Chapter 89: Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish

Anarchist friends will disagree, but I think it safe to say: laws prevent conflict. This is not to say that laws are not also the root of conflict. And so “Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish” unfolds, beginning with the strictly abided laws of whaling:

“I. A Fast-Fish belongs to the party fast to it.
II. A Loose-Fish is fair game for anybody who can soonest catch it.”

Ishmael gives a lot of praise for the “terse comprehensiveness” of this law, but also concedes that the “admirable brevity” of the law requires a lengthy interpretation in practice. In other words, the defining of a Fast-Fish is not so cut and dry. Not unlike with our Constitution, invoking the law means invoking precedent to shed light on the underlying spirit of the law. However, though the pros of interpretive law are many, the cons are not insignificant. Put simply, a law open to interpretation is a law open to manipulation. And so the law becomes an instrument of power rather than an instrument of justice.

We can inflate these principals not only from the law of whaling to the law at large, but on up to the laws of life — power is the whole of the law. Beginning with a use of divorce law turning women into property, Ishmael quickly escalates to the plights of Russian serfs, “rapacious landlord[s],” bankers, religious bureaucracy, hereditary/aristocratic land ownership, and conquered lands — all Fast-Fish, all owing to systems of oppression. And the analogous Loose-Fish escalate from there — America in 1492, all colonial interests, and the very rights and liberties of mankind, no less their hearts and minds.

And so we end the chapter with a great big finger pointing out of the page at us: “And what are you, reader, but a Loose-Fish and a Fast-Fish, too?” Are we the property of those now in power, or are we property waiting to be taken by the next, more powerful entity to come along? I guess it’s all up for interpretation.

Chapter 89: Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish

Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish
Anything that’s free is yours to want!
Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish —
A person, place, or thing, it doesn’t matter.

It isn’t small coincidence:
Possession is the full of the law.
Who can stop the powerful
From taking some or taking it all?
Wait and see!

Fast-Chicks and Loose-Chicks,
You cut your woman free, she’s there to take!
Fast-Chicks and Loose-Chicks,
Harpoon that little lady and ride her wake!

What is Southern slavery?
Possession is the full of the law!
And what’s a thieving archbishop?
Power is the rule of the law!
You can see!

But how was America a Loose-Fish
In the time of Columbus?
When Russia took Poland
Or the Turk took Greece?
And what are the rights of man but a Loose-Fish?
(There for the taking!)
But not land for Duke of Dunder’s oldest son.
(The law’s for the victors!
The law’s for the victors!)

Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish
Anything at all is theirs to want.
Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish —
A person, place, or thing, it’s so convenient!

(c) and (p) 2008 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea July 23, 2008
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea December 20, 2008

Published in: on January 11, 2009 at 10:01 am  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] found Patrick Shea’s blog and song list. I found the song for possibly my favorite chapter, 89: Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish. My one-word review: […]

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