Slaves to Convenience

30 Aug

slave

 

Some people watch news about starving people in Africa and may think to themselves, “Poor them. They are days away from starvation. Look at how they depend on others just to feed themselves.”

That last thought is rather tricky. In many places in Africa, they are dependent on others bringing them food. Many NGOs, including large ones like UNICEF are the only entities keeping some medium to large populations alive. People, sometimes living on the opposite end of the globe, give money, either directly through charitable giving or indirectly by paying taxes and then having their tax dollars turned into aid sustain these populations to the extent that if the money dried up and the food stopped coming in, these populations would be devastated.

These people are usually given pre-processed food stuffs. Not seeds, not knowhow, but sacks of flour, rice, beans, etc. This drives home the point that if the money goes away, the food goes away and people will starve.

My contention in this piece is, there is no difference between the people surviving on aid and the people supplying the aid in one crucial aspect, self sustainability. Neither population is truly sustainable if left to their own devices. Just as the needy population would be devastated if the aid dried up, the rich populations would be just as devastated if their chain of food were interrupted. Neither groups have the knowhow to sustain themselves. I must admit, I am not sure if I could keep my family alive if I could not go to the local supermarket or restaurant for nourishment.

They are both forms of dependence. The needy are given food thus taking away any incentive to learn how to cultivate food for themselves while the rich cannot be bothered with such activities due to their busy schedules. Both are slaves to convenience albeit in different ways. One group’s chains and shackles are free while the other group pays for theirs.

One just needs to look at the hurricane that hit New York City in 2013. The food supply chain was interrupted due to flooding and New York was almost out of food in three days. People were going into to neighboring states New Jersey and Connecticut looking for food. Imagine if these states did not exist and there was nothing but wilderness until the Pacific Ocean. There would have been massive deaths due to starvation.

It is easy to take for granted how easy our lives are. But it is also easy to take for granted how delicate the balance truly is. We are one natural disaster, one real oil crisis, one cosmic event such as a communications destroying solar flare, etc. away from living as if we were in the Stone Ages. Are you prepared in such an event? I know I am not but it may be prudent to be at least slightly prepared. A doomsday basement filled with rations, arms and ammunition and stashed of gold may not be in order but certainly a little basic knowledge of farming, plants and basic survival might go a long way.

 

Dirty Work

15 Aug

maid

“It´s hard to pay the bills sometimes” Sheila said as she nervously puffed a cigarette and stared out of the window at nothing and everything at the same time. “You got to do what you got to do sometimes”

“Aren´t you ashamed of yourself?” Beth asked. She had just found out Sheila´s secret font of income.

“No!” Sheila said turning her head and fixing her gaze at Beth. “Not for one second”

“Calm down, Sheila. I am not saying that you should be. I am just asking as a friend”

“Well, stop asking. I don´t want to talk about it” Sheila said as she freed another cigarette from the pack and lit it with the burning filter of the last one. “What the fuck were you doing there in the first place?”

“I go there sometimes. That´s all” Beth said, now feeling the spot light of shame shining on her. “Listen, we all do things for money that we are not proud of sometimes. It´s ok.”

“No, we don´t! There are many people in this world that do not even have to do anything to get stuff. They were just born with stuff. They do not have to humiliate themselves ever and they even get to live better than those who do!” Sheila said now crying.

“Listen, Sheila, that´s life. Some people are born with everything, some are born with nothing. Some are born healthy, some are born dead! That´s just the way it goes. It is what it is” Beth stopped when she realized she sounded like a cliché reproducing robot.

“Well I was not born to greet people as they come into Wal-mart!” Sheila said, her eyes now furiously pouring tears.

 

Don´t be afraid

9 Aug

bedtime

 

Sammy had a profound fear of going to sleep . One year ago, on her fifth birthday, her grandfather was moved into her family’s home under hospice care. A short three months later he passed in his sleep. Sammy was the one who found him. She went into his room to hear the daily story Grand Pop would make up on the spot for her. She ended up staying in his room playing with the corpse for about an hour until her mother found her. For the past nine or so months, bedtime has been a nightmare for all involved.

