Culture: What’s Wrong With Tradition?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with tradition but there is something wrong with how most people blindly adhere to and perpetuate it. Despite the diverse global cultural heritage available for our personal use in many places it’s as if people weren’t free individuals, but rather cultural prisoners whose primary duty in life was to act as vehicles to represent and preserve whatever culture they were born into. This is unfortunate because tradition should never take priority over an individuals right to decide what aspects of their native culture they’re willing to accept. All people must be free to paint the living canvas that they are with all of the cultural colors globally available and to imagine and create those that are not.

However in our increasingly culturally sensitive world tradition is given sacred status and isn’t called out often enough for what much of it really is which is ignorance and dogma blindly passed down from more ignorant and dogmatic times. Instead of being taught to question tradition children are too often taught to blindly accept it and be proud of their native culture as if pride was something that could be inherited. All people and especially children should be encouraged to be critical of all culture and the traditions it contains and to freely pick and choose from all cultures the elements which they find useful. Instead of a global society with thousands of cultures we should be evolving towards one with billions of them, one for each individual.

Just because something may have existed for hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years doesn’t mean it should exist today let alone be perpetuated into the future. Many cultural traditions should have been discarded a long time ago, e.g., male/female genital mutilation, burning joss paper/fake money, whaling/dolphin hunting for the sake of culture and tradition rather than subsistence and survival, and the use of handshakes as a common greeting/effective way to spread infectious disease. Culture and traditions should not be blindly preserved, but rather continually appraised and it should be determined on a person by person basis whether or not such things should be perpetuated, modified, or discarded as this will promote cultural evolution and social progress.