Advertising and the Government

Over the last few decades, a lot of debate and concern has surrounded advertising. Advertising is, at its very essence, manipulative. It is the attempt to persuade people of something – something that may or may not be true. For example, Coca Cola would like you to believe that opening a Coke has something to do with being happy, hence the slogan, “Open happiness.” Once that subliminal association between happiness and product is established, the company makes a lot of money. The association is really a lie. Everyone knows intellectually that there is no connection between carbonated sugar water and happiness, but by god the campaign works well!

McDonalds Restaurant and other businesses have had to grapple with the ethics of advertising to children. There have even been laws created about what practices are unacceptable in advertising. For example, tv advertisements for toys must show the child holding the toy so that children won’t be misled into believing that the toys are self propelled or alive.┬áMuch study has been done on the subliminal effects of advertising. It’s such a concern that English teachers are mandated to teach “media” units in order to allow adolescents to see how illusory ads are – how they are purposely manipulative, and how they may lead their audience to believe things that are arguably untrue, or even patently false. The ethical issues around advertising are well known.

Teachers will tell you that It is difficult to capture students’ attention, and corner their intellect long enough to make them realize that they are being manipulated through advertising. In doing so, teachers are likely to offend some people. No one wants to hear that the brand name they are espousing in their desperate bid for social acceptance is playing them for a fool. It’s an uphill battle.

Everyone is bombarded by advertising constantly to the point that we are not even consciously aware of the barrage of logos and slogans we witness all day every day. Try to flip through the channels of your tv at a rate of one channel per second or two, and NOT see a logo. I bet you can’t get through ten channels. On a public street it’s hard to find one person who is NOT displaying a logo of some kind (on a pair of shoes or a shirt or a back pocket.) Yes advertising is a big deal!

But if advertising is a concern, far worse is the concern when governments engage in it. And indeed they do. A LOT. This is a huge ethical problem. Governments are supposed to be responding to the will of the people, and should not be in the business of using manipulation to affect the public’s will. Rather than advertise using slick media presentations, they should announce their policies through press releases and allow the public to make up its mind. Anything else is propagandizing – an unsavoury – an un..ETHICAL tactic for government. And what’s worse is they use the people’s tax dollars to pay the ad creators and to rent the ad space. We need to start making noise about this and demanding laws that prevent it. A LOT of our money is funding this behaviour, and we are being manipulated.

The Marnie Tree

Claude and Joyce Watson had three children, a son named Roger, and two daughters: Diane and Marnie. They worked hard to forge a good living for themselves and their kids, and eventually they were able to buy a dream property at Christina Lake. It was undeveloped at first, until Claude erected a plywood walled one-room cabin to sleep in – a woodshed really, and an outhouse. Once the “shack” had been built and stained in a redwood colour, Claude got busy landscaping. He bought a cement mixer and using stones from the beach, built rock retaining walls along with concrete stairways. Joyce helped Claude select and move the stones into place. A poet and painter, Joyce took great delight in the spectrum of colour that the rocks reflected.

When Marnie, the youngest, went away to school, Joyce planted a little spruce sapling which became known as The Marnie Tree – a symbol that was never defined by any words except for the name that eventually became attached to it. Time marches on. The old shack was eventually relegated to the role of tool shed and replaced by a lovely well-equipped cabin. Later the shack was dismantled entirely. Through all renovations, the Marnie Tree was preserved. Claude, Joyce and their firstborn, Roger have now passed away, and the property has gone to Diane and Marnie. The Marnie Tree has come to be a significant monument for the family. Children get older and age lays claim to youth, but the tree grows more splendid year after year.

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Christopher Watson and Amanda Watson, two of Joyce and Claude’s great grandchildren, sitting under The Marnie Tree.
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Joyce and Claude’s Christina Lake home. The spruce to the right is the Marnie Tree.
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Joyce and Claude’s cabin. The rock walls are still hanging in there.

Yahk and Back

I recently attended Joan’s family reunion held in the very small hamlet of Yahk, BC., located between Cranbrook and Creston on Highway 3. There I got to spend a couple of days with the inlaws. I had a wonderful time, particularly chatting with the elder generation. We looked at old photographs, and listened to old stories. We laughed a lot and cried a little. We got to know each other again. I’ve been married to my Joan for 28 years, and I think I love her and her family more and more as time goes on – crazy as that may sound.

The Yahk reunion gave me a lot to think about. Some of my thoughts are listed below in no particular order.

I thought about how the generations that have preceded us were different from us in only very minor ways. What was going through minds of the people in all those 0ld photos? What secrets do the photos capture? What hopes and dreams drove the people in those photos? What was the conversation that immediately preceded the formality of gathering for a photograph?

I thought about how as parents, we’re never really sure of what we should do. We do what we can and hope for the best. We hope our children will grow up to be happy, gentle-hearted, responsible and self-sufficient. We want them to contribute to society in a meaningful way – pay their taxes and look out for their neighbours, and we hope they’ll care to keep us in their lives. But we really don’t have much control over any of it.

I thought about how when you don’t have access to cel service or the internet, you tend to look into people’s eyes more when you talk to them.

I thought about how food is a benediction when a group of people prepare it and eat it together.

I thought about how much I admire the generations of mothers and fathers who have struggled, winning some, losing some.

I thought about how there is a story in every tree.

I thought about how when it’s hot out, the shade is where you want to be.

I thought about how volleyball is fun even when nobody is keeping score.

I thought about how short life is, and how wonderful it is.