Yo Ho Ho
I wish this story was from the Onion, but it's from the New York Times.
On April 11, French commandos went in with guns blazing and captured a gang of pirates who days earlier had hijacked a luxury cruise ship, the Ponant, and held the crew for ransom. This was the French solution to a crime wave that has threatened international shipping off Somalia; those of us who have been on the business end of a pirate’s gun can only applaud their action.
The British government on the other hand, to the incredulity of many in the maritime industry, has taken a curiously pathetic approach to piracy. While the French were flying six of the captured pirates to Paris to face trial, the British Foreign Office issued a directive to the once vaunted Royal Navy not to detain any pirates, because doing so could violate their human rights. British warships patrolling the pirate-infested waters off Somalia were advised that captured pirates could claim asylum in Britain and that those who were returned to Somalia faced beheading for murder or a hand chopped off for theft under Islamic law.
When we use the expression 'the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath;, or when we say "the Constitution is not a death pact" it is convey the idea that laws and customs are meant for substantive ends, not merely procedural ones. Cures which kill the patient and laws which empower criminals are alike in that sight of the ultimate object of the exercise has been lost.
The urge to stand above the grime and gunpowder sometimes obscures the historical fact that police forces must sometimes become a little like their enemies in order to effectively fight them. The Duke of Wellington when asked about his troops understood they were the scum of the earth and once said, "I don't know if they scare the enemy, but by God, they scare me." And when we think of Johnny Depp swashbuckling through the Carribbean, it's good to remember that the British Tars who pursued them were no shrinking violets themselves. The men themselves were cut from the same cloth, even if the actual clothes they wore were different. This connection was memorialized in the institution of the Tot of Rum.
Rum's association with piracy began with English privateers trading on the valuable commodity. As some of the privateers became pirates and buccaneers, their fondness for rum remained, the association between the two only being strengthened by literary works such as Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.
The association of rum with the British Royal Navy began in 1655 when the British fleet captured the island of Jamaica. With the availability of domestically produced rum, the British changed the daily ration of liquor given to seamen from French brandy to rum. While the ration was originally given neat, or mixed with lime juice, the practice of watering down the rum began around 1740. To help minimize the effect of the alcohol on his sailors, Admiral Edward Vernon directed that the rum ration be watered down before being issued, a mixture which became known as grog. While it is widely believed that the term grog was coined at this time in honor of the grogram cloak Admiral Vernon wore in rough weather, the term has been demonstrated to predate his famous orders with probable origins in the West Indies, perhaps of African etymology (see Grog). The Royal Navy continued to give its sailors a daily rum ration, known as a "tot," until the practice was abolished after July 31, 1970.
Other histories say the reason for watering down rum was to prevent the sailors from hoarding their daily shots against one rip-roaring binge which if it ever got under way even the Royal Marines would be pressed to put down. But such were the men who cleared the seas of pirates, with precious little technological advantages. Maybe Wellington had a point.
Fifteen men on a dead man's chest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.
The mate was fixed by the bosun's pike
The bosun brained with a marlinspike
And cookey's throat was marked belike
It had been gripped by fingers ten;
And there they lay, all good dead men
Like break o'day in a boozing ken
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.
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