Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Only a Rat testifies.

When The Doser was a child, the person who was a tattle tale was not highly regarded. That, you will remember, was the whiner that constantly ran to the "Mom" with: "Johnnie just took my doll...etc." Even "Mom" was inclined to discourage tattle-taling.

But, "Mom" was right on the cusp of the problem: she wanted the girl to come and tell her if her brother was stuck up a tree. She just did not want to be included in the way brother and sister learned to deal with each other. The message, however, was: "Don't be a tattle-tale." Since the investment the "teller" had in telling was slight, it was still possible for "Mom" to give some dimension to the prohibition.

It's like The Doser's grand-children who were told not to speak with strangers. The children learned the lesson that they should not speak to their infrequently-visiting grand-parents. What seems to be needed is a training message that says: Don't do this - but - do that.

Later in life, when peers began to be more important and the parental regulations-structure more burdensome, the person who went to authority with a report on what was going on was called a "rat." The Doser understands that this term is used on those who "rat" on their criminal associates. Even the "informer," without whom most crimes would remain unsolved, is not a noble figure - even to the police who rely upon him. By this time, the "costs of telling" have gone up. Payment and protections are sometimes provided for the person who tells.

The US Navy used to have a well-embedded "us-them" demarcation which did not encourage enlisted men to "tell" on other enlisted men. The Doser's guess is that it is still pretty much the same, generally, in all armed forces. Probably based camaraderie and the fear of retaliation. However, The Doser's friend Rob, says that there are Army mechanisms to protect a person who is picked on, hazed, violated and the like. It does turn on going to authority to complain. It would be a long walk to the Lieutenant's office past the Sergeant's desk! And an even longer walk back to the berthing area.

Those of us old enough to remember the Nazi era remember how horrified we were that neighbors were encouraged to "tell" on neighbors. That is: they were encouraged to tell the authorities about infractions of the law. Further, to show how despicable the Nazis were, we were led to understand that they encouraged children to tell on their parents.

The Doser was thinking about the boy who brought the gun to school the other day. Apparently, his backing among the student body for bringing a weapon to school was not large because some students told some teachers about the gun. Even at this remove, one wonders if the plural of "students" and "teachers" was not used to protect a single person that told.

It is not hard to imagine that there are situations where the ones who would want to tattle-tale or "rat" on the school gunsel would certainly not do that: for example, if there were mean streets between the school and their homes and the gunsel was a member of a gang. The costs of telling could be very high.

Anyone that has ever attended an automobile accident or witnessed a crime in a crowded place knows very well that, "I don't want to get involved," decides who saw anything. Thus, even to uphold rules that we all rely upon, we can't bring ourselves easily to tell authorities what happened. Here, the "don't tell" rule applies even though the costs of telling are as low as giving a statement or appearing in court.

What we seem to have is a well-settled ambivalence about telling authority that somebody did something wrong? Those feelings come out of a culture that fully supports that reluctance. Though it works to the disadvantage of the underdog, the violated person, it appears to The Doser that it may be too embedded to be cured.

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