The fluidity of tradition.

2 Sep


Tradition is a word we’ve heard a lot these last few weeks, as the anti marriage equality crowd cast about, in increasing desperation, for valid arguments to make against the Yes vote.

I’m being generous here, in describing the No contingent as engaged in a search for valid arguments: there are no such arguments and the Nays are resorting to all manner of nebulous scare tactics, including, but not limited to, the threat same-sex marriage allegedly poses to” traditional” marriage.

Here is  federal Liberal MP Andrew Hastie with his understanding of traditional marriage:

I could spend the rest of the day deconstructing Hastie’s evangelical Christian opinion of marriage as solely for procreation, but readers here are more than capable of doing that for themselves. Suffice to say the man has publicly revealed his sexual repression, commiserations to his female partner and back to tradition.

There is a sense in which people who call on tradition as a justification for perpetuating contested attitudes and actions hold the belief that tradition, in and of itself, entirely validates the status quo. Tradition is to them a numinous concept, and as such, unchallengeable.

A moment’s reflection ought to alert them to the perils of such an assumption: think of the many traditions our society no longer tolerates and one is immediately aware of the fluid nature of tradition, why it’s almost as fluid as gender, hey Mr Shelton? 

There are many examples of traditional values that have revealed themselves, in a society struggling to evolve, to be bigoted, exclusionary and privileged, not to mention racist, sexist and genocidal. Traditional is not a synonym for good, or compassionate, or decent. It merely means that a certain set of behaviours has been naturalised or normalised at the expense of another set of behaviours. The determination is inevitably made by those who have the most power, and the most to gain by investing their favoured behaviours with the allegedly eternal quality of tradition. He (and sadly it usually is he) who controls the narrative controls what is to be considered traditional.

I’m going to venture out on a limb here and suggest that tradition, in and of itself, is bollocks. There’s absolutely nothing numinous or eternal or universal about it. It’s nothing more than reified repetition. There’s nothing wrong with doing the same thing generation after generation provided it isn’t damaging people, but please, let’s not pretend it carries a mysterious power of incontestable rightness, simply because it’s always been done that way.

So there you go, No vote. That’s fixed tradition for you as an argument. Next?



43 Responses to “The fluidity of tradition.”

  1. Rex Williams September 2, 2017 at 5:23 pm #

    Well, Jennifer.
    No comment as such yet but full marks for allowing commenters to use email instead of the mandatory US owned and controlled Facebook, Google and other US social media providers.
    Those lazy blogs that only subscribe to the Facebook empire are contributing to what will eventually be the only means of receiving news at all, if they get much more in the way of power and control over the media. Lazy bloggers who take the easy route by using such a service are contributing to what seems to be their objective, clearly.

    So well done, Jennifer. Stay with it.

    By the way, recent actions taken by democratically minded news services to which I subscribe have been impacted by Google, by far the worst culprit, who are themselves conforming to the US government’s control on alternative media, such as yourself through the use of algorithms to diminish their readership. It is happening everywhere. Having email as an option eliminates that total control, somewhat. More strength to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Adrian Jackson September 2, 2017 at 6:42 pm #

    Tradition tells us that Australia supports the UN position that it us a basic human right to seek asylum from political/racial/religious persecution.

    Tradition tells us that there should be a national standard for the minimum wage.

    Tradition tells us that employees should get penalty rates for working overtime, or on weekends and public holidays.

    Do those who advocate a NO vote on the grounds of tradition feel equally passionate about preserving these traditions?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson September 2, 2017 at 8:10 pm #

      I wouldn’t use the word tradition in regard to those examples, Adrian, though I see your point.
      Conservatives who oppose marriage equality may well oppose the other matters you mention. Sadly.


    • Arthur Baker September 3, 2017 at 10:27 am #

      Adrian, the good old Aussie tradition of mandatorily locking asylum seekers up began as many as 38 years ago under the Hawke government, and was retrospectively legalised in 1982 under Keating. The tradition of demonising them as queue-jumping economic-migrant chancers has been going on for at least two decades. The tradition of abducting them and forcibly transporting them to Pacific-island gulags has just entered its 17th year, having started in September 2001 under Howard.

      Arguably, the above traditions have been in existence so long, and have been so strenuously repeated and reinforced, that they have long since effectively supplanted the tradition of support for the UN position.

