March 13, 2006 by AK
To live, don’t let live
Russians who have lived in the Anglophone West often report an unpleasant finding: the prevalence of “report your neighbor” as a type of citizen activism.
You think some people in your neighborhood have ugly front yards? You suspect the family next door is dumping hazardous waste in their back yard? That guy has bought a house too good for a modest government employee? The couple across the street might, just might, be underreporting their income? Their neighbor might not be actually sleeping with his immigrant wife? Your office buddy has porn on his drive? Or, much worse, visits “racist” forums? The answer is the same: report them to the relevant authority, governmental or corporate.
Some Russians have come to believe that “report your neighbor” is the cornerstone of Western civil society, and spying on one’s neighbor is a signature civic virtue of the West. (Although the same activities have been widespread in both Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, “snitching” has always been seen as despicable, and informers as little better than vermin.) Not surprisingly, they wonder whether Russian society should move in this direction.
This view of civil society is obviously based on exaggeration yet I have not found simple and convincing arguments to counter it.
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