Tag Archives: english

More Properly Called Slaves, part 9

Now come the Irish…

Ever since Norman* rule in the 11th century, the English had held a special hatred of Irish people. During the TAST period, English adventurers and soldiers use Ireland to hone their thieving & killing skills. Slavers, since they had to pass Ireland to get to the Americas, stopped off to collect a few extra slaves along the way. In fact, the headright system gained so much popularity it became instrumental in encouraging Irish to emigrate!

* For those who don’t know, Normans were the mixed descendants of native Frankish (French), Gallo-Romans and Norse invaders of France. 

Note that not all emigrants from Ireland were Irish. Some were Scotch-Irish (Scottish settlers in Ulster) who’d been driven out because of religious dissent. Upon arriving in the Americas they were welcomed in Delaware, Pennsylvania and other colonies, especially after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. Considering Scotland was Protestant at the time, this is no surprise. However, Quakers, Presbyterians & Catholics alike were booted out of Ireland. Not so much by Henry VIII as he didn’t bother with the place too much, more by Elizabeth I.

Yes, that Elizabeth with the skunk breath.

I beg your pardon, Moor?

English & Norman hatred of Irish stemmed from a belief that they were savage, backward, uncivilised, all of that. Ironically though, invaders (English, Norman, Scottish, Welsh, even Vikings) often ended up adopting Irish culture & never going back!

In 1166 the deposed King of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada, had begged the Norman army to help him get his throne back. Then in 1171, Henry II came along and established the Pale, a bridgehead stretching from Dublin to Drogheda. The name Pale was from Latin palus, meaning stake. This was Anglo-Norman aristocracy “staking” a claiming to Ireland. Not too far removed from what the English were now doing 500 years later.

After building the Pale, Welsh cleric Giraldus Cambrensis wrote extensively on what he considered to be Irish vices: blasphemy, laziness, treachery, incest, cannibalism and more. That’s where all the hatred started from, one man’s propaganda. It got so bad that in 1278, 2 Anglo-Norman men were charged with raping Margaret O’Rorke. Because she was Irish, the 2 were deemed not guilty. They were even forbidden from living by their own laws; noblemen made a complaint to the Pope how English people couldn’t be punished for killing Irish.

Needless to say, rebellions started. The first serious one was the Nine Years War of 1594. Then earl of Tyrone Hugh O’Neill was pissed off at the rapidly increasing pace of the plantations’ growth, but in 1603 he surrendered to James I. This meant Ireland became a free-for-all to English planters, which quickly reduced it to the same shithole England was.

Problem: loads of wandering dispossessed people.

Solution: KICK THE BASTARDS OUT OF THEIR OWN COUNTRY!!!

During the first arrival of English in the Caribbean (St. Christopher, now known as St. Kitts) Captain Thomas Warner, his wife, son and a few other men claimed the island for King Jamie. Of course they gave no fucks about the Kalinagos who’d already invaded the native Arawaks to get there. But they had to deal with them still.

(Note: Warner was a staunch Puritan. In other words, trouble)

Warner had a wary relationship with chief Ouboutou Tegremante, in which he set up a colony in 2 years, went back home for more planters, got Jamie’s warrant to fetch more Irish free-willers, and set them to work slashing & burning to make space for their own crops. And tobacco.

In the mid-1600s, Capt Matthew Cradock (first governor of Massachusetts Bay Company, and Puritan) charged his agent Thomas Anthony the duty to round up more slaves. Which he did, after competition with an Amsterdam ship and getting imprisoned for knavery in Kinsale. That only lasted a few days, though, ’cause he decided to free 2 slaves.

Then he and Cradock were off!

Meanwhile, Charles I fell out with Parliament, and Irish Catholics sought to use that to their advantage. In Ulster (the centre of another rebellion), rebels killed 4000 Protestant invaders and left 800 to die by starvation. News got back to England, rebellions spread again, Parliament passed an act in 1642 to fund an army to finish the Irish off once and for all. Yes, once and for all. This was not merely invasion, this was an ethnic cleansing. England wanted to free up 2.5 million acres of Irish land and replace Irish people with English wholesale!

