Bait and switch

PHOTO PROMPT © Jean L. Hays

Their fins broke the water’s surface before dipping beneath the waves. Jasmine squealed and paddled belly-down on her surfboard towards them. Before they disappeared she counted at least four dolphins. Ben better get this shot right.

Ben noticed Jasmine heading for the pod of dolphins, watching her in the phone camera’s view. He dared not disappoint her this time. Where did the dolphins go?

A large dorsal fin knifed through the water not far from Jasmine, exciting Ben. Then his heart stopped. The phone slipped from his hands and he shouted at the top of his lungs.

“Shark!”

98 words

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by author Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Write a story in 100 words or less. Submit your flash fiction by clicking on the frog link below. And read other awesome flash fiction.

Memoirs of a nineties street kid

PHOTO PROMPT © Na’ama Yehuda

“Shh! Be quiet. And no you can’t play in the park. Wait here.”

Mama pushed me gently backwards into the bushes. “Remember -“

“I know, I know. Don’t go anywhere.”

I watched her figure ripple in and out of the shadows thrown by the park lights. Another figure joined her. A man. A different one than the other night. Together, they disappeared behind the restrooms.

Five-year-old me knew Mama wouldn’t be long. I jumped out of the bushes and watched the cars honking on the street. The lamp-lit windows floated in the tall buildings.

I didn’t feel so alone anymore.

99 words

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Write a story in 100 words or less. Click the frog to submit your flash fiction and read other stories too.

Wayward thoughts #03

Thriving when you’re lacking self-confidence

For whatever reason, we can be riding a wave of confidence when suddenly it crashes over us leaving us scattered and feeling like washed-up beach debris.

Lacking self-confidence can be a signal to pause and reflect

It’s normal on the path to personal success for our confidence to crash. Sometimes it can be a signal that you need to take stock.

Instead of ignoring it, use this phase to examine your strategy and your actions and see if it still aligns with where you want to go.

Low self-confidence phases can be a renewal process if you allow it.

Listen to your intuition, your inner voice.

Silence the inner critic.

The root of racism may not be hate

What if we viewed the root of racism as a competition for a perceived lack of resources?

On the surface, racism appears to be about hate based on the colour of a person’s skin. I’m not quite convinced hate is the root of racial discrimination. It may play a role, but it comes about as a natural by-product of man’s separation from each other through ‘tribal-like’ power struggles.

The Ancient Egyptian angle

Almost five years to the day, I wandered into the Ancient Egyptian museum (Muzeo Egizio) in Turin, Italy. I literally stumbled upon it because I had no clue where I was. Not wanting to look like the lost female solo traveller that I was, I decided to go into this museum to look at artefacts while I figured out my next move.

Most curious of all the artefacts were the translated letters between people of those times. You got the sense that they were just like me and you. These letters revealed that people experienced issues with their parents, bad career choices and mounting debt. Although that’s for another post.

To protect the artefacts, some were placed behind glass, and others were roped off and heavily guarded. It felt weird that an Italian security guard was protecting Egyptian artefacts. Why was it weird? Because these were Egyptian artefacts in Italy.

On the one hand, you could see it as a European celebration of Ancient Egypt’s history and culture. And that’s great. It’s heartwarming to see one nation appreciate another.

Coming from a business background, I tend to be more ‘economical’ of people and their motivations. The artefacts clearly serve as a tourist attraction. Perhaps even as a basis for an academic research centre. All of which bring people, who bring pocketfuls of spending money.

There’s been a lot of modern debate about whether these museums and their foreign artefacts should be considered stolen property. I won’t go into that. I’ll just say that while the transaction might be legal they were probably obtained under unfair conditions. One of those conditions might be colonialism.

Map of pre-colonial Africa in the 1800s, before the Berlin Conference where European nations gathered to carve up Africa.

Colonialism and racism

In Colonial times racism was more blatantly practised. The systems, beliefs and practices of the colonising-country were forced upon the colonised people. By various systems, including restricting trade with the coloniser, native resources were reserved for the powers that be.

Colonisation began in the 15th Century and by as recent as 1914, (that’s just last century), Europe controlled 84% of the entire world.

The subjugation of races to another is of course not confined to European colonialism. History presents many different situations of one race dominating another. Often on intra-racial or inter-tribal levels like the Roman Empire or the English conquering the Scottish tribes. The same occurred in African Kingdoms and South American Kingdoms of the pre-colonial era.

How the preference for white skin began

European colonialism was the most recent and most widespread occurring from the 1600s onwards. Its fingers reached from the eastern continents of Asia to Western lands of America and down towards South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

Undoubtedly, the most expansive and given its recent time in history, the most influential. Hence, directly influencing the preferred and most privileged skin colour of modern times ie white skin.

The allocation of resources clearly went to one race who claimed a superior right over the other based on race, nationality and skin colour. Many scientific studies were performed to compare the colonising race to the natives. These same studies were also used to justify gender roles that still have their sticky fingers in humanity’s collective mindset today.

Needless to say, these scientific inquiries were rigged to serve the ruling opinion of the times: that white was superior to black.

