With the holiday season wrapping up, Canadians and people across the world have one last hurrah in New Year’s before the season is over and the world ends. I like to say “Holiday Season,” it’s a fun phrase. It’s basically a catch-all’ism that includes everything from Halloween to New Years, designed to lump together the major traditions that occur this time of year, such as Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanza.
That’s sort of the subject of my post today. Tradition.
All those holidays I mentioned involve certain ceremonies that are unique to them, but not all of us take part in those ceremonies. Yet the vast majority of us still embrace the holiday to some degree. Why?
One answer is tradition.
Tradition being the set of information/ideas/beliefs et all, that are passed down from generation to generation.
I’m no psychologist or psychiatrist. But there is an element of hubris involved that’s hard to ignore. I remember many instances as a child trying to ask questions of my parents only to get a cold “so you think you know better than five generations of Clow’s eh?” (For the record yes I do. It would be a very sad state of affairs if my great-great-great-great-great grandfather was more informed of the natural world than I am.)
For a lot of people, if something is good enough for their ancestors, it’s good enough for their descendents. Again, this seems so illogical to me, take the simple example of my parent’s first cell phone versus my current cell phone, never mind the apps, just the sound quality alone is worth the upgrade.
So could it be a matter of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it?” That seems likely. I could even image how that mentality could be favored by evolution. If you have a spear that works, you might not be tempted to fiddle with it and potentially create something that doesn’t work quite as well. The factor that influences you to re-work your spear might be the appearance of animals that run too fast to catch and skewer. Thus you have a reason to “fix” the spear.
Sometimes I worry about the easy I go along with something just because it’s the way I’ve always done something. If I take the same road to the store every day, what am I missing by not taking the other path? But why take the other path when experience tells me my tried and trusted road gets me there in one piece?
But that’s a slightly different question isn’t it? An appeal to tradition is saying “we do X because we’ve always done X.” Not straying off the beaten path is more like risk management. And that is a different situation altogether, risk management is about controlling variables; calculating what is the best course of action to get what you want while risking the least amount. Appeal to tradition involves none of that.
But on the surface it does look a little similar. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons we’re so quick to use appeal to tradition to justify actions. We’re confusing it with risk management.
Tradition has a certain power of identification for people. We recognize ourselves by the traditions we keep. We feel that if we didn’t eat turkey instead of hot dogs that would alter our cultural heritage. After all, our cultural heritage is made up of traditions. So you might say “look, I don’t like turkey either, but eating turkey is what makes us Canadian, if we started eating hot dogs, then who would we be?” Well if you are what you eat…
But that’s rather silly reasoning, for example many Canadians consider hockey to be culturally important tradition, yet there are many Canadians out there who have no interest in hockey (not me though) do we consider them lesser Canadians for not liking hockey? I wouldn’t, but for the sake of argument, pretend I do.
How does that sound? Problematic. So the next time you’re eating turkey and you’d rather have a hot dog don’t be afraid of violating tradition, for it is an illogical reason to do anything. Eat hot dogs and be merry.
Happy Holidays Everyone.