Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mutual Aid Today

I live in a rural Pennsylvania area. The times that I can escape the web of evangelism, bigotry and intolerance that run rampant here, I treasure. But, there are a group of people that I do admire, and look up to with a great amount of respect. These people are the local Amish families that make up a good population of my county.

I've talked to many Amish people on a regular basis, beacause they frequent the whole-sale grocery store that I work at. The stereotype that they are all thick-headed, heavy-handed brow-beaters is, simply put, completely false. Many of the farmers I talk to have engaged me with thought-provoking religious conversations (not debates), and I am always intrigued by just how much knowledge they have. One man in particular is a master craftsman, who uses not only simple tools (he whittles, carves, etc.) but also has a mastery over machines. Though I wont name him here on the internet out of respect for his religious views, he is, in my opinion, a brilliant man. He can run an electric lathe, a thresher, and a steel-grinder and punch to make silverware and bowls. He makes his own chairs and furniture with an ancient scroll saw and sand-belt. Yes, the tools he uses are electric, but in today's world, the necessity has finally taken over the stigma that the Amish have had for such devices for so long (and I am happy about this).

Besides usually having a great amount of knowledge and experience using tools and laboring, the Amish are the most ardent and dedicated to helping each other out. They practice a form of Mutual Aide that I honestly have not seen in use anywhere else in the world. For this, I admire them even more.

A local barn burned down, and the Amish family saved there house, but lost many dairy cows and bulls to the blaze. Not a day after, the rest of the community, some people even that lived forty miles south, showed up, bearing gifts and ready to rebuild the barn. Due to their impeccable ability as workmen, the barn was rebuilt in nine days. The family received food in barrels (traditional PA Dutch, of course!), and when the families departed, they had left them enough money to buy back the majority of the cows lost.

This story was recounted to me by my friend, and he has told me of many such instances. The promptness and dedication that the entire Amish community takes in helping each other is awe-inspiring. They are the template for what a society built on mutual aide could be like. I admit, their own religion keeps them down, and subjugates them with its stifling of creativity, but looking at the whole picture, those people amaze me.

If everyone had a little shred of the Amish work ethic and loyalty to one another, this world would be a much better place.


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