About a week ago, I spent a day simply chilling out in Decon: not hunting, not even thinking of popping the odd pilot who passed through occasionally. I made safespots; I probed out a few of the clutches of lost and abandoned drones which litter the system; I lazed in space simply because it was quiet and I could.
Towards the end of the evening, as I was preparing to turn in for the night, a rookie pilot entered the system. I'd spotted her a bit earlier on the scanner: fresh out of the academy a couple days before, flying a Velator and spending long minutes in a belt. One thing I try not to do is attack raw rookies without being aggressed by them first -- for starters, it really isn't fair to them as they have so little in the first place. For another matter, losing ships so early to a callous bastard who really doesn't care that they've just destroyed another pilot's only possession of worth, can discourage a rookie into leaving the capsule permanently; at the very least, it can give them a jaundiced view of pirates.
So I left her alone to her mining or whatever. This time, though, she started speaking in the Local channels.
'Excuse me? Anyone here?'
Perhaps it's my mothering instincts, largely beaten into submission, which encourage me to help people -- I used to leave the Rookie Assistance comms channel open, paying careful attention to find the serious pilots whose genuine questions were being drowned out by the mewling masses. There weren't many people in Decon by that point, and since nobody else responded, I did.
The rookie wanted to know about mining, bless her. Mining in a Velator in lowsec... she said someone had told her to go there, and my first thought was You bastard, sending a newbie into a kill zone, though for all I knew, she could have been working with a gang of antipirates to try to draw the evil denizens of Decon out into a firefight. So I was honest. I told her she was welcome to try mining and advised she see about acquiring an Imicus frigate as soon as she could, but warned that I could make no guarantees for her safety, and explained why lowsec is called 'low-sec'.
At which point one of the randoms in Local suggested that I had a gang prepping in the next system, and didn't believe me when I honestly said they were all off duty.
This is what I mean by people having a jaundiced view of pirates. I'm speaking politely and being helpful, and someone suggests I'm trying to lull the rookie pilot into a false sense of security so my 'gang' can stomp on her with hobnailed boots!
Now, firstly, had I actually wanted to kill the rookie... I'd have done it myself, in something frigate-sized. Don't need a bloody gang for a two-day-old target in a Velator, and suggesting otherwise is insulting.
But what offended me more was the implication that I was the kind of cad who would stab someone in the back as soon as their guard was down. I may be a pirate, my security status may be nearly as far down as it can go, I may shoot freighters and take advantage of a combat-prepped opponent's moment of inattention and not have my conscience too bothered by it, but... deception is not my style. The few times I've been involved with someone who has used deception as a tactic, I've felt dirty for it. I'm a bastard, but an honest woman at the same time.
It's not the first time I've been accused of this, either. When I was in Atrocitas, for a few nights a friend and I went to another system to run missions, and someone there called us cowards, informed us that we would never survive in proper nullsec, then undocked a carrier on my friend's battleship whilst staying within dock-range. When I was in Tygris Alliance, one member of another corp mentioned that I had surprised him by 'not being another lame-ass pirate and resorting to smacktalk'; with Universal Securities, there were times I wasn't certain I could trust my own corpmates to not turn on me simply for my outlaw status.
Are other pirates truely so bad? Or is it an unjustly-earned reputation based upon the expectations of others?
In the experience I've had in the last year, since Atrocitas returned to piracy from their mercenary stint, I've received more verbal abuse and enmity from non-pirates and antipirates than from those who, like myself, make our living from successful ransomings and selling off loot. I do realise we are disliked and mistrusted for our means of survival, and that certainly there are pirates - both individuals and groups - who resort to deception and cowardly tactics to make their living. But on the whole, the pirates of my acquaintance have been a likeable lot, and honourable in that rogueish-highwayman sort of way which so many songs romanticise. They socialise, care for their corpmates and associates, and have as keen a grasp on Right vs Wrong as anyone else. Their approach to their work, illegal though it may be, is nonetheless professional and possessing of a certain level of decorum.
It's not the being hunted that I mind -- that part is to be expected, and is even welcomed, as it assures a regular stream of targets. It's the attitude with which we are approached which is disappointing, and based on my personal experiences, I have to wonder if we pirates have genuinely earned such vitriol, or if those who love to hate us are ascribing to us values -- or lack thereof -- which are not our own. It's refreshing to encounter an antipirate who is pleasant and has a good attitude towards his quarry: the fights are fun, genuine tests of a pilot's mettle, and we feel they can be trusted to honour a 1v1 challenge in the way a more bad-tempered hunter cannot.
Perhaps it's simply the basic human need to feel that one is better than another, a mindset responsible for millennia of conflict. Perhaps it is simply bad PR and the actions of the few tainting the reputations of the rest, or in a few cases, an issue of self-projection -- 'I would do that, therefore I believe you would, too, if given the chance'. Whatever the reason, it should be noted that pirates, like everyone else, will respond better when approached as human beings rather than wild animals.
...Although if someone does feel the need to vent their rage, such conversations can and will be saved off in pirates' logs, to be shared later over drinks with friends for a hearty laugh!