Cromwell (yes, that Cromwell) waged all-out war on Ireland in 1649, the same year England brought in a new policy to make larger-scale transportations. Cromwell marched on Drogheda to advance on Ulster, slaughtering officers, soldiers, priests and friars on sight. This resulted in 150 Protestant deaths vs. 3500 Droghedan deaths, with many of the survivors taken as slaves to the Caribbean, predominantly Barbados. That’s why the Bajan accent is so similar to Irish, for anyone familiar with it. This became so common that being dumped in the Caribbean came to be known as being “Barbadosed“.

“For fuck’s sake Clotworthy, make sure they are native Irish!!!
“Yes massa.”

This was a nice bit of synchronicity for England: by deporting even more Irish out they had more land to fill up with themselves, and they could keep the colonies happy by giving them more slaves! Genius! Transportation wasn’t the only method they used to get rid of the Irish. England also exiled them to random other parts of Europe (reaching its peak in 1652-3), and/or let them starve to death.

1st April 1653: Cromwell’s Council of State authorised John Clotworthy to transport another 500 Irish. However, he gave him a special notice – make sure they’re IRISH and NOT Anglo-Normans or Old English! This was in response to such an error; some Anglo-Norman women were once taken to the Caribbean by accident. Oops! At the end of the Confederate War that same year, orphans and widows were also shipped off to work for or marry planters.

By the 1650s, hundreds of thousands of Irish people disappeared from Ireland in just a few decades, which resulted in wolves making a comeback! Some of the remaining people tried to fight back against English rule, but all failed. Stranglehold laws were put in place too; any Catholics who refused to attend Protestant churches were fined, and if they couldn’t pay up…

Of course, the Irish who’d already been enslaved fared no better. Even in the colonies their religion and language were banned. This meant they had to practice their faith in secret. None of the subjugation changed what English thought of them though; they became outright afraid of Irish. So much so that Acts were passed to forbid them being taken to Massachusetts (which no-one paid attention to).

In 1658, English slaves’ minimum service time was extended from 4 to 5 years, and Irish slaves from 5 to 6. But two years later at the Restoration of the English Monarchy that extension was repealed because it discouraged free-willers from going. Then in 1688 in Massachusetts, allegations of demonic possessions ran riot! Minister of Boston’s North Church, Cotton Mather claimed devils were everywhere! Illnesses in children were seen as witchcraft, and of course where there’s witchcraft there’s a witch.

Who?

An elderly Irishwoman, Goodwife Ann “Goody” Glover, to be exact. The court knew she was guilty because she was unable to recite the Lord’s Prayer in English! Ignore the fact she couldn’t speak English at all, and ignore that she could say the prayer in Irish & Latin! Apparently they also found dolls in her house. She was a witch therefore…

Back to Part 8

On to Part 10

More Properly called Slaves, part 4

Sir Thomas Smythe and his London division of the Virginia Company dumped their slaves along the James river. This company was led by the one-armed veteran Captain Christopher Newport, who was as ruthless as Walter Raleigh in battle – or more so since he was one of Raleigh’s captains!

And good Lord I was good-looking!

He easily could’ve been rich enough to retire long before the Virginia Company approached him, since back in 1592 he seized the Spanish vessel Madre de Dios and sailed it to England. This ship was so full of gold, silver & gemstones that the horde is recorded as the biggest EVER taken by English privateers! It’s not known exactly how much of it he kept though.

Newport was a gruff guy, put in charge of a rowdy lot of 120 men & boys (described as gentlemen, oddly enough) across 3 ships, some labourers contracted for 7 years’ work (but remember the first post in this series – there was nothing stopping that period being indefinitely extended). Only later was it noticed that 120 was nowhere near enough to secure a colony but whatever. Regardless of how good or bad those men (and boys) may have been, they were used as the justification for suspension of all colonial slaves’ rights. As with the Plymouth division, there was a secret set of instructions only to be opened upon landing. The instructions detailed how to form relations with the ‘natural people of the country’, who should lead the hunt for gold, which 7 men should be made the ruling council to choose the colony’s president, and more.

On a side note, it’s possible Walter was watching their first voyage from his prison cell in Christmas week 1606, fully aware of its significance.

