Friday, May 12, 2006

I Hate Tradition

Sure I do.

I hate the idea that a set of behaviours can become so fossilized and embedded in a culture that people blindly follow its dictates without even examining why they do it. Nothing should be sacred -- nothing. Any tradition, be it sacred or secular, should be regularly hauled out and examined in the harsh light of day. Does it have meaning in today's society? Does it have meaning to you personally? Does it serve any useful function?

But I find that people love their traditions. It makes them feel part of a group, part of something larger than themselves. People love to give up their individuality and follow the dictates of others. It's easier that way. Turn off your brain and follow the charismatic leader who promises you that everything will be all right if you just do what he says and give him all your money. It's that old herd instinct, from a time when we huddled in trees and feared the unknown predators that lurked in the dark.

I've rapped with Christians and Jews and Muslims in the past, and they often loudly proclaim that they're doing such and such for such and such holiday, or festival, or observance. And I ask them why? And they say because it's part of their beliefs, and I say why?, and they say that's how they've been taught, and I say why?, and they say that's just how its always been done, and I say why?, and they get mad and tell me to shut up.

Now, I'll go one step further, and say that of course people should be able to follow traditions, and enjoy the richness that comes from being part of a large collective, but at least know why you're doing it. Gather some knowledge, do some research, be an informed human being, and stand tall and proud with the knowledge that you're acting because you choose to act, not because some parent or school or government or church leader learned you that that's how it should be done.

Question everything.


Vince said...

What a refreshing article! Thank you for voicing what I deeply feel about traditions.

I don't mind family traditions, because they're followed by the ones who created them -- and they don't impose it on the world.

I've come to the conclusion that people who are big on traditions are very uncertain about themselves.
I'm not making a pro religious statement here, but take Christmas for example; it's the thumb they suck as they sway back and forth for comfort. It doesn't matter that Christmas has nothing to do with Christ, and that they may go in debt to celebrate what they don't even know about. (It would be interesting to see what Christ would do today in a store, when you consider what he did to the merchants of the temple! Heh-heh...)

I hate ignorance. Hence, I hate most traditions.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing article. I couldn't have said it better myself. You bring up points that I have brought up a million times with others but have been ignored and hushed back into the realm of the zombies that follow these absurd traditions without knowing what they are for. Just want you to know that this article is making certain individuals feel sane because at least they know they are not alone. I am not sure as to why you wrote this article but I sure wonder. For it takes some deep feelings to conjure such words.

Joyce said...

Such a good article. I agree with every word. Tradition encourages mindless repeating our our ancestors actions and mistakes. Back in the day racial segregation was a form of tradition; or binding feet of Chinese women was a tradition too. With such *traditions* no progress can be made. I so much wish people would start to think for themselves....

Lindsey said...

Very helpful read. Thanks for posting. I spend a lot of time visualizing outcomes of major life decisions and most often get to the point where my decision just feels right. However, I have not been able to visualize a traditional wedding in any form. Much to many people's dismay, a ceremony on a mountaintop feels right for me. I have always disliked traditions from a very young age and I am just now looking into perhaps why this is so. It seems that they make what feels right to me more challenging due to the expectations of others. I think I will grow stronger and more outspoken with age. But as of now traditions have been a pain.