by RPS, Sarajevo
(Onima koji nerado pišu na engleskom, a žele učestvovati u diskusiji: autor također govori i srpski/bosanski/hrvatski)
The Amish keep showing up in the most unusual places, like a discussion on a B92 blog in Serbia. Usually these reports focus on the most obvious aspects of their community, like their distinctive dress or lack of technology. I have always found them to be fascinating and I guess I am more than a casual observer of Amish communities. As a Mennonite Christian, we share a similar understanding of faith and a joint history. As somebody whose family lives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, I've had lots of opportunities to observe Amish and to visit them as well. As a person who uses technology (like this blog) here are some things about the Amish that I find very relevant for modern life:
1 - Modern life is based on the basic premise that working less is better. A corollary seems to be that if having one of something is good, having 10 of them must be 10 times better. Amish with their focus on living a simple life challenge these premises. They deliberately choose not to use some technology because they don't believe it is good for us. I think many Amish would agree that it is good to work hard and to live from the labour of our hands. I'm not sure that I agree but I think it's good to ask ourselves this question.
- Amish place a strong focus on community. As I look at both the United States (where my family is) and Bosnia & Herzegovina (where I live at the moment), I see people moving faster and faster but drifting away from each other. I think we bear the consequences of a lack of connectedness to each other. This is not foreign for Southeast Europe - I think there is a stronger sense of connectedness and community in many places here. Like with the Amish, this can have a dark side when community means that your individual freedom is limited. I've always wondered what it would be like to grow up in an Amish community. My own observation is that Amish children seem happy - despite not having TV, video games, and the latest toys. I think that community and time with their family is an important part of why this is true.
3 - About a year ago there was a tragic incident when 6 Amish schoolgirls were shot
. This kind of mass shooting seems to point to some deep neurosis in US society (not to mention the ready availability of guns). What was interesting and challenging I think is the affected communities' response to the shooting. They decided to extend forgiveness to the shooter and to help his widow with funds given for the victims. Forgiveness is one of those difficult topics, but what I think is interesting is that it points to a difference sense of justice. The Amish were practicing Restorative Justice, meaning that the focus is not on punishing but on restoring community with the person who committed the crime. The Restorative Justice
movement extends beyond Amish, but this was one clear example of how it may be applied.