Recently returned from a beach on the North Sea where the pitiful little waves break turbidly and women have an aversion to tops, I sit to read some mail and find myself having to explain why pirates are cool.
“Jesus God,” I thought to myself, “what are things coming to?”
I had never had to think about it too much, particularly since pirates are among the few villains you root for even as a small child. It’s instinctive to like pirates with their hats, their one-shot pistols, their varied accents and their rejection of authority. Rejecting Authority! Think of what that sounds like to small boys.
But I felt that if the question was being asked by someone, it was probably being asked by others. So something had to be done. I ignored the work that was coming in through the pipeline at several kilobytes a second, buried my phone deep under the hotel mattress, opened the blinds out to the Amsterdam populace and got to thinking. It didn’t last long.
It’s about sword fights. It’s about crossing blades with a man you’ve never met, whose intentions, deprivations and desperations are completely unknown to you, and discovering that none of that matters because between you and him there is only sharp metal and it will show you, should you fail, what kind of man he really is.
It’s about the sea, which is open to just about any fantasy or terror you conceal and will force it from you in due time. The ocean is not concerned with memory; The air between land is made of time like the sea is made of brine. In many ways they are one and the same.
It’s about the horizon, and seeing for yourself what’s on the other side of it. It’s the love for swing of the water, the wind on the waves and the mysterious sounds heard in place unseen. Magic.
It’s about the freedom to not conform, to not care about the norm. It’s about the strength to defend that freedom to the death, which is a small price to pay for such a life.
It’s about rum.
It’s about consequences, and while they exist, they are fewer in number and less potent than, say, child-rearing. It’s about the world being a playground where the lines between right and wrong, good and evil have definition but no one knows where it lies. Pirates, anyway, don’t much care. They’re out to get their own, an attitude that most, though they don’t and won’t admit it, envy on some level, but care too much about the consequences to follow through. They cannot maintain in the face of such brash and relentless non-conformity and crazed, senseless violence.
Pirates are villains, no questions about it, but they do what they do with a sense of purpose, and that pursuit is enviable. I prefer it to politics.
De Haven van Texel Amsterdam, NL – August, 2007