Thoughts on traditionalism

Been thinking about the topic of traditionalism lately, since people keep bringing it up. Made a video last night pertaining to my rejection of misogynistic traditions (and the anti-feminists who accept them), but I couldn’t do the topic justice since it encompasses so much. First off, when we say “traditionalism,” what are we referring to? Oftentimes we Americans are referring to past Christian traditions, seeing as how that’s the religion that’s had the greatest influence on our culture. But that’s not all there is to traditions — traditions existed LONG before (and since) Christianity came on the scene.

Religions have always factored into human history, and they varied wildly from culture to culture and up through time. I think what’s most impressive about Christianity is how pervasive it proved to be. Prior to the rise of Christianity there had never been such a broad-scale, globally-saturating religion, because advances in technologies went hand in hand with its dissemination. And it wasn’t sold to various countries and cultures by sheer influence but rather through conquest and invasion (i.e., imperialism).

I don’t hate Christianity or reject 100% of its teachings, though I am not a religious person and take great issue with plenty of the ways in which it’s interpreted and how attempts are made to literally apply its scriptures in today’s world. It’s a historical record of a collection of narratives intended to guide people who lived long ago. The kernel of Jesus’s teachings and ideas I respect the most, and I’ve always aimed to tease them away from the rest of the theological casing since that kernel all unto itself remains significant and valuable to us moving forward. This I do believe.

And this strikes at the differences between spirituality, religiosity and theology. I haven’t the energy this morning to delve into all of that and would be better off citing authors who do more justice in unpacking the inquiry. But I personally do consider myself spiritual and pretty much always have to whatever extent. I am not an atheist and never will identify as such, and the same goes for being a religionist (past the point of losing my religion in my early teens).

Getting back to the topic of traditions…they all contained and were based on spiritual and religious elements, going as far back as we can examine human existence. Humans are a religious species by our very natures. Always have been and likely always will be, even if the new religions turn out to be coined as secular ideologies. We are always in need of a narrative to guide our lives and our communities and to define the ethics we enculturate into youths. This is an unavoidable necessity apparently, and I do not rail against that fact, only specific narratives that I cannot support.

Families are also a fact of life, or at least always have been. Communities are as well. Our psychological well-being is directly tied to the health of our families and our communities, and there’s no getting around that. This I do not take issue with either, and I am very flexible in accepting different family and community dynamics since there isn’t only one size that fits all. Though, one truth remains ever-present and that is the need to properly care for our young. Different ways of going about that and not all are created equal, but the strategy I take the most issue with is handing over so much care of our youths to Big Government entities and their education systems and fostering programs since that’s proven to be destructive to family and community cohesion and is targeting youths with new ideological narratives that I believe we would benefit from being highly skeptical of. Children remain the responsibility and legacy of their families and their communities and great care needs to be taken to ensure it remains that way (versus relinquishing control and allowing outside entities to do much of the raising and socializing instead). That is my view.

I have no dream for any utopian society because I do not envision just one type of society. I envision several, countless, because diversification is a strength among humans. People capable of living and working together and forming stable, cohesive communities has always been the name of the game, though now we are experiencing their dissolution in the face of major nation-states having come into prominence and now globalization is further undermining small-scale units. On these points, I may be considered a traditionalist of sorts.

But when it comes to how any given community is structured or what social arrangements are deemed tolerable among its members, I am pretty flexible, though I want to see humans branch out of restrictive roles of the past so as to transcend and explore as individuals. And this is where things get tricky admittedly. Social cohesion tends to call for a high level of conformity, but I believe we can conform on matters that are key to a given community while still maintaining our own individuality so long as it isn’t completely antithetical to the point of being too disruptive to a given community. And this is where diversity across communities remains so important, because there is no one-size-fits-all model that will prove compatible with each of our sensibilities and personal ethics.

I do not believe that humans need to be strictly confined in gender roles in a universal sense, not at this point in history and not so long as technologies allow this not to be the case. Nature is our ultimate slave-master, it is true, but the role of humankind has always been to find a way to carve out our own habitat and to expand our potentialities. This is true of men just as much as it is true of women. Not all women wish to be harnessed to child-bearing and home-making, nor should we be. Just as not all men wish to be confined to the role of protector and financial supporter of a nuclear family they’ve helped create. There is also no reason why homosexual relationships need be considered immoral aberrations, not universally at least. There is flexibility here, and that’s a blessing of modern times and is what technologies and higher intellects have afforded us.

