THE AMISH OF LANCASTER COUNTY (PENNSYLVANIA)

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THE AMISH OF LANCASTER COUNTY (PENNSYLVANIA)

Message  Guilaine le Sam 28 Aoû - 10:34

THE AMISH OF LANCASTER COUNTY (PENNSYLVANIA)

In the course of my recent trip to the US, I had the opportunity to visit Lancaster (Pennsylvania) and its market, as recommended by the Travel Agency that organized our tour, and I was amazed at the vegetable and fruit stalls of this gorgeous market, presenting fresh and quality produce direct from the farm. These particular stalls were held by the Amish, who can easily be recognized by their old-fashioned look : straw hat, long beard for the men, plain dress, white cap for the women. They bring their self-grown produce to the market to sell them.
When driving along the US route 30, we did in fact come across some horse-drawn black or grey carriages, driven by white-capped women often accompanied with children in uniforms, and we also saw, working in the fields along the road, straw-hatted men plowing the soil with a mule or a horse-driven cart.
At this point, we thought we were living a dream or staring at a scene being filmed in front of us, but in fact we were just making acquaintance with the Amish of this area. We could see at a distance their farmhouses, each with a high silo, a few cows around, and long lines of identical pieces of  laundry drying in the air.

As I was interested to know more of the life of these people, I came across a brochure in one of the shops in the area, which explains their origin, the importance of their living in community outside the American way of  life, keeping with the tradition of their ancestors as far as possible in our 21st century, by living a life of hard labor, humility, simplicity and modesty. No showing off of any kind. The Amish  do not try to be better-off than their neighbors, they do not wear jewelry, they do not own a car, they keep away from adversity and even forgive insults or damages done to them. They obey the principles of the New Testament which they convey to their children.
I would like to share with you some extracts of what I read in the brochure, as I found it most interesting and very special inasmuch as it opposes the views of our modern consumer society,  and our everyday concerns of success and prosperity.

The article is divided into 3 parts, which will be sent at different times   :
Part I – WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE AMISH ,
Part II – THE SELECTIVE USE OF TECHNOLOGY,
Part III – THE FUTURE OF AMISH SOCIETY.

Lancaster County (Pennsylvania) has enjoyed the reputation of being the Garden Spot of the World for many years. The Amish of the Lancaster area have contributed to the county’s fine agricultural reputation. Their distinction as one of America’s most colorful and interesting religious groups extends far beyond eastern Pennsylvania. Indeed, many of the 8.3 million tourists who travel to Lancaster County each year come to catch a glimpse of Amish life.

Part I – WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE AMISH ?

They choose to live a simple, modest life, in contrast to the American consumer society, and reject the technological progress of modern life. The whole community share the same values, and their identity is marked by several common badges which unite Old Order Amish across North America : horse-and-buggy transportation, the use of horses to pull machinery, plain dress, a beard and shaven upper lip for men, a prayer cap for women, the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, worship in homes, private one-room schools, and taboos on public electricity. These symbols of solidarity unite the Amish world and also mark its boundaries with the larger society.

Ordnung

The moral order of Amish life rests on two religious pillars : the teaching of the New Testament and the regulations of the church. The Amish take seriously the biblical teachings on loving enemies, rejecting violence, upholding the sanctity of marriage and so on. Joining the armed forces or divorcing would bring excommunication from the church. In addition, the church seeks to apply New Testament principles to daily life through collective regulations known as the ‘Ordnung’, a German word meaning order and regulations. It defines private, public and ceremonial behavior ; it also specifies taboos : suing someone, wearing jewelry, owning a car, attending college.


World

The term ‘world’, in Amish thinking, refers to the outside society, with its values, vices, practices, and institutions. Separation from the world is a key biblical principle that the Amish take seriously. They divide the social world into two pathways : the straight and narrow way to life and the broad, easy road to despair. Amish culture seeks to embody the narrow way of self-denial, whereas the outside social world represents the broad road of vanity and vice.
Media reports of greed, fraud, scandal, drugs, violence, divorce, and war confirm, in Amish minds, a world teeming with abomination.

