Bootylicious: The Love Affair with Pirates

ID_IC_MEIS_PIRATE_AP_001 Morgan on the fascination with pirates, in The Smart Set:

The new Somali pirates exist for two simple reasons. One, Somalia is a desperate failed state. Two, it lies, rather conveniently, at the cusp of one of the world's most important international shipping lanes. Voila! — the new pirates. The logic hasn't changed a bit since the Golden Age. The only thing that's shifted are the players. The now stable and rich states of the West want stable shipping corridors. But the local residents of Puntland take a less sophisticated view, having never been to the Great Outlet Malls on the Western horizon in order to sample the fruits of said international shipping lanes. That's the politics of it, the straight-up socioeconomics.

There is another aspect to our fascination with pirates. It is existential rather than political. It is about civilization and its limits, about our need for a sense of home versus a need to break those boundaries altogether. The sea has always played a big role in that dialectic. The sea is, potentially, an avenue for intercommunication and exchange among men. It is, in short, a vast shipping lane. But it is also an outer boundary. The land stops at the sea. The city stops at the sea. We human beings have conquered this earth, mostly and swiftly, but the sea is still unnatural territory for us, we aren't as sure on its surfaces as we are on those harder surfaces more suited to bipeds.

The pirate takes that insecurity and runs with it. Indeed, the word pirate can ultimately be traced back to the ancient Greek word “peira,” which means trial, attempt, experiment. To have peira, to posses peira, is to have gone through an experience. If I try something, I get to know it. In fact, it is out of the collecting of peira that a person constructs the greater web of experience (ex-peira) that makes one person, one person, and another, another.

The pirate is, quite literally, taking a chance. In doing so, pirates reenact the basic process that everyone goes through in becoming a person.