You can never quite cut me out of the scene, can you?

However, on the first journey it wasn’t the crew that caused the trouble but the leaders. They were all so damn quarrelsome, egotistical and domineering! These leaders were:

  • Newport’s aggressive 2IC Bart Gosnold,
  • former soldier Edward Maria Wingfield,
  • greedy for gold son of London’s leading goldsmith Captain John Martin,
  • up-himself brother of the Duke of Northumberland George Percy,
  • and the worst of the lot the farmer’s son turned yeoman John Smith.
Yes, THAT John Smith!

Despite Disney’s myth, there’s no evidence Matoaka (Pocahontas’s real name) had any romantic interest in him, or he in her. If he did he’d have been a paedophile since she was no older than 11 when they supposedly met!

This is what he really looked like.

Smith was an arrogant, difficult, silver-tongued mofo who portrayed himself as the hero who had to save the colony from the others’ foolishness. In reality he was so annoying and up himself, Newport erected gallows sincerely wanting to hang him!

And that was in the 19 weeks Newport wasted going the “safe” traditional route so they were all stuck together, finishing their food rations that were meant to last for a year, before they set foot on the American mainland!!!

To make it worse, as soon as they did set foot they broke into a row over where they should have landed! They’d just been hit by a storm which threw them to Chesapeake Bay, Newport was happy to dock there but Gosnold violently argued they should’ve gone further north. Newport told him to piss off and docked anyway. After a quick scout around, natives’ arrows showered them (so said John Smith)! A few musket shots put an end to that, but then they also had disease, starvation* and deserters** to deal with. Even the reinforcements kept getting cut down to size again and again and again by this quadruple combo.

* Even the reinforcements and trade-offs with non-hostile natives didn’t help; the dopey fuckers harboured rats on their ships, and of course rats eat. 

So what did they learn from the plagues that happened since fucking 1347?!?

** Despite the secret instructions explicitly forbidding anyone to leave the colony, or even keep in contact with England. 

Even Popham’s lot never had it that bad; all they got was a telling off for coming home!

The London Company, meanwhile, wanted to build its own fort – Fort James, now known as Jamestown. The location was a bad choice though, as Algonquins attacked them relentlessly for days on end. The colonists had been so sloppy they forgot to bring their weapons on their gold hunt! Not to mention it was a mosquito-infested swamp that they stupidly used as a toilet so disease cascaded over them. Inevitably the 7 council members’ arguments flared up, with one being hanged for mutiny. How the hell this colony survived has modern historians baffed, never mind me!

The gold hunts didn’t fare much better, despite early successes – or so they thought. One incident was when the colonists, after some trade with Algonquins, brought back a barrel full of sparkly clay. Newport got a boner and whisked it back to England, only for experts to determine it was just sparkly clay! After that and similar idiotic episodes, plus the huge rise in deaths and deserters running home, England FINALLY got the message that there was no gold to be found in north America.

No El Dorado?!?!?!?!?

In 1609 an anonymously written paper, approved by King James, was sent to Smythe telling him and the colony to stop looking for gold and focus on trade. Jamie also decreed the colony would no longer be under the governance of squabbling rambling self-chosen councillors – must have been a relief for Newport! – but that of a governor with autocratic rule. He would in turn answer to a Royal Council in London and the London Company’s court, who would then answer to… Sir Thomas Smythe!!!

Not a bad decision considering how influential he’d later be in instituting colonial slavery, and how ruthlessly skilled he was at snagging good economic opportunities. Remember he started/ ran most of the first joint stock companies.

For the colony’s Governor he chose his old mate, the Baron de la Warr Thomas West, and 3 accomplished fighters to be his 2IC’s: Walter’s ex-subordinate George Somers as Admiral of a new fleet, veteran Thomas Gates as Deputy Governor, and veteran Thomas Dale as High Marshal. Next was to repair the reputation of Virginia and the colony, so clerics & merchants were used to spread the message of America’s plentiful blessings ripe for the English taking. Though he preferred skilled labourers, Smythe was trying to recruit pretty much everyone with a job because anyone was better than a bunch of “gentlemen”. He invited them to his mansion and promised them all money & land if they went with him and served for 7 years. Almost needless to say he also appealed to frightened London authorities to take ever more “poor and lawless” off their hands. Not just Englishmen, he also took some French wine makers & Polish potash makers, and a few kidnapped native American kids to be saved from their heathen ways.

