Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Learning from Pirate Communities - The Overview

Hi there, Gumboot Enthusiasts. As promised by the tag-line of this publication, some of our conversations will discuss pirates. After all, these figures - real and imagined - are a popularized jumping off point for investigation, adventure and discovery; where fact meets fiction and romance meets reality. Most importantly, there is a lot we can learn from pirate communities, as they tend to mirror our own lives - in a much drunker, violent and more fashionable way.

Moving on...

A little about the credentials that allow me to expertly teach others about pirates, privateers and buccaneers. Not only does the Editor-in-Chief of The Weekly Gumboot (ie. me) hold a Masters in Naval History from the University of the Bahamas and a Ph.D in Piracy from the University of Singapore, but I was also fortunate enough to co-found the School of Arts and Piracy at Camosun College in Victoria, British Columbia. Recently, I created and taught the incredibly popular graduate-level course, Pirates: Romance and Reality at the college.* But, hey, being a registered Piratologist (officially - especially when the Coast Guard and CSIS are asking - I am not a real pirate) isn't all researching and writing of rum, romancing wenches and roughhousing. Sometimes, Piratologists are asked to change the world.

And, with that in mind, it is my pleasure to introduce a new series here at The Weekly Gumboot. The ongoing stories in Learning from Pirate Communities seek to explore the connection and ideas between pirates (of past and present) and our global community.

Over the coming weeks and months, we will explore the following topics:
  • Democracy: Barack Hussein Obama might've just taken this tired ideology** to the next level, but did you know that the first example of written democratic principles was completed on a pirate ship?
  • Health Insurance/Workers' Compensation: Depending on what body part (eye, hand, leg) you lost during pillaging, the "Articles of Piracy" (agreement signed by the Captain and crew) outlined the appropriate financial compensation for the aforementioned off-lopping of limbs. Fun fact: pirates were compensated the most if they lost their right arm.
  • Personal/Corporate Branding: Pirates were conceptualized as more notorious, violent and cruel than they actually were. And this came about because of dynamic, creative and effective "branding." Black Bart's flag depicted him having a glass of wine with Death. That's badass, man. So, how do you sell yourself?
  • Racial Equality: A complex and contentious issue, for certain; however, with escaped slaves, Central American Natives and Frenchmen finding common ground aboard a pirate ship, well, a certain amount of cultural leveling and acceptance took place.
  • Women's Rights: Ann Bonny and Mary Read were two of the most notorious pirates in the Caribbean. More important, though, is the legacy of Madam Cheng - she was arguably the greatest pirate in history, at one point commanding a fleet of over 10,000 vessels. Needless to say, they were quite the pioneers for gender equality!
  • Storytelling: if there was only one recorded incident of a pirate making someone walk the plank, why is this phenomenon so effectively associated with these scurvy buccaneers? It's all about being able to spin a good yarn, mateys!
  • Networking: in the world of pillage and plunder (and eventually becoming the Governor of Jamaica, like Captain Henry Morgan did), it's all about who you know...
  • Entrepreneurship: Somalia is probably the worst place on Earth. And yet a community of former fishermen (foreign over-fishing and pollution have depleted stocks beyond repair) have found a niche market for risky a career endeavour: hijacking oil tankers! This creative, outside-the-box thinking is getting them noticed, too!!!
  • Creativity and the Access of Information: When they looked/look at the global economy, pirates see it in shades of grey. Whether it's creatively carrying out a client's business plan at the barrel of a gun and the tip of a cutlass or downloading songs, shows and movies, pirates have always used (are currently using) technology to challenge the status quo.
So there it is. A preview of what's to come on The Weekly Gumboot. As you await the next installment of Learning from Pirate Communities, prepare yourselves to be edutained!


- Sir John the pirate Piratologist

*Factual Disclaimer: educational allusions may or may not be "real" and "accredited" credentials and it may or may not be more about a supercool video created by the marketing team at Camosun College...
**Johnnism, an up-and-coming ideology promises to inspire an ever-shrinking global community with fresh perspectives on what it means to be named "John"...and much, much more...


Kurt Heinrich said...

If i were a pirate I'd Keelhaul any Johnism converts. I suppose then they'd be martyrs to the cause though...

Godfrey von Nostitz-Tait said...

Scintillating stuff, John. I love how pirates continue to resonate with us to this day. Their appeal doesn't die. Probably because there's a bit of a pirate in all of us. Looking forward to the next installment.