Traditions are what we now call “memes” and the danger in the covenant of a tradition merely for “tradition’s sake” is the unfortunate blind adherence to a policy or an ideal that is made valid merely by its relational occurrences.

When people excuse certain behaviors that are worrisome or punishing, and they respond to inquiries with — “We’ve always done it that way!” — you know that the totem of the tradition has taken over the logicality of the critical eye.  Danger.  Run away.  Create a new tradition, if you must, to replace the punishment.

There are three major fountains of traditions:  Religious, Political and Social.

Religious totems can be threatening when the tradition is written in a holy book or revered text.  One man’s religious tradition is another man’s terror — and we need to discuss how to handle religion tradition in the secular world.  Must we always honor any claimed religious right?  Should we place limits on the manifestation of religious traditions in governmental institutions?

Political traditions are often brazen and purposefully fortuitous because they serve narrow niche interests.  We salute the flag, we pray in the hollows, and yet we beat down any freedom of public thought as a threat to democracy.  The USA claims in its founding to reject royalty, yet we parade the particles of power and the pumice of wealth and we elect misbegotten familial lines to consecutively run our nation in the ground.  Our traditions have misguided us and set us into a cynical delusion where tyrants prosper and the military takes disciplinary revenge.

Social traditions are designed to conventionally control communities.  If you wander outside of the middling mores encasing you — you are castigated and punished in the public square.  As virtual communities grow, the depth of the social castigation travels far beyond imagined temporal moments and geographic locations to indelibly infest the future of the ostracized in horrible and definite ways that redefine the meaning of “tradition” with not-so-virtual axes and cudgels and bombs and bullets.

We are drawn down to traditions because they provide comfort in the familiar and structure in the routine.  When we believe our traditions are in jeopardy, we blindly race to their defense, at all and any cost, because to do otherwise is to actually question who we are and what we are still doing here stuck in the cyclical routines of the long-dead and the forever forgotten.


  1. My brother tells this story:

    A woman cuts her turkey in half before putting it in two pots, preparing them, and putting them in the oven. A guest helping her asks her why she cuts it in half and she says that it is because her mother did it that way.

    They call the mother and ask why she did it that way and she replies that her mother did it that way.

    They then call up the grandmother and ask why she did it that way and she says, “I had to do it that way — we didn’t have anything big enough for a full turkey!”


  2. Memes are part of the internal programming, the algorithm of civilizations. When the memes can no longer be supported in the ever-changing environment, then the civilization is in trouble.

    Because of their own conditioning, people are trained to think of these memes as the axioms, such as patriarchal-based marriages. But these are memes that only go as far as the agricultural revolution. Horticultural societies had a different take.

    It’s amazing that once you step back, you can see things like the ten commandments for what they are. An algorithm for a group to function in a certain way. For the United States, it’s bandying about the term freedom without any real understanding of what it means.

    1. Vlad —

      Thanks for the keen comment!

      Are memes really pre-programmed? Aren’t they ever-changing in the communicative interaction between people?

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