Next month I will be revealing our new cover with a stunning illustration by Colleen Dick and everything will be gearing up for the release of the new book. But for now, let me say that I don't think people have given much thought to what it is like to be a good parent and a pirate at the same time. No, it's not a joke. I'm perfectly serious.
Jean Laffite was a privateer, a liberator, a protector, a husband and a father. He had three children by his first wife and two by his last wife. And there may have been some other children born on the wrong side of the blanket, but I'm not writing about that.
|Jean Laffite and his second wife Emma Mortimore and their two sons, Jules and Glenn|
painting by Manoel J. de Franca
Imagine being asked by your little boy why it is all right to pillage and loot. What would you answer? Would you say that you only go against evil empires, like Britain and Spain? Would you say that what you do is good, because the enemy is bad? Would you tell him that you treat women and children and the downtrodden with ultimate courtesy, but that the people you hurt deserve it? And if you said that, how much of it would you yourself believe?
Today on my Facebook feed, there was a discussion of Vikings. Apparently, the History Channel is running a series about Vikings. I have not seen it. I don't have cable. But people seem to be fascinated by the violence and the family dynamics of what they term "mafia-like" arrangements, and some of them are talking about having Viking ancestors, but at the same time saying that they were just farmers.
I don't want to make any statements about the life and morals of Vikings one way or another. But I do think that there's something that most of my acquaintances are overlooking about their own mode of making a living: almost all of them are a little like Vikings, except that there is a veneer of respectability that hides this fact.
"First do no harm." That is the mantra that most people adopt. But how many of us live by it? How many could explain to our children what we do for a living and why it is okay?
Take one of the most respected profession in the world: teachers. I have been a teacher myself, and I taught on the university level in Taiwan. But who or what paid for my fees? Even though I was working at private universities, did you know that the government of Taiwan had to authorize the universities to hire me as an assistant professor? There was so much red tape! And in the end I was issued a government document allowing me to teach . Behind all this was a complicated system that certified students, teachers and the validity of knowledge. And all at the point of a gun!
I'm not being critical of Taiwan, when I point this out. All the countries I've ever lived in and all the countries I have visited have had some such a system, if not on the university level, then certainly for elementary education. If your work is regulated by the government and funded by taxes or coerced payments, you, my friend, are a pirate!
If you are a teacher, chances are you are profiting from some combination of government coercion and expropriation. If you are an elementary or high school teacher in a United States public school system, then you are probably paid with tax dollars, even those taken from people who have no children. If you teach at a private school, you probably still received some kind of certification that said you were allowed to teach and somebody else could not. The mandatory education laws indirectly send money into the coffers of private institutions as well as public one.
I have been a lawyer. That, too, involved government certification by the State of Texas where I practiced. I was part of a state-run monopoly on the practice of law. Are you a doctor? A registered nurse? A social worker? An insurance agent? A farmer? There are government subsidies, government monopolies and government coercion involved in all those professions. People can't help being dragged into these things, because it's everywhere. If you are a retailer, chances are you are actively collecting sales taxes from your customers, because if you refuse, you will be shut down. We are all of us victims of piracy, but we are also willing participants. Where did your money come from? Are you sure it is clean? Would you walk the plank rather than join a government program that allows you to earn a living?
People revile welfare recipients, but they look the other way when the local grocer pockets the welfare recipient's money. It's almost impossible, in every line of business, not to somehow have gotten one's gain from someone else's illicit plunder. And even if you are clean yourself, the people you do business with are not, so that in some way we are all part of it.
"But I offer valuable services!" we may protest. "I work hard!" Doesn't everybody? "But the services I offer are needed. I help people!" Doesn't everyone?
Privateers help people, too, but they do so without leeching off the people they help. The good thing about privateers is that they do not plunder the people they are protecting. Unlike the local police officer and the military who serve us while living off our earnings without our consent, a privateer protects us from others by robbing others. Is it fair to those others? They probably don't think so. But at least it is honest.
And yet how do you explain that to a little boy? How do you teach him to respect others, not to steal or bully or abuse, when what you are doing yourself looks an awful lot like armed robbery? That's a big part of what "Theodosia and the Pirates: The War Against Spain" is all about.
So when you think of Vikings or your Viking ancestors, think of that!