“How Stuff Works” – recently posted a fascinating article on the “Amish”. As many as 100,000 in number, the ‘Amish’ seemingly maintain an 18th century lifestyle in a 21st century world ! But what’s truly amazing is that, in spite of this “backwardness”, the Amish imbibe a … value-system … that many of us would benefit from :
Amish faith and life is governed by a (largely unwritten) set of rules known as the Ordnung (order). A member of the Amish Church must live a simple life devoted to God, family and community, in accordance with God’s laws. The mode of dress, the buggy and the lantern have become the identifying marks of the Amish and are not likely to change. The mode of dress emphasizes that the Amish person is separate from the non-Amish world, but also part of a community of equals. The buggy likewise promotes equality and limits travel, keeping communities together. The lantern, a non-electric light, does not require connections outside of the community.
The Amish are not really “stuck in time.” Although home and social life has remained essentially unchanged, new technologies that have passed a rigorous examination have been accepted. The Ordnung is applied to any proposed use of new technology. A technology may be accepted for business or practical reasons, but never for indulgence, desire or entertainment. A technology is more likely to be accepted if it is a natural extension of an existing technology and will have a minimal social impact. Using a nylon rope in place of a hemp rope would be an example of a natural extension.
…the Amish dress simply. It is how they acquired the nickname “The Plain People.” The idea is that the limited wardrobe eliminates the pride and envy that come with fashion one-upmanship, as well as wasted time (What will I wear today?) and wasted money (My clothes are so out of style!).
Most of a family’s net worth is in real estate. The Amish do not borrow, and therefore pay no interest. How does an Amish family buy a farm, handle loss or cover unexpected expenses? Family and community are the bank and the insurance company. All community members are expected to contribute a share of their income to the “community pot.” Likewise, it is the duty of all to lend assistance to those in need. A young couple is not expected to be able to buy a farm. It will be purchased for them with assistance from family and community.
Baptism marks entry into the Amish church. Joining the church is a decision that cannot be made before the age of 16. By this time, a candidate will have been thoroughly drilled in the faith and the Ordnung through school and church attendance. In accord with the philosophy of choice, 16 year olds may leave the community to experience life outside if they so choose. If they choose to return and join the church, they do so with full knowledge of what they are giving up in order to be part of the community. If they do not return, family ties are still viable because they did not break an oath to the church.
Sure, all of us will not agree with all of these practices. But, it makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Are we really progressing as a civilisation, or are we losing touch with our values?