What Lies Beneath
Published in

What Lies Beneath

Pirates = permission

by Alex Barker, Right Hand Pirate to Sam Conniff Allende, author of
Be More Pirate: Or How To Take On The World And Win

If there’s one phrase we’ve heard in response to Be More Pirate, it’s that it gives people permission. Permission to speak up, to tell the truth or to do something they were previously afraid of doing. It provides a language and an opportunity to reclaim the power they didn’t even know was absent.

It’s common, particularly in the public and voluntary sectors, to talk about power sharing as part of a ‘strategy’ to improve XYZ. The risk here is that we assume everyone understands what constitutes power, and where it lies.

There’s often a narrow focus on sharing traditional power: wealth, status, or authority, while ignoring subtle, or more informal means of wielding power. You can give someone a more senior role with more money and more influence, but if they’re still afraid to give themselves permission to change what really matters, then you have only shared responsibility, not power.

So, if what we’re seeking is impact, we have to look at power more broadly. Power is our ability to get things done. It’s not fixed. It’s not solely internal or external either. It can be everywhere or nowhere. So you must first find it.

Start by asking yourself this: when did you first feel your power to make a dent in the world? By answering this question you recall what triggered a feeling
of strength as a child. Was it about standing up to a particular person? Protecting someone else? Winning a battle with a teacher? Rescuing your pet?

By understanding where and when your own power first made itself known, you have a better chance at connecting to your natural strengths.

Now think to the present day:
— Write down five people you’d trust with your lif
— Name a space or place that you go to frequently, out of choice
— Write down the last thing that caused you to shout in defiance

The first group are the people who have your back — power can come from a sense of security.

The space you go to, is a place that uplifts you. Power exists in the physical environment, so pay attention to the places you work, live and play.

The thing you shouted about is something you care about -power comes from certainty- knowing what you believe in and knowing what hurts.

This all might sound trivial in the face of bigger systemic struggles, but if you don’t know where power exists at the micro level, you cannot seize it, use it or share it with others.

As there is an increasing need for social movements in the face of the climate crisis and the breakdown of traditional political leadership, the ability to build strong connections, momentum and meaning among strangers is a force to be reckoned with.

This is what pirates did. Their policies of equal say and equal pay would not have worked had each individual not also given themselves permission to call themselves pirate and take part in the rebellion. Their real power came not from treasure stolen or battles won, but from the new names they granted themselves, the skull and crossbones symbol that defined a new space. From the code that gave them something to believe in and shout about, and the crew who were bound by it to have each other’s back.

Pirates = permission = power.

This content originally featured in the magazine Power, which is free to download here: http://bit.ly/CRIN-Power

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Exploring bold ideas on big issues which - whether we know it or not - affect children and young people.

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