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]

On the topic of peace

But what do we mean by peace? This is something I’ve given a lot of thought to, especially during the time I spent volunteering within my local “peace community” (i.e., non-violent social justice activist organizations). And I gotta say, my thinking on the subject has taken new shape over time.

“Peace” has become a shallow buzzword. People on youtube like to sign off with the word, even after spouting off hard-core against another group of people. It’s an overused word, like “love,” covering such a broad spectrum that it’s become incredibly hazy to the point of being trivialized. What do we mean by “peace”? What might it look like? In detail. People like to start rattling off what Lennon said in the clip above, saying it’s about peace in the home and peace in the schools and peace on the planet. But what the hell does that even mean? What would get us there? And what would it take to keep us in that frame of coexistence if ever humans did ‘evolve’ to that point?

I’ve been forming some ideas.

Ask yourself: which individuals tend to be most peaceful? Those with shit to tend to, in other words people with jobs and/or responsibilities and/or creative endeavors that absorb a good deal of their time and energy. Now let’s pause there. I’m not a fan of nor advocating for busybodyness — there are productive and nonproductive uses of our time and ways of earning income (that being a discussion all unto itself). But ever heard the saying that “idle hands are the devil’s tools”? Yup. We get bored, go looking for entertainment and wind up getting into mischief. We know this. And I happen to think unsatisfying work provides an added incentive to seek out new stimulation.

What I love about the concept of gardening/small-scale farming is that it calls for our physical labor, at least in a conceivably sustainable setup where many more people contribute to food production and Big Ag’s oligopolies are broken up into more manageable and fairly competitive pieces (keeping in mind monopolies and oligopolies are anti-trust violations and anti-capitalist in terms of disrupting the free market by making conditions hostile to small businesses). While technologies surely can aid us in ways our foreparents could only dream about, I do believe the exertion of our own physical labor is good for us. If it weren’t we wouldn’t have so many people buying gym memberships and workout videos. Physical exertion is good for our physical and psychological well-being, yet it’s become for many estranged from the activities required for earning a living.

When you honestly consider this it almost seems like by splitting the two apart, we created new problems: the centralization of food production scheme (i.e. Big Ag) that allows most Americans to not participate in any way directly with their food’s creation; as technology advances and populations increase due to a stable and relatively cheap food supply, many of the jobs made available involve office or service work that are widely considered soul-draining, boringly repetitive, and wouldn’t be undertaken if not for need of a paycheck; there’s now a need to find time to exercise outside of working hours, and a collective lack of motivation to run on a treadmill has led to an obesity epidemic. We are now consumers, and many consume more than we expend in terms of our individual energy. This appears to me like life out of balance, and what’s worse, I can’t see any real benefit to sticking with the current status quo.

Modern agriculture is heavily dependent on fossil fuels from start to finish in the process, and its distribution network has trucks and ships and planes headed in all directions around the clock and around the globe. (That show about ice road trucking up in Alaska springs to mind.) We’ve grown utterly dependent on this system, and heaven forbid it ever shut down.

We could go on to think about the risks associated with the heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers (including the possible link to bee populations dying off, which crops absolutely require), the shitty conditions for animals inside factory farms (and what it does to us to knowingly dine on disrespected beasts — spoken as one diehard meat-eater), GMOs and high-fructose corn syrup in damn near everything, the bullshit business practices and marketing schemes that most Americans have no way of escaping, etc. But this appears sufficient to prompt others to consider the value of one’s labor and how perhaps we might have had our fingers on a good thing before we allowed it to get jacked up to the extent it is today. Or perhaps that was a necessary phase in human history because of the innovations it has brought, though, too, there’s the infrastructure it’s spawned, and that is ultimately what holds us back from turning any other way. We’re bound by laws and property taxes and the need to earn money in order to survive in this modern world. Near-subsistence living, in this setting, doesn’t look practical.

We’re in a conundrum here. No question. Perhaps we can focus now on utilizing what we’re able, like purchasing produce from community-sponsored farming networks. But it’s tough to circumvent the Big Boys these days. Damn near impossible.

So going back to this idea of peace, it seems like the most productive and meaningful trek toward that goal requires a diffusion of power. Because part of the problem today is people feeling and largely actually being disempowered. I’m not a fan of that word either thanks to its over-usage, but the concept remains relevant at the core. How much power do any of us really possess anymore? The power to choose between brands and service providers? How many choices truly exists in a sea of illusive conglomerates?

What do average, ordinary people want out of life? Many will say work that feels meaningful, love and support from family members and friends, good food, good beer and wine, good sex, a sense of belonging somewhere and an ability to contribute something to society of value — a relatively simply life, in all, albeit one rich thanks to social ties and labor that serves a worthwhile purpose. Rearing young up well and producing the sustenance needed to continue living both fit the bill, as do plenty of other tasks and jobs needing to be fulfilled to serve the needs of people.

But that’s far from what we have. So far that it seems like a pipe dream, nonsensical utopianism. And perhaps that’s correct — maybe it’s not going to happen. But that’s one place where we may have power, and if we were able to exercise it we could, through boycotting efforts made possible by providing more for ourselves, possibly dismantle the mammoths calling the shots currently. We buy what they sell because it’s quite nearly the only options on the shelves. And this extends far beyond agriculture. Whatever happened to human handicrafts in America? Now everything we purchase is shipped from China.

We are not free and never will be free because we have lost touch of how to care for ourselves. Unless we recover this ability, we will have little say over the course of modernity unfolding. We will be led so long as we remain unable to lead ourselves, and if we can’t even provide for our most basic needs, will we not always wind up as slaves to something or somebody else? What ground do we have to stand on otherwise? As it is now, most of us are being swept along on a moving train, watching life whirl by while feeling powerless to stop and settle down into a less chaotic existence.

This is not all people of today’s fault, but it is our problem. I personally do not own a yard or property, so this all can’t help but be offered up as mere food for thought.

So around and around we go. Without power within our own hands and labor that feels meaningful that also provides something of actual value, we will remain agitated. In a world ablaze with warfare and divided by deep economic disparities, and in societies where we feel trapped by laws we’ve never even heard of and conditions we never willingly signed up for, we will remain anxious. A situation like this leads people to start chomping at the bit in hopes of finding political resolution to what ails them. Therein enters mass movements that attract disgruntled souls wishing for change that they know not how to help bring about. And from there we see clashes and great rivalries and much bickering and people feeling like they must choose a side to identify with. Everything becomes framed as a competition, another spectator sport, which devolves into a senseless back and forth where people lose focus on what really even matters.

And on and on it goes.

You want peace? Well, I want relative peace. Peace at any cost holds no appeal to me. Human life involves drama and problems and disagreements and conflicts, and I accept that. Child-rearing isn’t all about hugs and encouragement; it also necessarily involves discipline and rules to follow. We cannot escape all authority, but we could certainly reassess what authorities we’re willing to tolerate and abide by. One authority our efforts will never fully trump is Nature, that being a given, our human constructs paling in comparison. So it seems to me we have a choice to either work within it or continue fighting an uphill battle to nowhere we really want to be. The latter allows us to be more lazy and unproductive — it’s become the path of least resistance.

I’d love to see others and my own self find ways to become engaged in this dilemma, and hopefully as a result of needing to cooperate to a larger extent in order to problem-solve and through focusing our attention on more productive uses of our time we will leave one another the hell alone so far as nit-picking and generally behaving like asses with nothing better to do than start unnecessary drama.

Maybe getting back to basics on some level would do us all more good than we realize. And maybe through that the goal of achieving some sort of peace will stand a better chance.