What motivates people to change their habits and behaviors – for better or worse? Sociologists – most notably Barry Glassner – have spent a great deal of effort analyzing how American news media, policy-making, and moral politicking are fueled by a “culture of fear” that uses fear to persuade Americans to vote for particular policies, change particular behaviors and – very often – buy particular products….or else.
My Canadian students often talk about American culture as “punitive.” Every time I drive from Ontario to Michigan, I am reminded of this punitive ethos in a mundane road sign that is updated through out the year that publicizes the number of traffic deaths on signs posted on interstates like I-75. Here, fear — fear of being another statistic of traffic death on a billboard somewhere in the highways of Michigan — becomes the motivating factor (or so MDOT presumably believes) to changing people’s bad driving habits (whatever those may be).
Okay Canadians, so what’s the alternative? On my last Michigan-Ontario drive, I found out. A society with a deep family-oriented ethos, Canada take a different approach, captured in road signs just a few hundred miles (or, if you must, kilometres) away: “Children are precious.”
More Canadiana here.