Prof Cites Buccaneer Business

About the movie Captain Phillips, Mike Rivage-Seul, former professor of peace and social justice at Berea College, wrote that it was “mutatis mutandis” (a nice Latin flourish), in a column in the Lexington [Ky.] Herald-Leader of 23 November…sort of “all’s well that ends well.” He began with the wild-west Indians and transitioned into the Somalis’ piracy of the Maersk Alabama in 2009, sort of U.S. Cavalry morphed into the Navy Seals. He mentioned the main characters—Tom Hanks and Somali Barkhad Abdi—but that of the two the latter was splendid. Abdi emigrated with his family in 1999 to Minneapolis.

A small nit-pick: The professor claimed that “over-fishing in Somalia by factory ships from Europe and the U.S. has left tribal fishermen [presumably Somalis] without income.” Commercial fishing by the U.S. in Somalia—except in rivers and lakes—is impossible since Somalia, officially Muslim, is – yep – solid real estate, not an ocean. It even has a government that changes often as “tribal fishermen” vote the usual Islamic way, with bullets and machetes. Remember “Black-hawk Down?” Bill Clinton does.

Somalia lies on the Arabian Sea (north) and the Indian Ocean (south), the former measuring 1,491,127 square miles (average depth about 1.7 miles) and the latter a paltry 28,400,130 (average depth about 2.5 miles), meaning that the Somalis had only 29,891,257 square miles, roughly eight times the size of the U.S., in which to ply their trade in waters about two miles deep. Logical conclusion: The “tribal fishermen” had every right to resort to compensating circumstances, ergo, piracies and kidnappings, both lucrative substitutes for fishing in such cramped quarters.

Rivage-Seul: “The inattentive [folks like me…the great unwashed] will experience the simple catharsis afforded by such action thrillers.” He mentioned some things that in our “simple catharsis” we wouldn’t understand about the movie—globalization, national sovereignty and the military-industrial complex—presumably because we’re too dense. Wonder what a “complicated catharsis” might be? He didn’t say.

R-S launched into an explanation of “buccaneer business,” in which “multinational corporations act like lawless pirates” and generally create “noxious effects their investments have on local populations.” In domestic terms, he would cite Walmart and Target in places like Lexington and Berea…or maybe Bluegrass Field account its planes covering the great unwashed below with noxious jet-fuel exhaust/carcinogens.

Rivage-Seul, “Whether understood as such or not, Somalis [dense like us], ‘reparations’ could in effect be seized by attacking ships on the open seas.” Reparation is defined as “the act of making amends, offering expiation, or giving satisfaction for a wrong or injury.” So, the professor would insist that piracy is the fair—if illegal and bloody—way to go, the devil take the hindmost. He explained that it was just a highly financed buccaneer business competing with a more primitive poorly financed buccaneer business.

Then Rivage-Seul delivers the coup de grace by introducing the evil military-industrial-complex into the picture. Instead of the equally evil well-financed buccaneer businesses hiring their own mercenaries to protect their ships against the poverty-stricken Somalis they went begging to the U.S. military…maybe even to the (gasp) White House (at least in the movie), whereupon the Navy Seals (fanfare, please) in a wild and authentic operation freed the ship and Phillips while wasting some of the pirates.

Concluding his pièce de résistance, Rivage-Seul declared: “Hollywood can no longer portray Indians as savages.” Does this mean that others may do so? This completes the logical lineage, i.e., going from the wild-west “savages” through the rich business buccaneers through the poor business buccaneers through the sailors straight back to the “savages,” just the opposite of Custer’s last stand, wherein the “savages” (currently the defeated Somalis) prevailed.

Doubtlessly, “peace and social justice,” the professor’s area of expertise, comprise the compelling factor in Rivage-Seul’s essay, though one might say that “fighting fire with fire” was the operative element in the whole dustup. That somehow seems a bad fit for “peace and social justice.”

Strangely, Rivage-Seul finished with this sort of biased statement: “…the West has already been won, but the resources of Muslim tribals [sic] are still up for grabs.” (italics mine) Since the Muslim tribe-members comprise the poorly financed business buccaneers, one wonders what those resources are, especially since those Navy Seals have threatened to shut down the operation. Rivage-Seul’s intended message: Capitalism is BAD, even if it provides work for folks everywhere.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark