Pirate: What’s in a Word

Usually when celebrities jump onto a cause it’s the A-lister who ends up putting his foot in it so it’s something of a relief to see Harrison Ford sounding platitudes about how getting clean drinking water running in distant “stressed” lands can lead to a lack of Jihadi attacks against the USA — an argument not without merit were it not for the fact that on 9/11 15 guys from one of the richest nations on the planet committed one of the worst ever atrocities on US soil. Still, Ford’s relatively well worn path leaves the field clear for his colleague in this interview, Peter Seligman, boss of Conservation International,  to end up defending piracy in Somalia.

“The fisherman that depended upon that fish . . had no way to feed themselves..but they had boats . . they became pirates”.

Sigh, Seligman repeats the old canard that if only Europeans hadn’t decimated the fish stocks of the coast of eastern Africa then Somali pirates wouldn’t be such a problem. Leaving aside whether it’s true an area the size of western Europe has actually been over-fished or not, isn’t it a tad shocking to find this attitude prevailing from the boss of an organisation that has pledged to “ensure a healthy and productive planet for us all”?

I wonder if the reason we so often hear this tired old saying is because piracy is such an emotive term? It still carries with it the old connotations of an age when half the world was crudely mapped and the other half simply labelled “here be monsters”. The image one has upon hearing the word pirate is a Johnny Depp-style swashbuckling vagabond  fighting the good fight, stealing from the rich and giving (a bit) to the poor.

If you actually break down what your modern-day Somali pirate does for a living into its constituent parts it makes the they’ve-no-fish-so-they-have-no-choice-the-poor-little-blighters argument a whole lot harder to articulate.

Need a reminder? Here we go — in no particular order of brutality:

To paraphrase Angel Eyes in TGTBTU: Not enough for ya?

Having one’s fish stolen is a poor excuse for any of the above crimes on their own let alone for an obscene amalgamation of all of the above. Let’s start calling pirates by their real names.



Rediscovered track of the month: Mar ’13

Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan

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Favela No More

It is with a sense of weary resignation that I learn why the ‘Favela’ level has been removed from the online game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It happened to Salman Rushdie and countless thousands of others so I suppose it was only a matter of time before religious grievance-mongering impacted on me (note to trolls — I am in no way comparing my loss of about 1/8 of my gaming ability to the predicament Salman finds himself in):

I feel I should point out that nobody nowhere has actually put an Islamic religious text in a bathroom.

Nobody nowhere hung an Islamic text above a toilet.

This all happened in a virtual world. It’s not real. It’s a bunch of pixels on my screen. We’re by now used to certain religious groups’ offence reaching extreme levels of reaction to things that happen in reality – critics of Islam in Denmark are still under threat – now they’re restricting what goes on in unreality. It’s not therefore unreasonable to speculate that the next sphere to encroach upon will be what people actually think. As Muhammad Ali put it:

‘You ever dream of beating me you better wake up and apologise’.

That sounds cute as a pre-fight taunt lobbed at the latest schmuck to try and take down the Great one but when some groups start using this as a legal basis for censorship we’ve got serious problems.