Sunday, February 25, 2007

Imagery of a Free Pirate

This is a Free Pirate.

It represents a liberal who opposes intellectual monopoly.

It represents a liberal who opposes monopoly grants in general.

It represents a liberal who believes in the Declaration of Independence.

The use of the pirate motif is ironic.

Supporters of intellectual monopoly dismiss liberals' critiques by calling them "pirates", putting a pirate hat on them with all that connotes, a lack of respect for rights, a lack of respect for property, a lack of due process, anarchy, etc. Following the lead of the Swedish Pirate Party, a free pirate takes this term of opprobrium and adopts it. And so there is the juxtaposition of that symbol of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, carrying the Declaration of Independence, with a pirate hat.

So actually... paraphrasing René Magritte,

Ceci n'est pas un pirate libre.
This is not a Free Pirate.

It is a caricature of a liberal, meant to discredit her.

As did the Levellers in 1647[1], a free pirate ingeniously confesses to be a pirate, though the true and real pirates are those who hijack liberalism[2], be they socialists, conservatives, or anarchists, marauding the rule of law, replacing it with the rule of men.

Whoa! Let's back up. Way too serious...

Part of this pirate thing is just meant to be fun. Think Johnny Depp and the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Let's examine some of the symbols.

First, there's the pirate hat. A free pirate supports natural and constitutional rights passionately, as in the Bill of Rights. Despite her love of life, the grandees throw a pirate hat on her head, painting a caricature for others to see, with a skull and crossbones. What does she do? In a fit of irony, she dons the hat herself. She adopts it. She revels in the disarticulation of their disparagement.

Then there's the hook. It symbolizes the disabilities Lady Liberty suffers these days, as she seemingly effortlessly holds up the torch of The Enlightenment.

Finally and most importantly, there's the sea of rights a free pirate sails. Its color is sea green in honor of the Levellers, who inspired the Declaration of Independence and wrote in 1649,
That we are for Government and against Popular Confusion, we conceive all our actions declare, when rightly considered, our aim having bin all along to reduce it as near as might be to perfection, and certainly we know very well the pravity and corruption of mans heart is such that there could be no living without it; and that though Tyranny is so excessively bad, yet of the two extreames, Confusion is the worst: Tis somewhat a strange consequence to infer that because we have laboured so earnestly for a good Government, therefore we would have none at all, Because we would have the dead and exorbitant Branches pruned, and better sciens grafted, therefore we would pluck the Tree up by the roots.

Yet thus have we been misconceived, and misrepresented to the world, under which we must suffer, till God sees it fitting in his good time to cleer such harsh mistakes, by which many, even good men keep a distance from us.[3]


This artwork was created by chengan800, expressly for this website. I added the sea green.

For more sketches by the artist, please visit the Frenetic Pen Project.

  1. Anonymous (1647) A Whip for the present House of Lords, or the Levellers Levelled, pp. 2-3.

  2. Alain Laurent (2006) Le libéralisme américain : Histoire d'un détournement

  3. John Lilburn, William Walwyn, Thomas Prince, and Richard Overton (1649) A Manifestation. Reprinted by A.L. Morton (1976, editor) Freedom in Arms: A Selection of Leveller Writings, p. 253.

No comments: