What immigration, Internet security, and car rental companies have in common

I was reading a book by Bruce Shneier “Secret and Lies rdquo;. While this book is about Internet security, Bruce uses lots of real world analogies to explain the technical stuff. His analogies were transformed in my head into different analogies that have nothing to do with the Internet, hence this post about immigration. But first let me cite Bruce (sorry for the long quote, but it “s very well said).

Bruce writes: rdquo;Less than one percent of eBay transactions ndash; unmediated long-distance deals between strangers ndash; result in any sort of complaint. People are, on the whole, honest; they generally adhere to an implicit social contract. The general lawfulness in our society is high; that “s why it works so well. (I realize that the precious paragraph is a gross oversimplification of a complex world. I am writing this book in the United States at the turn of the millennium. I am not writing it in Sarajevo, Hebron, or Rangoon. I have no experiences that can speak to what it is like to live in such a place. My personal expectations of safety come from living in a stable democracy. This book is from the point of view of industrialized world, not the world torn apart by war, suppressed by secret police, or controlled by criminal syndicates. This book is about the relatively minor threats in a society where the major threats have been dealt with.)

Attacks, whether criminal or not are exceptions. They are events that take people by surprise, that are “news rdquo; in its real definition. They “re disruptions in the society “s social contract, and they disrupt the lives of the victims rdquo;.

It “s been seven years since Bruce wrote this, and I “m sure that mentality of most Americans has been substantially changed, and you know why. But let “s get to the immigration subject, let “s try to get into the head of a person who lived in a society where having a criminal mindset is not exception, but norm of life. Let “s get into my head circa 1987. I used to live in the country that ceased to exist: USSR. Ronald Reagan was the man who gave the best definition of that country: “The evil empire rdquo;. Everything was upside down in that country, but most importantly, the mentality of an average person was kind of criminal. First, we lived knowing that there is a written law, and there is an actual law, and the two were quite different. We knew, that bribing is the shortest way to get something done. We knew who had to be lubricated in any given situation and what “s the amount. While the majority of the population were honest people, their mentality by the Western standards was criminal. Their minds were sharpened for survival in a non-user-friendly environment. At the same time Americans lived under assumption that majority of their population are law abiding citizens. I do not want to idealize America, sure enough it had and still has corruption, but it “s not a norm of life here. That “s for sure.

When I arrived to the USA, it took me some time to get used to the fact that in general, people are friendly here. If you ask for something, people really try to help you because they are doing their jobs without expecting small or not so small gifts in exchange (let “s leave bureaucracy aside as it “s the same in any country).

America was always a dream land for most of the people of the world. The worse political or economical situation was in Xlandia, the more people from that country wanted to leave and go somewhere else, preferably to America. At the base level, all people (even the ones with criminal minds) want the same things: a safe place to live for their families and some food on their tables. When this is achieved, people want to move to the next level, which means having a better place to live, better food and some luxury items they could not afford before.

But regular Americans and immigrants from the developing countries are moving to the next level using different roadmaps so to speak. Immigrants, trained to survive in their homelands, are often trying to find some loopholes in the laws to move to the next level of success. The more corrupted your country was, the harder you “ll be trying to find the ways around.

There “s lots of urban legends about Italian mafia in the USA. The HBO “s show “The Sopranos rdquo; was probably the most popular one over the last decade. People in the movie looked so real. Why? They came from Italy that is known for its corruption.

Indian programmers who live in the USA have very close ties with their families overseas and go there religiously as often as they can afford. They purchase lots of gifts to their relatives. They told me that customs officers in Indian airports casually take bribes. The same applied to Russia (not to the USSR, but to today “s Russia, Ukraine and other republics of the former USSR).

Speaking of the airports hellip;In his interview with IT Conversations (way after 9/11) Bruce Shneier will state (and I agree with him ) that current preventive anti-terrorist measures in the airports are pretty much useless. There are so many different targets for terrorists hellip;protecting just one of them (the airports) does not help that much. Next time they “ll put a bomb on unprotected buses or in a shopping mall. Read today “s news ndash; al-Quaida has regrouped and is even more dangerous than it used to be before 9/11. Bruce was right, you need to go after the terrorists and not after their targets.

Last week, an HR person from the most desirable employer that makes software has contacted me asking if I “d be interested in a position in London, Zurich or Moscow. I “m not looking for a new employer at this point, but I caught myself thinking that it “d be nice to spend a couple of years working in Moscow. Russian is my first language, and Moscow is considered to be a nice tourist destination. But pretty quickly I “ve asked myself another question, “Do you want to live again in the corrupted environment trying to find ways around to get by? Not really. rdquo;

So which are the countries were the criminal mentality is the norm? Let “s ask a rental car company called Budget. I had to rent a car in Germany a couple of weeks ago, and they gave me a paper to sign. That paper had a map shown below and the text warning you that your are not allowed to drive the car to the countries shown in orange, you are not allowed to take Audis, BMW, and some other cars to the countries having checkered background, and there is no restrictions for the countries shown in grey.

Budget gives you the exact answer about criminal-minded countries. Budget is not into politics, but they just know theft statistics and do not want to lose money regardless of how newspapers or travel agencies praise the life in any particular country.

Let “s apply similar rules and simple math, to the situation with the mindset of Americans based on the level of immigrants in this country. If there were no immigrants at all here, the mind set of 99% of the Americans would be the same as Bruce “s ndash; criminals are exceptions. Now let “s blend in 10% of immigrants from the orange countries ndash; now it “s only 93% that are law abiding citizens (I assume that three in ten immigrants will quickly change the way they think to the better). Spice it up with another ten percent from the checkered countries, and the level of the lawful people will drop from 93% to 89% assuming that 6 in 10 will quickly adjust.

Would it mean that accepting people from the grey countries would not change the mindset of America? Nope. Since about ten percent of the grey countries ” population are also immigrants, bringing 10% of grey people would lower the level from 89% to 88%.

With all this math I did not even touch the immigrants that are called Muslim fundamentalists. If other immigrants will eventually blend into the American society, fundamentalists do not even have any plans to do so ndash; they prefer to change America to fit their standards, and they won “t think twice if committing a crime is required to achieve this goal.

All in all, because of the immigration the percentage of lawful people in the USA drops pretty fast. What a science!

Remember “What a Country! rdquo; by a famous Russian immigrant Yakov Smirnoff? Several years ago I went to see his show in New York, and he said that when he was naturalized and became an American citizen, the first thought that came to his mind was, “I hate these immigrants rdquo;.

I am also an American citizen, but I do not hate immigrants. But my calculations and conclusions sound reasonable to me. Prove me wrong!


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