Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pure idiocy

Even though I’d had a half-dozen Amish review the manuscript, it did seem a bit like a trial by fire, to be up speaking in front of dozens of experienced Amish businesspeople about their culture and vocation.

A panel of five—four Amish and one non-Amish—’grilled’ me afterwards. The panel included an accountant, a CFO, a local attorney, and a couple others, most of whom were business owners themselves. Not to toot my horn, but the talk and Q-and-A went quite well and apart from some minor quibbles the response was quite positive (phew!).

No specifics, just self serving aggrandizement. He's doesn't have one single critical thing to say about them. He doesn't really say much about them at all, beyond flowery rhetoric, so what could their response be? It's not like Amish people engage on an everyday basis in incisive and spirited debate on anything of consequence, that involves themselves! Remember, for them, acquiescence,conformity, and submission are the highest virtues! So what was he really expecting here?

How deceitful of Wesner to portray this as if it were some crucial test, as if these Amish folks were the equivalent of having his book reviewed by his peers!

And he's the "expert" on the Amish!?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Selling a product

He's all about "respecting the amish", but all of his work is like a finely tuned marketing ploy with the soul objective of turning the Amish into a commodity. What could be more demeaning?

In the interview above Wesner talks about shunning. He pauses, noting that an Amish friend wants him to be careful how he portrays shunning. The answer he gives is the kind of response you could expect from a fortune five hundred company's media spokesperson. It's a pretty hard sell to pass off shunning to western culture as a benign or even virtuous thing, but Wesner pulls it off. The resulting resemblance to reality is similar to the work by his corporate counterparts.
It's not that Wesner's portrayal is wrong, it just doesn't tell the whole story. A big contributor to the negative impact of shunning is that Amish adherents never had a valid choice in the first place when they "chose" to join the church. Wesner of course perpetuates this myth also during the interview. The Amish leaders of course, have an enormous interest in the concept that members are making a valid choice when they join. The question becomes, why is Wesner carrying their water for them?

My conclusion is that, to market his product he has to clean it up. It can't be messy or complicated and so what you end up with is this slick, produced image. And what is it for? Who does it serve and who benefits?
Certainly not the Amish!
In the end he's not writing about the Amish, he's producing a product that's little more than fantasy land imagery for western culture to amuse its self with.

During the interview the host of the show asks a trivia question which is a quote by Abigail Adams. The quote is "if we are to have heroes, statesmen, and philosophers, we need learned women". It's an incredible whistling past the graveyard moment. Here they are just gushing about the Amish whose women certainly don't have the opportunity to be learned and do any of the slimy shit fucks so much as even bat an eye over the inconsistency of their fawning attitude towards the Amish and the inherent implication of that quote? To me it's like they're dancing on the grave of Amish society and they're completely oblivious of what they're doing!

He talks a lot about the Amish business owners relationship with their employees. Notice he didn't interview any of the workers?

If you listen to these Amish guys he interviews, it's all about giving value to the customer. I wonder what the folks who bought the "Amish heater" would say to that. Especially those who are struggling to make ends meet and bought into the false advertising of how it'll save them money!
Wesner doesn't talk about that, does he?

The success rate of Amish businesses may have something to do with the autonomy and options that are available to Amish workers. There's really no where for them to go. Their training and education are limited. With their transportation limited to a horse and buggy or paying a taxi, that doesn't give them many options, when it comes to the number and range of jobs they can practically apply for. If they work for an Amish employer, the employer typically pays for transportation via a taxi.

You know, in any other format, the targeted audience for this book would be screaming socialism, or communism when they see the concepts that are espoused in it!

Staying with the theme of value given, how about the sick and genetically flawed puppies sold by Amish entrepreneurs?

Wesner talks about fancy cars sitting outside of Amish shops. He also ties their faith in with their success. For any one who has the tiniest grasp of who the Amish are, their values, and heritage it's a natural conclusion to question whether building cabinets for 1 million dollar homes is a good thing for the Amish. It's not a question that holds any interest for Wesner though. Along with the fact that he doesn't interview any employees, not to mention any Amish that aren't as comfortable with, excess and ostentatious consumption, just how skewed is his view of the Amish?

Or maybe more importantly, how big a disservice to the Amish is this schtick that he's peddling?

