Week In Review: Pirate Party Parade

by by by Barry Elkinton, Stephen Carmody & Alex Ronan

Pirate Party
In case you missed it, September 19th was International Talk Like a Pirate Day, celebrated on social media sites around the world. As The Atlantic noted, although “ITLPD” is mostly dismissed as part of the “Internet Nerd Movement,” even some conservatives joined in the fun. Republican Congressman Dennis Ross of Tampa Bay took the opportunity to warn about the perils of Obama’s new deficit reduction plan, tweeting: “Perhaps the Pres misunderstood. It is TALK like a pirate day...not ACT like one. Watch ye purses & bury yr loot, the taxman cometh.” Oh, Florida.

In Germany, however, this eccentric holiday acquired special significance when, late on the evening of September 18th, the internet-driven Pirate Party claimed a massive victory in German regional elections, securing 15 seats in the Berlin state legislature. Standing on the steps of the parliament building, the newly elected Pirates looked like atypical legislators, sporting overalls, ponytails, and what appears to be a German reinterpretation of the do-rag. Nonetheless, with their commitment to a platform of net neutrality and purposefully nonsensical campaign slogans such as “Privatize Religion,” the Pirates were able to capture 8.9 percent of the vote as well as headlines around the world.

Founded in 2006, the German Pirate Party is part of a European-wide Pirate movement, organized under the Pirate Parties International association. Although they have been dubbed the “Internet party,” the Pirate platform is actually quite broad. Apart from efforts to protect online data, fight Internet censorship, and legalize file sharing, the Pirates support the legalization of soft drugs, guaranteed minimum incomes, and free public transportation. Although the Pirates have gained widespread media for their outlandish proposal to host the illegal Pirate Bay file sharing website and its servers inside the Swedish parliament building, the Berlin elections represent the first major electoral gains by the Pirate Party in Europe.

The Pirates’ surprise electoral success is yet another indication that Germans are extremely dissatisfied with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right governing coalition, which has gotten clobbered in six successive regional elections. Currently, Germany remains mired in the Eurozone financial crisis, and there is talk that internal discord within Merkel’s government may lead to the collapse of the coalition.

More significantly, the Pirate success reveals that traditional liberal parties in Germany are struggling to meet the needs of young, liberal Germans. With Germans spending an increasing amount of time online, the Pirates seem to have tapped into a demographic that views online issues as paramount, and the older generation as out of touch. Charles Hawley of Der Spiegel attended the post-election celebration of the Pirates at a Berlin discothèque, and describes a telling scene. As the Pirates watched television coverage of their electoral coup, they broke out in laughter when Renate Künast, the leading candidate of the liberal Green Party, described her party as “internet-savvy.” Immediately a spontaneous chant filled the room. “You are old! You are old!”

It is unclear if the Pirates are simply an expression of the anti-establishment fervor in Germany or if they intend become a serious force in German politics. Regardless, they certainly seem ready to enjoy their newfound success – multiple newspapers noted that the Pirate post-election party was quite lively. But the Pirates are talking big, as pirates tend to do. “We're not merely trying to push political issues,” said Pirate Party leader Sebastian Nerz to Deutsche Welle. “We want to change the way politics are shaped in Germany.”

Deep What!?
The revised version of the Grey Book—the founding manifesto of Deep Springs College—should read, “Ladies and gentlemen, for what came ye to the wilderness?” L.L. Nunn’s progressive two-year institution in the California high desert, after 94 years of existence as all male, will become co-educational.

Having spent two years there myself (away from “kid excitement and the picture shows,” as Nunn put it) before coming to Providence, I wasn’t surprised when the coverage of this decision did not erupt into the mainstream public sphere. In part, this is because the college is tiny. Only 26 students attend at a time. The college has always kept a low profile, carefully maintaining a unique educational model in geographic isolation. Students at Deep Springs, besides engaging in seminar-style academics, also labor on the school’s ranch and farm, and help make administrative decisions for the college in a deliberative political body. At odds with this innovative model, the long-enforced policy of excluding women comes off as anachronistic. From the standpoint of social justice, the decision to change it seems like a no-brainer.

But at Deep Springs, previous discussions about going coed—among students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the school’s Board of Trustees—are remembered as traumatic. Co-education is a polarizing issue for some, and it had drawn rifts between the Board and the student body in the 1990s. Yet, when Dave Hitz, the current Chairman of the Board of Trustees, privately wrote to the Deep Springs community at large in late March of this year to explain that the Board would review the college’s policy again, he set the tone for careful and considerate discussion.

Over the summer, the Trustees elicited opinions from the alumni community, holding gatherings in major cities. At the Boston gathering, not many could articulate exactly what the all-male policy added to the experience of Deep Springs, but many worried that any major change could upset the “careful alchemy” of the school. For my part, the worries about co-education increasing the number of exclusive romantic and sexual relationships in such a close-knit community paled in comparison to the opportunity to spend the formative years of my life amongst both male and female peers. Having heard from alumni, parents, students, faculty, and past Presidents, the Board voted on September 15 to go coed.

The six-month process, startlingly fast for a group of people who love to carefully deliberate (read, talk and talk and talk), left some uneasy, even if they agreed with the change. The place we love and hate will be different, and the transition will seem abrupt. Deep Springers of the future (perhaps as soon as summer of 2013) may slide down the dunes naked less, and shower a little bit more. But in the end, irrigation lines will have to be moved, books will have to be read, and decisions will have to be made, by men and women who’ll shape the place for themselves.

Redhead Rejection
Ron Weasley is not a fad. In a blow to redheads everywhere, the world’s largest sperm bank, Cyros International, recently announced that redheaded sperm donors need not apply. Based in Denmark, Cyros International ships sperm to over 65 countries around the world. MSNBC spoke to Ole Schou, the director of Cyros International, who offered a terse, if predictable, explanation. “We have nothing against redheads,” he said, explaining that demand for carrot-topped babies is just low. According to Schou, requests for sperm from redheads typically come only from couples in which a redheaded male is sterile, or from single women with a preference for gingers. Schou adds that such requests are unlikely, “especially in the latter case.”

“Our stock is about to explode,” Schou said of the 140,000 doses of sperm from redheads in the bank’s freezers. Currently at full capacity with a waitlist of 600 potential donors, Cyros International announced on September 19th that they will no longer be accepting sperm from redheaded donors. The only exception is redheads with brown eyes, which doesn’t change much since evidence suggests they’re almost as rare as leprechauns. According to Schou, the only country with a reliable demand for sperm from redheads is Ireland, where it sells “like hotcakes,” as he explained to Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet. International House of Hotcakes declined to comment.

However, redheads aren’t the only donors collecting dust on the shelf these days. Despite evidence to the contrary in bars everywhere, blond haired blue-eyed sperm donors aren’t in high demand either. Although they’re not being turned down outright, Arian progeny-to-be are in lower demand at Cyros International than brown-eyed brunettes, which better satisfy the needs of their large customer base in Spain, Greece, and Italy. Tall dark and handsome wins after all.