"…the comprehensively-informed master venturers of history who went to sea soon realized that the only real competition they had was that of other powerful outlaws who might also know or hope to learn through experience 'what it is all about.' I call these sea mastering people the great outlaws or Great Pirates — the G. P.'s — simply because the arbitrary laws enacted or edicted by men on the land could not be extended effectively to control humans beyond their shores and out upon the seas." ~R. Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth
Here at our corporate headquarters, we are celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day. Unlike our original pirate namesakes, the booty we collect will all be going for a good cause—the United Way. But those who first acquired the necessary broad and cross-disciplinary knowledge to successfully traverse the seas, where they were subject to no laws of the land, saw a profit-making opportunity as near-limitless as the sea horizons.
One of history's most influential futurists and sustainability experts, Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller, describes these Great Pirates (GPs) in the second chapter of his famous work, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. Under the chapter heading "Origins of Specialization," Fuller elaborates on how, unlike our narrow-minded view of traditional pirates, these GPs arose in the course of human civilization, specialization, and technological progress:
Leonardo da Vinci is the outstanding example of the comprehensively anticipatory design scientist. Operating under the patronage of the Duke of Milan he designed the fortified defenses and weaponry as well as the tools of peaceful production. Many other great military powers had their comprehensive design scientist-artist inventors; Michelangelo was one of them…. Finally, the sea-dwelling Leonardos became Captains of the ships or even Admirals of Fleets, or Commandants of the Navy yards where they designed and built the fleets, or they became the commandants of the naval war colleges where they designed and developed the comprehensive strategy for running the world for a century to come. This included not only the designing of the network of world-around voyaging and of the ships for each task but also the designing of the industrial establishments and world-around mining operations and naval base-building for production and maintenance of the ships. This Leonardo-type planning inaugurated today's large-scale, world-around industrialization's vast scale of thinking.
In other words, Great Pirates are the forerunners of today's government-military-industrial complex! GP practices allowed for efficient profiteering on a truly global scale:
The Great Pirate came into each of the various lands where he either acquired or sold goods profitably and picked the strongest man there to be his local head man. The Pirate's picked man became the Pirate's general manager of the local realm. If the Great Pirate's local strong man in a given land had not already done so, the Great Pirate told him to proclaim himself king. Despite the local head man's secret subservience to him, the Great Pirate allowed and counted upon his king-stooge to convince his countrymen that he, the local king, was indeed the head man of all men ‹the god-ordained ruler. To guarantee that sovereign claim the Pirates gave their stooge-kings secret lines of supplies which provided everything required to enforce the sovereign claim. The more massively bejeweled the kings gold crown, and the more visible his court and castle, the less visible was his pirate master.
But what does all this have to do with that cornerstone of modern capitalism that is specialization? Fuller explains:
…the development of the bright ones into specialists gave the king very great brain power, and made him and his kingdom the most powerful in the land and thus, secretly and greatly, advantaged his patron Pirate in the world competition with the other Great Pirates.
But specialization is in fact only a fancy form of slavery wherein the "expert" is fooled into accepting his slavery by making him feel that in return he is in a socially and culturally preferred, ergo, highly secure, lifelong position. But only the king's son received the Kingdom-wide scope of training.
As we wrestle with critical global issues such as inequality, the exploitation of various peoples, and the plundering of this planet's very finite supply of natural resources, let us remember that piracy is very much alive in the present. Let us hope we are not all too overly-specialized to recognize and respond appropriately to the general, large, and critical problems we have created for ourselves. Only in partnering with nature and with each other can humanity thrive. Plundering and slaughtering should be relegated to history.
"Though the pirates are extinct, all of our international trade balancing and money ratings, as well as all economic accounting, in both the capitalistic and communistic countries, hold strictly to the rules, value systems, terminology, and concepts established by those Great Pirates." ~R. Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth