Thursday, March 20, 2008

Now for something completely different...

Its unfortunate that I have to use that delightful Monty Python expression to digress to such a sombre and terrible subject; but it is one that seems to be on everyones mind at the moment. I'm talking about the death of Scarlett Keeling.

The questions that everyone is asking now is whether Goa is a safe place or not... what do you think. Perhaps we should ask Scarlett that question. Or her mother. Perhaps the answer is self evident when we consider the where. Any sane person would be able to figure out that a beach filled with drugs, booze and lecherous males isn't the safest place to hang around alone, or leave a fifteen year old girl. Which would obviously beg the question that everyone has been asking - why did the mother bring her 9 children to India, taking them out of school, leave them alone for months on end in an obviously seedy place and take off with her boyfriend? And what evidence or reason does she have to blame the Home Minister?

But there are a few questions that seem forgotten. Why was the murder initially covered up? Why has Ram Naik been trying to get Fiona's visa cancelled? And why has no action or investigation been carried out against the people who conspired to cover up this murder? Questions that have been obscured by a media that is always looking only for increased sales and TRPs.

Again digressing, Philip Hensher of The Independent has a very interesting commentary about this whole episode, not about the murder in particular, but more about the culture of western travellers and backpackers in other countries. Take a look:


The reckless hedonism that shames Britons abroad
Philip Hensher, Tuesday, 18 March 2008

If, as Clausewitz said, war is the continuation of politics by other means, there is not much doubt what tourism is the continuation of. The age of imperialism may have ended decades ago, with the withdrawal of European forces from Asian and African countries and the granting of independence. No sooner had that occurred, however, than the tourists descended like a plague of locusts, all in search of an "authentic" experience: many ripping up and insulting the host cultures in the name of that bogus authenticity.

The Scarlett Keeling murder case has transfixed India's large and busy media with a glimpse of a way of life which few Indians can quite believe. A mother with nine children from four – or was it five – fathers. The children, whose schooling seems decidedly patchy, are taken to live on a beach in Goa for months on end in the name of some kind of nebulous larger "education". One of them, merely 15, is left to look after herself while the rest take off to Karnataka. On her own, she takes drugs, drinks a good deal of vodka, has sex with men she has just met – none of which seems to be unusual to her – and is quite quickly murdered.

Rarely can the expression "it will all end in tears" be so grimly literal, and I don't particularly want to add to the terrible burden of grief and guilt which Scarlett's mother, Fiona MacKeown, must have to shoulder from now on.

There are thousands of English teenagers exactly like Scarlett Keeling and not much about her life is unusual, apart from its grisly end. I dare say she was nice-natured and well-mannered; she drank and took drugs recklessly, as many teenagers do; she probably had the air of a streetwise girl, able to cope with situations, and only on reading her diary does it become apparent that she was virtually illiterate, extremely ignorant and as naïve as 15-year-olds have always been. We all know teenagers exactly like that.

(Read more)

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