Saturday, May 11, 2013

Pitfalls of tradition

Here is an insightful discussion of how the idea of "tradition" is often hijacked to justify violations of basic human rights and human decency (child brides, rape, homophobia, etc.).  It is an important warning to people like me who often romanticize tradition as a stabilizing force whose rupture is to blame for many of modern society's ills.

In my defense, I would say that tradition and collective values are indeed what have sustained through millennia any human community that has made it to the present, and as such traditions are usually a key manifestation of sustainability.  The problem is that the sustainability of cultures and peoples isn't always in line with an absolute respect for individual rights.  In other words, in the functioning, the machinery, the social logic of any successful (that is to say, still-surviving) culture, there are some people who suffer in the process of maintaining the collective.  This is unacceptable to our modern values of human rights, of respect for every single person as such.

What I have yet to figure out (indeed, what we as a planetary population have yet to figure out) is how to balance the moral requisite of respect for the individual, with the continued existence of our nations and our species as a whole, which seem to be desintegrating under the weight of billions of individual choices and caprices that go against sustainability.

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