Despite his shit timing (the King had ordered yet another seizure of Irish land) he managed to gather a new fleet – 9 ships and 600-strong crew including some women! – to relieve the Jamestown lot. This Third Supply, as it was called, inevitably ran into problems en route: the ships got battered by a hurricane! According to one report it frenzied the waters so badly it was like the sea was waging war on the sky! One ship, carrying Somers, Gates & 150 others, was knocked hundreds of miles off course – but after 3 days at the helm Somers managed to haul the hulking vessel to what’s now known as Discovery Bay, Bermuda. Fears of being unable to survive were soon abated as they fattened themselves up on fruits and hogs left over from a previous shipwreck. Carpenters were quickly put to work building 2 new vessels to take them the rest of the way, as their old ship fell to pieces as soon as it reached Bermuda. It took much longer than planned but they made it to Jamestown.

Never mind that Somers & Gates turned tyrant and executed a bunch of men for questioning their authority, the fleet had made it! England was loving it, loving it, loving it!

But the fleet wasn’t. More desertions, native attacks and starvations ensued, getting so bad the colonists started eating horses, cats, dogs, rats, snakes and each other! Not that cannibalism was a moral quandary for them. Then the laziness & greed revealed itself. No-one wanted to do jack shit for themselves. They’d gone to America expecting wealth and good times to piss down on them. When they found that not happening they descended into theft, murder and mutiny. Governor West couldn’t do much since he mysteriously collapsed – not dead but unwell enough to make him run home with no-one to officially replace him.

Dale & Gates took turns running things, with the former drawing up a totalitarian code called Laws Divine, Moral and Martial. This code made “crimes” like disobedience, trading with natives, lese-majesty and irregular church attendance punishable by death. And yes, there were moral police with warrants to search their houses to make sure people were in church. As the society was communal the concept of private ownership was banned; even meals had to be eaten in refectories! All work was for the company’s sake – but as ever the upper class was exempt from work.

Not too different to the slavery (or serfdom) imposed by the Normans 550 years earlier.

Dale made damn sure these laws were enforced. He was so dictatorial he even grabbed Newport by the beard and threatened to execute him!

That I did.

Less than a year later he realised his company was too small to sustain a colony (maybe because he kept executing everyone?) and asked the King to send prisoners – 2,000 to ward off the natives, to be precise. Francis Bacon, future Attorney General, vehemently disagreed but timid King Jamie agreed. He couldn’t afford not to, as his ascension had coincided with another plague outbreak and the still increasing “lewd and idle” poor around him were hit hardest. Smythe was wholeheartedly behind him, though they did toy with the idea of selling the convicts for Christian galley slaves from Turkish & north African corsairs, or else chucking them in South Africa. In fact Smythe did an experiment to see if the latter would work, sending 10 convicts to Cape of Good Hope with nothing for survival but a handful of seeds and a spade.

For fuck’s sake!!! Now we’re England’s human refuse too?!?

The experiment failed. They got scared of the approaching Khoi people, ran to what would later become Robben Island and hitched a ride on a pitying ship passing by. 3 made it back to England, but were caught purse snatching and executed that same day. Smythe tried again, sending another group despite their begging to be hanged! After being dumped near Table Bay another passing ship took pity on them and carried them away.

England never tried dumping convicts in the Cape again – until 200 years later.

Meanwhile, for 4 years after Dale sent his request England sat on its ass, during which Dale cracked his whip and ordered forts to be built deeper into Algonquin territory. During this time was when the Pocahontas story was created, based on real events but used as romantic escapism from the constant wars against Algonquins and French (who were making settlements in the continent too). Yet again the complaints made it back to England, and investors were decidedly pulling out. Additionally, since Bermuda was uninhabited it was fast becoming a rival. A rumour went around that the Virginian colony was to be shut down and relocated! Dale got scared and begged Smythe to not let it happen. Of course Smythe was rich enough to keep Virginia going so it didn’t happen; he even went to the trouble of taking the reneged investors to court!