In that way, I don’t qualify as a “traditionalist,” not unless the tradition we speak of is very ancient or belonging to indigenous cultures that did not adopt the strict hierarchies that became common under Abrahamic faiths. This is largely why I consider myself ultra-paleo in my conservative standing.

This modern era has ushered in the rise of corporate power and dominance, and with that we the people have lost ground because we no longer live in ways that are self-sustaining. We do not grow the food we need to nourish ourselves, and now we see less often that youths are taught skills to fend for themselves (unless that means earning a paycheck — that being all we’re lucky to be taught anymore). I’ve repeated this many times already and will likely continue doing so since this is my dream for us going forward: that we become more self-sufficient as individuals, families, and communities. Otherwise, the trade-off appears to be that we lose part of our humanity, in turn, by becoming automatons serving corporate and political giants, and that is a very dangerous road to travel down.

An agrarian renaissance can include all sorts of different communities and religious attitudes, and this could be healthy for us. If advocating going back to the land and learning how to provide for our sustenance makes me a traditionalist of sorts, then so be it. Others undoubtedly will frame it however they wish. My main interest is in seeing a new form of sanity restored, at least by-and-large. This cannot come about by pushing one particular religion down the throats of all others and condemning them for not living up to expectations they aren’t willing (or able) to accept. And the same goes for gender roles being ordained from on-high. We have room to navigate probably more than ever before in history, and I think this is an excellent opportunity to think outside of the box and to imagine the possibilities rather than waste our time trying to coerce others into fitting some universally-applied mold we deem as best for all.

[Edited for typos and greater clarity on Nov. 5th, 2014]

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2 Responses to Thoughts on traditionalism

  1. Wyrd Smythe says:

    I would agree with all of that. We find ourselves at the same impasse. How do we get the horses to drink? Speaking of horses, I’m not sure an agrarian culture — at least not the traditional open land model — can support our current population levels. There are those interesting vertical models — converting large office buildings to crop growing — that might support a city, but it takes a lot of land and time to grow food. The need to feed all these people gravitates naturally to an industrial complex (standard assembly line economics).

    The trouble with giant ocean liners — despite all their convenience and luxury — is that it’s really hard to get them to change direction.

    On a side note, it occurred to me as I read this that there are explicit and implicit traditions. The former — older codes of behavior we consciously chose to follow — includes religion, but the military and law and other professions have their explicit traditions. The latter is encoded in behavior and the “we’ve always done it this way” attitude. Both are rigid, but at least in the first case you know why you’re being rigid. It’s easy to find ourselves upholding implicit traditions we may not even agree with anymore!

    I can see the honor in explicit traditionalism — consciously choosing to follow a code. (It does depend a bit on the code — I have my views and biases.) I don’t have quite the same regard for “it was ever thus” thinking.

    • Byenia says:

      Wooh, that piece was loaded with typos. Shame on me for waiting 3 days to proofread it. ha

      As for our current population density and restoring an agrarian culture, I agree that we might be overpopulated past the point of it being completely feasible to support everyone that way. The goal could be at this time to start laying the groundwork, and people like myself choosing voluntarily not to produce kids could help if enough opted to do the same. Pipe dream, I know. I also like the idea of vertical models for inner-city growing and have read up on it some — these new ways of approaching agrarianism is what it’s all about. Utilize the new technologies and discoveries to take it to a level our predecessors couldn’t, while aiming to keep Monsanto’s and Pioneer’s paws off these projects in the process.

      I’ve come to think it matters less whether it all ultimately works and succeeds — better just to try, because we can derive more meaning from our lives in the meantime at least.

      But yeah, we certainly are on a giant ocean liner at this point in the game. Not sure how to light fire under us to change direction, but plenty of people seem quite interested and are already returning to planting vegetable gardens and trapping rain water and aiming to live more simply. So that at least is heartening.

      Not all traditions are created equal, that much I know. Gotta assess them all and see what’s still needed or valuable and to think about moving away from what might hinder us. But people have to sort these matters out for themselves in the end.

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