Sometimes I think journalists don’t even read their own articles — or internalize their own hot air. In this Sunday’s New York Times, Ellen Barry writes about a murder case in India in which caste affiliation gets in the way of justice. Early in the piece, she grills the local constable, gets pushback, and examines her navel a bit:
Over the past decade, in Russia and then India, I have been asked versions of this question hundreds of times: Who are you to come here and tell us what is wrong with our system? And it’s true, the whole enterprise of foreign correspondence has a whiff of colonialism. During the years I have worked abroad, Americans’ interest in promoting their values in the world has receded, slowly and then precipitously. I doubted the regional hegemons filling the vacuum would do better, but still, I wasn’t sure it was such a bad thing.
(Emphasis, as the law nerds say, added.) So, cool, I think, she’s just a little bit self-aware about her privileged position and first-world filter. But after reporting that the local justice system refused to recognize a murder as a murder — based on caste loyalty — she sheds her self-awareness like a gossamer scarf:*
Sometimes it seemed that the European legal system, with its liberal emphasis on individual rights, had settled only lightly on a country fixated on the rights of groups. Political leaders have driven this deeper into the culture: Equality, in India, is equality among groups. Justice is group justice.
Perhaps her next colonial assignment should be Ferguson. Or Minneapolis. Or Baltimore. Or Cleveland. Or New York. I’d be interested in the promotion of American values in those far flung locales.
*I’m picturing a blonde woman — perhaps in a perfume ad — running in slow mo as the scarf of self awareness floats gracefully up and away from her.**
**Note the latest in accessible images: the image-free image description.