Thursday, April 8, 2010

Selling a product

He's all about "respecting the amish", but all of his work is like a finely tuned marketing ploy with the soul objective of turning the Amish into a commodity. What could be more demeaning?

In the interview above Wesner talks about shunning. He pauses, noting that an Amish friend wants him to be careful how he portrays shunning. The answer he gives is the kind of response you could expect from a fortune five hundred company's media spokesperson. It's a pretty hard sell to pass off shunning to western culture as a benign or even virtuous thing, but Wesner pulls it off. The resulting resemblance to reality is similar to the work by his corporate counterparts.
It's not that Wesner's portrayal is wrong, it just doesn't tell the whole story. A big contributor to the negative impact of shunning is that Amish adherents never had a valid choice in the first place when they "chose" to join the church. Wesner of course perpetuates this myth also during the interview. The Amish leaders of course, have an enormous interest in the concept that members are making a valid choice when they join. The question becomes, why is Wesner carrying their water for them?

My conclusion is that, to market his product he has to clean it up. It can't be messy or complicated and so what you end up with is this slick, produced image. And what is it for? Who does it serve and who benefits?
Certainly not the Amish!
In the end he's not writing about the Amish, he's producing a product that's little more than fantasy land imagery for western culture to amuse its self with.

During the interview the host of the show asks a trivia question which is a quote by Abigail Adams. The quote is "if we are to have heroes, statesmen, and philosophers, we need learned women". It's an incredible whistling past the graveyard moment. Here they are just gushing about the Amish whose women certainly don't have the opportunity to be learned and do any of the slimy shit fucks so much as even bat an eye over the inconsistency of their fawning attitude towards the Amish and the inherent implication of that quote? To me it's like they're dancing on the grave of Amish society and they're completely oblivious of what they're doing!

He talks a lot about the Amish business owners relationship with their employees. Notice he didn't interview any of the workers?

If you listen to these Amish guys he interviews, it's all about giving value to the customer. I wonder what the folks who bought the "Amish heater" would say to that. Especially those who are struggling to make ends meet and bought into the false advertising of how it'll save them money!
Wesner doesn't talk about that, does he?

The success rate of Amish businesses may have something to do with the autonomy and options that are available to Amish workers. There's really no where for them to go. Their training and education are limited. With their transportation limited to a horse and buggy or paying a taxi, that doesn't give them many options, when it comes to the number and range of jobs they can practically apply for. If they work for an Amish employer, the employer typically pays for transportation via a taxi.

You know, in any other format, the targeted audience for this book would be screaming socialism, or communism when they see the concepts that are espoused in it!

Staying with the theme of value given, how about the sick and genetically flawed puppies sold by Amish entrepreneurs?

Wesner talks about fancy cars sitting outside of Amish shops. He also ties their faith in with their success. For any one who has the tiniest grasp of who the Amish are, their values, and heritage it's a natural conclusion to question whether building cabinets for 1 million dollar homes is a good thing for the Amish. It's not a question that holds any interest for Wesner though. Along with the fact that he doesn't interview any employees, not to mention any Amish that aren't as comfortable with, excess and ostentatious consumption, just how skewed is his view of the Amish?

Or maybe more importantly, how big a disservice to the Amish is this schtick that he's peddling?

Went to see Wesner speak at Etown college last night. Every time I hear to one of these "experts" on the Amish it's just sad and pathetic to the point that I literally become nauseous. I guess I just shouldn't attend these things anymore, but I figured I'm busting his chops, I should at least show up and give him an opportunity to prove me wrong. I thought maybe if I'm in the same room with him it'll clarify things one way or another.
It certainly was eye opening, just not in a good way! It's a surreal experience to sit there, knowing the topic better than anyone in the room, while realizing that what seems to me like a blind man describing an elephant after touching it in one spot, is what passes for cutting edge scholarship on the Amish.

For example Wesner couldn't answer a question about whether Amish businesses carry liability insurance! His book is about Amish business! WTF
(the short answer is, of course they do) The fact he never asked the question and didn't have case examples in the book speaks volumes about the nature of his work!

A question about Amish women owning businesses pretty much reduced him to a mumbling idiot. (the real answer is, the Amish women that own businesses are a fascinating phenomenon.) Wesner just didn't get access to them, primarily because the women know that they live in a society that would judge them harshly if they strutted and preened in the manner that the men did who Wesner interviewed.