Insane Career Paths: Pirate

Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean

So you’re back, even after all the options I gave you regarding jobs that only people that are imbalanced or raving lunatics would choose. But, I see you want more…OK, OK, so here it is. First let’s clear the air, Pirates weren’t as lawless as you may think. They even had a code of conduct that they adhered to and workers’ privileges any poor corporate zombie would be envious of. For example, pirates had workers comp, or paid compensation if they got injured on the job, and it varied depending on the severity of the injury. To this day, some monstrously large, legal corporations don’t offer that to their employees. But you’re here because you want to know how to become a pirate…let’s see what credentials you’ll need.

First of all, you have to figure out what type of pirate you want to be; there are three main types. You’ve got your Somali pirates, the Tri-horn wearing amputees and the online pirates. And, because I believe all pirates are equal in the writer’s eye, I’m going to talk about all three of them.

Old School Johnny Depp Variation

Peg-legs, Tri-horn hats and eye patches are the usual image that is conjured at the mere utterance of the word: Pirate. The truth is it could as easily include togas…ehm and other ancient stuff because piracy has existed for as long as the seas have been used for commerce, and that’s roughly 3000 years. Ancient documents mention two groups of people that were heavily engaged in piracy. The Illyrians that hailed from the Western Balkans and the Tyrrhenians which historians assume was an all-inclusive term for Etruscans and neighboring ethnic groups. Amazingly the Pirates of the 1st century B.C. even created pirate states around the Asia Minor region (modern day Asian Turkey). I’m just going to assume that a whole country of pirates is like Pleasure Island without the nasty turning into a donkey part. Also, that part terrified me as a child, and I’m sure it terrified you as well if you even have a semblance of a soul.

Don’t lynch me, but Vikings are also considered pirates by historians, due to all the looting, raiding and burning shenanigans they were so fond of. They were chumps though compared to the iron cannonball testicled guys (and gals) of the Golden Age of Piracy. Some of the most famous swashbuckling, buccaneers lived during this era that began around the early 17th century. This was largely due to the colonization of the New World by France, England and Spain which in turn increased the movement of commercial ships in the Caribbean. Sometimes though the Pirates were government sanctioned privateers that would attack foreign vessels and commandeer (see steal) the ships’ cargo for the crown. Eventually these privateers looked at each other though and said: “Why should we do this for the crown when we make ourselves our own crowns, and pocket everything?” and that’s what a lot of them did. Legendary pirates such as Calico Jack, Blackbeard and Black Bart had military or merchant sailor backgrounds. Black Bart started out as a merchant sailor, but seeing that he had no chance of promotion or advancement, he became “self-employed” and was one of the most successful pirates in history taking over 470 vessels during his career.

Somali Pirates

After the Somali Civil War, Somali fishermen’s livelihood was threatened by huge commercial trawling vessels that illegally invaded the waters off of the country’s coast. Instead of overfishing, these fishermen organized into small cells that would invade the commercial vessels and ask for a “fee” on “behalf” of the non-existent government. Eventually, the Somali fishermen cum pirates said exactly what the Golden Age pirates said: “Hey this is a sweet deal, we should do this more often.”

Initially, their operations expanded into taking ships with various cargo (including weapons of the “can’t fall into the wrong hands” type) hostage that they would release for ransom. Later on, they even started taking hostages for ransom. If the Pirates had watched even one 80s action flick, they’d know that people of authority in the west “don’t negotiate with terrorists” let alone measly pirates. Even so the pirates managed to make tens of millions of dollars and capture hundreds of commercial vessels. But, now Europe, the NATO, Japan, China, Russia and India have converged with great force in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden where most of the pirates are based. Infamy beat the demise of the Somali pirates when the 2013 movie Captain Philips was released depicting a botched hijacking and harrowing rescue attempt of the titular captain.

Surfing the Online Seas (and pillaging them)

So lastly are the online pirates, which could be argued are the least exciting of the bunch. They don’t batten down hatches, carry huge sharp cutlasses or AK-47s, and there is a disappointing lack of frilly and flared sleeves in the online pirate community. OK, so the thing about flared sleeves is an assumption, an assumption I would love to have proven wrong, with pictures of course.

All three types of pirates have a certain romanticism that surrounds them, a bit of Robin Hood aura if you will. But, the truth is that all pirates are ultimately outlaws for personal gain. With traditional pirates (the salted version), you could argue that the things they stole were ill-gotten anyway, through war, colonization and exploitation of the lower tiers of society. Online pirates though make a profit from the direct labor and creativity of others. The funny thing is that these pirates could be (and in their majority are) struggling lower class individuals just wanting a piece of the pie. The people that really profit from piracy might surprise you…first because they’re not even people but mega-corporations and secondly because they are relatively eponymous too. Companies such as Google, American Express, even Sony and Netflix, who produce and distributes films. So ultimately should we ask ourselves who the “real” pirates are. I mean it has to be the guys that are profiting on both sides of the transaction right? And I’m not just talking about online line pirates and their enemies…but all three types of pirates I mentioned.

Did I leave anything about pirates out? Let me know in the comment section below.