Truth and myths about denigrating in America
Among the Russian-speaking immigrants, especially those who have recently arrived in the United States, I have encountered a fairly common opinion that informing is a feature of the American mentality hardly more than the post-Soviet one. New immigrants, most often, are afraid of this phenomenon and do not organically accept it.
However, if we compare what is happening in modern Russia with the situation in the United States, such an analogy would hardly be appropriate. As many human rights organizations say, in the past few years, Russia has witnessed a real “epidemic” of denunciations of posts and reposts in social networks (most often, anti-war), which end in real criminal cases.
At the same time, immigrants living in the United States on 15 and over the years claim: the American habit of reporting violations is only a reasonable contribution of people to maintaining a legal, comfortable and safe life style in which Americans see a guarantee of your own comfort and safety, and not an analogue of the new Russian "laws on spikelets" and "mental crime".
«In general, the problem is that in America and Russia a fundamentally different attitude to the law. In America, as in any democracy, the law is a social contract, or at least an expression of the majority opinion. Hence there is an understanding of the need to obey the law and informing about the cases of its violation. In Russia, as in any authoritarian state, the law descends from above, which means it is anti-people in essence. Hence the constant attempts to circumvent the law, to find loopholes and moves. Sometimes bypassing the law becomes the only opportunity to survive or to carry out this or that activity. Informing of a violation becomes anti-popular, therefore it is not encouraged in society. Mass denunciations in times of repression and the prison culture of the people add negative connotation "squealing"- says the Russian opposition activist Dmitry Valuevcurrently living in the USA.
And in many respects I am inclined to agree with Dmitry. In the United States, the authorities are most often informed about a violation of order — standard cases like drunkenness, loud music, the use of dangerous pyrotechnics, drug sales, etc. The logic here is quite understandable: ensuring elementary comfort or safety, both for one’s own and for children. Americans approach the rules deliberately, and most often consider the violators impersonal, thinking first of all not about how the report will affect his fate, but about the influence of the violator on the fate of others. For example, a drunk teenager in the United States is not just a “difficult child who wanted to breathe freedom,” but also a potential driver who could kill passers-by to death while being drunk and driving.
Of particular note here are, of course, reports of crimes. According to people who personally informed about cases of fraud and even corruption schemes, unlike Russia, in America the authorities really respond to such reports and take measures to protect the victims. Another frequent intervention is the protection of those who, in the opinion of the communicant, are in immediate danger: a child left in a car unattended, children being beaten up in families, etc.
However, as noted by many, the situation in the United States is still not as idealistic as it may seem at first glance. In America, as in Russia, there are cases of abuse of "civic consciousness". It is interesting that in the American turnover there is a term snitch - identical to the Russian word "snitch", "scammer" in its negative context, as well as the expression rat out - to push, to convey, to surrender a person, literally - “to be a rat.” At the same time, for “positive” cases of messages, a somewhat different rhetoric is used here: informer or whistle-blower. Let us try to list the cases of American "squealing" that are closest to the Russian context.
1. Account counting
It should be noted that it is rather difficult, if not impossible, to do this in the United States with the help of law enforcement agencies, as in Russia. From my many conversations with immigrants of different "waves", I came across only one case of "selective justice", when one pirate radio station hired a former FBI agent to intimidate the owners of another, no less pirate radio station. However, in most cases, the "protection" of the business on the Russian model in the United States is impossible. Moreover, it is not uncommon for such former US security forces hired by private companies to be the first to report cases of the machinations of their new bosses, putting the law above personal gain.
Harassment of views and beliefs in the United States is also impossible, so if you report that your neighbor criticizes the government, such denunciation will have no effect. However, cases where law enforcement agencies are used against innocent people still exist. American the press describesFor example, cases of calling local special forces under the pretext that someone allegedly holds hostages or commits another dangerous crime. Sometimes there are deliberately false calls in order to annoy a neighbor or to arrange a cruel joke. However, in practice it happens that such “jokes” end very tragically, if the police or FBI officers who arrive at the scene, do not understand, kill the owner of the house. Of course, the “prankster” in this case will be held accountable for the false denunciation, and compensation will be paid to the family of the deceased, however, if you have already been shot, it is unlikely to be able to help you.
