The trouble with tradition

“Oh, that? It’s just tradition.” “Well, yes, but we’ve always done it that way.” Have you ever heard somebody say this? Tradition pervades our culture, plays a significant part in our lives. Many of our beliefs and routines stem from what others have done. But why do we adhere to tradition? What makes us follow precedent even when it seems illogical or wrong? Let’s take a closer look at this.

Happy Thanksgiving Cornucopia

Happy Thanksgiving from The Weekly Show!

People enjoy traditions for various reasons. Many rituals hold sentimental value. Others we subscribe to for convenience. A prescribed routine removes uncertainty from our lives, lays the foundation for a familiar lifestyle. Following these customs allows us to enjoy our days without worrying about how to structure them. In most cases, we follow precedent for comfort.

Many traditions, such as giving thanks or aiding the poor, benefit society at large. Oftentimes, families or communities adopt precedent they deem admirable or exemplary. Tradition can represent the best of the generations before us.

Some traditions benefit everyone involved.

This leads us, however, to a common yet dangerous misconception: repetition does not confer value. In other words, precedent and tradition are often fallible. In fact, numerous traditions prove detrimental to society. Tourists receive stab wounds at the running of the bulls each year in Spain, and women still live as second-class citizens in many Middle Eastern countries.

While critics acknowledge these customs’ negative effects, many people turn a blind eye to them. The fact that they part of tradition seems all too often to exempt them from scrutiny. In the years leading to the American Civil War, proponents of slavery barraged opponents for disregarding their tradition and way of life. Opponents of same-sex marriage employ similar tradition-preserving rhetoric today.

Running Bulls Tradition Stupid Dangerous

“No, I’m telling you, this is a great idea.”

Does this mean we should disregard all precedent? Of course not. We should, however, make a conscious effort to evaluate our traditions. Some of them are beneficial. Some are harmless. But some of them, we will find, we will be better off without.

So what do you think about tradition? Can you think of any that don’t make sense? Let me know in the comments section below! As always, please like, share, or reblog this post if you enjoy it. Be sure to check me out on Twitter and Facebook as well. Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for new content every Wednesday!

Click here to read last week’s post: A Little Night Music!


Comment question of the week

What’s your weirdest tradition?


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