In the early to late 2000’s, I was turned on to a treatise written by Peter Lamborn Wilson called ‘Pirates Utopia‘.  The article appeared on a site related to radical environmentalism by the name of ‘Live Free or Die’.  I have no idea if this group was ever placed on the ‘the list’, but the article itself changed my perception on Pirates as whole.

During the trip down to an island known as ‘Hook’ in Tampa Bay, I digested the print out from the site and tried to decipher what exactly the term ‘pirate’ meant.

True piracy is less about the Holly Wood or Disneyesque notion of a pirate, more so, even the ridiculously spectacular perception that pirates were merely thieves run amok on the ocean.  Pirate history is well known, but what would have driven the average Englishman, African or Spaniard on to take up arms against the greatest sea power known to man at that time?  In order to understand the pirate mentality, one simply needs to explore the oppressive (yes I’m leading the argument here) world system of ’empire’ that existed during the Golden Age of Piracy.   From that world view, the concept of piracy began.

I would sum up piracy as an exercise in ‘sea libertarians’ and ‘radical communalism’ before I’d remotely explore the criminal side of their actions.

In short, everything that you know about pirates is most likely wrong. Hey, but that’s OK.

If you can assume a position that semi-Masonic principles of personal freedom dominated the quest to control the high seas of the New World and that all people seek a type of Utopia, free from oppressive control, then you just might be able to comprehend the notion of what true Piracy was all about.

England, specifically the Crown, had become – and still is for the most part – one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet.  Our country fought the American Revolution in order to get free of the very system that seems to be championed in every supermarket check out line from Miami to Bangor.  Like the cause of authentic piracy, the American patriots were working to create a place where the individual had just as much rights as any king, banker or priest in Europe

To me, I grew up in Scots-Irish Appalachia and my adopted grandfather was a Sea Captain from Palmico Sound.  My father’s family descended from the Norse-Anglicans of New England, my mother’s people were broke Scots-Irish.   Some of them had been enslaved  (or indentured) just to get to the new world.   With most of the family still living on the coasts of North and South Carolina, I could not even possibly hope to escape Carolina pirate lore.  The literal history of piracy was embedded in my core, from cradle to grave, it’s my honor, duty and heritage to be a kilt wearing Ulster born son of pirates in the free world.

The underlying notion that came through to me as clear as a galley bell during my youth was that piracy was ultimately about true freedom.  Not the kind of freedom that bucks responsibility to God, Momma Nature and your fellow man, but one where the tradeoff for individual rights is being responsible for all of one’s actions.

Transhumanists, technocrats and engineers simply believe in the bulldozer approach to reality – ‘since we’ve conquered this’ they postulate, ‘then we can conquer that – we can dissect nature to the point that even reality itself will give up all of it’s secrets.  Then we’ll have Utopia, then we’ll have eternal life, then we will be Gods‘.  In short, their end goal is to ‘make a better world’ by ‘controlling all aspects of life’.

Such notions are the austere fantasies of psychopaths.  This was the very system that founders of America and many of the pirates were trying to escape.  Only fools would think that they can conquer Space itself when they have barely even scratched the surface of the Sea!

The Skull and Cross Bones are there to remind these beings of their own mortality – it’s the sole reason why it’s flown to this day.  If you feel draw to and not repulsed by this ‘dark’ imagery, then you might want to explore pirate philosophy further.  The path may be in your blood.

As a pirate, if this is the way meant for you, you will find yourself at odds with the modern world on a constant basis.  Simply being ‘misunderstood’ is in itself an understatement.  However, if you are the type of person that would rather work with nature than against it and one who truly values their essential right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – then I would invite you to explore what it truly means to be a pirate.

Humans live in a dichotomy – one where we need others to survive and be happy, but we also need to express ourselves as individuals and have that individuality respected by others.  As humans we are groups, crews and families; as an unique soul, you are an individual. Striking the balance may be hard, but the rewards are quite fruitful and many a metaphysics student has argued that it’s man’s own ‘great work’ that he must perform before fully becoming alive.

Life is about tradeoffs, however it’s also about balance.

If one were desirous to find places to hone this ability to balance both spheres, I’d also like to suggest some time ‘on the mountain’ or out at sea.   Living aboard a ship with others forces you to face your own un-needed habits, shortcomings and ignorance.   The moon may be a harsh mistress, but the ocean is an ever changing ephemeral stone that sharpens one’s soul and frees the spirit.

In Rick Page and Jasna Tuta’s seminal work, Get Real, Get Gone – How to Become a Modern Sea Gypsy and Sail Way Forever, they couple disabuses many of the notion that they might have about ‘going out to sea’.  Upon discussing ‘mega-yachts’ and all the problems that those ships encounter, Rick and Jasna draw a uniquely modern analogy that explains our current predicament quite sufficiently;

Microsoft Windows may be on it’s 10th version, but the sea is most definately Ocean 1.0” ( Chapter 3 ‘Getting Real’, pg. 16)





Balls Johnson, not his real name, was one of the very first Appalachian Mountain Pirates that studied under Captain Ed. The name 'Balls' comes from an Irish girlfriend of his who often commented that he had the largest set she'd ever seen on a man, both physically and metaphysically. Upon hearing her comment, the nickname stuck. Cpt. Balls Johnson lives on the East Coast, loves sailing and is a licensed skipper.

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