One morning she woke up and proclaimed that this would be the night that she would overcome this fear and go to bed with no hassle. Her parents were elated. They were at their wits end. They had no idea what to do to this point. She had seen psychiatrists, sleep medical professionals, even a mystic in an attempt to eradicate this fear of sleep. Her health was deteriorating as a result. She was gaunt. The lack of sleep curbed her appetite and stunted her growth.

As the day slipped by, Sammy nervously eyed the clock. With every passing hour she knew she´d have to go to that scary place, her bed. And she did not forget her promise to her parents. It was the middle of summer so the day was long. But, as it must, the sun started to set. Sammy’s courage started to wane. As the sunlight subsided, her fear grew until she was as terrified as it was dark outside.

As the clock drew close to ten o’clock she solemnly went into the living room where her parents were watching a movie. She told them that she would go to bed by herself. Her father objected. He noticed that she was visibly shaking. He wanted to at least comfort her through this milestone but she objected. She told them that she had to do this alone.

Around 11 o’clock her father snuck up the stairs to see if she was asleep. She was. He father felt as if a huge weight was lifted from his shoulders. He backed out of this room, closing the door behind him and made his way to the stairs, very excited to share this news with his wife. As he crossed the threshold into the living room ready to give his wife the good report there was what seemed like an explosion. The house shook. The world shook. Then there was the sounds of crashing all around him. He grabbed his wife and dove back under the threshold. That was the safest place to be during an earthquake, so he was repeatedly told during his time in Elementary school.

The shaking went on for what felt like an eternity but was in fact not more than a few brief moments in time. He looked around and there was a lot of damage around him. Car alarms were blasting in the background. His wife and his only thought went to Sammy. As they made their way to the stairs they were hit with a blow to their senses that was rivaled by none other. The stairs were flattened. There was smoke coming from the rubble. It was as if a mighty palm came down from the heavens and squashed their dreams. Their home, their beloved daughter, their everything was gone.

Around a year after the incident, Sammy’s father was finishing a quick Chinese food lunch before having to go back to work. He almost never ate the fortune cookie and usually didn´t even bother to read the message inside. Today he decided to have the fortune cookie. He clumsily ripped open the plastic and cracked the cookie in half. The message inside brought back feelings of pain that had only slightly started to subside.

You can overcome your fears, but what you are afraid of can still get you.

 

Bear Fight!

29 Jul

bears fighting

Barry was the toughest bear in the forest. He was 10-0 in professional bear fights and 8-0 as an amateur. He was the current bear fighting champion. The up and comer, Burt, was young and hungry and ready to take Barry´s belt. They weren´t very fond of each other outside of the ring so this looked as though it was going to be a barn burner.

On the day of the big fight, Barry came down with a virus. He had trouble getting out of bed. His manager, a skunk named Sammy, was ready to call off the fight. Barry refused. He could not lose face to the young punk, Burt. Besides, it would ruin his legacy.

Barry and Burt squared off in the middle of the ring. The referee went over the rules of the fight. Barry noticed a twinge of fear in Burt´s eyes. Burt recognized the exhaustion in Barry´s eyes and his confidence grew a bit. The referee sent them to their respective corners.

Barry knew he could not take many body shots. His digestive system was wrecked by the virus. Burt wanted to avoid Barry´s heavy front paws. He knew one touch and he could go to sleep. He desperately wanted to take the fight to the ground.

As they were circling each other a slight boom echoed and scared the birds out of the trees in the distance. Suddenly Burt felt a piercing sting in his chest. Breathing became next to impossible. All he could feel was a burning, his vision was no longer clear. He started to fade. Consciousness failed him.

Approximately 300 yards a hunter lowered his rifle. He looked to his partner. “Got dat Bear!”

As all the animals, with the exception of Burt, ran away from the championship fight Barry cried “I AM STILL CHAMPION!”

 

 

On The Outside Looking In (Pt. 4) Final Episode

24 Jul

Link to part 1: http://goo.gl/xig689

Link to part 2: http://goo.gl/aLWd5f

Link to part 3: http://goo.gl/tU4H8F

A full moon is seen behind the minaret of Mohamed Ali mosque, Cairo

 

As night fell and the two men sat waiting to be called. The driver´s legs were cramped and he could not find a comfortable position to sit. Makmood had no legs and was perfectly comfortable lying on a stone bench.

