Comments Of The Day: Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh! [#1]

It took a while, but my complaint about the advertising world’s bizarre decision to make pirates the sole politically correct genre for innocent childsplay finally generated the intriguing commentary I hoped it would.

Here are two Comments of the Day on the topic, breached in Item #1 of the post, Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh!”

First up, Isaac:

Permit me a midnight rant about pirates.

Kids did not play pirates at any time before this Gen-Xer was born. Kids played sailors or soldiers, and the PIRATES WERE THE BAD GUYS. That is because pirates were (and are) indeed very bad guys.

Treasure Island is a realistic story about stuffy British Christian men (and a boy) defeating a gang of vile, godless pirates. Once the story gets going there are exactly zero female characters. I can see why the destroyers of culture who lord it over modern schools would find this “problematic.” But it just might be my all-time favorite book. Pirates are interesting, fascinating, and make for good stories. BUT THEY AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THE HEROES.

Even the least-murderous of real-life pirates still tricked innocent merchant vessels and robbed them by force. They still were known for spending their free time raping, drinking themselves to death, and spreading venereal disease. Within just the last few years, pirates off the coast of Somalia have been murdering entire ships’ crews, so it’s not as if there’s no modern frame of reference for understanding why they generally shouldn’t be cast as heroes, as you mentioned.

There was a funny but sad incident not too long ago told by a mom who had been to Disneyland. She took her son into a boutique in the park that styles up girls into princesses. They offered to do their equivalent service for the young man by making him into a pirate. The small child, who had more common sense and moral awareness than the entire Disney corporation, pointed out that pirates are bad guys, and insisted that he wanted to be a prince instead. There were no prince costumes.

There are now SEVERAL kids’ cartoons in which kids “play pirate,” mostly thanks to the Disney movie. One of them is “Jake and the Neverland pirates” which doesn’t even make any sense in the context of Peter Pan. A character on this show said to his tiny audience, at one point, and I quote, verbatim, “A good pirate never takes anyone else’s property.” And they were serious.

The elephant is there in the room from that very first film. Jack Sparrow proves himself to be “a good man” and the moral (such as it is) is that even a pirate can be good. And so, at the end of the film, “good man” Jack gets his ship and crew back and sails off into the sunset too…do what, exactly? Sail the world looking for beached whales to rescue? Hunt for lost treasure to return it to its rightful owner? The next several movies twist themselves into knots to avoid having to give the obvious answer to this question: the only way to be a pirate is to, you know, commit piracy. It’s right there in the name.

I wonder if 50 years or so would be sufficient time for Disney to train kids to “play terrorist.” Just make a wacky movie about an eccentric jihadist who turns out to have a heart of gold.

Now here’s Pirate Comment of the Day #2, from Jeff:

Okay, it’s a freaky coincidence that you bring up kids playing pirates, Jack, because just the other day I thought of writing to you about something the neighbor kid was playing with in his front yard. He had on a costume pirate’s hat and was looking at a piece of paper that looked like an old-timey newspaper. I asked to see what he was reading, and it’s something that came with the pirate costume/toy set, and it’s titled “Pirate Code of Ethics”. Talk about whitewashing history – pirates are not exactly known to be deeply ethical people, right? I’ll have to see if I can borrow it from him and scan it to send you a copy. Perhaps you can add the “Pirate Code of Ethics” to your list of codes and credos.

It’s endlessly amusing to me to watch the neighborhood boys in the 5-10 year old range desperately want to play gun-based scenarios with each other, like we used to play “army” or “cops and robbers”, but they aren’t allowed to. But that urge is so deeply hardwired, the boys find other games that circumvent the letter, but not the spirit, of their anti-gun parents’ rules. I laughed out loud once when I saw two of them chasing each other around with sticks that happened to be shaped roughly like pistols, playing a game they call “point”, in which they point these sticks at each other. They’re not guns, you see, because the boys never say the forbidden G-word. They’re just pointing! They’ll carry the sticks in makeshift holsters crafted out of ropes and belts, but they’re definitely not guns.