Now 7 years had passed since Newport’s lot landed, which meant the slaves’ indentured servants’ period was up and they could go home or stay and take some land. However, those who stayed were required to pay rent (2.5 barrels of corn per acre + 30 days per year of public service). A second bigger batch of stayers had it worse; they were forced to work for 11 months per year. Then in 1613 John Rolfe (who later married Matoaka/ Pocahontas/ Rebecca) made the first commercial crop of tall tobacco, which the English liked so it was shipped over.

Problem: they needed much more manpower to keep this crop going long-term, but Virginia’s reputation was still in the gutter so no-one was coming.

Solution: ignore Francis Bacon’s protests again and SEND MORE CONVICTS!!!

Though it was prettied up as an act of mercy (to get round the fact that the Magna Carta forbade even the Crown from forcing people into labour), the real intention was clear. The poor wretches were to be “constrained to toil in such heavy and painful works as such servitude shall be a greater terror than death itself.” After this decision was made, groups of convicts were immediately assigned to Smythe – 17, then 5, then 6. In short, Smythe had been allowed to choose whom to send based on profession. King Jamie didn’t like that so he chose instead: 100 so-called dissolute* guys who used to hang around his palace at Newmarket!

* i.e. possibly extramarital sons of my courtiers, possibly common jobless thieves, possibly my male lovers? Don’t know, don’t care. Ship ’em out!

However, there were no ships headed for Virginia in either London, Plymouth or Bristol. Smythe didn’t have any spares either. Jamie called bullshit, which forced Smythe to set aside £1000 for the bastards (literal bastards?) to be held in a gaol til a ship was available. Being the calculating guy he was Smythe suspected the prisoners would mutiny first chance they got, so they were split into smaller groups to go on at least 4 separate vessels. Luckily for him, 3 stockholders were more than happy to take them off his hands and chuck them on the Somers Islands (Bermuda) – the Earl of Warwick, Edwin Sandys and John Ferrar.

And that was what opened the floodgates for using America as a dustbin for England’s unwanted people. Next came the street children…

Back to Part 3

On to Part 5

More properly called slaves, part 1

Inspired by Don Jordan & Michael Walsh’s White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America, ISBN 9781845961930.

This post will focus on the TAST (trans-Atlantic slave trade) but not on the enslaved Africans. Rather, I’ll focus on the enslaved Europeans. It’s not news that ‘whites’ enslaved each other, but rarely is that point dwelt on. I aim to correct that.

I’m going to do separate posts on each chapter, simply because they’re too long and interesting to summarise in one. Conveniently, the book summarises itself in the introduction so I’ll base this first post on that:

It should first be made clear that those ‘whites’ were ENSLAVED. Nowadays there’s an argument that they weren’t slaves as slaves were in lifelong servitude; these were servants contracted (indentured) to serve for a limited time then given freedom & rights. This claim isn’t new; it dates directly from that era and was as justificatory as it is now. But even in theory that argument was bollocks, never mind in practice – especially since the vast majority of them had their servitude periods extended indefinitely at their masters’ whim AND most of them died before the end of their period. Even the tiny minority who outlived their service rarely gained freedom or land rights, living as dirt-poor as they were back in England. While it’s true that from the mid-1700s to 1800s “servant” was understood to mean ‘white’ chattels while “slave”/”Negro” meant ‘black’ ones, masters saw their status as identical, even after lifelong enslavement of Africans was enforced.

Daniel Defoe (c. 1660-1731) said indentured servants are “more properly called slaves”, hence this post’s title.

And my mind is not changed in the least!

In short, both in theory & in practice indentured servant = servant = serf = chattel = slave.

A bit of historical context also helps make sense of the whole TAST:

  • It was conjured up by England, the basis of which was laid in the 1570s.
  • It was a continuation of the old serfdom system, which had supposedly ended in the European Renaissance.
  • Virginia & Maryland were where the first and most successful colonies were established.
  • Though making money off of other people’s backs was an integral purpose of the colonies, since they expected to find cities of gold* like the Spanish & Portuguese did in south America, the main reason for slave labour was to rid England of its “surplus” people – the “poor & lawless”.