A single guard entered the courtyard and the driver poked Makmood until he woke.

“The sheik would like to see the two men who saved his life at once” the guard softly said.

“Yes, sir” Makmood said enthusiastically.

“Yes, sir” the driver said with little emotion.

The two men made their way to where the sheik was recuperating. He was propped up on silk pillows. A thin silk sheet was pulled up to mid torso exposing his powerful upper body. He did not look like a man who earlier that day was close to death.

The two men waited at the door waiting for the sheik to invite them in. He waved them in.

“Good evening gentlemen” the sheik said.

With heads bowed and their stares fixed upon the floor, in unison they repeated, “Good evening”

“You may feel at ease, gentlemen. No formalities during this encounter” The sheik said.

“As you wish” said the driver without lifting his head or glance.

Makmood, waist high to the driver, looked the sheik in the eyes, scooted towards him and offered both hands. A guard stood at attention but the sheik waved him off.

Makmood took the right hand of the sheik into his and said “It it a great honor to have ridden upon the same cart as you”

“Surely it was only an honor after you had found out who I was” the sheik said.

“No, sir, it is a privilege of God to be put in situations where one can be of service to their fellow man. The more dire need of your service, the greater the honor. I was blessed today”

The three stayed in silence for a moment. A tear rolled down the sheik´s eye. “Guard, please leave us alone”

“But, sir…..” the guard protested.

The sheik shot a glance back at the guard that was more piercing than the sword he had taken in the thigh during battle. “Yes sir” he acquiesced.

As the door shut the demeanor of the sheik changed. His warmth evaporated. His expression almost mean.

“You two will have to leave the territory immediately. You cannot even go home to you holes in the mountain. You will have an escort to the limits of the province, about two days travel away” the sheik said.

“Whatever are you talking about?” Makmood asked. The driver was paralyzed with fear.

“You are lucky. Everybody else involved will not breathe another breath after sun rise today” the sheik said, looking out the window at the full moon.

“Why?” Makmood asked with little signs of emotion.

“You found me and exposed my shame. I had drunk poison and was trying to make my way to the caves. I wanted to die in a cave. I miscalculated and must have passed out on the road. How far was I from the caves?” he asked.

“Not so far” Makmood said. “May I be so bold as to ask why you would do such a thing?”

“Yes” the sheik said and sat in silence before offering his answer. “Animals, when they can, often go into the woods to die. I, wanted to go into the home of the animals to die. No offense” he meant that. He only realized what he said could be construed as offense after the last word had left his mouth.

“Non taken” Makmood said. The driver, still paralyzed.

“As a boy I watched the fires burn in the holes in the mountains from the palace. I would invent stories in my head about what was happening at that moment. As an adolescent, I even wrote some of these stories down. It was the only time I didn´t feel bad” he suddenly stopped talking and looked away, though there was a feeling in the air that there was much more to be said. He looked back just to say “You must leave immediately. I have arranged your escort. Do not say one word until you leave this building if you wish to take another breath outside of it” and with that he looked away once more.

 

On The Outside Looking In (Pt. 3)

23 Jul

Part 1: http://tinyurl.com/qxwrfdp

Part 2: http://tinyurl.com/k75cmqe

archways

 

The soldiers led them through the archway entrance of the magistrate. The smallest of the soldiers ran off to get a doctor for the sheik. A couple of guards approached and greeted the soldiers.

“What do we have here?” one of the guards asked.

The tall soldier answered “According to these two, they were traveling into town when they spotted Sheik Masoud face down in the sand. They put them on their cart and brought them to town. If their story checks out, we are in the presence of heroes. If not, we are in the presence of dead men” he said with a crooked smile as he looked back at Makmood and the driver. The driver gulped hard. Makmood smiled back.

After about an hour of hard interrogating, followed by a decent meal, Makmood and the driver were asked to wait in a court yard.

“Isn´t this just splendid?” Makmood asked.

