Monday, October 23, 2006

can't have it both ways.

i'm referring to the amish.

the spate of recent shootings culminating in the terrible deaths of five female schoolchildren at an amish school left me feeling very puzzled by their society. the most conservative of the amish groups, the 'old order' groups, are reclusive, deeply religious people that drive horses instead of ford f150 pick-up trucks . they live in relative rural isolation, with many having no telephones or electricity in their homes.

they also send their children to private, one-room schoolhouses until the age of 13, they purport to eschew technology and preach isolation from the modern world. they also do not join the military or accept assistance from the government.

from the bbc: charles roberts burst into the west nickel mines amish school, killing five girls aged between seven and 13, and injuring another five before turning the gun on himself as police closed in.

apart from the senseless horror in this story, i was struck by the immediate forgiveness of the murder by the amish community. those interviewed repeatedly stated that it was 'god's will' and in doing so, implied that the five girls' lives were over because god had chosen it. if he didn't, then, well, how can it be his will?

this response strikes me as neither rational or human. any med student can tell you that the human brain is comprised of a number of different parts, endowing each of us with anger, aggression, physical movement, memory, analysis, contemplation, reaction, response... - the list goes on. although science still has much to uncover, the basic functions and related areas of the brain are well known. what isn't known is why would god, the supposed omnipotent being, choose, through 'god's will' to end the lives of five schoolgirls?. this doesn't strike me as being an act of someone i would voluntarily decide to worship. come to think of it, why does god (creator of the universe and everything in it) need anyone or anything to worship him (on a daily basis)?

this whole omnipotent being thing smacks of ancient civilisations, ancient gods, kingdoms, and modern totalitarianism. abdicate all individual moral and social responsibility to a 'higher' order. the payoff? - huge, as long as one leads a life of strict observance and daily worship. the prize is everlasting life. caveat emptor, anybody? you're not going to find out until you're dead!

sorry; that's way too convenient if you ask me; that's a non-testable hypothesis. living in the 'simple' past was never 'better'; don't believe me?- go back and ask the poorest and those most disadvantaged. - a brief digression: why is that when people claimed to have lived more than one life, they always recount someone that was historically famous or significant? not once have i heard of anyone previously living a drudgery-filled existence, working down the mines, or sewing for up to 12 hours a day. always the main attraction, never the forgotten.

back to the amish school murders. these shootings happened exactly where one would normally least expect it, in the haven of a peaceful, low-key, religious community. the amish want to live in isolation, yet it's the outside world's police that closed in on the school. exactly what would the amish have done if charles roberts had instead chosen to take many more girls hostage, and the police hadn't descended on the scene? listening to their talk of instant forgiveness, it dismays me to imagine very little. has any of them actually asked this very question at one of their sunday services? sadly, it appears that when it comes to strict observance of god's law, one doesn't ask awkward questions such as 'why'? tragedy, it seems, doesn't change anything.

as for eschewing technology, i think they must mean 'modern technology'. they can't grow crops, or weave, bulid their houses or read their bibles (i presume they're printed) in beloved churches without any technology, so i'd like to hear the reasoning that they choose and just stick to the old practices and methods. of course, it doesn't take much thought to consider that when the plough was introduced, that this was, at the time, modern technology. 'modern technology' is simply that which is currently available.

humans have always used their brains to 'engineer' adaptation to changing lifestyles and conditions. for myself, living in a modern society with all its 'technology' and defects, it seems inevitable that the amish, like any other animal or species that doesn't adapt, will surely struggle to survive in the long run. this moment will precisely come to pass when the far greater in size society it dwells within no longer wishes, or chooses, to accept them.

evolution teaches many harsh and violent lessons. for life on earth that isn't homo sapien, it is the forces of nature and the balance of ecosystems that determine the status quo and the daily struggle of life, death, and existence. for us humans, it's our ability to engage in intellectual thought and reasoning that separates us from all others and allows us to soar. the willful abandoning or ignoring the realities of our present and past, who we are and where we came from, will teach us nothing about how best to prepare for our future - the one we will actually live in.

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