X is for xenophobia

Serpent and Apple

Each week’s news  is marked with a new set of horrible stories about people killing complete strangers merely because of their ethnicity, religion, nationality, or skin color.  In recent times ISIS, or whatever these lunatic perpetrators of evil  have killed anyone that does not follow their religion.  Take for example their persecution of Yazidi women and massacres of at least 5,000 Yazidi civilians.

History is filled with xenophobia the  Jewish holocaust led to approximately 6 million European Jews being mass murdered in concentration camps and forced labour during the Second World War.

Can you imagine that at one time there were “human zoos” a popular attraction in the West in the 19th and 20th centuries. These ‘public exhibits’ of human beings (caged, sometimes with exotic animals) introduced the West to the ‘barbarians’ of the East. Particularly popular exhibits were those of Africans, tribal pygmies, and the Philippines. Men, women and children would be kidnapped, caged, then exhibited in front of European audiences. Visitors to these “zoos” would make fun of the exhibits and poke them with sticks, throw food at them, treating them like animals and for an extra fee were allowed to subject the captives to some degrading acts. Human zoos existed in places like Paris, London, Barcelona, and Antwerp. Sarah Baartman died after years spent in European “freak shows”. She had very pronounced buttocks, due to a build-up of fat, which made a cause for European fascination.  Wealthy customers could pay for private demonstrations in their homes, with their guests allowed to touch her.

She is seen by many as the epitome of colonial exploitation and racism, of the ridicule and commodification of black people.


Xenophobia seems ingrained not only in humans, but also in the animal kingdom.

According to a  biological anthropologist from Harvard, male chimpanzees brutally beat and kill chimps from other groups, indeed male groups vigorously patrol the boundaries of their territories searching for isolated males from neighboring groups.  Ants equally are liable to such behavior , conducting warfare with one another.

Apparently Males are much more likely to be perpetrators of racial discrimination, but equally likely to be the victims of such discrimination. Xenophobia is something that is spread universally.

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.


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This article is part of a blogging challenge,



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Would you give up lifestyle, convert to another religion, all for the sake of marriage?

Aitken inside image

Would you give up your lifestyle, the comforts you are used to, be prepared for an almighty culture clash, as well as converting to a new religion, all for the sake of marrying somebody ? Some choose to take this route. Flicking through some news stories, I came across the daughter of a well-known Conservative politician Jonathan Aitken. This story is more remarkable due to the fact that Alexandra Aitken, now named Uttrang Kaur Khalsa, was once the ultimate party girl, hanging out with celebrities, going as far as to pose naked for GQ magazine, while living an utterly privileged life. She married a Sikh warrior Inderjot Singh six years ago, she describes their first encounter, seemingly still gushing ‘I was sitting on the roof of the Golden Temple at about 3am, and the most beautiful man I’d ever seen in my whole life walked in. He seemed 100 per cent man, gentle and intuitive and poetic and sensitive, but also extraordinarily strong and manly. And you don’t see many of these around. So I was like: “Oh wow!”’.

Their marriage was not some glitzy affair in London, however hundreds of holy men did come out of their caves to offer their benediction to their union. However these benedictions were not enough to sustain the marriage, which was short lived. Whether the marriage was strictly legal is also open to question. One thing is for sure is that the former Cabinet Minister’s daughter is on a spiritual mission and is upholding many beliefs that were thrust upon her by her former “husband”. Her life these day revolves around living mostly in a gurdwara (a Sikh temple) alongside yogis and meditation masters, while also being a fully-fledged green advocate. In a town of around 16,000 people, out on a limb as the only single western woman.

What to make of Alexandra Aitken/ Uttrang Kaur Khalsa? Is she a bit wacky? Mad? Or is she admirable, perhaps courageous? Certainly by reading about her, she seems strong willed. Will her story be made into a film, the Brit party girl, who marries a Sikh warrior…I could imagine a younger version of Kate Winslet, fitting the role. Her film Hideous Kinky, has echoes of the Aitken girl story.