The 20th Century shook things up

The devastation of the First and Second World Wars triggered colonial powers to backtrack out of their territories, granting new-found independence to colonised countries.

And with the US Civil Rights movement racial equality became a foundational institution of leading nations, eventually having a domino effect on South African Apartheid.

It is easier to re-write an entire governmental system than to re-wire the human mind. Just because things seemed to change for the better doesn’t mean things are better or that people’s minds are re-programmed.

Even after the ink has dried on the new legislation, people still hold on to their beliefs about the superiority or inferiority of their race. Both mindsets are the result of centuries of propaganda and brainwashing.

Some who benefited from racist systems feel it slipping away and become defensive. Rallying against affirmative action labeling it anti-white and lashing out at any pro-black movement.

It isn’t hate that drives people to do this. Not really. It’s fear. Fear of not being able to enjoy the privileges and resources they once had easy access to: like better jobs, better education, and better living conditions. There are only fifty places left at an esteemed university or one seat left on the bus. In the old days, it used to be reserved exclusively for whites.

Psychological effects of colonisation

Lighter skin is viewed as more trustworthy, more attractive, more intelligent. Less dangerous. Whatever. I refer to the aforementioned ‘studies’ of colonial scientists. This isn’t just across the white-black divide but within darker-skinned race communities too. Hispanics, Indian and Asians have shown to favour lighter skin for beauty.

Beauty is another discriminatory factor that allows you easier access to resources. Ever heard of the saying that she’s so beautiful she can get away with murder? It echoes the truth because more attractive people have access to better jobs, better partners, and they are perceived to be just better overall.

We’re still talking about perception. In reality, neither skin colour nor beauty or lack of it, (nor gender) gives any reliable indication of a person’s intelligence or capabilities. Nor does it justify assigning privileges based on nothing else than superficial criteria.

But people don’t fight or wage wars against so-called ugly people to the extent that we wage war against other races.

War and conflict is a grapple for power. Which gives rise to hate. We naturally want to secure the best resources for ourselves. We extend this desire to our own family. By ensuring that our race is guaranteed the best, we secure it for ourselves on a larger scale. We reduce the competition by cutting out whole sections of humanity effectively reducing the pool of candidates.

It matters if your forefathers ate at the king’s banquet

Under hundreds of years of white authority and dictatorship, people start to believe that if they were white, their lives would be better. They wouldn’t be slaves. This mentality was compounded on a daily basis for hundreds of years, generation after generation. Kids grow up listening to dinner conversations about the other.

Depending on what table you were seated at, the other was superior. The proof was in the fact they lived in the best houses and wore the best clothes and you worked as a slave for them without any choice in the matter.

Or if you ate at the king’s banquet, the other was naturally predisposed to error and of lower intelligence and thus in dire need of a higher race to rule over them.

Just because it happened in another century doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact today.

If Egypt can’t get back their artefacts dug up in their land crafted by their ancestors, due to a transaction made decades ago; then why do we think the psychological effects of colonialism would disappear at the scratch of democratic pens on anti-racist legislature?

One quick look at my social media feeds and timelines, where people get on their virtual soapbox or express comments they think nobody else reads, is enough to prove to me that people’s perception of black people (and darker-skinned people in general) hasn’t changed significantly. Not only that, but people’s understanding of the modern-day struggles of those who come from a previously disadvantaged race-group is politely shallow at best.

How it affects us today

The opposite of love is not hate. It’s fear. And what’s fueling dangerous racist behaviour is persistent, low-level fear of not getting the things you need like a job or a house. In a world of that has become a melting pot of different races in one country, it is easy to fall back on outdated beliefs of racial superiority and inferiority to ensure on some level that certain resources continue to be reserved for the former colonial race.

This low-level persistent fear gives rise to fear of the ‘threatening’ other fueling unfounded beliefs such as ‘black men are inherently more dangerous‘. In heightened fearful states, we react in one of two ways to fear: fight or flight. Aggression is driven by fear. So is self-preservation. Perhaps this is what drives racist aggression.

One person’s fear of black skin due to systematic generational social brainwashing is the tip of the iceberg of the effects of our accumulated human existence.

Most of that existence was defined by dominating one another and securing resources for oneself. Something which still continues under modern political and social systems.

Only because, essentially, humans haven’t evolved beyond a continuous quest for power over others.

Flipped

PHOTO PROMPT © Todd Foltz

Egg yolk dripped down the Range Rover’s windscreen. Sweat dripped down the side of Joanna’s face. Turned out hurling eggs was tiring. Would the sight of his egg-covered car be enough to make Nick’s blood boil? A part of her felt bad. But, Nick should know his cheating days are over.

Joanna knew she could make him happier than that cow ever did. His indecisiveness drove her mad. That’s why she had to help him decide. Leave your wife, Nick. Choose me. I told you she was crazy, Nick. See what she did to your car?

Joanna threw another egg.

100 words

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Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Write a story in 100 words or less. Click the frog to submit your flash fiction and read what others’ have written.

