Monday, August 25, 2003

OK, here's an ethical debate. Imperio Argentina, the Spanish Marlene Dietrich or Tallulah Bankhead, died yesterday at the age of a lot. She was born in Argentina of Spanish parents, got her start over there in the Twenties, and then came over here and made several hit movies in the Thirties and stayed here for the rest of her life as a movie actress and cabaret star. During WWII she went to Germany and made two movies for the Nazi film studios. She said she'd have slept with Hitler if he'd asked her, and that she had an affair with Spanish Falangist leader Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera.

Question: Do we mourn her? I vote no. If you work for the Nazis, you're the human equivalent of floor scrapings at Billy Bob's or Gilley's.

Here's a real dilemma. I know where there's a sweatshop. It's on my own street, several blocks down. Everyone who works there is Chinese. They leave the door open occasionally so everybody inside doesn't die from the heat, which is bad for business. That's how I got a lok inside. These people are obviously not earning the minimum wage or receiving government benefits or anything. On the other hand, it doesn't seem like they're kept as slaves--you see the women walking around with their kids and the like.

So do I call the cops or not? It's my civic duty to stop lawbreaking, especially when immigrants are getting exploited, and I imagine this place is breaking five hundred laws a day. But on the other hand, the workers are quite likely better-treated here than they would be in China, which is where they'd get deported back to if I dropped a dime.

I really don't know what to do. I feel like I have guilty knowledge of a nasty crime, which is trafficking in and exploiting illegal immigrants. I don't like knowing this. But if I call it in, won't the people being exploited be a lot worse off in the long run?

The easy thing is to say it's none of my business. But if I knew somebody had, say, robbed a bank, I'd turn him in with no qualms. How is this different? It doesn't help that about two years ago some guy got murdered in a Chinese "restaurant" where nobody ever eats and which is clearly a front for something. The cops wrote it off as a tong war and never got the killers. The "restaurant" is convienently about two blocks away from the sweatshop.

Got any thoughts on the situation? I'd appreciate some ethical advice.

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