I haven’t posted much on our current Great Recession except a few predictions from leading astrologers. But an article this week in the Wall Street Journal grabbed my attention because it deals with the downturn’s impact on the Old Order Amish community in northern Indiana.
I suppose there are lessons to be learned from witnessing what's happening to the "plain people" drawn to the enticements of mainstream society.
The northern Indiana Amish are a community my wife and I have been well-acquainted with, going back nearly thirty years. Well before the Amish became so popularized in American culture, I spent time as a young newspaper reporter with several Amish families. The result was a series of articles that won a number of major newswriting awards in Michigan. Being with these people was an experience I’ll never forget.
According to the WSJ article, the Amish around Shipshewana, Indiana ~ where my wife and I enjoyed back-to-basics shopping and eating at Amish-operated restaurants ~ have in recent years drifted closer to conventional society. According to the WSJ:
Like Amish in other parts of the U.S., the Indiana community strayed from their traditional reliance on farming in recent decades as their numbers grew and land prices rose. Many opened family businesses, often in furniture and other wood crafts. By 2007, more than half of Amish men in these parts were working full time in manufacturing, and earning, on average, $30 an hour.* * *
Some Amish bishops in Indiana weakened restrictions on the use of telephones. Fax machines became commonplace in Amish-owned businesses. Web sites marketing Amish furniture began to crop up. Although the sites were run by non-Amish third parties, they nevertheless intensified a feeling of competition.* * *
Some Amish families had bought second homes on the west coast of Florida and expensive Dutch Harness Horses, with their distinctive, prancing gait. Others lined their carriages in dark velvet and illuminated them with battery-powered LED lighting.
Even the tradition of helping each other out began to unravel, Bishop Hochstetler says. Instead of asking neighbors for help, well-to-do Amish began hiring outsiders so they wouldn't have to reciprocate. "Factory work doesn't eliminate fellowship, but it does not encourage togetherness," the bishop says.
You know how this story unfolds. The Amish factory workers get laid off along with their “English” coworkers. Frightened Amish depositors withdraw their funds from their local bank and bring it to its knees. Some families continue to struggle as their men seek to find faraway construction jobs, and other families simply pack up and leave in hopes of finding greener pastures.
Click here for the full Wall Street Journal article.