The principle of being separate from the larger culture guides Amish thinking and steers decision-making. Products and practices that might undermine community life such as cars, cameras,  televisions, computers, or attending high school, are deemed worldly. Some new products, such as in-line skates and battery-powered hand tools, are not stigmatized with this label ; only those that threaten community values are forbidden. The Ordnung translates the religious principle of separation from the world into practical guidelines for living.



Amish Roots

Amish roots stretch back to the time of the Protestant Reformation in sixteenth-century Europe. They were dissenters (called Anabaptists) who believed that baptism was appropriate only for adults who made a voluntary confession of faith. The Anabaptist movement quickly spread through the cantons of Switzerland and into Germany and the Netherlands.
Threatened by the rapid spread of Anabaptist groups, civil and religious authorities commissioned  “Anabaptist hunters” to stalk the land.
The Swiss Anabaptists sought to follow the teachings of  Jesus in daily life by loving their enemies, forgiving insults, and turning the other cheek.
Many of them finally emigrated and settled in North America in the 1700s for religious purposes.
They are now scattered in 27 States + Ontario (Canada), the national population of children and adults numbers around 220,000. More than half of America’s Amish live in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana.
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"Trip -My recent visit to the Amish of Lancaster (US)2011"

Message  MurielB le Dim 29 Aoû - 16:43


Thank you very much for your very interesting experience among the amish. Here is a short report I hope you will enjoy.


Dernière édition par MurielB le Ven 29 Nov - 21:59, édité 1 fois
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The Amish of Lancaster

Message  Guilaine le Dim 29 Aoû - 17:02

Thank you for sending this video. It's great. I enjoyed watching it as it is exactly what we discovered in Lancaster two months ago.
I have some more details ready to be sent. It deals with the division about the use of cars in the professional and private life, and the use of tractors in the farm. Not an easy thing to decide if we consider both sides : keeping with the spirit of the Amish community and surviving in the competitive world of the non-Amish neighbors.

Text to be continued in part II next week.
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The Amish of Lancaster (US) Part II

Message  Guilaine le Lun 6 Sep - 11:09

Maybe you will be interested to know more about the Amish. If so, you can read the second part of my article, which deals with the [b]problems of electricity and of the use of the car and tractor[/b]facing the Amish today.

Part II - SELECTIVE USE OF TECHNOLOGY
Amish Electricity

Electrical appliances, such as clothes dryers, hair dryers, air conditioners, dish-washers, VCRs and TVs, are missing from Amish homes, but electricity is used in other ways. Flashing redlights on buggies warn approaching traffic. Electric fences encircle cattle pastures.
Carpentry crews use electrical power saws, and welding machines abound on Amish farms.

What sort of logic underlies this maze of electrical use ?
The Amish forbade the use of public electricity as power lines were creeping into rural areas in the early 1920s. For people who were trying to insulate themselves from the larger society and assert their self-sufficiency, it made little sense to become hooked onto the power grid of the outside world.

But elders eventually permitted electric welders in Amish machine shops and the use of electric power tools by carpenters at construction sites. In addition, small inverters are allowed to convert 12-volt current from batteries into 110-volt ”homemade” electricity to operate cash registers, calculators, digital scales, and copiers. 12-volt motors operate a variety of small machines in Amish farms and shops. Some homes also use batteries to operate appliances such as cake mixers.


The Motor Vehicle Maze

Amish use of automobiles is perplexing. They are permitted to ride in motor vehicles but not to own or drive them. This baffling practice appears inconsistent to some outsiders, but it makes sense within the scope of Amish history.

Gaining popularity in the second decade of the 20th century, automobiles freed people to travel independently, whenever and wherever they pleased. The car became the symbol of American independence as it liberated people from train and trolleys schedules and broke the provincialism of rural life.

