Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pirates and Prohibition
…“A cadet shall not lie, steal, cheat or tolerate anyone who does.” It was a stern code, but I thought then and I think now, it is a good one. Since I took my oath as a cadet, I had tried to live by this code and thought, for the most part, I had lived up to its standards. In the barracks, we cadets were forbidden to lack our doors, and I had never lost a stick of gum or an M&M peanut nor had I taken one from another cadet.
My Losing Season, by Pat Conroy, p. 305, 2002

Some people are so awful that I wish I didn’t know about them.

I like Roger Ebert’s (journal) essay-blog, (to the right of his movie reviews) where his commenters are all civilized. And I like Ebert’s guest essays (below Ebert’s essays) from his “far flung correspondents.”

One fine guest, Michael Mirosal, was an expert on pacific Asia. Regarding movie piracy over there, he explained how the movie distribution system means that no art house or obscure movies are available, not unless pirated. Let me hasten to add that he was not justifying piracy, only explaining it. His calm writing reminded me of how if you would correct the behavior of an alcoholic, or a delinquent, then you must act as if they have neither conscience nor impulse control. For them you must speak in a computer voice, judgment-free, merely stating consequences.

So he wrote an expository, “I’m just trying to provide the bigger picture” essay with calm, clear explanations. But his awful commenters! They might just as well have been delinquents. Nearly all North American, nearly all middle class, meaning: rich and comfortable. None of them were overtly “poor but honest.” (Except me) By their comments the majority, who incidentally all but ignored the subject of Asians, raised their pirate flag: They expressed denial, frustration and anger, self-justification and hatred of “big” movie distributors. They were awfully twisted up.

One man –significantly only one person was overtly female— one man wrote bitterly that people who didn’t agree with piracy had no right to their library card. “If so, then burn your library card, you pirate.” What’s his problem?

Now, I grew up with Scotsman Andrew Carnegie’s name writ in sandstone over the entrance to the public library on Main Street. So maybe it’s easy for me to research how less-than-middle-class people, like my poor relatives, felt a need for Libraries Against the Darkness. Of course, holding a library card, it was also easy for me to research how the US prohibition of alcohol was against the wishes of the vast majority such as the grandmothers of my clan, little ladies who loved a little hot water with their whisky. Yet surely the middle class commenters would not have required any research. Surely their common sense alone would give them a sensible perspective on the "prohibition of piracy," and on the need for libraries where a dedicated citizen can find the classics of page and celluloid. Alas, no. Apparently these guys were “common sense challenged.”

Call me a straight John, but I believe “if you can do the crime,” as in piracy, “then you can do the time” as in take the time to acquire perspective. Instead I see I see twisted willful denial, anchored by willful resentment of “big” movie companies. The payoff? Self-permission to steal. I am reminded of my long ago youth, and a juvenile delinquent telling me it’s not stealing, it’s only shoplifting, because “I really wanted it!”

Moreover, I am reminded of a documentary on TV of a concert on the Isle of Wight from back in the 1960’s: I saw flower-loving singers pleading with people outside the fence to please allow those who had paid for the show to enjoy themselves. Unhappily, many people, people of the same sort of sentiments as the pirates who commented, wanted to wreck the concert for everyone because they “believed” the “big” concert promoters should allow them in for free. Such a careless “belief.” Call them self-willed.

Most importantly, I am reminded of my adult life where I have listened to the same sort of twisted uptight resentment expressed: I’ve listened to self-willed grown adults justifying their breaking the law to buy their drugs. Call it immaturity. Many an alcoholic in AA has pointed out, unhappily, his emotional growth stopped when he took that first drink. I’m sure folks in Narcotics Anonymous would say the same.

There is a word in the addictions field: “enabling.” Back in the 1960’s we had our flowers, yes, and we had more bomb threats, (people forget how common bomb threats were) and more bombings, than in the decade before or after. This was partly our own fault because we enabled. Just as, from what I can see, the Arab community enables cross-border bombings. (There is nothing more enabling than letting extremists see you dancing for joy after the violence on 9/11) I doubt anyone in Pakistan organized peace protests after Pakistanis crossed the border to shoot up the Indian financial district… To make sure I was not enabling pirates, then, besides writing an essay… I too commented.

On the flip side, against enabling, there was a Beatles single encouraging someone to achieve perspective on bombing. “You say you want a revolution, well you know…”

Am I saying there should never be resentments of “big?” Not quite. Old Benjamin Franklin was right to be against the big British Empire, but his feelings were not twisted into resentments. While transparently enlisting the cooperation of others, he made great efforts, suffering great risk of death by hanging. Him I respect. I like the poor working class lad who, instead of flopping on the couch, organizes a ball game in a vacant lot, or who enlists help to put on a movie festival that all can enjoy. He too achieves respect in my eyes. As for those wimpy self-justifying American pirates, them I will neither enable nor respect.

To put it plainly: I don’t want my niece to marry one of them.

Sean Crawford
On the Great Plains
April 2012
Footnotes on Prohibition:
~Coincidentally, I live in cattle country and it was on an old black and white TV western, Bonanza, that I saw author Charles Dickens coming to the Ponderosa ranch and educating the hardworking frontiersmen.
He said copyright theft was like rustling.
(note: the link is to a computer web-magazine column by one of my favourite writers, David Gerrold.)

The pirates try to justify themselves by saying, "prohibition has never worked:"

~Responsibility is golden. I explained the responsible normal political process of dialogue and compromise in my essay Greens and Sound Bites of March 2011.

No such responsibility was felt by the US folks of the movement to legislate prohibition of alcohol. On the body politic, these guys were nothing but bloody parasites.
They “couldn’t give a care” about all the other the grave issues facing the republic, only about their single issue. They didn’t care to stress themselves over how to achieve the common good. When voting, they didn’t care how any politician stood on any other issue.

And just as the public understood that campaign promises…

(You have to promise in order to compete, lest skeptical voters say you are too naïve to govern, too naïve to realize your constituency includes the sort of people who enable e-mail spam)

…are not the same as promises made after an election, in a constituency office, so too did the public understand their representatives were constrained by the swing vote of the parasites.

There is at least one known case of a politician publicly drinking alcohol on the same day the law was passed-- with the consent of his constituents. Granny was not accustomed to heroin, but she was sure accustomed to her whisky. “Prohibition never works” is true when prohibition is manipulated by parasites.

~Meanwhile, prohibition of DDT is working well, even as bedbugs are making their huge comeback in America. Despite Granny’s itchy self-interest in blasting those pesky bugs, she respects the law.

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