A pirate’s life for me

Darren D’Altorio

In recent months, Somali pirates have hijacked the headlines, along with many boats traversing the Gulf of Aden, an instrumental waterway in the world of commercial shipping.

The intertwined webs of global economics have made this shipping route the most cost-effective means of transporting goods from the Western world to the Eastern world and vice versa. If not for this waterway, boats would have to make the long journey around the southern tip of Africa, expending greater amounts of fuel and wasting valuable time. Controlling this route equals power because the big-business bitches of the world need the passage to maximize the bottom line. The pirates know this.

I remember when I was a kid, my grandma used to get really angry when people used her yard as a shortcut. Because she had a side lot and a chain-link fence, not a post fence, it was a common evasion route. Kids could sprint across the yard and easily jump the chain-link fence to avoid strife from any authoritative figure.

In one leap you were around the block, out of sight. Now, my grandma is a gentle soul, a truly loving and caring person. But the Italian rage was summoned when the sneaker of a stranger hit the lush green lawn. Never before have I seen an elderly woman move so nimbly, springing up from the rocking chair, peeling the curtains from the window and emitting a high-pitched shriek through the screen: “Get off my lawn!”

Alas, a parallel. My grandma felt exploited by these nomads trampling her lawn. She invested time and energy to make the grass look beautiful. To her, the stampeding feet of delinquents threatened the peaceful existence of her world. Is this extreme? Yes. But here’s the point: These pirates feel exploited.

Unlike my grandma’s yard, Somalia is not a peaceful place. Civil war after civil war between various rival clans has plagued the country for decades. The waters off the Somali coast, however, were free of fighting. On the high seas, fishermen worked diligently, catching fish to feed the people on land. The Gulf of Aden, symbolically, represents a means of life for the people of Somalia.

Around 15 years ago, a transformation occurred. Big-business organizations put their greasy, greedy mitts all over the peaceful gulf, using it as a means to transport every conceivable commodity: oil, steel, tourists, weapons, seafood, cargo, blah, blah, blah .

The secluded Gulf of Aden became littered with boats from all around the world that exploited and trashed the Somali waters. The tuna-rich waters started being run by commercial fishermen, whose boats and technology trumped the Somalis’, negatively impacting the amount of food Somali fishermen brought back to shore. And freight ships started spewing toxic waste into the water, killing the wildlife. In a New York Times report by Jeffrey Gettleman, Sugule Ali, a Somali pirate spokesman, offered this insight:

“We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.”

This is the modern day Robin Hood story. These pirates are nobly defending what is theirs while exposing the unjust practices of big business from all over the world. And in the process, they have started their own renegade business endeavor.

The Somali pirates have created a maritime turnpike, a brilliant concept. If you want to travel the roadway that takes you from one destination to the next the fastest, you pay a toll. Sure, you could take some back roads, use more gas and spend more time. Or you could grab a ticket, cruise at 70 mph down the turnpike and be where you need to be.

The pirates are the toll collectors. The Gulf of Aden is their turnpike.

If companies want to use the valuable waterway, destroying the aquatic ecosystem and robbing the Somali people of sustenance, they will pay. That’s all the pirates want: money. Ali said the pirates are not interested in selling weapons and enticing wars that have brought many years of suffering and destruction to their country. They just want the money.

Under the world’s microscope, the Somali pirates are portrayed as vandals. The U.S. military recently conducted a sniper mission, killing three teenage pirates, to free an American ship captain. The pirates said this would be viewed as an act of aggression, as they did nothing to warrant the murders. This message sent the “civilized” world into a frenzy, conjuring thoughts of more wars with guerillas.

I’m happy for the pirates. I’m excited to see how their vigilante efforts reshape the global marketplace. I’m pleased to see reporters covering real news issues, not Octomom – again. These guys are putting the world in check, whether they know it or not. They are reminding people that there are two sides to every story, and maybe people should question the information force-fed to them by the corporate news bastards who sell fear and propaganda in the headlines.

Darren D’Altorio is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].