Book Review: Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia
A book I never knew I would love so much (and a surprising connection to transformational soft-power in free software)
I plowed through David Gaeber’s Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Liberatalia 1 (Affiliate Link), and loved every minute. I’ve been a fan of Gaeber for years. I think I first saw some of his interviews after Occupy Wallstreet (It is claimed he coined “We are the 99%”) in the early 2010s, and followed his work ever since. I’ve also read Debt: The First 5000 Years and Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (Affiliate Links). So, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but I was wrong. This book is special, and I hope it inspires more research on the covered topics.
Graeber makes a compelling case that a complex social experiment in Madagascar might have been an egalitarian, pirate-infused proto-enlightenment that later inspired the European enlightenment in years to come.
The book analyzes contradictions, social framing, and hypotheses that make it entertaining and eye-opening. If true, It’s incredible to think that a form of “Pirate rule” egalitarianism mixed with the proud people of Madagascar might have created a legendary leader known as Ratsimilaho (his mother was Malagasy, and his father was a European Pirate). It’s also an incredible story of how people might change the world without hoarding power or lording over others.
The shape of this influence reminds me culturally of the free software movement and the shape of modern computing. While projects like Linux aren’t in “charge,” the radical form of egalitarianism has shifted our thinking of what software and software communities can be. In 200 years, the civilizational impact and legacy of Linux will far outlast that of Oracle or Microsoft.
I highly recommend the book; it’s less than 200 pages, or right around 5 hours in an audiobook (that’s how I consumed it, and the narrator is fantastic).
Notable Links of the Week
I’ve been hooked since I watched the original Marble Machine video in March 2016. Martin is amazing; his videos give us a glimpse into his creative journey.
This cracked me up—plausible absurd UI.
I am about halfway through this audiobook. It’s pretty short and has some good nuggets of wisdom in it. It’s more of an interview, but there is lots of wisdom.