      Australian governments, by their actions and rhetoric over 38 years, have de facto supplanted the old tradition, while still earnestly but disingenuously declaring their ongoing support for it. The hypocrisy is staggering.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Arthur Baker September 3, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

        Sorry. I have demonstrated my innumeracy, despite studying mathematics to first-year uni level. Please read “the good old Aussie tradition of mandatorily locking asylum seekers up began as many as 28 (TWENTY-eight, not 38) years ago under the Hawke government”.

        And I haven’t even started on the cooking sherry this morning. Yet.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Brian Ansorge September 2, 2017 at 7:08 pm #

    I don’t have a lot of time to add more than a few cents worth of my thoughts, now, but, here it goes:

    I would rather have a means of communicating and sharing *real* news (unmolested and pre-digested) and *real* conversation with *real* people—having opposite views as I do—than trusting what seems to be the early stages of an all-encompassing and menacingly corruptible data “pipeline” by which more and more people seem to be getting conditioned into certain ways of thinking and behaving.

    I’m personally getting to know more and more people in my immediate geographic area of influence.

    Community. The old fashioned kind.

    What I visualize is some way of getting salient information from one community to another.

    Sneaker net.

    PPP over landlines?

    Old fashioned dial up modems?

    Encrypted end-to-end with (hush) privately (secretly) developed software.

    Like a digital version of the circuit riders.

    Letters. Stuff. News.

    From one town in the old Americans west to another.

    In stead of leather, paper and horse riding, something more (in some ways) up to date.

    Put the word out.

    I’m no engineer. I’m a poor homeless person. But, BTW, don’t pity me; I’m Happy.

    Some things, I believe in; some things, I don’t.

    Some things, I like.

    Some things, I don’t.

    I’m kind of a Spiritual person. Not religious.

    If you try to harm me, I might want to kill you.

    But I probably won’t. Haven’t killed anybody yet.

    I just want everybody to be Happy. And enjoy their right to be free to be whoever they are called be.

    We are called to be as free as we want to be.

    I desire to harm nobody.

    Brian Ansorge
    P. O. Box 11062
    Hilo, Hawaii 96721

    [Big Island: KHOP; Mauna Kea (interpretive guide); HWV (barista); UH-H (rabble rouser); iconoclast]

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson September 2, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

      Ah, freedom. I’m glad you’re happy, Brian. Cheers to you in Hawaii


      • paul walter September 2, 2017 at 11:27 pm #

        Yet, in a way Brian comes across the other side of the coin, the positive side of “community”, neighbours and your own coterie of “mates” including girls, kind aunts and uncles, the sense of commonality and safety.

        There seems a certain amount of brainpower involved to get the messages and enjoy the safety without going over the top and becoming a bully, to just be grateful and welcome belonging.

        Herein lies part of the problem: you love your community at its best, but maybe to the point where some thing primeval concerning “others” will well up from the core as a defensive reaction against some thing or someone “different” you desire to protect your “own from- there is actually a little of humility and even altruism in a some of it.

        At a distance it seems to be about socialisation and individuation, yet closer in it’s also about feelings.

        Its a fine example of absurdity in a phenomena, life, that can be viewed from a certain angle as pointless and meaningless, yet is our lot to experience the good and the bad.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. paul walter September 2, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

    Has me in mind of a word I was reaching for didn’t quite reach when I wrote in an earlier comment in the previous thread. Taste.

    Taste and its offspring tradition are are observable but not legislatable, I suppose.

    And why would you want this to happen, unless you want to make enemies out of friends?

    You can’t make people “like” footy grand final day or in my case, “60 Minutes” any more than you can legislate to make either heterosexual or gay sex the sole means of sexual expression.

    You could force people to go to the footy, but it wouldn’t increase the victims appreciation of it. Quite likely you’d create an exponential increase in resentment toward yourself and football. You could force all people to do conform to one sex mode or other, but would that really help, particularly when you score a brick in the head from someone who felt traumatised by forced participation what you felt was right for them.

    I doubt whether gays would really want everyone else to conform to their tastes so why would some heterosexual people impose something on others that is not suitable for them when they wouldn’t want the same to happen to them?

    Wouldn’t a fair person yearn for a bit of “live and let live” this late into the 21st century.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson September 2, 2017 at 8:18 pm #

      PW, perhaps it has something to do with my childhood, which was overly-controlled by the adults in it, but I cannot abide people who demand that others must live as they see fit. I don’t know why religious types are particularly prone to this imposition. It seems to me astoundingly unreasonable and narcissistic.


