Allow me to pontificate: Screw Tradition.

Among the more irritating refrains I hear made as argument is the appeal to ‘tradition’. ‘This movie should be banned. It is against hindu tradition’. ‘That woman should be disciplined. What she has done goes against the tradition of the Indian woman’. Somebody is always outraged over somebody doing something or saying something that ever so slightly calls tradition or conventional practice into question.

– Khusboo should be ostracised for saying that premarital sex is all right. [Mock outrage]

– Water (Deepa Mehta’s movie, which you should definitely watch) should not be allowed to be shot. It portrays in a bad light the hindu traditions of treating widows worse than shit. (The movie had to be shot in Sri Lanka, after thugs from the VHP destroyed the original sets in Varanasi.)

– Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Taslima Nasreen and any number of other writers must be forced to seek asylum and live under a constant threat to their lives for writing something somebody found unpalatable.

– MF Hussein must be told what he can or cannot paint. And non-compliance must be punished by destroying or ransacking art galleries that display his work. Tradition, you see.

The instances are never-ending, one more silly and pretentious than the next. There is perhaps no worse – or dangerous – example of this than ‘traditional medicine’. There’s a contradiction in terms for you. What on earth is traditional medicine? Unless the word is used in the sense of ‘conventional’ (which medicine invariably is, with the stakes at play), ‘traditional’ has absolutely no place to the left of ‘medicine’. If a treatment works, it’s just medicine. If it doesn’t, putting ‘traditional’ before medicine makes the stuff no better. It also doesn’t make the peddler of this nonsense any less culpable, well-intentioned or otherwise.

The same trend is seen in America’s politics too. Should gay marriage be legalised? Should assault weapons be banned? Should stem-cell research be allowed? The answer isn’t to try and parse the constitution to see if it will support one position or the other. The people who wrote the constitution couldn’t have imagined weapons that could wipe out cities in seconds, or what a ‘cell’ is, let alone using it to cure diseases. They also lived in a society that allowed slavery, or denied voting rights to women, or anybody who wasn’t from the upper classes.

Mark Fiore makes the latter point nicely, as usual. I wanted to embed his animation, but it seems that can’t be done. You should watch it at the link above.


13 thoughts on “Allow me to pontificate: Screw Tradition.”

  1. How can all those people be wrong? After all, a lot people have been following these principles for years and they got along just fine. To quote Bill Maher we might as well start eating shit. 20 trillion flies seem to think that’s a good idea.

  2. I will add one more tradition to this.

    “Tradition of importing Profs from Georgia Tech” . Give it a break and look at some other univs to recruit our future Profs.

  3. When one cannot accept the facts (the way the world is), i guess they go by tradition (the way they were brought up). That makes the decision/struggle easier for them. The view that they are going to preserve tradition by forcing somebody not to write or paint is utterly idiotic.

  4. Yes, they can write whatever they want, paint whatever they want.(when it comes to religion) but that doesnt mean that they ve all the right to hurt others belief, faith, feelings.. etc.. etc..

    A civilized society has to follow certain rules. If there are no rules, then there is no lyf. Evil things will rule the society. If she wants have premarital sex, let it be confined to her alone. why make bold statements & influence the young ones into LUST & wicked things.

    “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

  5. @ Nair, yes it is. (And yes, it did!)

    @ Praneeth, that’s actually exactly what it means. I have the right to call something stupid. You’re welcome to disagree. Crying ‘that offends me’ will only make me want to reiterate that the something is stupid.

    For example, ‘influence young ones into lust’? To quote Toby Ziegler, ‘show the average teenager a lug wrench, and his mind will turn to thoughts of lust’.

    Let’s follow the rule that people are entitled to their opinions and to free speech, hmm?

  6. Lol @ trinath’s comment. 😀
    On a serious note some one mentioned that its wrong to hurt people’s beliefs just because you have eccentric thoughts not shared by the majority. But not being able to express your genuine opinion in the society which you are a part of is also equally hurtful, if not more.

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