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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pirates on the High Seas; the year: 2008

A passion for Pirates, if you ask my wife I'm sure she would say yes... or maybe it's Aye' Captain. I have spent countless summer vacations sitting beach side and digesting historical writings on Pirates, the Pirate Trade and the Historical significance of the Pirate Industry. Yes, it was an industry. The United States was involved, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, China and other Asian countries were involved.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, England, France and the Netherlands endorsed the use of privately owned ships, known as privateers, to fight battles, conduct raids, disrupt trade and harass the Spaniards, in order to gain a foothold in the area without having to fund a real navy there. What ever was captured was usually split between the privateers and those who commissioned them. Because the privateers actions (raids) weren't officially sanctioned by any government the privateers easily blurred the lines between action on behalf of and in the best interest of a country - and keeping the lions share for themselves. In some cases, keeping all of it for themselves.

Breaching the contract between the commissioning body and the privateer often meant the privateer needed to seek refuge elsewhere to avoid penalty, fines, imprisonment or worse imposed by the commissioning body. Once the privateer had determined it was much more lucrative to keep the booty for themselves and sail off in to the sunset there was no turning back. Banished to a life of piracy at sea and in search of a safe haven the privateers often ended up in the isles of the Caribbean where they could easily hide and establish ports of protection from government ships and other pirates.

That was the 16th and 17th century and yet here we are today, 2008, and we are hearing about Pirates. I first heard the story of today's Pirates back in September on the way to Hockey practice. The long drive from home to the rink was a perfect time to listen to NPR's evening show, they happened to be interviewing a Somalian Pirate. They discussed how the gentleman had arrived at his current line of work, his family and the dangers.

He was college educated and unable to obtain gainful employ. His wife was a school teacher making nearly nothing for pay. The lived with their extended family in a shack with no running water or toilet. He and his wife decided that something must be done and this was his decision. I think even in Somalia the Pirate life is romanticized, the man believed that he would make enough money to ride his family of their impoverished life. At the time of the interview he had been at it for over a year, his take was almost always spent on just his sustenance with minimal to send back to the family. In his words "there are certain expectations in the world of pirating; when you have a successful raid you must have 'happy-happy', many times this takes most of your share from the raid leaving you next to nothing for your family." When asked about "Happy-Happy" he described it as a celebration after the raid; Women and Booze.

In recent headlines a Saudi Oil Tanker was taken by the Somalian Pirates and is being held ransom. The Sirius Star is the biggest tanker ever hijacked, with a cargo of 2m barrels. One quarter of Saudi Arabia's daily output and is estimated to be worth more than $100m. A Saudi Prince speaking during a visit to Athens, compared piracy to terrorism describing it is "a disease which is against everybody, and everybody must address it together".

Ummmm... Prince, sir, your high-ness, not the same. Sorry, I just don't see it. I just don't see you getting much international sympathy on this one and here's why: Gas approaching $4.00/gal in the US and rising all over the rest of the world - why? Because you thought you could get away with it... hmmm, doesn't that sound like Piracy? And when you found out you couldn't charge that much and have us consume at the same rate... you backed down to nearly $2.00/gal in the US... just saying - you know.

Best of luck to you though; I've always loved a good pirate story.

You have been given a voice, use it. Go out and SCREAM! about something you care about.

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