Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Victimology R Us : the case of “Human Trafficking”

We earlier posted about the curiously skewed reporting (in particular on NPR) concerning events in Syria, struggling to keep a horribly complicated reality (which has just taken yet another intricate turn, with a number of rebel factions at each other’s throats, or falsely reported as having united) in line with a politically-correct narrative.
And now the Victimology Sweepstakes has involved India.

On NPR tonight, their reporter summed up the controversy as follows:  “According to the United States, the maid is the victim;  according to India, the diplomat is the victim”  -- these alternatives exhaust the spectrum of possible ways of looking at the affair.  Both principals, note, are female;  and the twin faces actually belong to a single narrative Janus:  if two women are unhappy about something, at least one of them must be a ‘victim’.

The background story is:  A maid was brought to America by an Indian, er, something-or-other (India just promoted her so that she will enjoy -- they hope -- retroactive diplomatic immunity, for which she was technically not eligible at the time of the alleged crime), to work at a fancy Manhattan address, where she received less than what New York City has decreed to be the minimum wage.   Whether (as with waiters) there were other perks to the job, such as free room and board at a place most of us could not afford to live, I have no idea, and these are scarcely mentioned in the ruthless drive towards simplification (though, legally, they would certainly be relevant; even Wikipedia makes no mention of this).   The wage, such as it was, compared favorably to what she could have made in India -- but who knows.  Her beef with her employer probably had other dimensions as well.  In any case, the U.S. legal case against the employer primarily involves visa fraud -- which after all was carried out on behalf of the prospective employee, and not (in itself) to her victimization.  (If there are victims in such visa fraud, that would be the American workers who might otherwise find employment.) To make good-guy/bad-guy out of all this, is a stretch.

What seems to have happened is that the United States, in its zeal for P.C., has got entangled in a strand of its own recent mythology:  the spectre of “Human Trafficking”.   India, not sharing this mythology, can make nothing of it, and sees pure persecution.   American zealots, not understanding that polytheist India does not worship at this particular shrine as well, thinks it is being impossibly perverse.   Serious international consequences have been developing out of this absurd sideshow.

Most Americans know next to nothing about the phenomenon or the way it is being portrayed by certain lobbies.   But at my workplace, everyone -- tens of thousands of us -- are required to take a “course” every year, on the horrors of human trafficking, basically warning us all against even dreaming of indulging in such a thing.   Now, we all have our foibles, but I rather doubt if (the background of the folks there being what it is) even a single employee has ever come close to what a normal person would consider “human trafficking”.   Some of us (not you, not me) might just possibly do other bad things: take a sick day for less than a life-threatening illness, use government e-mail for sending humorous items about cats and whatnot, take the Lord’s name in vain upon striking one's thumb with an errant hammer, exceed the speed limit in harmony with surrounding traffic, and wantonly tear tags off mattresses despite explicit warnings not to do so:  but there are no courses, required or otherwise, warning us against those.   The Awful Warning concerns “human trafficking”, and that alone.

To get credit for the course, we have to pass an “exam”.   My advice to newcomers is:  Ignore the course content, skip right to the exam, and give whatever answer Hillary Clinton would want you to give.  That is the one they want.

So, what is behind it?  They don’t really imagine that any of us are about to rush out and buy slaves on eBay  (“Buy two -- get one free!”), or smuggle boatloads of Rwandans into our cul-de-sacs.   No, what they really mean is:  If you travel abroad, even on vacation, and visit a fille de joie, then, even if The World's Oldest Profession (and still among the most lucrative) is completely legal in that country, the Prudery Police will come after you, and ruin you.   In this one area, your time and your activity is not your own;  the long arm of Correctness will find you, wherever you are.

[Historical note]  Connoisseurs of American cultural history will notice the parallel with the “white slavery” scares that caused our great-grandmothers’ hearts to flutter and shudder.  Cf. the Wikipedia article on “Moral Panic”.


There is a striking parallel between this case, and that of Diallo-vs-DSK, which has been little remarked upon if at all.   In both cases, the combination of

(1)  A maid from Third World country, present in the United States as a result of fraud,


(2)  The savagery of the New York City legal system


(3)  A motivating narrative of political correctness

led to a serious international incident.

Plus much money, moving  from left  to right ...

[Update 11 January 2014]   One thing that has no doubt been a conundrum for the popular psyche, and the media that mold it, is what to do about the diplomat.
The mass media have only two principal roles for young women in news stories these days:  (1) victim  (2) heroine.  (If her transgressions are too awful, there is a third.)    Now, normally a beautiful and somewhat prominent woman like Devyani the (not-quite-)Diplomat  would be cast as heroine;  however, since she was required in the role of victimizer of the maid (the narrative that launched the weepie in the first place, and no males being present on the sidelines to serve in that role), she couldn’t really wear both hats.  Yet she is far too good-looking to remain in so ambiguous a position.

The answer, we see today:   She is indeed a heroine -- in India.   Here we see her saucy and sashaying as she returns home in tinsel triumph, wrapped in her entitlement like a sari:


Her parting unpenitent words to American diplomats:

She told the official, ‘You have lost a good friend. It is unfortunate. In return, you got a maid and a drunken driver. They are in, and we are out.’ ”

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