Saturday, June 09, 2012

My group right or wrong...  

I have met a handful of Hutterites at speeches and farm meetings in Canada and the Northern Plains, but only had a vague idea of their beliefs and practices. This blog post and comments from Real Agriculture perked up my interest.
To suggest that Hutterite colonies are destroying the traditional family farm is ridiculous To suggest that colonies are panicking without the Canadian Wheat Board is just being uninformed.  Lamenting that  that there is advantages to colony life that make it impossible to compete with them is an over statement.
Do colonies have human resource advantages?  Yes.  Are some colonies very aggressive in their acre growth aspirations?  Yes.  Are some colonies now sending members to College and University? Yes.

Many non-colony farmers have just as much a human resource advantages with the whole family working on the farm.  It is always easier for family members to draw less income to help the farm through a tight financial period.  This is where large corporate farms actually have a disadvantage. With commodity prices rising over the past decade, land values and the competition amongst farmers is going to naturally increase.  Many farmers don't care for their colony neighbours because they create competition for land.  One of the major changes with rising commodity prices is that colonies and large farms are expanding outside of their traditional areas.  Lethbridge farmers seeding in Vulcan, or Red Deer farmers seeding in Yorkton is a new reality of agriculture.  Its not just colonies that are aggressively trying to expand. [More]
Obviously, the much-nicer-than-us (no sarcasm) Canadians are struggling with the ramp up in land competition and the ensuing ethical changes in community expectations. Of course, the Corn Belt is moving their direction, so their stakes may be even higher.

My rough comparisons to the Amish with which I am slightly more familiar are probably not very accurate either. The one thing I did sorta know was their colony size seemed to buttress the idea that we evolved in groups of 200 or less as a basic community self-limit. (Dunbar's number)
Hutterites live in colonies and have a "community of goods" - there is no private ownership of property except for small things. They live in colonies of about 15 families, but each family usually has its own home or apartment. Colonies range in size from about 60 to about 150 people.
Farming is a big part of the Hutterite culture, and it's how colonies support themselves. However, some have turned to small manufacturing because of scarce land and difficulties farming.
Hutterites wear dark clothing. Men wear simple pants, shirts and jackets, and sport beards. Women wear long sleeves, headscarves and long skirts, and never wear pants. Both the women's and men's attire aren't limited to black.
Hutterites go to church services on Sunday and to half-hour services daily. Members don't watch TV or listen to the radio to keep separate from the outside world.
Traditionally, Hutterite children leave school at age 15 (or whatever age allowed by each province) and work in the community. But this is where the differences start. According to John J. Friesen, professor of history and theology at the Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Group 1 of the Schmiedeleut Hutterian Brethren Church in Manitoba provides high school classes for members. Some members eventually go on to the Brandon University Hutterian Education Program to become teachers for the colonies.
Another Hutterian belief that the groups differ involves photographs. Some Hutterians believe they cannot willingly have their photos taken, based on the second of the Ten Commandments. "The commandment is, 'Thou shalt not make no graven images,' " says David Goa, director of the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public life, at the Augustana campus of the University of Alberta. He says this is generally understood as no images of God, but can be interpreted differently. [More]

In Jonathon Haidt's, The Righteous Mind, which I just finished, he asserts that belonging is as central as believing. In other words, our actions and beliefs are all mixed up with the groups we belong to. We don't choose groups to match our beliefs so much as the other way around. 

As true belonging becomes a scarcer commodity ("networking" may not be a substitute), we seem to be willing to become more dogmatic and illogical in order to stay with our groups. Hence one big factor on the death of compromise.

Successful groups got that way, Haidt says, by group evolution. The idea our groups are naturally selected just as individuals are selected within them is controversial, but gaining ground. I find it persuasive and helpful in explaining the new dynamics of cooperation and confrontation in our culture.

The debate above seems to be another reflection of this struggle between groups and individual rights.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What's always impressed me about the Hutterites is if you divide the acres they farm by the families on the colony, what they farm is actually a very small amount. How many modern farm families would be willing to try make a go of it on 250 acres?