Monday, March 12, 2007

The value of tradition

I am at variance with the mainstream conservative movement when it comes to tradition. Most conservatives seem to have a soft spot for tradition. Many conservatives see it as part of the “continuity of life” or a link with their ancestors. American and British conservatives tend to think of the conservative mission as a project to preserve the “old ideas”: The conservative movement as a sort of intellectual ossuary.
I am convinced that there are others though, who are conservative for aesthetic reasons. Fussiness, traditional modes of conduct, titles and formality give them much pleasure. Recently there was an interesting debate on Right Reason on this very matter;

I value tradition simply because the dead sometimes have quite intelligent things to say. The men and women who lived before us were not all stupid. Their circumstances may have been different, but in their dealings with human nature, things have not changed. So when it comes to issues on how we should live I am quite prepared to give a respectful ear to the opinions of my forefathers. I recognize that they were men and prone to the failings of men: They were not infallible. However where I differ from a significant portion of my conservative colleagues is that where as I give them a respectful ear, they worship them; and Idolatry is a sin.
This worshiping of the old I think has done the conservative cause a lot of damage. The old world was full of problems, the modernist approach was to try to fix them up—usually the wrong way—while the conservative approach was either not fix them up at all or to turn the clock back. Traditionalism is the process of allowing dead people to do your thinking for you, hence I believe that it was justified that the conservatives were called the stupid mans party.

For what it’s worth, my conservatism is rooted in a metaphysical view that was until quite recently, common opinion: That there is a right and wrong which is quite independent of my perception of them. My imperative as a conservative is to live the right way, not the old way. The fact that my forefathers were right on so many issues means that I give them a respectful ear, not a bended knee.