They don’t let them have toy guns, of course, but some of the Lego sets come with guns for policemen or soldier characters. I’ve noticed that hese tiny pistols sometimes get used for games of “point” when supervision is lax.

These kids are going to grow up to be inordinately fascinated with guns because of this idiotic taboo being imposed on them. The fastest way to make your kid obsess about something is to forbid it. Do people who are raising children today not have any memories of their own childhoods?

I often wonder what these folks would think if they knew that my wife and I have a whole safe full of guns in our home, and that we frequently shoot them for recreation and fun.


7 thoughts on “Comments Of The Day: Ethics Dispatches From The Sick Ward, 5/26/2020: Arg! Yechh! [#1]

  1. Jeff – thank you for your comment.

    Yesterday, I was witness to a conversation between my 85 year old mother and my 22 year old son about firearms; the ones my son currently owns and the ones my mother grew up using. There was no drama, no pearl clutching, no politics; just a conversation about hunting, responsible gun ownership, and land stewardship.

    I also remember a conversation I had with a former boss. He kept firearms in his home. He taught his children how to load the guns, handle the guns, take them completely apart and put them back together. His reasoning? They were no longer curious. They knew exactly how guns worked, the damage they could do, and how to handle them responsibly.

    Great comment. Thank you.

    • As a kid in the ’80s, I was fascinated with guns. All of my toys were GI Joe or other “violent” toys, and every movie and TV show I watched had plenty of gunfights. By the time I was 10 or 11, they were making these replica cap guns that looked essentially indistinguishable from real guns, and my friends and I had a massive arsenal of them. I also grew up around family that hunted, and once you’ve seen a dead deer with its lungs liquified from a 12-gauge slug, you learn that firearms are to be respected, and yes, even feared a little (I’m equally respectful of my table saw, because I’ve seen what it can do when things go wrong). So as a kid, I knew from an early age that the “gun play” we were engaged in was fantasy, and that the reality of the things we were pretending was far more horrible than our games portrayed it.

      That little bit of fear, based on the reality of what a gun or power tool can do, is necessary to safely operate them. The abject terror of guns that some people seem to have is, in my opinion, not useful at all, and trying to instill such a fear in a child is asking for trouble Your former boss had the right attitude. A friend of mine has a similar policy – he’s told his kids that they are absolutely forbidden to touch anything of his that’s gun-related without permission, but if they ever want to touch, clean, hold, or shoot them, all they have to do is ask, and he’ll supervise it. He rarely gets requests to see the guns, and I’m confident there’s no chance the kids would ever touch one in his absence. They’re locked up, anyway, but even if they weren’t, they’re just objects to his kids, not forbidden fruit.

      Attempting to use Irrational fear to motivate behavior in people is a bad idea, because it frequently produces counterproductive results. The current pandemic situation provides numerous instructive examples…

  2. I rewatched the first (or second?) Johnny Depp pirates movie, and when the panned across the Jamaican coast decorated with the rotting corpses of hanged pirates, etc, I couldn’t help but think what else was the Royal Navy supposed to do with a pirate?

    • It’s the third movie where the East India Company hangs random civilians (including children) who have connections to piracy just to show how EVIL they are (and how DARK and EDGY Disney can be).

      And yes I’ve had irrationally personal beefs for these movies for over a decade. I think it’s the wasted story potential that got to me.

  3. pointed out that pirates are bad guys, and insisted that he wanted to be a prince instead. There were no prince costumes


    This boy is a chosen one! He will ride in shining armor at the front of the army which will usher in the reign of the Great French Monarch under the Angelic Pope!

    They taught boys not to be princes, then they showed girls how far beneath their expectations boys had become as an excuse for them both to lower themselves. This boy is the antidote. I bet he slays pirates and heretics and rescues princesses while at play. Instead of guns, he favors a gleaming cruciform sword.

  4. In law school, I took an admiralty law course. Fascinating. I didn’t know that international law allows ships to fire on pirate vessels without consequence, and that flying flags of registration are strictly applied to vessels on the high seas.


    • Don’t those same laws generally prohibit commercial and private ships/boats from carrying needed defensive firearms?

Leave a Reply to Benjamin Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.