Any day now, news is about to break that Amish leaders have endorsed widespread use of cell phones in their communities. Or not. Not exactly known to be early adopters of technology, the Amish have been considering the issue of cell phones for ten years – back then text messaging was yet to become ubiquitous with its own hybrid language. Who knows when all the evidence will be convincing enough to make cell phone usage an easy and unanimous decision for the Amish community? And should they really wait for that beyond the shadow of a doubt moment before jumping in? Should anyone?
It isn’t as though there are no cell phones in Amish towns. Long ago some decided that wireless was a way to get around rules about not having wires to the outside world. But theirs was a house divided. It turns out there are varying degrees of adherence to the Amish rules that frown upon widespread adoption of technology. It is perceived to dominate individual lives while leaving family values behind. Some of us believe there is room for peaceful coexistence here.
Yet, while the concept of Technological Singularity is being discussed in the wider world, the Amish shouldn’t be written-off as pre-historic technophobes. Visitors have found them to be extremely well informed. There are computers – in libraries because technology should be for the public good rather than private entertainment. This along with “steam-punk-nerds” and “air-punk-geeks” who retrofit electrical appliances into pneumatic versions shows that it is possible to say no and yes to technology at the same time.
And lest we begin thinking that the Amish with their well-made quilts and wooden furniture are a world apart from our technological lives, there’s news. It seems we are moving toward their world. News from the $1.4 billion, romance novel, bookselling world says that Amish love stories are flying off the shelves, enjoying popularity among non-Amish readers. So the romance is not very steamy, and though G-rated by comparison, they are not widely accepted in “true” Amish circles. But several anonymous Amish folk have admitted to furtively reading them under the sheets. So much for conventional thinking about the goings-on between the sheets. Who knew it was just reading?