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Monday, 10 March 2008

Amish as counter cultural?

In the closing appendix on the Amish society, in Amish Grace: How Gorgiveness Transcended Tragedy, the authors draw the following conclusions about Amish society, conclusions that make clear how at odds they are with the wider society.

The conflict between cultures and forms of life between the Amish and the US vision of the good life brings to mind the level of mutual incomprehension that can arise between consumerist Australian society's taken for granted view of the good life and the indigenous account of connection and responsibility to country and kin.

For all their limitations:... the Amish have developed a remarkably stable society. With little government aid they provide care and dignity for the elderly and disabled members. Apart from occasional arrests for alcohol or drug abuse among their youth, Amish communities have avoided many of the blights of modern life. With only a few exceptions, they have no homeless of unemployed members and no one living on government subsidies. virtually no Amish people sit in prison ... (More remarkable in the US than in Australia where 1% of the population are in prison) ... and only occasionally do Amish couples divorce. All things considered, they have created a humane society, despite their lack of high school education, professional training and a full embrace of technology.

The Amish have learned to live within limits. Indeed they would argue that setting and respecting limits on almost every thing is one of the foundations of wisdom. Limits for the Amish are a necessary requirement for human happiness. Without limits, the Amish believe, individuals become arrogant, conceited and self-destructive. To be sure, restraints diminish individual freedom, personal choices and various forms of self-expression.At the ame time some would say they grant greater dignity and security in the individual than the endless choices offered by modern life. (pp.202-3)

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