A whole Party of Pirates? Aye, matey.

they start Pirates early in Northern Europe (photo source: tommyimages).

I’ll quickly deal with the Pirate Party. Easy answer: they’re sort of nuts, but not totally nuts. They are very much into net neutrality and free wifi for everyone. They’re in the regional government in Berlin and the traditional politicians are very irritated and not amused with them.

That should be a good thing, right? Well, yes and no. There’s a German word for that: ‘jein‘…ja and nein combined makes ‘jein‘. Cool, huh?

Other things the Pirates want: free trains for everyone. In Berlin, they want all public transport to be free. Period. Berlin’s a curious place by the way. Compared to the German average, the unemployment rate is astronomical. I’m pretty sure Bremen is higher and the rural areas of Eastern Germany, but Berlin is a major metropolitan/cultural centre…and there are a tonne of young people just hanging out. Nominally employed if not outright begging, and the Pirates are their people. Oh, and the nerds.

The Pirates are essentially the politically party you’d get if you rounded up all the players at a Dungeons and Dragons convention and asked them how they thought government should be run.

The newest thing I heard is that they want government IDs in the future to be printed without gender. I’m not sure what the point of that would be, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say it had to do with some wacky future-think that gender roles are the root of our problems. Oh, and to make gender-neutral people feel more comfortable. Uh, ok. Weirdos.

Having said all that, Germany has a history of minor parties gaining traction and becoming less minor parties. Because it’s a parliamentary system, you can be a minor party and still get some sort of say in the way things are run.

The best modern example is the Green Party. Unlike in the US, where the Green Party seems to be a glorified Marijuana Rights conglomerate, the German Greens came about as a political movement in 1968, were roundly loathed by the establishment parties, and then slowly but surely became a part of the political fabric (they weren’t actually a proper political party until 1990).

The Green Party‘s big issues have been protecting/saving the environment and getting Germany off of nuclear power. Over the last several decades, the former has become part of nearly every major party‘s platform. The latter was finally achieved (or is being achieved) when the German public freaked out at the events in Fukushima, Japan last year. The right-leaning conservative party (CDU/CSU) in power finally bowed to the overwhelming pressure that’d been building for roughly forty years and Germany has now vowed to go off of nuclear power.

Some experts say they’re insane for doing so, and there’s definitely a touch of ‘let’s show the world we can engineer this one‘ about it. However, that’s sort of my point.

This Party of Pirates? Are they a bit mad? Sure. They really are.

Do they have a clue how politics works? That’s debatable. It’s certainly naive and presumptuous to say you can succeed at politics without knowing how things are done. But naive and presumptuous are actually two of the things the Pirate Party has going for it.

not just for leaplings

Although it’s not a holiday, Leap Day is one of my favourite days of the year. Call it scarcity. Point your accusatory finger at me and remind me that it’s just another day of drudgery…nothing to get excited about.

Go ahead. You won’t temper my exuberance. It’s not that easy to do so anyway.

First let’s talk about why we even have Leap Day, and I’m going to let The Straight Dope do the honours when it comes to explaining this one in Why do we have leap years? The simplest explanation I can offer? A year isn’t actually 365 days, but roughly 365 1/4 days. If you didn’t add that day every four years, Christmas would inch earlier toward the solstice…in 200 or so years Yuletide would be in the middle of autumn, which come to think of it is when retail establishments already start celebrating it.

My friend Denise sent me a link about Leap Day traditions. Though I knew about the tradition of women asking men to marry them on this day, I didn’t know the history. And I quote:

‘According to an old Irish legend, or possibly history, St Bridget struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every 4 years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar.’

Doubt that one day’s going to balance anything much less traditional gender roles, but I suppose this isn’t hurting anyone. Well, except the poor schmucks who get cornered by their ladies. Here’s what I think about all of this (that is why you come here, after all):

If you really need to rely on such a convoluted tradition to get up the nerve to ask your man, you might be much more clueless than even you realised. Look, I know gender roles aren’t always easy to manoeuvre. And some women would never dream of asking a man out on a date – much less to ‘do me the honour’ and all that.

But if that’s your position, why does this one day every four years suspend the normal rules? That’s illogical.

Nevertheless, there is something alluring about one day somehow suspended outside of convention. And to go back to how I started all of this, maybe it’s the scarcity. The fact that this day only comes every four years. It does feel like something extraordinary. Even without the perfunctory marriage proposals.

What about people born on this day? What’s to be done with them? They have a name, you know? They’re called Leaplings. Nice, eh? Sounds so celebratory.

I knew a girl in school who was born on 29 February. We were all 20, while she was celebrating her fifth birthday. You’d think the jokes about liquoring up a minor would get old that night. You’d be absolutely right. The jokes were dreadful. But make them we did. Had she known about the tradition of proposing marriage on Leap Day, I’m sure she would’ve had her revenge then and there.

I know what I would’ve said.

‘I don’t care how well she holds her liquor, I’m not marrying a five-year old.’