* It never happened. Eventually they wised up and looked to crops to line their pockets.

  • After more colonists came, the north American mainland became the main site for expanding the British Empire in conjunction with personal profiteering. The Caribbean islands, on the other hand, were mainly just for personal profiteering.

Though figures are inexact, it’s known hundreds of thousands of ‘whites’ were transported and enslaved. Many of them went by force, but from 1620-1775 the majority went voluntarily and were called free-willers. They thought they were selling just their labour temporarily, but found they were selling their human rights. They were duped into thinking they’d have land, money & renown at the end, only to find they were as bad off as back home or more so.

IF they survived overwork, infirmity, punishments (one girl reportedly received 500 lashes from the whip and was beaten to death!), diseases (many of which were unique to English slaves), the voyages themselves*, malnutrition, overexposure to sun, and attacks from native Americans fed up of their lands being invaded.

Yes, Brits and other ‘white’ slaves were packed into ships in this exact same manner. Needless to say hygiene was piss-poor, illnesses ran rampant and most didn’t make it to land alive. 

From the 16th to early 17th centuries, ‘white’ people were the main labour force of the new American colonies. Even after Africans became the predominant slaves, Europeans were still used left, right and centre throughout the entire TAST period. They were worked and punished, rebelled, ran away & fought alongside the ‘black’ slaves.

The very first slaves were NOT Irish as you may think, though the English did harbour a special hatred of Irish since Anglo-Norman days. It’s true the English saw them as fundamentally inferior and enslaved many of them. They even committed genocide and tried to totally replace them (thanks in large part to Oliver Cromwell).

But that was much later.

The first TAST slaves were English! AND most of them were kidnapped children!

Just to remind you who did the kidnapping

Kidnapping children for this purpose eventually became so common that kidnappers (known as Spirits, hence the phrase spirited away) made a business out of it. They hung around at nearby ports weaving their way into the crowded streets targeting pretty much any lone child they found.

Those children were often beggars, pickpockets and other kinds of street urchins. Some of them were sent by their parents conned into thinking they’d have a better life. However, most were taken without the parents’ knowledge or consent. The work was so torturous and the climate so intolerable to their city-bred bodies most died in the first year! Some were so young, back in 1661 a man was shipping 4 “Irish boys” and his wife said they were so little he should’ve sent them in cradles! Remember Britain only banned child labour in the late 1800s!

In the late 1700s adults (predominantly convicts and petty criminals) were sent as a way to empty England’s overcrowded gaols (prisons) and get rid of the criminals. At first the law didn’t know or care where to chuck them but soon enough settled on the Americas. In other words, before Australia America used to be a dumping ground for England’s human refuse!

Such refuse weren’t always criminals however. They also included many religious & political dissidents (everyone who wasn’t Protestant or didn’t like the current monarch), prostitutes, beggars, and just the down-on-their-luck.

Then came the Irish, during Oliver Cromwell’s ethnic cleansing policy and for at least a century afterward. They were pretty much all taken against their will.

I did it not for pleasure, for pleasure is a sin. Twas my Christian duty

Throughout the entire era Africans were stolen for the same purpose of course. However, the disgusting abusive treatment inflicted on our ancestors was practised and perfected on the ‘white’ slaves first. The slavers ultimately didn’t give a flying fuck who their chattels were, as long as they didn’t have to do shit for themselves. Contrary to the popular American creation myth, American freedoms were gained only after LONG centuries of wanton punishments & enslavement of the poor majority.

Just like today, there were many who denied or belittled this ‘white’ slave trade. Back in the Renaissance Shakespeare’s favourite historian Raphael Holinshed, for example, claimed England had no slaves anymore and any slave who set foot on English soil became immediately free! Maybe that’s why those marked for servanthood were sent away from England, to keep that myth going?

Tens of millions of Euro-Americans today are descendants of those slaves. How many claim them, the way we’re always expected to? How many go out of their way to acknowledge them?

tumbleweed family
Just in case the tumbleweed got lonely, I brought its whole family!

