How Technology Can Separate Us

Yes, this is just another way to get to Wal-Mart.

Mass consumerism and the fossil fuels that drive our lifestyle are the main reason we have climate change and resource depletion.  There are many things we can learn from the Amish to help the Planet and ourselves.

I am no expert on the Amish but they aren’t mass consuming anything, that I can see.  We have several communities of Amish in the SW corner of the Driftless area of Wisconsin where I live. Their dress and houses are plain and humble.  The women don’t purchase expensive purses, fancy clothes or shoes, makeup or jewelry, and the men’s wardrobes are equally plain.  They make their clothes.

Most of their food is grown and canned so hardly any processed foods are purchased.  A buggy or cart is used for transportation, with the occasional car or bus ride by an English person.  In these situations, the destination is too far or time is an issue.  They also live close together and help each other, which fosters community. 

They may seem boring to the average American but I think their system eliminates many of the problems we have in our society.  Their lifestyle is so much more sustainable, and their carbon footprint is barely a blip on the scale.

Our system on the other hand has every person on their own, fending for themselves, which breeds isolation and loneliness, many times.  And, our carbon footprint is the highest in the world per person.

I was reading Eric Brende’s book, “Better Off,” and he brings up how technology separates us in his book.  He is living off grid with his wife in an Amish community.  I don’t know the reasons why the Amish shun electricity and most technology, but from a personal experience with an Amish friend, who I bought some wood from, I can see firsthand how technology does separate us.

One day, my Amish friend called me up to drive his kids to school because it was -10.  I said sure.  I picked them up and couldn’t believe all the kids walking to school in that weather.  A couple of days later, my friend called me up to say he wanted to pay me.  I said forget it, I was happy to do it.  He insisted, and, again, I said to forget it.  He could pay me next time he needed me to drive them.  During the conversation, I mentioned that I needed to split my wood, and he jumped to offer his help.  I felt bad telling him I bought a log splitter and wouldn’t need his help.

Well, that log splitter had sat in the box a month before I pulled it out, and I found it to be defective.  I was feeling a little pressured to get some logs split and thought of my friend.  I stopped by one night to visit and asked him if his offer was still good.  He said he was busy the next few days, and that night was the best day for him.

Along with his two, young boys, we headed over to my place.  After a quick tour of my cabin, he got to work.  For about an hour and a half, he split wood while we talked.  Sure, I can have my log splitter and use it myself but this was a perfect example of how it divides us.  We were building a friendship over that one and a half hours.  I valued that much more than having my log splitter.

A few days later, he asked if I could drive him to get his motor for the mill fixed.  It was a bartered exchange.  We called it even, and he said he could finish splitting my wood when I needed.

I am not Amish, although I am living pretty close to their lifestyle, but feel fortunate to have an Amish family for my friends.  It’s a bit lonely hanging out with my log splitter.

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