My title, “Tradition is Evil”, may surprise and upset you. Human nature is to avoid change and cling to the status quo. Please understand this and consider the thought I am about to lay before you carefully. I suggest that instead of blindly clinging to tradition that we use data, logic and rational thought to govern our lives.
Since before the time of the early Greeks, mankind has thought that everyone should have his place and that change should come slowly if at all. Plato claimed that tradition is justice. His utopian society was one in which there would be three classes and people would rarely switch between them. Plato’s system of belief laid much of the philosophic foundation for later totalitarian regimes, from monarchies all the way to communism and national socialism.
People today continue to have the same mindset of avoiding and resisting change. I believe the default human reaction of fighting change is something that is genetic since many changes can be potentially bad and you are less likely to come to harm by sitting tight.
Many traditions though cause direct harm to humanity. Most countries incorporate some form of class system into their government to keep people in the same roles they were born into: this prevents the strong from rising or the weak from falling. Carried to an extreme, you end up with Medieval government structures with inbred idiots ruling countries and intelligent people forced to do manual labor. Galileo was executed for having correct ideas that opposed traditional ideas. Many other great ideas have also been suppressed throughout history by tradition.
Tradition, by definition, is not necessarily what is best for people. It’s just how things have usually been done or how human myth says they should be done. Much of the strength of superstitious beliefs come from tradition: if people logically thought about whether knocking on wood, astrology or prayer affects real life outcomes and studied the actual evidence they would quickly discard those beliefs.
Even supposedly harmless traditions aren’t good: dressing in ridiculous outfits and singing old songs keeps people from accomplishing tasks related to human progress. If people wish to study history and performing these traditions helps, then it is a positive. I think it is probably overdone though.
In business and political life, America has been turning away from using evidence and logic to decide outcomes and has begun to rely upon tradition. The Kennedy family’s political power and George W. Bush’s election is a prime example of this: much of the reason they achieve office in our country is because of family name recognition and not any amazing achievements they have done in their own right. The bailouts of the automotive companies and the banking corporations is another example of tradition defeating logic & evidence: if those companies had failed, it would have made room for newer & better corporations like Tesla Motors, SpaceX and Mint to take market share. Instead, trillions of dollars were wasted to maintain the status quo.
Democracy itself is a concept based on using evidence and logic to run the government instead of tradition. If you don’t want a king, queen, emperor or aristocracy determing your fate then you should think twice next time your mind defaults to maintaining the status quo.
Use your reason & observed evidence in the world around you to make decisions, not just the default tradition that first comes to mind. Listen very carefully to anyone who uses arguments based on tradition to justify their positions. Oftentimes, those positions won’t be in your best interest.