Now onto the fun! Part 2

A summary of where fair-skinned modern Egyptians came from

 

Yes, the terms ‘white’ & ‘black’ as we use them in the political/ post-TAST racial sense are anachronisms. But in terms of actual skin colour, ‘black’ is far more accurate than ‘white’ to describe ancient Egyptians. Their hues were well within the range of other Africans, both back then and today, and they saw themselves as completely distinct from ‘white’ people to the west and north of them. Modern Egyptians (especially in Lower, aka. north Egypt) are a different matter as they’re a different people.

And just a very few examples of how Kemetics (ancient Egyptians) depicted themselves:

 

SHORT STORY: Armed Verbal Conflict

I had this one lying around for a while. Again this story was just for fun, not for competitions or anything. 

They stared at each other, their mutual hatred festering further, breathing hard, eyes refusing to blink. Though both unarmed they were well within arm’s length of their weapons, and they refused to let that change.
 
The one stood there, clad in mottled greens, browns & yellows that barely contained his bulging muscles. His cropped strawberry blond hair poked out beneath his black beret slanted to the right, ice blue eyes only flinching to ensure he was seeing all his adversary’s slightest movements. His right hand twitched next to the trigger of his machine gun, eager for the chance to use it.
 
The other stood at the opposite end of the cavern, his shoulder-length black ringlets and beard faintly wavering in the midday breeze. His sandy brown turban and robes lent themselves well to blending into the cave walls, and concealing his chiselled physique. His seal-brown eyes kept an equally hard gaze on his enemy’s movements, and his left hand made sure to stay within 2mm of his AK47’s trigger. Though their skins contrasted like day & night, their faces were equally flushed with simmering crimson fury. Their lips were likewise clenched in readiness for action of some sort.
 
“Why are you here?” the first man spat in his regimental English accent. The man before him stayed silent. “I asked you a question. Why are you here?”
 
More silence.
 
“Do you speak English?” demanded the soldier, annoyance blossoming into full-on anger. “Can you understand me?”
 
The second man, reluctantly, opened his mouth and replied in a deep semi-Arabic accent, “Yes but I ignored you because your question was foolish.”
 
“Sorry?” said the Englishman, finger just hovering over the trigger.
 
“Why am I, a native Egyptian, here in Egypt?” the African man relayed. “I should be asking this to you.”
 
The questioner sneered, “I’m here on behalf of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces of Great Britain, fighting terrorism in your country.”
 
“What you mean is,” corrected the Egyptian as he waved his hand dismissively, “you’re a man trying to implement a ruling system that failed at home, in a land you have no knowledge of whose people don’t know you. Yet you have the cheek to say we have terrorism here.” With a titter he finished, “Spoken like a true terrorist.”
 
“I fight for peace and freedom!” said the Englishman in a raised tone, which triggered an outburst of unabashed laughter from the Egyptian. In fact, he laughed so heartily he completely withdrew his hand from his gun.
 
“Fighting for peace in a place where no war was declared, fighting for freedom by invading a nation that neither needs nor wants you,” the Egyptian laughed. “Utter fool.”
 
The Brit winced at his enemy’s brazen words. Unsure whether to be worried or offended, he stated, “Sir if you do not desist I will be forced to use lethal force.”
 
Drawing enough breath to still his laughter, the African retorted, “Against what? Words of criticism? Is that what your Queen trains you to do? Is that your democracy?”
 
“Sir you are trying my patience,” the Brit said, ever more annoyed.
 
Staring at him square in the eyes, the African said – slowly & deliberately, “When your patience runs out what will you do?” He crossed his arms to make his reach from his gun even farther. The Brit’s eyes twitched back and forth to the unmanned AK47 as the Egyptian took slow deliberate steps toward him. “Still claiming the moral high ground, while running amuck amongst unarmed civilians to end a threat of your own making.
 
“The wolves have become the shepherds, and now you cry because the rams are growing horns.” He sneered then turned around to walk back toward his weapon.
 
The Englishman’s finger was on the trigger at last. And he pulled it. 
 
 
© ONE TAWNY STRANGER 2013