracy Report.
posted by adamvasco at 12:52 AM on June 8, 2007


"Cowboys: murderers, armed robbers, rapists, looters. arsonists."

Huh?

"Cowboy: a man, typically on horseback, who herds and tends cattle."
posted by jpmcewan at 5:14 AM on June 10, 2007


Cross me palm with coin of the realm, or the cold wind of this ball blows out your candle, matey!
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:10 AM on June 22, 2007


« Older Termites are cockroaches!   |   103 DISEASES CURABLE BY COW URINE Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post