      • paul walter September 2, 2017 at 11:10 pm #

        It is dark when you think on a different line about a persons own attitudes that can be so circumscribed that he can’t recognise them without some sort of seismic shock and find they come from say,
        remembering watching the school thug humiliate a weaker kid before all in the schoolyard and begin to wonder at the inscribed psychology that comes of it and the disgusting conflict involving revulsion and furtive complicity.

        The little kid in me rebelled watching the clip of a US nurse in a hospital being physically dragged off by cops during her workday for obeying the rules. It reminded me of the worst of my early homelife.

        You maybe saw the same thing on the news the last night or two?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Moz of Yarramulla September 3, 2017 at 6:07 am #

          The “I am the law (that I just made up)” cop was horrific.

          From what I gather he wasn’t unusual or exceptional though. Cops here are mostly better than that but when you seem them under pressure they do tend to revert to “do what I say or I will hurt you” and worry about the legalities later. We also have the same problem as the US, where cops are held to a lower standard than civilians. I can’t forget Eugene Mcgee because he killed a fellow cyclist (and also the bleakly humorous outcome – the judge saying, in effect, killing people is all very well, but perjury is unacceptable).

          Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson September 3, 2017 at 7:34 am #

          Yes, I did, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. I attribute such events to Trumpian violence, authoritarianism and belligerence. He has given permission to anyone in a uniform to resort to force whenever they feel like it.
          Interestingly, John McCain has found his bottle since being diagnosed with a terminal cancer and is taking some strong public stands against Trump. Let’s hope more of the GOP follow his example or gawd knows where it will end.


          • allthumbs September 3, 2017 at 8:09 am #

            You know we are through the looking glass when left wing hope is based on the likes of the war mongering John McCain.

            As Harry Nilson was wont to say, “everything is the opposite of what it is, isn’t it”.

            Liked by 1 person

            • franklongshank September 8, 2017 at 11:48 pm #

              I’m with allthumbs on this. I hope Songbird McCain’s brain cancer improves and eats the rest of his brain clean out to the stem like an apple core before this globalist scumbag gets his finger on the button and manages to blows the rest of the world up.

              You know the arsehole tried to fuck with my Donald by voting to keep Obamacare which was designed to usher in socialism and the destruction of America. The treacherous arsehole even high-fived it with the Democrats. Such is the Republican hatred for our great US president.

              A treacherous scum-bag is our Songbird McCain. Google his name for clarity. I gave The Australian a big serve (a kick in the balls which they dutifully published) for calling him a war hero. Got a lot of likes for posting that.

              Just for the record, I’m not a fan of pillow-biters getting married. Marriage is for real men and women. Not deviants. Fair enough?

              I always think of the desire for gay marriage as the bit in the Borat movie where the retard in the cage is being teased by Borat’s sister.

              Hopefully gay marriage advocates will never get this. La la laa.


              • allthumbs September 9, 2017 at 10:01 am #

                I feel very uncomfortable with your support Frank, and let’s not forget it was McCain that set the historical bar so low with his choice of running mate Palin, that allowed Trump to flourish.

                All in all Trump is not much more than Palin’s pigs’ lipstick….plus the rest of his sizeable cosmetic make up bag contents by the look of his primped and effeminate pouting countenance.

                Trump’s presidency will end before he masters the grammatical ability and discipline to finish a sentence.

                Secondly, history will show that the primary leaker against the Trump administration within the White House will prove to be Donald himself.

                You backed a fool, a buffoon, a creepy, incompetent, impotent, old man who has been cosseted his entire life and achieved nothing but a success based on the efforts of others.


  5. Moz of Yarramulla September 2, 2017 at 8:26 pm #

    As with “unnatural”, I think you’ll find that the fans of tradition only take it as far as it advantages them personally.

    It’s quite rare, for example, to find even the male parliamentarians to be fans of traditional contraception (praying, basically) or for that matter childbirth (was it half of all women used to die that way?). Many of them are utterly dependent on the magic talking-thinking box (smartphone) and would literally die without the moving-room (car). I don’t see a lot of fans of the traditional precursor to a BBQ either (running after an animal and stabbing it to death with a spear).