Went to see Wesner speak at Etown college last night. Every time I hear to one of these "experts" on the Amish it's just sad and pathetic to the point that I literally become nauseous. I guess I just shouldn't attend these things anymore, but I figured I'm busting his chops, I should at least show up and give him an opportunity to prove me wrong. I thought maybe if I'm in the same room with him it'll clarify things one way or another.
It certainly was eye opening, just not in a good way! It's a surreal experience to sit there, knowing the topic better than anyone in the room, while realizing that what seems to me like a blind man describing an elephant after touching it in one spot, is what passes for cutting edge scholarship on the Amish.

For example Wesner couldn't answer a question about whether Amish businesses carry liability insurance! His book is about Amish business! WTF
(the short answer is, of course they do) The fact he never asked the question and didn't have case examples in the book speaks volumes about the nature of his work!

A question about Amish women owning businesses pretty much reduced him to a mumbling idiot. (the real answer is, the Amish women that own businesses are a fascinating phenomenon.) Wesner just didn't get access to them, primarily because the women know that they live in a society that would judge them harshly if they strutted and preened in the manner that the men did who Wesner interviewed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


How do the Amish fit in and work with their host society. All the important issues that arise from the relationship between the Amish and the non-Amish will hinge on the level or degree of participation, or lack there of, from the Amish with their host society.

No one is giving any thought to how the Amish position in society will ultimately play out, or even paying attention to the issues that come up. For example, our judicial system functions in this space of opposing or dueling presentations of prosecution and defense. The Amish, except for an occasional diversion, don't participate in those presentations. They don't defend themselves and neither do they prosecute. What will be the effect of this lack of participation?

The Nickel Mines school shooting is an incidence where in the non-Amish situations, (ie; Columbine, Virginia Tech) an independent review always took place. The kind of review that's played out in court under oath. None of that happened after the Nickel Mines shooting. Even though there's evidence that contradicts the narrative given by the police.

Here's an excerpt from;
"The Happening, Nickel Mines School Tragedy" by Harvey Yoder

How did I know he was going to shoot? I just felt it. That and because of all the racket outside,We heard a pounding on the double doors in the back. Something
strong was being used! Would they rescue us? Then the shooting started.

(end quote)

I've contacted Mr. Yoder and asked him about the above quote from his book, he stands behind it as being an accurate portrayal. He added that "the police were breaking in when the gunman started shooting".

I've also attended a public meeting in which Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller was asked specifically about the "pounding on the door" in Yoder's portrayal and he denied that it happened, saying that all the officers were positioned behind the established perimeter when the shooter opened fire.

If the victims at Nickel Mines would've had non-Amish parents, there would've been an investigation. I can't get it out of my head that what happened at Nickel Mines is a classic scenario of the police getting to close. What if they were way beyond just getting too close but were actually breaking in before the shooter opened fire? Is there a parent anywhere in the world who would want the police pounding on the door of the room where their child was being held hostage by a disturbed gunman? The answer is, of course not, and if this circumstance would've happened to non-Amish parents a lawyer would be on this like flies on poop! Ultimately it doesn't matter what I think and it's even partly a nonissue of exactly what did happen. The problem is that the process by which our society maintains itself is missing.

Isn't it possible that things just went horribly wrong and if so, isn't it in our best interest to know that? What if the authoritarian nature of both the Amish and the police contributed to a lapse in adhering to protocol by the police? What if the police responding to Nickel Mines were already influenced from prior experience that when they're dealing with the Amish they're not going to be held to the same standards as they are when they're on a non-Amish call?
Exposure to nontraditional work environments has elicited a more assertive mind set among some Amish. Is it so hard to imagine that when the police arrived there were some Amish men present who were chomping at the bit to have this situation resolved? Add to this the fact that the Amish knew the perpetrator. I recall listening to many a tale, told by Amish farmer aquaintainces, of some hassle they were having with their milk truck driver. Apparently there are high turnover issues with drivers, which heighten tensions over what clean up is expected from the driver at pick up and disputes over whether Sunday pick ups are acceptable. My experience is that the Amish are very hierarchal, particularly in their relationships. So about the time that the police showed up I'm guessing it was high time to put the milk man in his place.

