When I go through these readings, I always think about how they connect to today. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as the French might say. Although maybe not Foucault, I’m not sure.
William Fly and his crew called themselves “Gentlemen of Fortune,” as we talked about last night. They were in it for the money, yes, but fortune also has another meaning: luck. And the thing about luck is that it always runs out, usually pretty quickly. Fly wasn’t just ready to face death when he went to the gallows; he was ready when he started the mutiny. It was easy for him to say to Mather “Screw you. You can kill me, but you can’t break me.” The pirate plan was to make some good scores and enjoy it while it lasted, knowing full well that it wouldn’t. Even though it wouldn’t last, it would have been better than working under Captain Green.
And it made me think of Freakonomics. Sudhir Venkatesh did some research into drug gangs in Chicago. In Freakonomics, he looked at the question, “If drug dealers make so much money, why do they still live with their moms?” The answer is they don’t make so much money – less than they could make at McDonalds, in fact. But unlike fry cooks, they stand a very good chance of being jailed, shot or killed (1 in 4). But people do it because there’s that 1 in a million chance that they’ll make it to the top of the game and make some good money before they get caught or killed. It’s better to burn out than it is to rust, as an aging folk-rocker might say.