“What do you mean splendid?” the driver asked, irritated by the question, “I am missing a day’s sales! And we don´t even know if they believe us! You heard the soldier, we will be killed if there is an iota of doubt in our story! And you won´t go home with one coin! How are you going to eat?”

“I just did” Makmood said with a calm smile, “They will believe us. We told the truth. And we are heroes. You heard the soldier. He said so”

“He also said we are dead men!” the driver cried.

“No, he said we are heroes and if our story is not true, we are dead men. Our story is fact, therefore we are heroes, my friend” Makmood said. “We saved the sheik´s life! He is a good sheik. You know that. Sheik Masoud lives in the palace in front of our community. I watch the oil lamps burn at night when the mood strikes me. They dance in the darkness and they calm me”

“If you were any calmer, Makmood, you would melt into the rock!” the driver said. He felt relieved by Makmood´s convictions that everything would be all right.

Just then the guards came in. The driver stood and Makmood did his best to sit as straight as he possibly could.

“Well, it seems you two are heroes after all. The sheik is weak at the moment but he would like an audience with the two of you as soon as he regains his strength. This may be a little after sundown or possibly after sunrise. Regardless, we shall ask that you stay until the moment presents itself”

The driver did his best to hide his irritation. Makmood did nothing to mask his joy.

“How wonderful!” Makmood exclaimed.

On The Outside Looking In (Pt. 2)

22 Jul

ox cart

 

Link to Part 1: goo.gl/xig689

 

The naked man had not moved, save the jostlings of the cart over the rough terrain. It would be difficult to tell that he were alive if it weren´t for sporadic labored breaths. Makmood had taken a sheet off of a basket of apricots to cover the man so he would not suffer any more burns from the sun than he already had.

The cart dustily rolled its way into town and made its way to the first of a series of military checkpoints. The driver bowed his head to the soldiers as he slowed to cart to a stop.

“Good morning gentlemen” the driver said.

Makmood, without taking his glance off of his new friend offered a hand in the air and a “Hello”.

Four soldiers flanked the cart, as per protocol. “What do you have in the cart?” the tallest of the soldiers asked.

“My usual, apricots and nuts for the market. And a beggar!” he said with a chuckle as he amused himself.

“And who is that?” the tall soldier said with a horrified look on his face.

“Who?” the driver asked, puzzled by the question. He had forgot about their earlier heroics.

“Is that man dead? Uncover his face at once, beggar!” The soldier ordered Makmood.

As Makmood pulled back the sheet there was a loud gasp from all four of the soldiers.

“You two are under arrest!” the tall soldier declared.

“For what?” the driver asked with a cold feeling in his stomach. His mind was scanning for reasons for this declaration. He had paid duties on the apricots. The nuts were from a new vendor. Could they be contraband? Makmood had a cool calm to him. It´s hard to rile a man who has nothing to lose.

One of the soldiers, dumbfounded, with a single tear rolling down his eye gasped “Sheik Masoud, what have they done to you?”

Makmood realized what was going on and piped up “Gentlemen, we found him on the road many miles back. We saved his life! He was unconscious in the sand. He would have baked in the sun. We just gave him a lift. In fact, we had no idea who he was. It was our honor to help this man, be him a sheik or be him a lowly beggar such as myself”

The tall soldier, who appeared to be the leader of the squad, seemed to buy Makmood´s story, at least momentarily. But there was protocol to follow.

“Beggar, I would like to believe you but there are rules to follow. We will have to take you to the magistrate to see if your story checks out and to record all of these happenings” the soldier said.

“Will there be lunch?” Makmood asked.

“If everything checks out, sure” the soldier said.

“Great” Makmood said.

“No! Not great!” said the driver of the cart. “I´ll lose a day at the market! My family will go hungry!”

“Easy, man, you have apricots and nuts. They surely will not spoil. You´ll have tomorrow” the soldier said.

The driver shuffled, dejected, towards the magistrate building with his cart in tow. Makmood rode upon the cart elated knowing where at least one of his meals was coming from.

 

Link to Part 1: http://ryanimpink.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/on-the-outside-looking-in-pt-1/

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