Why Pirates

What has become of the social contract that binds us all together?
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As hopes for civil peace lay in tatters, many furiously attempt to stitch back together contracts of old: Expectations between the rulers and the ruled, and between 20th Century concepts of work and rewards. I applaud those who seek to reform the institutions that comprise our collective “ship of state.” After all, we all live aboard this ship. This is especially crucial now, since a growing number are ready to abandon it and the other large, faceless institutions: The ones that run and, perhaps, ruin our lives. And yet, in our flight from the tyranny of scale, I can't help but ask the question, “Are we lost at sea?”
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With climatic and political uncertainty, I encourage you to think like pirates.
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In 1588 in England, “Queen Elizabeth's Pirates” defeated the Spanish Armada, once deemed “too big to fail.” Fail it did! A ragtag navy from a second rate nation — England — defeated the impenetrable Armada. In the 18th century, pirates carved out “zones of freedom” in the Caribbean, in resistance to empire and the slave trade. Though imperfect, these examples of agile and human-scaled organizing provide useful metaphors for today's opponents to the tyranny of scale.

Every Saturday morning across the globe, umbrellas unfurl to forge new social and commercial ties between urban and rural people at farmers markets — ancient yet reinvented instruments that animate public space, provide shoppers with choice and farmers with new allies.  In his essay, “Why the Food Movement Is Unstoppable,” Jonathan Latham describes how food movement differs from others: Rather than a coherent ideological construct, we encounter the food movement via a series of often unconnected experiences that bring more choices into our lives. Consider the rise and presence of community gardens and kitchens, CSAs, food trucks, start-ups and more. Today, they may ubiquitous with contemporary life, but, not long ago, they simply did not exist. Beneath the behemoth of industrial life, an alternative emerges, reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Future is being forged by ordinary people who seek some sense of autonomy in their lives. And that's just int he realm of food! Think beyond food: What about the inexplicable rise of book clubs, cohousing, Little Free Libraries, and giving circles?

Whereas pirates are known for disrupting trade routes, they also create new ones. Join me. Together, let's navigate these unchartered waters to search for intimate and agile “zones of freedom” that yield the revolution of everyday life.


  1. So glad I stumbled across this today (and that @DarWolnik gave you a shout out on her blog). You have given a structure to my frequent inchoate thoughts on this subject, namely, how might we make changes to our food system that reflect a deeper set of values and psychological/emotional needs that are rarely satisfied in our increasingly transactional society. Here's to restoring the human dimension and expanding options for exercising personal autonomy in realistic and achievable ways


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