Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Can you reconcile Tradition with Democracy?

Just a little poser for you.
Tradition. Something people have done for generations, right?
The fact that something has done for generations is often held up as an argument in favour of something.
More. It is almost a taboo, sometimes.
In fact that is precisely what a taboo IS, a deeply revered tradition.
If we have five hundred people doing something that has been done for a thousand years, we respect it. If we have five hundred people doing something that started in the sixties, they'll probably be arrested.

A few weeks ago, partly in Irony, I started declaiming at a friends after we'd been out about the attempts of the government to destry 'Our traditional way of life'.
My friend asked me what I meant.
I said 'Our ancient hedonistic tradition of going clubbing, meeting people, inviting them back for a party and listening to Music'
He pointed it was hardly a tradition. I pointed out that that the three of us had been doing it half our lives. My other friend clocked the point. It was tradition- within the context of our own culture. I pointed out that more people probably spent their lives as we did than were members of the Orange Order, yet which lifestyle is revered and traditional.

My point. In a Democracy, the dead don't vote.
It doesn't matter how many people did something once. What they thought about something doesn't matter now.
If you were to ask every white person who had ever lived what they thought about Apartheid, it would be around still.
Sure, the fact that has been done a long time may be evidence that it works. It can provide very good empirical evidence that an idea is sound. But it is not in itself always an argument.
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with tradition, just that it's an irrelevant argument democratically.

What was right for your grandad might not be right for you.
He didn't blog for a start.


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Matt M said...

The Orange Order has a number of advantages over the clubbing scene: it has a clearer ideology, a longer tradition, and it's allied to religion - all of which, rightly or wrong, inspire respect in a lot of people.

I know which one I'd rather have around though.

Traditions can be useful - they provide stability, and we can learn a lot from them, as any behaviour which has clung on for so long must feed some aspect of human psychology. It's when people start respecting them purely because they're traditional, rather than based on any real merit, that we get problems.

David Anthony said...

Interesting, if slightly illogical (which I always prefer).

Tradition is a strange thing, it allows all Scotsmen to be compulsive flashers, and only allows criminals to be prosecuted by a man wearing half a dead goat on his head.

Crushed said...

David, too true.
Matt, you seem to get the general meaning of my post. Pleased to meet you!
I wan't so much providing the answer as raising the question.
I think it's important to understand that both tradition and democracy are very important things to treasure- in their true senses.
Neither however should be accepted as totems and the two are in a sense antithetic.

Ms Smack said...

I always thought I'm a bit of a traditionalist (like my grand-parents) and to a degree, I am.

However, I'm living my life in a way that wasnt suitable to them, back then.

Unmarried mother, working full time, away from the house alot, putting my daughter through school and engaging in casual sex to avoid the full time headache of a man.

i think perhaps I'm still sitting on the proverbial fence.

Crushed said...

Ms Smack, my artistic tastes are very traditional. I also go to mass regularly like a good Catholic boy.

Some of my beliefs and habits are very not traditional.
Tradition is a good thing when it can be used as an example of something positive that has worked for a long time. It's never a reason in itself.
For example, parents loving their children, as you clearly do, is traditional and a good thing.
I'm on the fence about marriage.