21st century pirate – the rebel with a cause

Photo by Cezary Kukowka on Unsplash

Pirates didn’t just break the rules; they rewrote them. They didn’t just reject society, they reinvented it. Pirates didn’t just challenge the status-quo, they changed everyf*ckingthing” (Sam Conniff Allende, 2018).

This quote from the author of the 2018 best-selling book ‘Be More Pirate’ embedded in an email invitation to his workshop stole my attention.

48 hours later, armed with primary and secondary research and humour, Sam, the multi-award winning social entrepreneur, expertly stirred up energies, passions and inner rebels across the inhabited space. Methodically he dispelled engrained perceptions of pirates as bloodthirsty, uncivilised ‘enemies’ of humanity. Revealing instead, their true history as progressive role-models; pioneers of egalitarian achievements and social innovation.  Sam shared many modern pirate stories, which even included began-in-a-bedroom rebellions that have disrupted entire industries. He detailed disputes between the old order and new age rebels tired of being ignored, opting to do things their way. Pirate battles fought by Elon Musk, Malala, Banksy, Chance the Rapper and Teresa Shook lent weight to proceedings.

Breakout challenges required serious thought:

  • what would we be willing to die for?
  • as professional rebels, which rules would we ‘really want’ to break
  • reflection upon what stops or holds us back

In almost cinematic Pirate style, with great precision and authenticity, came the spine-tingling clarion call.  To be called to account and to action.

Pussy Riot in Swansea

In my mind I ambitiously crafted a lead role in a Welsh adaptation of ‘Pussy Riot’ (I refer to the outspoken Russian musicians/activists). Driven to arise, take charge of destiny, make use of my voice, to protest and to criticise the status quo. That evening I did indeed recruit others impacted by the same issues.

Days faded into weeks, and the momentum trickled away, interrupted by life and responsibilities. Equally, there was consistency in the pragmatic concerns of my new pirate crew of rushing in to take on establishment or issue. Sam, I note, was stilling waiting patiently in the wings for his recall back to Swansea, to partake in said rebellion.  I felt disappointed, with myself.

I revisited a favourite quote from the book ‘Inspired and Unstoppable’, “you are not made to fit into the world…but to remake the world, heal the world, and illuminate new choices and sensibilities” (Kieves, 2012).

I recognised I had to dig deep; to establish my robust inner pirate before addressing any cause, and before canvassing the support of others.

Codes and Stories – a pathway to action

I turned to ‘The Pirate Code 2.0’, and further influenced by Buster Benson of Cognitive Bias Codex and Codex Vitae fame, I began to commit my beliefs to print. And while I would not storm the power offices, I could unapologetically share my story! As storytellers are in fact system designers. Consciously or unconsciously, stories are powerful arguments for the systems they represent (Weise, 2016).

Set sail into the New World

Education is my passion. I don’t question the value of an education, but I do question what education and its various stakeholders do value. In a world of increasing digitisation, automation and artificial intelligence, education faces new responsibilities and challenges. Whilst appreciative of the funding battles faced across all levels of educational institution, there is an urgent need for a far more focused crusading determination to address the changes required to produce an education system fit for the 21st century, fit for our children. I am not alone, there are many good people with good intent ready for the battle.

An evolving Pirate Code

As a precursor to ‘respectfully facilitating’ an ambitious review of culture and values upheld or led by others, I invested time in producing my own Pirate code. Adopting, adapting, and adding to Sam’s pirate principles, the following were fashioned:

  • Seek out and live by the truth
  • Be part of the solution, not the problem
  • Question and understand the impact of own choices before questioning those of others
  • Be ‘oneself’ not someone else’s version
  • Embrace our non-conformist gene; it is a broker for innovation
  • Make no apology on challenging the status quo; use reason, and emotion if necessary
  • Embrace the emotion and the passion; harm neither your spirit nor soul in the process
  • Channel the leadership within oneself
  • Remain respectful yet yield neither to position nor hierarchy
  • Be continuously flexed for change, and to influence change;  explicit or implicit
  • There is no other day like today to make a difference
  • Popularity is a false god. Questioning the default will inevitably meet with opposition and criticism. Accept this, move on
  • Declutter and unchain from institutional busyness:  reclaim the freedom to ‘think’
  • Embrace diversity
  • Expose and rise above the self-absorbed and self-serving power-seeking cliques
  • Engage in purposeful storytelling, with responsibility
  • Take happiness seriously
  • Collaborate with other pirates; there are many committed to the cause

In short ‘Be More Pirate’!

We all have to find our comfortable version of being a pirate. I’m not ready to risk being arrested or front a revolutionary punk rock band, but I am excited to be part of a global pirate crew growing in numbers.

Unconscious connections

I turned back to those Russian girls, to look beyond the sensationalised print, and fell serendipitously upon a quote by one member, Nadya Tolokonnikova. BE A PIRATE. Look for the truth that explodes existing boundaries and definitions. Follow your instincts and you’ll get a chance to break prevailing rules so beautifully you may even end up establishing a new norm, a new paradigm. Nothing frozen is perfect”.

Maybe I am a Pussy Rioter after all. May I meet you out on the open seas of change!


Benson, B. (2012- present) ‘Beliefs: A living and dying record of my beliefs’ [blog]. Available at: https://buster.wiki/beliefs/  [Accessed 15/02/2019].

Conniff Allende, S. (2018) ‘Be More Pirate: Or How to Take On the World and Win’, Penguin: UK.

Tolokonnikova, N. (2018) Read and Riot: A pussy riot guide to activism’, Harper One, Stodder & Houghton: UK.

Kieves, T. J. (2012) ‘Inspired and Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work!’, Jeremy P Tarcher/Penguin: USA.

Weise, M. S. (2016) ‘Weaponised storytelling’ [blog]. Available at: http://outsideyourheaven.blogspot.com/2016/11/weaponized-storytelling.html [Accessed 12/04/2019].

10 Replies to “21st century pirate – the rebel with a cause”

  1. Well i’m getting my boots on and having a choosing my ship – i’ll read the book to develop my focus.
    Yes we are the ones in society who may not ‘norm’ into the paintwork we are more the – ‘they’re different’ in the public minds of many.
    A student gave me a parting gift she considered to be ‘me’ as a lecturer this was a plaque which said:
    ‘shape the future before others shape it for you’.
    Active not passive.
    i suggest that for ‘change to happen’ to ensure an equitable society ‘discomfort will happen’; Are we comfortable with such change? Are we able to say ‘i stand here’ or do we hide behind others.
    Well off to buy the text – fab sessions at Nexus conference – met like minded people and felt the energy of change.

    Liked by 1 person

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