First Dates

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

“You’re vegetarian?” Stefan asked. Cool, handsome, and funny, Stefan was her longtime crush. Safiya agreed on a date even though she knew it wouldn’t go anywhere. It couldn’t. Could it?

“Oh, no!” she giggled. “It’s just that the food here isn’t halal. So… vegetarian options, you know.”

“Oh Christ, I didn’t even think of that!”

He may have used Jesus name in vain, but she was pretty sure he was Jewish. She imagined Mama’s despairing disapproval, “Why Saffa? Why?”

Stefan winked and said, “Next time, you choose the restaurant.”

Next time?! Safiya’s heart soared.

94 words

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I hope you enjoyed this little scene out of the romantic comedy script that I’ll never write.

I didn’t get to everyone’s posts the last time, because I was busy moving house. Let’s just say, I never want to move house again anytime soon. I hope to catch up on posts and comments and do better this week!

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Write a story in 100 words or less. Click the frog to submit your flash fiction and to read others’.

A DIY story: How up-cycling furniture gave me hope

Moving house has got to be one of the most stressful life events ever. It is a logistical, organisational nightmare especially if you have ADHD like I do. My planner was full of loose bits of torn paper serving as extra to-do-lists of my actual to-do-lists. Not to mention the other reminders and notes on my phone. Labeling of boxes served my logic – ‘white shelf‘ meaning all items in the box are from the white shelf that used to squat in the living room. This way it helps me preserve my piles of organised-chaos paperwork so that I don’t spend weeks looking for misplaced reports.

I’m pretty sure I lost stuff along the way, but I’m not too bothered. As long as I have the important things with me like my family and pets, we’re good.

My planner stuffed with extra notes.
Embossed with the year 2020 in case
I forget what year I’m in.

Moving house naturally brings up the past, as you dig out things in the back of your cupboards or out of storage. (Hello, electronic keyboard!). I used the opportunity to get rid of a lot of stuff that no longer served me. Many were still unopened in their original packaging. Stuff like a juicing machine, electric grill, clothing, and some furniture. Things I’ll probably be looking for in a few years time, no doubt, wondering what happened to them.

I’m always busy with a hobby or side-project. Drawing, knitting, sewing, music, gardening, DIY projects (ADHD heaven!) Naturally some hobbies never go beyond the first project. Once it loses its novelty, it’s hard to stick with it. Even more so if there’s a lot of friction getting started and it’s not one that can be done anytime or anywhere.

Up-cycling furniture was one of those old hobbies I abandoned. But I can proudly say that I have rescued two pine writing desks, three pine chairs, three pine bookshelves, a dining table of some dark wood from the 1960s and a stool that I thought was a piano seat and have called it such since its rescue. The piano idea was so firmly implanted in my mind, that I didn’t realise I varnished it a dark ebony-ish colour and re-upholstered it in ivory faux leather.

Seven years ago

All of these pieces of furniture were saved from my late mother’s rubbish pile during one of her de-cluttering phases. I restored the dining table and the piano seat. The rest were put straight to use as I could no longer bother to restore them. They were still in relatively good condition. Old, but useful. Like how we all hope to be one day.

Over a period of two or three weeks, I sanded and varnished the dining table and the piano seat. For the dining table I used a sanding machine that left my arms feeling as if I was still sanding the table hours after I switched off the machine.

The dining table does not have an immediate appeal. Maybe that’s why I liked it. It has a simple design, made of solid wood with an odd punch-hole feature. Old cracked varnish and signs of wear and tear shine through the thin coats of new varnish – it is true vintage. It has proudly served as my dining table for the past seven years.

The piano stool was one of the items removed from storage during the moving process. I restored it seven years ago then it went into storage gathering dust.

Until this past week where it eventually found its destiny in this awkward pot plant area in a corner of my new home. You’d think I’d put it by my electronic keyboard, but no. Somehow I like it in this space. A makeshift window seat. My favourite place to have coffee and enjoy the winter morning sun.

Express your originality. Save the environment

With DIY you can be as original as you want. Custom made pieces or decor are literally at your fingertips. I enjoy re-using, recycling and re-homing furniture, appliances, clothing and books. Come to think of it, most of the things in my home are second-hand or up-cycled. My dad, who works in construction, gave me steel garden fencing that one of his clients threw out. That fence has been used at my old house and now re-installed at my new home. Painted a fresh white. Admittedly, I didn’t install it. So it cost me labour and paint.

Often we throw away things that are still in good condition. With some elbow grease and a few coats of varnish I obtained two pieces of furniture at a fraction of the cost. I find this kind of frugality very satisfying. Not to mention it contributes to the environment by reducing waste. Points scored!

A little magic and hope

When I see a worn out piece of furniture get a makeover, it’s like witnessing a tiny miracle. A little bit of magic and fairy dust. I guess it is so satisfying to me because it makes me feel hopeful. That all is not lost. What is broken, can be fixed. What is lost, can be found. What is worn and old, can be restored into beauty and put to use again. What’s more, all those cracks, pock-marks and imperfections will shine through in a beauty like no other. All it takes is your effort and determination.