Today is the official “Talk Like a Pirate Day.” Time to celebrate murderous thugs and to imitate characters from Disney amusement park rides. Oh goodie. Or maybe not. Today is also an excellent time to consider the very real human cost of piracy and to remember the more than 1,200 merchant seafarers who were captured and held hostage off the Horn of Africa last year.
Four years ago today, one of the first posts on this blog was “Thank You for Not Talking Like A Pirate.“: I have a rather good sense of humor and some might say a quick wit. (And some might say half-wit, but be that as it may.) Nevertheless, I am revolted by those who confuse piracy with cute colloquialisms, funny hats and the occasional parrot. Piracy is about murder and theft, not so unlike terrorism.
If piracy had disappeared in the 17th century and as such was nothing more than a quaint artifact of the past, it might be comparable to the Renaissance Fairs that break out every summer. The problem is, of course, that piracy hasn’t disappeared. It is alive and very nasty, particularly, these days, on the east coast of Africa off Somalia, not so far from Captain Kidd’s old cruising ground.
Last year, pirates off Somalia took over 1,200 merchant seafarers hostage, half of whom were tortured or abused. Thirty-five hostages died, of whom eight were murdered by pirates and eight more succumbed to malnutrition or disease. Nineteen hostages were killed in clashes between naval forces and pirates. Instead of pretending to be Long John Silver or Captain Jack Sparrow, today is a good day to remember the human cost of piracy.