It’s 8am on a Monday Morning, and you’re looking in the mirror. Every Monday you ask yourself the same questions. How did I get here? What happened to me? Do I have to do this?
Many of us traded our dreams and ambitions for the security of a paycheck. We traded a little bit of our soul for a marketable skill in the workplace. We traded freedom for the shackles of student debt. We traded our passion for a reality dictated to us by society. We willingly traded the enrichment of our lives for the betterment of someone else’s, and here it is Monday Morning again, and we see the face in the mirror we no longer recognize.
Inside us, there is a part of us still waiting to get out. One who rejects security, and shackles, and the dictates of society. One who embraces the enrichment of his life and those around him he cares about. One who rejects the vicious mirror. That part of you is still there, and it is waiting for you to set it free.
This part of us feels a connection to a kind of spiritual ancestor who also rejected authority for the adventure of the sea. They took a marketable skill and used it to their own advantage for the enrichment of himself and those around them. They were a passionate people, yet balanced enough to see the world for what is, not what others perceive it to be. For them, there were no Monday Mornings, only new adventures.
These spiritual ancestors lived in the early 1700s on an island in the Caribbean called New Providence. In 1703, they outnumbered the indigenous population twice over, and every single one of them had one thing in common: They rejected the way things were, in hopes of a better life. They did this knowing they took a magnificent risk to themselves, and possibly their families back home. They knew that it was entirely possible that they would die at the hands of others, or that the sea would simply swallow them whole and never give them up again. They chose to be free.
They were Pirates. They were outlaws who rejected the authority of The Crown and set out to make a new life in the New World. They were adventurers. In a sense, they were the first real entrepreneurs. Surely, there were other businessmen of the age that struck out on their own, but they did it within the confines of the system. The Pirates did not.
A Brief History
While the history of New Providence and the Golden Age of Piracy is particularly bloody and violent, it presents some interesting parallels to our day. Let’s face a little reality: No, you can’t walk in to the place you’re working and tell your boss to turn about smartly or be taken below for the makings. You’d most likely get fired. However, on a macro level, you can trace the current system of corporatism and oligarchy back to the same conditions that caused our spiritual ancestors to reject the crown.
After the War of the Spanish Succession, the Royal Navy downsized, leaving thousands of people who fought for the British in the Naval forces out of work. Sailing was the only thing they knew, the only marketable skill they had. Sure, the pay was rotten, but it was their livelihood. Now here they were, drying and rotting on the dock with no prospects. If you’ve lived in a town where the largest employer was a plant that was closed, then you know the impacts of what happens when that company leaves town. The town never recovers, and it’s workers, once proud of the work they did, scramble to find some other work. After 1714, many sailors did find work in the slaving trade, but to say that they were keen to quit that job and turn to piracy would be an understatement.
After this war, as part of the settlement, Britain obtained the right to supply slaves to the Spanish colonies. This had two effects: The British had a wider access to the colonies in America, but it also flooded the market, driving down sailors’ wages. This led to the Merchants cutting every cost they could, creating unsatisfactory conditions on the ships. Merchant sailors had the same mortality rates as the slaves they were being paid to ship as a result, sometimes often higher. Also, of course, many sailors ended up not being paid for their efforts at all. This led to a boom in piracy. The volume of shipping across Atlantic continued unabated, and if a young sailor got tired of the sick existence that the system provided, then working free outside the system couldn’t be worse. Plus, there were no shortage of shipping vessels to hunt. If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em.
In 1715, pirates raided a sunken Spanish Galleon off the coast of Florida. The pirates (notably, Charles Vane, Sam Bellamy, Henry Jennings, and Edward England) were successful in recovering a great amount of gold, but when they returned to their home base of Port Royal, the Governor of Jamaicas informed them that they would not be allowed to use that treasure on the Island. Luckily, New Providence had been abandoned during the war, was available. The pirates set up camp there, and the rest is history.Until 1718, when Woodes Rogers was appointed governor, and offered a King’s Pardon to any pirate that would give up piracy, New Providence was the Republic of Pirates.
Yesterday Is Today
In many ways, there are parallels between then and now. Years of endless wars are coming to an end, and many of our service people are being transitioned to civilian life. Many of those brave men and women need help that we are ill-prepared to give because our government places more of a priority on having people fight wars, not on keeping promises made to those that fought. Many of them only know life in the military, and have no coping skills to thrive in civilian life and find gainful employment.
Since the turn of the century there is another form of downsizing that often makes the news: Corporations Outsourcing overseas to cut overhead. Imagine the loyal company man of 20 plus years on the day he finds out that his position is being moved to (insert country here0. To add insult to injury, he finds he must train his replacement, who will surely make a fraction of his salary doing the same work. In the cases of ‘company towns’, where a plant or a corporation is the largest single employer, how often do the towns dry up and fade away?
A related story to the downsizing of American Workers is the hedge fund companies who acquire businesses on the brink, harvest them for resources, and then close down the company when it has been drained of it’s remaining capital. Thousands of workers in plants, stores, and mills across the country have been affected by this. It’s no wonder we remained in double digit unemployment for years; The New Crown destroyed all the jobs.
Whereas Mercantilism was the booming trade of yesterday, Knowledge work is the booming trade of today. However, while we transported the slaves back then, we are the slaves now. We are slaves to the information that acts as this world’s new supreme currency, and since the information we ferry is more important than we are, it can be mined by anyone for sub-minimum wage. The sailors had a higher mortality rate than the slaves then, but today the brunt of the mortality can be seen at your local unemployment office. Meanwhile, on the Subcontinent, those jobs are ‘ably performed’ for a fraction of the American wage, for mere rupees, rubles, pesos, you name it.
So here we sit, on 8am on Monday Morning, looking in that mirror again.
How did I get here? What happened to me? Do I have to do this?
Then, almost imperceptibly soft, you hear the voice of that still, small voice, and you’re surprised at the softness of the voice. You recognize that voice. The voice that once roared as you took on adventure after adventure on the playground, or the swimming hole, or the ski slopes, or the waves. The rebellious voice of your youth that defied authority. That voice that urged you to find your own path. Before college loans, before marriages, before kids, before middle management..
That voice is you.
No, you don’t. it says.