Shakers

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Amish Documentary

I.      Title:          The Amish
     Date:          12/23/04
     Time:          12:30
     Library:     West Linn Public Library

II.     I have heard very little of the Amish people. I always seem to hear jokes made about them and conversations about how crazy they are for not using electricity. I decided that I actually wanted to learn about them to test the validity of the comments I hear.

III.     Besides the fact that Amish where black, flat hats and don’t use electricity, I know nothing about the Amish.

IV.     In this documentary the filmmakers got a hold of a very articulate old Amish man. I enjoyed hearing him speak about what his life was like as a child. He explained a lot of things about his family and how they lived. There were several accounts of certain activities that they would do. For instance, after church the boys would get together and play this ball game where one would try to hit another with a hard ball. I would not expect that many other Amish cultures would do this, yet they are implying in the video that this is what all the Amish are like. There were also many stories told that showed just how strict these people were and how closely they followed their religion. The documentary stated that in order for the Amish to still make a living, more modernized tools had to be used. One of the ones recently accepted was the machine that milked cows mechanically. Without this, the Amish man explained, the Amish could not get by. The man also explained that his family and other families in his community would ask neighbors to take them in a car somewhere on occasion. Also, as time progressed, the Amish were allowed to use pay phones located outside of the village.

I think it was great the filmmakers could get a source like this, but I only really heard about the religion/ lifestyle via one persons’ stories. I am sure that many of the things his family or community did were not the same as every single other Amish family or community. Also, I constantly recognized footage that I had seen before, in that same film. They were obviously just looking at one specific community. If there are thousand of different Amish people out there, there must be hundreds of different interpretations of the religion. I would have liked to see a different community and see how they lived to see if the Amish really were alike everywhere or if each community was unique.

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I was left wondering how seriously other Amish communities took their religion. Maybe other Amish communities would never ride in a car or use a payphone. Or possibly another community would own cars. It would have been interesting to compare and contrast the different traditions, activities, family life, and interpretations of the religion. I got a feeling that the filmmakers were focusing on one Amish village as opposed to focusing on the Amish religion as whole.

Also, in this film there was almost no information about the past of the Amish. I would have liked to know exactly where the descendants of the Amish came from and why they came to America. Were the Amish ancestors farmers? I had no sense of why they were doing what they were doing. Not only was there no information on the past of the Amish, but the religion was never explained. The filmmakers explained that religion was a huge part of their life, but they never explained how the Amish religion was different than others. I would have liked to known what made them believe that technology was not good for their community. The film did not even inform me of if the Amish believed in God or not. The filmmakers should have traveled to different places and interviewed different Amish people to compare and contrast between the different communities.

V.
1)     Membership in the 20th century reached 75,000 people.
2)     The only electricity is used on the back of their buggies. This is required by law.
3)     The strictest Amish will not use upholstered furniture.
4)     Old steam tractors are used to steam tobacco beds in order to kill weed seeds and fungus before planting the tobacco.
5)     The Amish men will accept a new invention or implement but only after it is clear that this will not change his way of life.
6)     Maintaining simple ways of farming lessens the distance between the generations.
7)     Amish find their happiness and meaning in labor rather than in escape from it.
8)     Amish tap energy from rivers and wind.
9)     Power equipment is run by compressed air supplied by a diesel engine.
10)     Amish will ask for automobile transportation from neighbors, yet will never buy a car themselves.
11)     Amish will use telephones, but only pay phones.
12)     Economic pressures are making the Amish use more and more modern equipment.
13)     Several million tourists visit Amish communities each year.
14)     When Amish communities change, they often take on evangelistic interes


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