For a rural people who strove to remain separate from the world, however, this new invention spelled trouble. Automatic mobility was a menace to a community that wanted to stay together and hoped to avoid city life. It symbolized the delights of modernity – freedom, acceleration, power, mobility, autonomy and individualism, but was not fit for a stable rural people who cherished community. If given keys to a car, individuals might drive away to urban worlds of vice and pleasure. Church members would soon be out of sight, and independent. Individuals might also use cars to flaunt their status and disrupt the equality of Amish life. And cars would surely accelerate the pace of life. Amish leaders feared that the car would ravel social ties in the local church district and, in short, pull the community apart.

Seeing the danger, church leaders placed a taboo on car ownership about 1915. Use of motor vehicles emerged slowly in the first half of the 20th century, as members sometimes rode in the cars of their non-Amish neighbors. As the Amish settlement expanded, it became difficult to travel to outlying areas by horse and carriage in a single day. So gradually the use of motor vehicles for business, emergencies, and social visits began to rise.
The firm line between the use and ownership of motor vehicles illustrates a cultural compromise between modernity and tradition. This practical solution keeps the car at bay, all the while using it to enhance community and bolster commerce. Restricted mobility keeps families together, holds work close to home, and preserves social interaction in local districts. Controlled use of the car keeps faith with Amish tradition while also giving some freedom to maneuver in the larger society.


Tractors and Farm machinery
Tractors present another riddle of Amish life. They are standard equipment on farms, but they rarely venture into fields. Why are tractors used at barns but not in the fields ? this riddle, like many others, is rooted in history. Tractors became available to American farmers in the early 1920s, at a time when Amish leaders had already banned the car. Elders worried that farmers might drive tractors to town for supplies or even groceries. Over time, such habits would surely lead to use of the car.
But there were other reasons : First, they would steal work from Amish boys. Unlike modern folks, who are eager to save labor at every turn, the Amish welcome work as a wholesome way of keeping families together. Tethering tractors to the barn preserved field work for Amish lads and kept them out of factory work, which might pull families apart.
But why permit tractors at the barn ?
Since the 1880s, Amish farmers had used steam engines to power threshing machines. Small internal-combustion engines also powered wood saws, feed grinders, water pumps, and washing machines. Thus when elders restricted tractors to barn use, they were merely freezing history – using engines for extra power around the barn as they had done in the past.
This arrangement serves the Amish well. Tied to the barn, tractors facilitate dairy operations without threatening family or community life. Most important, the Amish retain the horse as a compelling symbol of their identity.

Instead of tractors, horses and mules pull modern machinery across Amish fields. This surprising marriage appears silly at first glance. When the Amish rejected tractors for field work, horse-drawn implements were still easy to obtain. As non-Amish farmers replaced their horses with tractors, the availability of horse-drawn equipment naturally dwindled. The Amish faced several options : manufacture their own horse-drawn implements, convert tractor implements for horse use, or begin using tractors in the field. The taboo on tractors in the field held firm. Amish shops began manufacturing their own horse-drawn equipment –plows, wagons, manure spreaders, sprayers, and corn planters. Most Amish farmers also began adopting modern tractor equipment so that it could be pulled by horses. This curious blend of tradition and progress became a turning point in Amish farming. Soon many implements powered by engines and towed by mules or horses spiked the productivity of farming operations. Over the years, more machinery designed for tractors was adapted for horse use by Amish mechanics. A good compromise, this keeps the horse in the field and the family on the farm. It slows thing down but also taps new power sources to harvest robust crops and boost productivity. Like other riddles of technology, this one strikes a delicate balance between tradition and technological progress.
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The Amish of Lancaster (US) Part II

Message  MurielB le Ven 10 Sep - 21:33

The amish paradox is surprising. They refuse modernity but accept it when it is useful for them. To understand that we must take into account their main purpose : to keep people together and you explained it very well
Anyway, the Amish have  to seek out new enterprises and occupations in spite of their traditional attachment to farming because their community is doubling every 20 years.
These jobs often take them away from their homes during the workday and it is a very difficult problem to solve.
I also wonder how their children can survive if they decide to leave the community because a lot of beliefs are imposed upon them .. Question.Thank you very much for this and I enjoyed reading it !


Dernière édition par MurielB le Ven 29 Nov - 22:00, édité 1 fois
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