But it's traditional

By | 2011/11/16

Slaves

Imagine a society where we only did things if they had been traditionally done.

  • …if we go back 50 years in Australia, the indigenous population were not allowed to vote; that was 1967.
  • …if we go back 50 years in Australia, people were still being executed for crimes. Technically that wasn’t stopped until 2010, though the last execution was 1967.
  • …if we go back 50 years in the United States, segregation was still legal; that was not repealed until 1964.
  • …if we go back 100 years in Britain, women were still not allowed to vote; that was 1928.
  • …if we go back 200 years in the United States, people were still kept as slaves; it wasn’t until the civil war ended in 1865 that change happened there.
  • …if we go back 500 years in England, the monarchy was still largely absolute; a constitutional monarchy wasn’t enacted until 1689.

The simple fact of the matter is that if we go back far enough, there’s always a tradition to justify some level of bigotry. Conservatives cling blindly to tradition and shout histrionically about the “thin end of the wedge” when it comes to abandoning traditions – yet when we stop for a moment, society and human development has been defined by dropping traditions that are no longer appropriate.

If you want to look at groups of people that cling mindlessly to tradition above all else, check out the Amish or the Exclusive Brethren. People who decided that they’d had enough ‘advancement’, and now won’t use any technology past a particular point. To be fair, the Amish are probably more honest in what they do, since they try their best to isolate their communities so they’re not actively participating. The Exclusive Brethren on the other hand are hypocritical in their beliefs – they refuse, for instance, to use computers, but are happy to directly employ the services of people who do, etc.

It’s time we stop letting people cite ‘tradition’ as a way of ending an argument. When you think about it, the “it’s traditional” argument is about as logically accurate and syntactically complete as the lazy “because why” argument.

So when someone tells you that marriage is traditionally between a man and a woman, the real response is: “Is that the best you can come up with? Give me a real reason.”