At least notice where you are
Howard Jacobson is a bit harsh but he’s right.
[I]t is irresponsible, so many years after Don Quixote messed up everything he touched, and when there is no shortage of international report, to be quite so determinedly unaware of where you are and what you’re doing and what the consequences might be. And that irresponsibility is compounded when you come home having narrowly escaped a lashing or worse, tell everyone what a great time you had and how lovely the people are, and express the hope that what happened to you won’t put anybody else off going.
I had the same thought, and I don’t suppose I’m the only one. No, thanks, I don’t think I will rush off for an adventure holiday in Sudan just now.
As for her refusal to be judgemental about it: at best it is a worthless show of magnanimity if she hasn’t a clue what the furore was about or how it relates to the treatment of other women or dissenters in that country, at worst it smacks of Stockholm Syndrome – that masochistic compulsion (especially incident to lovers of the simplicities of the Third World) to fall in love with your captors and torturers. It behoves you if you insist on travelling – against my advice that you stay resolutely at home – at least to notice where you are. And to bring back a better report from what…must be an ideological hell to live in, than how nice everybody was to you…With her release it’s business as before: half the world can go on thinking it has a right to imprison and execute whenever it considers its feelings hurt. So tell me what, now the dust has settled, is cultural “understanding”. Accepting the inhumanity of whatever society one finds oneself in? Acknowledging the primacy of local sensibilities, however closed-minded, however uneducated and raw, however severe the penalties for outraging them?…No Danish cartoon affair, this. Even the most vehemently touchy parties could agree it was an innocent mistake. No harm done because no hurt intended. But where does that leave us if we believe we should be able to give a teddy bear any name we like?
Just so; hence the interest of the fact that Bunglawala was obliging enough to say explicitly that if it is intentional then…he has no sympathy for the criminal. That’s where that leaves us.