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Am I a freak?

Am I a freak-

What do we understand by the word freak?
Why are most humans so cruel?
Why are we all so desperate to be part of the “norm”?

one that is markedly unusual or abnormal: as
a : a person or animal having a physical oddity and appearing in a circus sideshow
b slang (1) : a sexual deviate (2) : a person who uses an illicit drug
c : hippie
d : an atypical postage stamp usually caused by a unique defect in paper (as a crease) or a unique event in the manufacturing process (as a speck of dirt on the plate) that does not produce a constant or systematic effect
a : an ardent enthusiast <film freaks>
b : a person who is obsessed with something <a control freak>
See freak defined for English-language learners
See freak defined for kids
Examples of FREAK
1. eccentric, artistic types whom many regarded as freaks
2. I had a terrible rash on my face, and I felt like a freak.

It seems to be part of human nature to constantly judge others physical appearance. Perhaps the human race is getting even more narcissistic, after all don’t we go around taking “selfies” and plant them on the social media. God help anyone with an over-sized nose, ears that jut out, bulging eyes, a prominent pimple, a mole that is so eye-catching it directs people’s focus, like a ship to lighthouse in a thick fog. Anyone with extreme characteristics is liable to a lifetime of abusive comments, ridicule, being stared at…fingers pointed at them on public transport. Parts in horror films beckon, but the front cover of vogue does not.

In Victorian times those deemed to be “freaks” were placed on the stage, were put “on show”. The Victorians had a bizarre curiosity, there were the bearded ladies, included amongst these was Julia Pastrana resembled more of an ape than a woman. Pastrana, a Mexican-born woman suffered from hypertrichosis, a disease that causes the person to be covered from head to toe in long, thick hair. To compound things…she had a large nose and thick lips. She later had the indignity of being mummified, along with the still born child she gave birth to, who had the same features as her. Freak shows are a terrible indictment of the Victorian times, a time when Britain was at the height of imperialism.
John Merrick, more commonly known as “The Elephant man” had the most unimaginable skin disease, allegedly suffering from elephantiasis. Like some of the characters in my book, poor John Merrick, was an object of curiosity and ridicule throughout his life. His body was characterized by his malformed head, curved spine, “lumpy” skin and overgrown right arm and hand. His life was brought further to the public’s attention, with David Lynch’s file “The Elephant man”. The real reason for Merrick’s severe condition is even to this day open to conjecture.

What we can say is you are unfortunate to be born with a condition like John Merrick’s you will have much suffering to endure and will need the kind of indomitable spirit that John Merrick possessed. From the moment we are born, we are dealt different cards of fate, some are born lucky others face a life of hardship on account of their atypical physical appearance.
As children we are conditioned to be like the pack…we want to be like the others, included within the group of those deemed “normal”. Even a child with ginger hair, might suffer at the hands of others…vicious name calling…In my school if you did not match up what was considered “the norm” for example if you were effeminate, or had an atypical name (it was an all-boys school full of pubescent boys) you would be showered with all manner of insults, “lesbo” “lesy” or the likes. We had dormitories with up to twelve boys crammed together , like an army camp for privates. We were there for thirty-six weeks of the year, the other boys were “inescapable”. For this reason I escaped to the art room, where I could be at least express myself on paper or canvas and get away from this existence I really despised. I guess it was where I began to feel an “outsider”. I was never going to join the army, I was never going to be a businessman, like many of the other boys, primed for such activities… I was going to blessed with some comfortable life, with a comfortable career beckoning.

My Short stories are littered with freaks…for example there is “Bugeyes”…who is rejected at birth, on account of his extraordinary large eyes…and needless to say he is ridiculed by all…with a myriad of jokes that involve large eyes…for example “moth eyes”. People assume he is “stupid” but this is far from being the case.

Francis H Powell is the author of Flight of Destiny a book of short stories. He is also a musician and video maker…check out this video…it’s called “Bring out the freaks” and features Rayo, a multi-musician, who plays guitar and piano on this track.