Monday, September 19, 2011

Amish Men Arrested Over Safety Triangles

Religious groups like the Amish that aschew modern technology have always fascinated me, at least in part because I'm such a technophile myself and the worldview seems so foreign to me. Recently a group of Amish men in Kentucky were arrested because they refused to place orange safety triangles on their buggies, and then refused to pay the subsequent fines. The men claimed that the triangles violate their religious beliefs.

A judge sentenced them to between three and 10 days in jail by Graves District Court, Kentucky for non-payment of fines on religious grounds.

The men said paying the fines would amount to complying with a law they believe violates their beliefs against wearing bright colours or trusting in manmade symbols for their safety.

The sentences varied depending on individual fines and court costs, which ranged from $148 to more than $600.

In respect of the their religious beliefs, the jail ordered dark-coloured jumpsuits rather than the usual orange versions.

As you can see from the photograph above, Amish buggies are practically invisible on the road after dark without the reflective triangles, so it's easy to see why traffic laws require them. Even if these men aren't concerned about their own safety there are still other motorists to consider. And while they may not make use of modern technology in their personal lives, whenever they use a modern paved road they certainly are taking advantage of the better pavement that can be laid using current machines.

What I find confusing about the Amish worldview is that they don't live without any technology at all, but rather pick and choose based on what happened to be current in the late nineteenth century. Amish clothing is based on what would have been considered "plain" during that same period, but at least for men changing styles have meant that at times similar clothing has been considered the height of fashion. I personally own a white collarless shirt that when paired with a black jacket looks more fancy than wearing a brightly colored tie, not less. However, in many Amish communities it would be a completely acceptable outfit.

At any rate, I hope that some resolution to this situation can be found that will take into account these men's religious beliefs and still protect motorists from running into buggies after dark. Maybe large white reflectors? Those at least would not incorporate bright colors.

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Hypnovatos said...

I am with you on the "confused" portion of how they pick and choose which era's tech is OK, and which is not. Their horse drawn buggies are hardly advanced by today's standards, but would have made people in the year 100CE marvel at the advancements. The loom used for their clothes is also quite advanced by ancient standards, as are their shoes and even hats. I have never been able to get someone to really explain this discrepancy. At the same time... i am drawn to their "simple" way of life...

Ananael Qaa said...

It's not a general rule of "no technology," it's defined by a set of rules called the Ordnung that each community defines for itself. But how those rules get made is process that I'm not clear on. It seems to have to do with each community's idea of what "simple living" entails.