Amish are taking a shine to e-bikes

Originally published at: Amish are taking a shine to e-bikes | Boing Boing


Can you blame 'em?


Exactly. This is one of the most common misconceptions I see about the Amish, that they “foresake all technology.” They don’t. They just act, as a community, the way many of us wish our governmental structures would work for society at large: consider any new technologies and how or if they can be adopted without destroying the fabric of our society.


At least you can’t abuse an e-bike. I Can't Believe The Amish Treat Their Horses Like This... - YouTube


I remember decades ago in a preschool where I worked, one of my colleagues was a Mennonite woman with Amish parents. Once at lunch break, I heard her describing her parents’ solar set up at home, saying “You, know, people call it solar, but I just call it ‘Amish electric!’”

At the time 20-something me was incredulous (internally, my mental rejoinder was that it wasn’t “Amish electric” it was just “electric,” and it seemed like some rhetorical gymnastics were being used to juke a foundational rule).

Later I learned more about the nuances of this rule, which of course made her story make much more sense in retrospect.


I just learned how far ahead the Amish are on what the future will probably look like. Fascinating. I didn’t know all this stuff about their embrace of solar power, off grid storage, etc.

Let’s not forget how problematic their society also is though in terms of controlling women. If it wasn’t for that (and being queer), I’d find their way of life darned appealing.


We’ve used these folks, but didn’t verify their pedigree.

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Amish are very wise. They test questionable technologies in use among a small group, evaluate the experience, and then decide whether to accept it or not.

Years ago, I loved an article in which solar lights for Amish buggies were described.

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It would be interesting to know how separable their virtues are from their vices.

I have no reason to suspect that the details of who gets the short end are fixed; but I’m hard pressed to think of insular groups with high social cohesion and anomie resistance that don’t involve some subgroup being vigorously subordinated to perceived group interests by social pressure if possible and by more vigorous means if necessary.


That’s a great question. One answer is that off-grid hipsters are basically the distillation of the Amish virtues without the crippling social repressions. If a person wants to live off grid, build a house with their hands, and live off the land, there’s nothing requiring being Amish to do that. However it’s very difficult to do all that alone. To live a nice off grid life, you need a community. The Amish work because they work together.

Off-grid hipsters do it mostly by living off tech wealth or mom and dad to sand the rough edges off that life. Crop failure? It’s okay, we can go to the farmers market. Winter is coming and you didn’t get enough firewood chopped? It’s okay, let’s go buy a propane heater. If you don’t have a financial backstop, you need community. It’s how humans have always solved these problems.

This is really the rub, and off-grid communities without that problem are immensely rare. Of course in all such communities, it’s always the same people who get subordinated. There are some exceptions, though. Recent history is rife with commune living models and there are groups out there right now succeeding at this. It’s difficult to keep it going without the rigidity of patriarchy and religion though. The more enlightened hippie groups tend to be fragile and still have sexual assault problems and such internally. Sooner or later you need to deal with law and justice if you don’t want to repress anyone, which means you end up inventing a parallel civilization with police, courts, etc. At that point, what’s the point?


My work friend lives outside Columbus OH and had a simple pool house built by Amish carpenters. She said that the carpenters hire drivers to drive them to their place to work. The carpenters also use cell phones, but they leave the phones at their edge of their property or with the drivers.


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