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"No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance." -Leonard Shapiro

If there is one thing that techno-industrial society (i.e. the technosphere) cannot abide it is a community in which the members feel a greater sense of solidarity with and loyalty to one another than they do to the technosphere. What's worse is when that community rejects some supposed benefit of the technosphere and thereby gains some measure of resilience that "properly socialized" humans lack.
The ideal humans, from the technosphere's perspective, are completely dependent on the technosphere for all of their physical needs, for their sense of identity and values, for the means to interact with other citizens, and for their entertainment. Those humans who have been optimally socialized by the technosphere see their socialization in moral terms and feel righteously superior to the fellow humans who have either failed to fully adopt the prescribed technosphere morality or, even worse, deliberately reject some aspect of it.

"Doomers", which is to say people who like to think about scenarios that would pose serious challenges to the technosphere, such as the depletion of critical resources like fossil fuels, or events that disrupt the operation of electronic information and communications infrastructure, say a massive solar storm, like to think of the Amish as a group of people who will be largely unaffected. This is simply not true.

Unless you live in or near Eastern Pennsylvania or Central Tennessee, it's likely that your mental image of Amish life comes from movies or television documentaries, or possibly from books. I have lived in Amish country both in the East and in the South, and I have had many interactions and conversations with Amish people.

Yes, Amish homes are usually not wired for electricity, so when the solar storm knocks out the lights and leaves their "English" neighbors in the dark, the Amish will still have light. Their stored food won't go bad because they don't depend on refrigeration. Their hens will still lay eggs, and their gardens will still provide produce, but the Amish are far from self-sufficient. They buy much of what they need from the sorts of stores that depend on long-distance trucking, computerized supply chain logistics and, at every step, electricity.

When I lived on The Farm, a former hippie commune in rural Tennessee, I interacted with Amish people all the time. Sometimes I purchased goods from them. Sometimes I gave them rides. (They don't own or operate internal combustion vehicles, but they sure do ride in them.) Sometimes I lent them my cell phone because theirs had a dead battery.

I could always count on seeing Amish people at Wal*Mart. The one in Lawrenceburg had a McDonald's in the back. I have a vivid memory of a group of Amish women chowing down on Big Macs and McNuggets while just outside the dining area, a man in typical Amish costume, complete with thick beard and clean-shaven upper lip, stood talking with a guy whom I can only describe as a biker. I could describe his hair and clothing in detail, and you would also come to the same "biker" conclusion, so I won't bother. The one notable detail was that the biker had a cane and stood in a way that spoke of a vicious motorcycle accident from which he never fully recovered.

The Amish guy and the biker stood talking to one another for a very long time. I noticed them. I shopped for a while, and then I passed by them again to see that they were still talking. They seemed completely at ease in each others company. It was an incongruous pairing to me, but seemingly not to them. They were not ambassadors from alien civilizations.

The Amish don't use electricity in their homes, but they depend on it. More than that, they depend on the money that they get from the "English," and we "English" depend on the technosphere for the functioning of our monetary system. Only a tiny fraction of the money that people hold in bank accounts could be converted to physical cash at any one time.

The Amish are slightly less dependent on electricity than the rest of us are. Also, they don't watch (much) TV. They don't send their kids to public school. They do put their kids to work, which makes their kids more confident and capable than the kids of generic techno-slobs like me. They speak English to the "English" and their own language to each other.

Their's is hardly a mysterious or impenetrable society, but they do maintain their own identity, reject some of what the technosphere has to offer, and live in a way that is slightly more collapse-ready than the rest of us. And for this, the technosphere views them with extreme skepticism and suspicion.

Their kids work and don't go to public school. The technosphere defines this as child abuse and keeps a sharp eye on the Amish, alert for actionable infractions.
Men and women have distinct modes of dress and clearly defined roles within the family, which, according to technosphere values, is patriarchal and sexist.

Thier vehicles, horse-drawn as they are, are much slower than ours, and so local drivers occasionally have to slow down and pass Amish buggies with care. As a result, local police see the Amish as presenting a hazard and ticket them aggressively.

I would say that the Amish in Tennessee were between 60 and 80% socialized by technosphere standards. The ones in Pennsylvania and Maryland were more on the order of 85 to 95% socialized in the values of the technosphere, and for this they are seen as deviant and suspect by technosphere elites and exotic and robustly resilient by cantankerous doomers.

The takeaway: minor deviations from technosphere norms and anything less than complete dependence on the technosphere reveal themselves as a jarring dissonance.


1018 words. A total blowout by the standards of this exercise.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
coremarc
Jan. 10th, 2017 06:03 am (UTC)
Amish
I wonder how it goes when you're Amish and Gay.
kmo
Jan. 10th, 2017 12:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Amish
Ask Dr. Google. I'm sure the web is replete with stories.
peristaltor
Jan. 11th, 2017 02:08 am (UTC)
As far as "blow-out," the exercise suffers only from insufficient editing. I can see the core in 500 words or less appearing with a tiny bit of cutting and reorganizing of paragraphs.

Of course, once those cuts are made, there goes your title! I appears what inspired the entry—and what therefore needed to stay—was outgrown by the entry's more solid conclusion and core.

I cannot tell you how many of my pieces suffer because I refuse to change the title, and how many I regret changing just because I so loved that original title. Alas.
kmo
Jan. 11th, 2017 02:26 am (UTC)
Editing
I'm not attached to the title. If I change the title, then I can use this title someplace else.

The lack of editing merely indicates a lack of energy and willingness to keep working.

I'm thinking about taking two or three of these recent nightly essays and weaving them into a blog post for http://c-realm.blogspot.com .
peristaltor
Jan. 11th, 2017 03:04 am (UTC)
Re: Editing
Well, you've got two solid essays in this entry right there!

First, an examination of how the Amish are attached somewhat parasitically to "the English" and their tech/economy.

Also, I'm willing to bet that biker and that Amish guy were either related or very good friends before the Amish guy decided to go Amish and the Biker Guy decided to go his path, and they were catching up on old times and past acquaintances.

Which to me might be a more poignant point, human relationships being as strong a tie as any formed of technological dependence.

(Sorry to interject. Old habit. I've always felt myself a better editor than writer.)
kmo
Jan. 11th, 2017 03:24 am (UTC)
Re: Editing
I like that there's no like button on this thing. :)

Edited at 2017-01-11 03:27 am (UTC)
kmo
Jan. 11th, 2017 03:26 am (UTC)
Re: Editing
Amish people are mostly born Amish. It's more likely that the biker dude was former Amish than that the Amish guy had ever been "English."

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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