Thursday, 19 December 2013

On how many houses must we figuratively wish a pox?

The uproar in the diplomatic world today is the arrest of the Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, a consular services official in the USA who was arrested in front of her children at school, taken to a police station, and apparently strip searched, leading to extreme annoyance from the Indian government and Indian media.

This is one of those situations in which literally everybody doth protest too much.

So, US law enforcement procedures, well, they are notoriously made of a combination of suck and human rights violation, and routine strip searches are one of the precipitates. Protesting them is certainly a mitzvah. Except, you know, I look on any Indian protests from people wearing saffron scarves with a very jaded eye. If you don't know India, saffron is the colour of pure racist nationalism and fascism. These people are angry at the insult to India in the body of Khobragade, not to the actual assault on her person. Not only that, they're undoubtedly butthurt at all the bad press India has been getting for its rape epidemic. They also probably think that because the DA is Indian-American, he's trying to suck up to white people and prove that he's not going to favour his own "kind". Which might actually be true: I wouldn't put it past him.

But of course the implication that his own "kind" includes "Indian diplomat" is one of those maddening forms of racism that I would consider a legitimate case of so-called "reverse racism". The saffron crowd is undoubtedly expecting that a fellow Indian would follow an Indian-class-based attitude and ought to actively seek to get his own "kind" off the hook. In which case, it's hard to hold a possible attempt to suck up to white people entirely against him.

But I wouldn't cry that many tears for Khobragade either. I mean, regardless of what she did, routine strip searches by law enforcement are reasons for human sympathy, I suppose. Except, what she was being arrested for was the maltreatment of a maid -- a servant she was underpaying according to American law, when she had signed a declaration that she would pay the maid in full. Reading between the lines, it is almost certainly the case that many Indian diplomats are routinely lying to the US authorities on this front and justifying it to themselves because their maids a paid somewhat more than they would in India proper. Khobragade is probably not paid enough to afford to pay in full and live a diplomat's lifestyle in the USA.

Naturally, being of the privileged classes, it would be unthinkable that she should clean up after herself. Except, in a society that totally assigns domestic tasks to women (still far more so than Western society) and designs its world of work around the unencumbered man, a career woman must have a maid. She would never have taken the job otherwise, I would assume.

Adding to the overall unsympatheticness, India is trying to force the maid not to complain to the US authorities, as part of what appears to be a campaign to ensure that it's own diplomats can safely lie to the US authorities.

You might think, then, that the US authorities are on the side of the angels. But the US uses underhanded tactics and military means to ensure that even worse behaviour of its diplomats in "friendly" countries goes unpunished. Khobragade underpaying a maid is indeed, in that sense, the petty shoplifting equivalent of a diplomatic offense.

Lost in this mire of privilege stacked on privilege, is the maid. Her name is Sangeeta Richard, and the Indian-American DA is at the very least absolutely right to insist that the focus be on her.


Pseudz said...

Mandos, Thank-you for warp and the weft of this li'l tempest. It appears to be more than a mere weave, but rather, a crazy brocade of vested opportuntism. Clever, generous Mandos. It is to be hoped that Ms. Richard is not made to suffer any more than she has.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Merry Pox-on-all-your-houses-mas, Mandos!

And all the other Dammit Janet!s, too.

Beijing York said...

Another Merry Pox Greeting from Winnipeg to my co-conspirators. Looking forward to seeing you in the New Year and contributing more.

fern hill said...

To ifthethunderetc and BY: Merry Pox back atcha. Here's hoping 2014 is better all round.

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