Modernity, Capitalism, and Nostalgia in Ohio’s Amish Country

Examples of the types of “down home” shops that populate the village of Berlin, in Ohio’s Amish Country.

If there’s one thing Americans embrace and reject in equal measure, it’s modernity. In the world’s most mega-capitalist society, modernity has always accelerated at an absurd pace, as the demands of the profit-driven marketplace have continually spurred ever-more complex technological innovations that have repeatedly caused massive social and political disruptions in American society — all in the name of efficiency, of course.

There’s a place in north-central Ohio, however, where the pace of modernity — at least on the surface — seems to have slowed down a bit, if not ceased altogether. Holmes County is the heart Ohio’s Amish Country. The most notable residents of Holmes and the surrounding counties are the various factions of Amish and Mennonite peoples. In fact, Holmes County contains the largest contiguous Amish settlement in the world. Depending on their doctrinal and cultural traditions, Ohio’s Amish people seem to reject the trappings of modernity — with its endless work, slave-like reliance on technological gadgetry, and soul-melting stress.*

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In America, We are all Florida

The Florida Man Twitter feed is the most American thing ever, because Florida IS America.

The Florida Man Twitter feed is the most American thing ever, because Florida is the most American thing ever.

America is the place where people from all over the word come to live the American Dream. But in America itself, people move southward to live out something far more American than the American Dream: the Florida Dream.

Florida is where the runoff from America’s cultural stream settles into a fetid, stagnant pool of low taxes, cheap property prices, an endless supply of immigrant labor, cold weather-fleeing geriatrics, and trigger-happy right-wing politics. For decades, Sunshine State boosters have wrapped up the Florida Dream in a carefully marketed vision of an overly humid, sunburned paradise bolstered by an economic tripartite of hospitals, condominiums, and a gigantic, anthropomorphic mouse. And Americans can’t get enough of it.

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