Monday, May 28, 2007

Piracy: It's a CRIME!

If you'd be thinking that I was talking about internet piracy...

Ya be mistaken. I be talking "Yo-ho-ho, a Pirate's life for me"—for last night I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the final episode in the trilogy.

If you be thinking now that I'm going to do a review with lots of spoilers....

I say, there be far too many reviews of it already—and why add another drop to the ocean, another grain of sand to a desert, another breath to the hurricane, another spark to the fire, another pirate to crew of the Flying Dutchman? Suffice to say, that I thoroughly enjoyed it, its dark undertone and the ironic symmetries. Really, it wasn't for kids, but more for young adults, by which I mean adults young at heart.

Went to see it in the evening, at 1930h. It clocked in at about three hours, which meant it wasn't done until 2230h. Three hours of incessant action and movement, images and sounds. When I came out of it, into a quiet 2230h Dunedin Monday night—it gets kinda quiet on Mondays at that time—it had a surreal quality about it. The reasons came to me immediately, and they had to do not only with the fact of the almost sudden quietness, but also with two important visual dissonances between movie world and urban reality world.

For in the movie there wasn't really a straight line in sight—except in a few instances, when it actually stood out. Nor was most motion smooth and even—again, except in a few instances where it stood out. But in the quiet evening of Dunedin, despite the trees on the Octagon, just about everything consisted of shapes delimited by straight lines, with maybe a few rounded corners and that was that. And the traffic flowed smoothly, and besides, cars on paved roads/streets tend to be confined at least in one dimension to what approximates a straight line closely enough. In addition, the view was clear enough, as it often is in Western style cities, and straight lines were visible over sufficient stretches, if you will, to make them the most prominent feature aspects of environmental design.

The same went for the sounds. Hans Zimmer et al's unrelenting film score contrasted with the comparatively even, you might say predictable to the brink of 'boringly so', sounds of a basically sleepy small city.

And there was something else, something more subtle and not directly visual, and it had to do with...well, 'order'; the following of some kind of authority's dictates—in this case the authority of Dunedin's civilized everydayness, and the prescriptions of how things should proceed 'normally'.

Pirates, whoever and whatever they were—and in some places of the world still are, namely thieves, robbers and often murderers—in many ways epitomize anarchy, and therefore just the opposite to what I confronted when stepping outside the cinema. The irony is, of course, that as a society and within their own groupings, pirates are just as authority-ridden as anybody; only the rules are different and enforced in ways not usually applied in 'civilized society'; though one could argue that point, I guess. In PotC (all of them) there was 'The Code', variously interpreted as either just a system of 'guidelines', or else as something of supreme compulsion; depending on how whim and circumstances dictated.

Still, by and large, 'Pirates' are all about thumbing their noses at or actively trying to subvert a system or systems of comparative and usually well-established and often complacent order. Which is, of course, a lot of the attraction of PotC, because the contrast is enhanced and constantly held up for everyone to see. For some of us this is exhilarating. For the likes of me, who always had and continues to have severe 'issues' with any kind of imposed authority—and especially the kind that appears to have little or no or at best contrived merit—it's about the best fun I can have.

Authority is a strange animal, and it's no accident that those who sent Mac and the boys to Tethys were called 'The Authority'. Thin disguise, I know, but so sue me. Every now and then I like to hold things up on placards. But it's always riled me, because from my youngest days—at least those I can recall—my resistance to being told stuff was profound; although I often did do as told, because that tended to lull whatever 'authority' there was into a false sense of security where they would just leave me alone to do things on the sly.

Probably the daftest thing I remember being told when young—and it's even dafter looking at it today—was something that strikes me as archetypically German: In order to issue orders you first have to learn to obey them. If that isn't the most sweeping blanket justification for bossing people around ever, I don't know what is. Maybe 'because God says so' comes close. Maybe. For there are only these basic reasons to follow orders: because a) they are given by someone whose judgment one has reason to trust, b) they are given by someone who will punish you in some way if you don't, c) one has for whatever reason agreed to allow someone to issue orders over oneself, or d) whatever is ordered makes good sense to begin with in one's own judgment.

I have never yet met a person, entitled to actually order me about, to whom (a) applies—except maybe in a very limited context, like when training at the dojo; and even then I have been known to decline compliance with instructions that I thought would, for example, be detrimental in some way to me or others. In normal life, there are shitloads of the (b) type around, from the tax department to employers. The (c) kind is usually found in 'authority' situations, where there are agreed-upon and established command structures that one either volunteers for or gets drafted into; or even if one, say, gets onto a ship or plane, where a procedural command structure is implicitly agreed upon. The (d)-type is just a formality, really; as well as, for some folks, an issue of ego and pride, which sometimes makes them do stupid things when they really know better, just because someone told them what they would have quite sensibly done anyway. Ahh, yes, human nature and all that.

In order to issue orders you first have to learn to obey them.

You know, what really puzzles me about this, is not the issue of its 'validity'. The proposition makes no sense from beginning to end and whichever angle you look at it from. What I do wonder about though are the thought processes and the sets of assumptions required to make someone believe this. Of course, one could just dismiss it as self-serving nonsense. However, I'd like to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they actually believe what they're saying and that there's some kind of logical framework behind all this.

Or maybe there really isn't. Maybe why something is being said in this instance really is the determining factor for why it is being believed.

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