The tradition

In the western new age movement, there is a strong current towards all that is ancestral. Tourism, shamanism, traditional ceremonies, worshiping ancient deities... These currents take sometimes ridiculous proportions. Pitiful charlatans are thus considered to be highly spiritual beings, just because they have a dark skin, exotic ornaments or old fashion attitudes.

Modernity doesn't necessarily brings the happiness that it promised and even cause disasters. Is this a reason to conclude that the opposite is beneficial? The present is not lovely, the future is scary, so the past is pretty?

It just takes to open one's eyes to see a more powerful reverse current. The drama of immigration shows people from traditional societies, who are ready to give away all their belongings, to risk their lives on dangerous journeys, to suffer in a foreign country, to fight against the relentless administration, in order to change their lives. They want to leave traditionalism and join the modernity the Westerners denigrate.

What justifies such a radical crossover? An infinite number of explanations come to my mind. There are certainly as many reasons as people. Yet I find it important to remind a few of details which are essential.

Most Westerners who lean toward traditionalism don't mean to leave their lifestyle. They have an exotic trip over here, a discovery expedition over there, they read books filled with exotic pictures, dream when they watch edifying stories, they change 2 or 3 things in their lives, they buy foreign oldies rather than local goodies, ethnic furniture, clothes, haircut, tatoos... In short, it does not go very far. Even those who choose to go and live in a country of traditional culture, keep their original nationality. The Western passport serves as protection abroad and opens the doors of all international airports. It also allows to step back if the new life doesn't unfold as good as expected.

By cons, most of those seeking modernity leave everything behind: home, family, friends, education level, mother tongues, nationality ... They are ready to start a new life with no return. When their new life shapes up, they go back in their country only for the holidays. Over the generations, their descendants eventually forget the past and the link is finally cut with their originating country.

The appeal of traditionalism often manifests as impulses without much consequence, secured by thousands of precautions. The appeal of modernity is a leap into the void. For it must be admitted, even if modernity is not perfect, it provides security and relative freedom that don't exist in traditional societies. It is easy for a foreign adult to be charmed by a traditional culture. There is no risk to be forcibly married, to undergo ritual mutilation and formal humiliation, to be sold by relatives, to be excised or to be stoned to death just for having broken an unwritten law of social superstition. If some are willing to endanger their existence to join modernity, it is because their lives are already jeopardized in traditionalism.

What is tradition? These are things that we do because we have always done that since time immemorial. Personally I think there is Tradition with a capital "T" and tradition with a tiny low and small "t".

The Traditions are measures that have been put in place to help a group of human beings at any given time. Clever and wise people see what could improve the lives of others and bring new behaviors. But what is good today will not necessarily be so tomorrow. It is useful to evaluate the Traditions occasionally to keep only those who continue to do good in the present. Those which are no longer relevant are likely to make the society stagnate or wear out for nothing.

The traditions are measures that have been put in place to subdue a group of human beings at any given time. Power hungry freaks impose their rules by force or by manipulation. People obey in the hope of illusory rewards or by fear of human, supernatural or divine punishment. Alienating laws becomes part of the collective identity. The most fragile beings become cruel and ferocious guardians of these traditions for if they are challenged then the whole society crumbles and their lives collapse with it. What else to do but to escape such a hell? It is sometimes with surprise, hope, contempt or jealousy that suffering people see shiploads of modern tourists landing, to naively admire the raw (not to say rude) "authenticity" of traditions.

I personally think that it is a very big mistake to automatically show respect for all traditions. The damages of the tradition are huge. Respecting blindly all traditions helps to maintain in slavery those who are subjected to them. If we allow ourselves to criticize modernity to correct its defects then it is logical to do the same with traditionalism.

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