What if this is what really happened? It would put the whole forgiveness business in a different light. Actually it would make the instant forgiveness make more sense. The realization that may have been overwhelmingly obvious to those present, that confrontation was inextricably linked to the outcome, would inherently remind the Amish of what their faith asks of them! If they in fact contributed to an overly aggressive response by the police and the resulting response it evoked from the shooter, would surely have reminded them of the commandment to "love thine enemy".
Given the mind boggling horror of the situation, I don't doubt that they reached for forgiveness, and fervently so, it's the only thing they had left at that point. Under this scenario, forgiveness of self could be extremely elusive, and given the enormity of the task at hand, they did what any diligent worker does, they got started.

My hypothesis portrays what can only be defined as an epic failure on the parts of both the Amish and the police. Consider for a moment how grotesque the failure of the media was if my portrayal has any validity. Where would that leave us? If an incident of such magnitude as this one can be so distorted and misread, and no one blinks an eye, then what is real in this relationship between the Amish and the non-Amish? If this event did occur in the manner I portray here and the resulting failure of perception isn't corrected and exposed, what manner of shenanigans will flourish in the resulting vacuum of reality?

The axis of social cohesion upon which western culture turns is centered on a poking and prodding of what is real, or at least the quest for what is real. There are always vested interests in having reality defined in one way or another, but western culture has the luxury of being established in such a way, that there is always someone testing the veracity of those claims. What will be the result of a suspension of this protocol for how western culture functions, being exhibited by the Amish in this example?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Are the Amish a dying culture?

Using the methods and standards of anthropology, how would the Amish hold up when compared to societies that are considered to be in decline? Are they preserving their language? I would say they aren't. Are they telling their own story? Again, my judgement says they aren't. Can they as a society respond to the issues and challenges that they face? I would again say they're failing in that regard.

There isn't an Amish entity that is minding the store with regards to language. For example there isn't an Amish word for computer. They just use the English term. No one is keeping an eye on usage and regional differences when compared to the process that occurs with the English language. Precise definitions aren't being honed and preserved. What happens is that the language becomes very passive.

I would venture that 95% of the writing done on the Amish is done by non-Amish authors and that writing ends up being more about the authors own culture rather than about the Amish. This results in the Amish identity being defined by someone else.

Amish faith teaches that they're supposed to see themselves as being like "strangers in a foreign land" with regards to their relationship with their host society. The issue of puppy mills and the way the Amish handle it is such a grotesque violation of what their faith asks of them in this case, that I would conclude that they're unable to govern themselves in such a way as to live up to their own values. The Amish can dictate the most minute detail of their adherents lives and yet in this case they're impotent to effect a solution. Usually the Amish try to fly under the radar of any controversy unless it directly effects their religious convictions. Just what in gods name do puppy mills have to do with their faith?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nobody Home

I think it's time for some leadership on the issues facing our county over the welfare of dogs in commercial breeding operations.

Obviously, there are heavily vested interests on both sides of this issue and, from the looks of it, they're digging in for what is going to be a nasty squabble that's not going to be resolved anytime soon.

Every time powerful interests have a go at each other, there is a side effect known as "collateral damage." In this case it'll be the image of Lancaster County and its citizens, who are going to bear the burden for the carnage that's about to ensue.

With this in mind, I've contacted the local parties that I thought would have a stake in avoiding such an outcome. Identifying myself as someone with recent and close ties to the plain community, I contacted the Chamber of Commerce, the tourist bureau, the Humane League, my state representative and the county commissioners, and asked if there was anyone taking a proactive approach to solving the "puppy mill" issue and expressed an interest in participating in a solution.

Their response was, regarding an active program, no one was doing anything. And none of them gave me any specific details that would indicate that they're about to change that.

Why is it acceptable, for those who are supposed to be looking out for the interests of Lancaster County, to sit on their hands at a time like this?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

WSJ vid of Dr. Morton's work with the Amish

Monday, March 30, 2009

Take that, NPR!

Unfortunately, when an incident like the crash makes headlines, rumors begin that Amish parents allow or even encourage their children to “sow their wild oats” during this period.

That is simply not true, said Levi Barkman, bishop of Amish church district 34-1 between Millersburg and Topeka.