Jun 6, 2011

False Advertising is One of the Problems

A couple of years ago I met a lovely couple, a German married to a Brazilian, who live in Minneapolis, MN (USA).  After basically doing their schooling and making their life in the Twin Cities, they had moved to the south of France for a while.  Three years in the south of France was enough for them, and they moved back to MN.  I wondered out loud with them how that went over with their friends in France.  I asked, “How did you explain that you were moving from Montpellier to Minneapolis?”  It was easy, they replied, “We just said that we were going home.”  I was impressed. 

Of course that makes sense.  But it also runs against the way in which people talk to each other all of the time.  One thing I have noticed on Facebook is that if someone complains about the weather where they live, there are immediately all sorts of posts by people who write, “Move to California!”  Telling someone to move somewhere doesn’t make sense to me.  When I first moved to France people wrote to me, “You are so lucky.”  Luck had nothing to do with it, and some of those people would not like living in France, and of course some would, but again luck would have nothing to do with it.  The problem with telling people to move for happiness is that first, it implies that the person doing the advertising knows what things bring happiness (here, they are assuming that the weather trumps everything and brings happiness).  It also assumes that everyone likes the same things (I, for instance, like seasons to be marked and have certain character).

And speaking of weather, a long time ago, in the mid 18th Century to be exact, my paternal forefathers left Germany at the invitation of Russian Tsarina Catherine to settle along the Volga River. They were promised all sorts of stuff including freedom of religion, certain tax exemptions, some free land and cash grants, exemption from military service, the right to use their own language, the right to build their own villages, churches, and schools.   Then, after a long and horrible trip, they arrived.  Most of those things didn’t come true.  Promises were broken.  Things didn’t exist in the first place.  Rights were taken away.  In short, life sucked.  The lives of many ended in Siberia under Stalin. 

Then, some of them, like my particular relatives, moved to the US.  I am sure they went through Ellis Island.  They probably read the signs in German saying that they could get some good wheat raising land in Kansas.  So they did go to Kansas.  And now if you have read “The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan, then you have read an entire chapter about the High Plains Deutsch, and those are my forefathers.  You can see that for a variety of reasons, some of them social, some of them material, life wasn’t as great as the signs promised.  Or you might have read “Giants of the Earth,” about people like my maternal forefathers.  My relatives lived in sod dugouts along a river in Wisconsin.  Just like in the Little House on the Prairie books. They probably read about the nice land to make those dugouts in, in Norwegian, on Ellis Island.  Living in dugouts was un-fun. You get the point.  Nobody was lucky or had an easy time in all of that. 

So, I think that false advertising probably leads people to get hostile, at least for a while, about their new country.  And the problem is that in this case most advertising has to be, by definition, false.

No comments:

Post a Comment