I have listened to Kester Brewin’s thought provoking TED talk in which he shared that wherever we see pirates, whether sea or software or music pirates, their presence shows there is something wrong with the system, whether it is economic or political or spiritual, and pirates send a signal that what belong to the common have been taken away. Since the golden age of pirates in the early 1700s, what we see are England, Spain, France and Holland trying to build empires by invading and colonising new worlds of America (and Asia and Africa, I would add), which marked the birth of an emerging world of global capitalism, and the engine of this movement was the ship.
Kester shared that in those days, sailors were brutally treated, whipped, beaten, poorly fed, rarely paid and often injured. To be a sailor is to be close to death, hence the symbol of the skull and crossbones on pirates’ ships. Sailors turn to piracy because they were fed up with the brutal treatments they experienced at the hands of these captains. When sailors turn to piracy, they have a different mode of life, such as sharing equally among themselves the profits of their labour. Hence, piracy is an act of emancipation, stepping out from repression, in order to experience freedom and equality for all. Similarly, we all can do our parts in our community to enlarge the space to turn the agenda from purely private gain back to public benefit so that all can learn and build on the commons we share, as Kester put it.