Outlaw Heroes, Drug Lords, and International Trade Part 2

Quenby Wilcox Having It All


As seen in Outlaw Heroes, Drug Lords, and International Trade – Part 1, outlaw heroes always become part of popular folklore within societies which are dominated by unequal and rigid structures. Even one of the most famous and legendary Heroes in American history, John Paul Jones—was seen by the British as nothing more than a rogue, traitor and pirate, as high-lighted in the book History of Paul Jones, The Pirate (1820),

One day Lord Selkirk, in his walks, observed a man locked up in one of the summer-houses, and looking out of the window. In the other young Paul [aka John Paul Jones] appeared, looking out of the corresponding window, which induced his lordship to enquire of the gardener why those lads were confined; to which the gardener replied, "My lord, I caught the rascal stealing your lordship's fruit. "But," says his lordship, "there are two of them; what has your son [John Paul Jones] done: is he also guilty?" Old Paul cooly replied, " Oh no, please your lordship, I just put him in for the sake of symmetry."

In this service he continued for some years, but at length being detected in certain knavish tricks, which would have entitled him to a situation in the summer-house, or some closer place of confinement, on other grounds than those of symmetry, he was dismissed from the employ of Lord Selkirk. And now being at liberty to follow the bent of his inclination, being of a wild and ardent disposition, he betook himself to a sea-faring-life, for which his habits, and the experience he had gained by a long residence near to a sea-port, had well prepared him. He commenced his naval career as a common sailor, in which subordinate situation he did not remain long, for his talents still rendered him conspicuous, and he was appointed mate; and having made several voyages to the West Indies as common sailor and mate he was at last appointed master of a vessel...

Shortly after the rupture between Great Britain and America, he happened to be at Piscataway, in New England, and being prompted partly by a spirit of revenge, and partly by the prospect of plunder in predatory warfare offered by the approaching war, he was induced to desert his national standard, and enlist under that of the revolutionists; and on this account he changed his name from John Paul to that of John Paul Jones....

The appearance of the pirate Jones in such a formidable ship in the Frith of Forth, had excited the greatest alarm; and the Lords of the Admiralty, Jones, eluding the vigilance of British cruisers, escaped to Dunkirk, having on board with him the celebrated Captain Gustavus Cunningham, who, like Jones, in the disturbances with America, had taken an early and active part against his country, and rendered himself obnoxious to the British government, until he was taken in an armed cutter, and carried into New York. The Americans perceiving the danger to which he was then exposed, tried every means in their power to obtain his release... Cunningham was sent to Falmouth in July, 1799, and lodged in the castle; but in a short time he effected his escape by digging out under the foundation of the castle, and got over to France, where he met with Jones, with whom he sailed for Corunna...

As seen in the text above, digging tunnels out of their confinement appears to be a common tactic for outlaw heroes in their continual efforts to liberate themselves. However, the description of John Paul Jones by the British is in stark contrast to the more serious and humanitarian side of Jones in the account given by American Rear Admiral, Samuel Eliot Morison in his book John Paul Jones: A Sailor's Biography[2],

The fight between Bonhomme Richard and Serapis had lasted between three and three-and-a-half hours. The British frigate was in a deplorable condition; her spars sails and rigging were cut away, and dead and dying men lay about her decks. But the state of Richard was even more frightful... The timbers of her lower deck from the mainmast aft, "being greatly decayed with age, were mangled beyond my power of description," observed Jones in his "Narrative" of the battle, "and a person must have been an Eye Witness to form a Just idea of this tremendous scene of Carneg, Wreck and ruin that Every Where appeared. Humanity cannot but recoil from the prospect of such finished horror, and Lament that War should be capable of producing such fatal Consequences.

This last statement was perfectly sincere. Paul Jones, like many of the greatest admirals and generals of the English-speaking nations, loved fighting but hated war. He shared the belief of eighteenth-century philosophers that war was an outmoded and barbarous method of settling international disputes, and hoped that the particular conflict in which her happened to be engaged would be the last. The gods willed otherwise.

When Morison's book was first published in 1959 my grandmother and her sister (maiden names Paul) were discussing John Paul Jones and the book. My grandmother said "I don't know if I can approve. John Paul was in reality, a Rogue." And her sister, Aunt Ma, responded "Oh, I think he was the most dashing man I have ever heard of..." Once again, showing that as usual beauty (and reality) lies in the eye of the beholder.

But, perhaps in any kind of socio-anthropological analysis of the Robin Hood (aka Superman) phenomenon in a society it is important to examine how oppression works with organizational systems of all sizes. Lundy Bancroft, expert in working with perpetrators of domestic abuse, and author of Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men provides some insight,

If you look at any oppressive organization or system, from a racist country club up to a military government, you will find most of the same behaviors and justifications by the powerful... The tactics of control, the intimidation of victims who try to protest, the undermining of efforts at independence, the negative distortions about the victims in order to cast blame upon them, the careful cultivation of the public image of the oppressors—all are present, along with many other parallels. The people in power generally tell lies while simultaneously working hard to silence the voices of the people who are being dominated and to stop them from thinking, just as the abusive man strives to do. And the bottom line is the same: Oppressive systems stay in existence because the people in power enjoy the luxury of their position and become unwilling to give up the privileges they win through taking advantage of other people and keeping the down. In short, the abusive mentality is the mentality of oppression.

In this type of dynamic it is not surprising that legendary Robin Hoods become heroes for oppressed populations. So perhaps in examining outlaw heroes as a social phenomenon (a necessity in developing prevention measures), it is important to examine why rich and poor populations are the most likely to break laws in the first place, with insight provided in Is Shame Necessary? New Uses for an Old Tool –noting that shame and guilt are the two most powerful social deterrent in all of our societies,

For some, it is easier to endure shame because the financial benefits of their behavior simply outweigh the cost of being shamed. "Those people who are most likely to defy social norms and risk shaming sanctions, even within close-knit societies, are the very rich and the very poor," wrote Toni Massaro. The rich are insulated by their wealth", and the poor have "less 'social standing' to lose."... Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov was convince he was a "great man" and therefore could commit a crime without receiving the punishment... This links back to not feeling a part of a group and instead feeling above or beyond it.