The riddle of Amish culture in America is: how does it continue to dramatically prosper while unilaterally resisting the very core of mainstream American prosperity - technology? The surprising answer - adaptation and compromise - is given in loving detail in this great book. - Kevin Kelly
The Amish think moden children are spoiled by being driven from club to club and lesson to lesson in hopes that they will find and express their true selves. In contrast, Amish children are washing dishes by hand, feeding cows, hauling manure, pulling weeds, and mowing lawns. They are learning to lose their selves, to yield to the larger purposes of family and community. JOY, a widely used school motto, reminds children that Jesus is first, you are last, and others are in between.
The inconvenience of walking a half-mile to use a phone or taking messages from an answering service is a daily reminder that membership in an ethnic community exacts a price - a reminder that things that are too handy and too convenient lead to sloth and pride.
The Amish have been willing to negotiate. They have made numerous technological concessions that have reaped handsome financial benefits. While holding firm to some taboos, they have not allowed religious practices to erode the economic base of their community. Their flexibility has energized the fiscal and cultural vitality of their community.
Despite their flexibility, the Amish have insisted on the supremacy of the group over that of the individual. Excessive individualism, which threatens to splinter the collective order, is simply not tolerated. In both childhood and adulthood, the individual remains subordinate and submissive to community discipline.
They have adamantly opposed government "handouts," from Social Security to agricultural subsidies. This repudiation has baffled government bureaucrats. The Amish feared that members who were heavily insured and living on government "handouts" would have little interest in giving and receiving mutual aid. The Amish rejection of Social Security and other government subsidies was necessary to preserve two cherished ideals: community self-reliance and the religious belief that church members are obliged to provide for the economic welfare of their brothers and sisters.