Some familiar lawyers also gave examples of how former spouses in the process of divorce inform each other for violating tax laws - again, for the purpose of settling bills or receiving large alimony. However, despite their motivation, it is important to state: responsibility will come only in the case when there has really been a violation of the law. But false accusations of sexual harassment, racism or discrimination are much more difficult to refute, and there may indeed be abuses.
An example of "kinks" can serve as petty informing about very minor offenses, such as improper parking. However, in the United States such cases are compensated for by the fact that the legislation refers to minor offenses very condescendingly.
One of the few areas where you can ruin a person’s life on the basis of not a fact of violation, but only suspicion, is the sphere of security. If you, for example, need to get some immigration documents or access to classified information, and someone has reported your “unreliability”, you are required to check. Of course, unlike Russia, no one will “fabricate” a criminal case and introduce some kind of repressive measures without obtaining evidence of your crimes. But the trouble is that in a cumbersome bureaucratic system, which is especially inflated in busy states like California, such checks can take years. I came across people complaining that they received a green card or citizenship several years (!) Later than other members of their families. Only one thing can serve as consolation here: if you are innocent, the checks will eventually end and you will get what you want. But, you see, not being able to get the necessary documents or good work over the years is really a difficult test that can significantly ruin a person’s life.
2. Friendship or following the rules?
Most immigrants who have long been living in the United States agree that the habit of schoolchildren from the lower grades to report all cases of quarrels and offenses to teachers is a blessing, not a harm. In this case, the teacher is perceived as a senior comrade who is able to intervene in time and prevent really serious cases, such as school bullying or even suicidal attempts.
«Children cannot themselves assess the degree of danger or possible harm. Whoever fails to report a violation takes some responsibility for the consequences"- sure Jana Ratman from California.
However, excesses are also possible here. For example, how ethical is it if students are in a hurry to report any, even the most formal, violation of the rules, such as, say, reading books during a lesson? Does it not harm the establishment of trust between students and the formation of a close childhood friendship? There is still no exact answer to this question.
3. Collaboration or competition?
The sphere in which it is customary to report violations of the rules more than anywhere else is usually a working relationship. On the one hand, there is also a certain logic in this. For example, if someone leaves work ahead of time, he deceives both the employer and his colleagues who are forced to work for him. However, it was in this area that I was most complained about the unreasonable carping and room for settling accounts with colleagues. Employees spying on each other and fierce competition is in some firms an attribute of corporate culture, and some use this system as a way to move up the career ladder.
«A few years ago, I worked in a company where we were immediately instructed to monitor our colleagues and report if anything was wrong. A short time after starting work, I filled my hand and began to work very quickly. I can't do otherwise. And it was a mistake. I finished the project, let the director know, and started either to watch something on the Internet, or to play some stupid game, moreover, not from a working computer, but on my phone, in my dowel. Naturally, the work was already done anyway, and I just needed a break. So brains, eyes and hands rested (I worked as a technical designer). Someone “dripped”, and as a result I was flooded with work for three. This ultimately led to an injury to my arm and neck and my voluntary departure from there.“- I was told by a familiar immigrant.
No one will argue that stopping crimes is the right and noble task. However, how ethical is it to provoke a person to commit a misdemeanor, which he would never have done without the special efforts of a provocateur? For example, one of the immigrants told me how two girls had long begged him to cancel the parking penalty. When, out of pity, he succumbed to their persuasion and decided to make a favor (without any bribes, solely in the form of forgiveness of the first violation), they immediately informed about it. By the way, in America there is a special term for such people, which is also far from positive: stool pigeon - informer provocateur.
However, most of the people who shared their observations with me consider: such a system is part of civil society, and abuses are not systemic. Americans are sure that people demonstrate their indifference to the common good and safety of others, their responsibility for their city or district is manifested. In addition, immigrants remind you: if you are wrong, it’s not yet a fact that you will be “informed”. It is possible that a neighbor just come to visit you with a delicious cake, and just gently point you to a perfect mistake.
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