The Ordnung is also designed to promote humility by encouraging Amish adults to avoid being photoraphed in such a way that a viewer can distinguish who particular individuals are. This helps to reinforce the idea that an Amish person should not stand out as an individual, but rather is part of a community.

Therough measures like these, the Amish use the Ordnung to promote their values, instill responsibility, pass down traditions, and build strong ties with one another. One Amish minister described the effective use of an Ordnung when he stated: “a respected Ordnung generates peace, love, contentment, equality, and unity”. Because it lays out how their life should be lived, in a very real sense the Ordnung is what makes an Amish person Amish.

The second way the Ordnung structures Amish life is by defining what is not Amish. In a sense, the Ordnung is the line that separates the Amish from the non-Amish; it is what gives the Amish their distinctly separate identity. For instance, each of the rules that detail what an Amish person should wear not only ensures that they will look Amish, but also that they will be easily distinguished from outsiders. In an interview, one Amish man used a parable to describe how this aspect of the Ordnung can promote community. He said that if you own a cow and your property is surrounded by green pastures, you need a good fence to keep it in. For the Amish, who are as human as anyone and are tempted by the outside world to abandon their faith and way of life, there need to be good fences as well. The Ordnung defines what the Amish cannot do and makes those who are not adhering to the faith readily visible. Because they believe the outside world is a distraction that must be mediated, the Ordnung provides the barriers that keep community members focused on their fellow Amish and their faith.


This surely sounds dystopian to modern liberal sensibilities: the Amish are encouraged to abandon their individuality and live by a code that regulates every aspect of their lives, right down to what they wear. But the Amish are capable of feats that liberals are not. The difference between the Amish and the ‘English’ is not that the ‘English’ do not believe their children would be better off without television—the two cultures agree on that point. The difference is that the ‘English’ don’t get rid of their televisions.

There is much else that we ‘English’ cannot do. Consider the common argument against homeschooling: even if homeschooling can provide a superior education, even if it is not prone to the social pathologies of the public school system, the public school system is still preferable because it’s necessary for socialization. (This is not a straw manthis is precisely the reason I wasn’t homeschooled.)

Another example is Facebook. “I hate Facebook and I want to deactivate it, but everyone else uses it, so I have to also”I keep hearing this exact sentiment. If we could coordinate against a technology that is widely acknowledged to be harmful, we could escape Facebook. But we can’t.

Televisionpop culture in generalis similar. I once said that I don’t watch movies. The reply: “Everyone watches movies. If you don’t, what will you talk to people about?”

(Two more reasons for the coordination of the Amish must be mentioned. First, there is the rumspringa: the Amish practice adult baptism, and it is only after baptism that one is held to the highest behavioral standards of the church. Second, retention rates have risen over the years, indicating selection for certain behavioral traits. It’s easier to coordinate with those who are psychologically similar, and psychology is partially influenced by genetics.)


One response to “Coordination

  1. Pingback: Coordination | Reaction Times

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