|By Andrea Dibben, originally published in the November 2011 Socionomist|
Social Mood Knows No Boundaries
In The Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior, Prechter observed that falling mood leads to a “divided, radical climate…to social expressions of resistance, recrimination and intolerance [and] powerful fundamentalist religions and cults.”1 From the pension reform strikes in France to the fiery street fights in Greece to the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US, it’s easy to see numerous manifestations of this phenomenon. With the advanced technological means available today, around the clock news, instantaneous messaging and communications, it’s also easy to see how social mood can spread like wildfire around the globe. Apparently it can reach even isolated communities.
The Amish community is so different from the rest of society that one might think that if there were ever a conflict involving them, it would erupt between the Amish and others. But what actually happened recently is instructive.
Internal strife has pushed the Amish into the spotlight. Some Amish have used clippers and scissors to attack other Amish, specifically by cutting their hair and beards, key symbols of their religious beliefs. One victim told the FBI that he “would prefer to have been beaten black and blue than to suffer the disfigurement and humiliation of having his hair removed.”2
The current Amish-on-Amish violence is a sharp departure from their accepted codes of conduct. The Amish people have chosen a simple lifestyle that accepts a limited number of technological advances. Their commitment to a radically simple faith is incompatible with most modern conveniences and has led them to a lifestyle of separatism. Some of their more strident sects eschew even such basic amenities as electricity. Further, violence within the Amish community is exceptionally rare. They usually are conscientious objectors to military service. According to Betsy Arthur, who has written about Amish schisms, “even verbal confrontation is often nonexistent.”3
The aggressive Amish group from the area of Bergholz, Ohio that allegedly perpetrated the beard-and-hair-cutting attacks is “bitterly estranged from mainstream Amish communities and had had several confrontations with the Jefferson County sheriff.” They not only resort to violence, but according to some accounts, seek to exact revenge.4 Finally, some in the Amish community are now speaking on camera about the attacks and the accused, which is also surprising given the Amish’s usual reticence for publicity.5
Socionomists have long postulated that trends toward negative social mood induce conflicts both between groups and within groups. The disharmony among the Amish is an extreme example of how conflict can arise even within apparently homogenous groups. This very development is especially supportive of socionomics. What besides feelings could possibly generate rifts among people who share so much in common? If social mood became negative enough, we suspect that even in a population of genetic replicas, if half of them had high voices and half low, that difference would be enough for them to rationalize starting a war. ■
Update: On November 23, the FBI arrested seven members of the alleged beard-cutting group on federal hate-crime charges.
1Prechter, R. (1999). The Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior (pp. 229 and 233). Gainesville, Georgia: New Classics Library.
2Eckholm, E. (2011, November 23). 7 in renegade Amish group charged with assaults. The New York Times, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/24/us/7-arrested-in-hair-cutting-attacks-on-amish-in-ohio.html?_r=1&sq=”black and blue”&st=cse&adxnnl=1&scp=2&adxnnlx=1322501455-S0skq5I78271tC45fr2Mhw.
3Arthur, Betsy. Schisms defining the old order Amish. Retrieved from http://web.missouri.edu/~hartmanj/rs150/papers/arth.html.
4Eckholm, E. (2011, October 17). Amish renegades are accused in bizarre attacks on their peers. The New York Times, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/18/us/hair-cutting-attacks-stir-fear-in-amish-ohio.html?_r=1.
5What do the Amish think about photography? Amish America, Retrieved from http://amishamerica.com/what-do-amish-think-about-photography/.
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