    Or more recently, there seem to be a lot of wogs claiming to like “traditional Australian values”, like bashing wogs and not letting them into parliament. Which is probably why we don’t hear much from Fiona Nash about the importance of tradition… 🙂

    Whose traditions? Our traditions! Which traditions? The easy ones! The fun ones!

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter September 2, 2017 at 11:15 pm #

      Mozz, very similar to what I was thinking- we just don’t even begin to understand how circumscribed we are or how deep the denial runs.

      That was a beaut post.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. doug quixote September 3, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

    Well reasoned Jennifer. Tradition is such a useful catch-all for the conservative minded. I’ve been reading Mary Beard’s SPQR (A history of Ancient Rome) and in Roman times it was the appeal to tradition (usually one that had never existed) which was used by those who sought to change things to how they thought they should be.

    The more things change the more they stay the same. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Barry Waters September 3, 2017 at 3:22 pm #

    I like my traditions. They help me to feel comfortable. To know where I’ve come from and who is on that journey with me. This is especially true of family behaviours, say at Christmas, and the customs we remember when we worship. This sense of security is what tradion is all about and it’s disturbing to see the No campaigners drawing on their need to feel comfortable rather than arguing their case logically. Tradition is more than a woolly blanket to cuddle up to, and those of us who perpetuate traditions have to remember that as we grow older there are times when we need to put our baby blankets away. I can’t insist on others nestling under my blanket with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brian Ansorge September 4, 2017 at 3:51 am #

      Two sides to every coin.

      Tradition is not inherently “good” or “better.” Period.

      Likewise, change or “progress” is frequently (usually in retrospect) confirmed to not be inherently any better.

      Just saying: certain people tend to glorify “change” and “progress.”

      These are the type of people that tend to do well in marketing and sales departments of companies selling breakfast cereal to children and diet programs to chronically fat people.

      As always, a critical thinker with a so-called “open mind” has an advantage over somebody who actually believes: “it NEW; it *must* be better!”

      Liked by 1 person

  8. kristapet September 3, 2017 at 8:40 pm #

    I read this article on the AIMN page, I wanted to thank you personally for writing it, Jennifer

    All I can say thank goodness for brainy, deep thinking people, to stop us being “stuck” in, fruitless traditions.
    I think this is an important, and, articulate article, (think piece), needing to be read, heard, taken these timely words, and thoughtful concepts, are imperative, in this article by Jennifer

    Ideas such as these, are helping, are necessary, to further our growth as a community, as a society, so as to keep us, continuing, to evolve as better human beings
    We need thinkers, writers, poets, artists, playwrights, film makers, ethical philosophers, scientists

    In the comments I think these words are also an imperative:
    “Article 7
    All are equal before the law and are entitled without any
    discrimination to equal protection of the law.
    All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration
    and against any incitement to such discrimination.”
    “Perhaps it’s time for plain old compassion and fairness to be given a chance.”

    This paragraph is outstanding and resonated with me:
    “Traditional is not a synonym for good, or compassionate, or decent. It merely means that a certain set of behaviours has been naturalised or normalised at the expense of another set of behaviours. The determination is inevitably made by those who have the most power, and the most to gain by investing their favoured behaviours with the allegedly eternal quality of tradition. He (and sadly it usually is he) who controls the narrative controls what is to be considered traditional.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson September 4, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

      Many thanks, Kristapet.
      I hope some of the things I write are useful, though I fear I’m preaching to the converted most of the time. Nevertheless, will keep on keeping on. 💭

      Liked by 1 person

      • kristapet September 5, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

        Please, please do! – and, the good thing is, that the converted share on your writings – so it is an unknown, what the audience reach is, and how many read them, and in turn, share on – on this page and AIMN


  9. drsusancalvin September 4, 2017 at 8:42 am # Tradition.

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter September 4, 2017 at 9:12 am #

      “God keep the Czar-

      Well away from us.”


  10. drsusancalvin September 4, 2017 at 10:39 am #

    And speaking of tradition and religion, why this rousing hymn hasn’t been adopted by the “no” side is a mystery. Oh wait.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. samjandwich September 4, 2017 at 11:57 am #

    One element of this that I find quite fascinating to contemplate is the contention that proponents of gay marriage are themselves demonstrating intolerance by disallowing the space for the discussion of tradition. Here’s today’s example:

    Sigh, I’ve been too long out in the real world and have forgotten my Derrida and first-year logic. What does it mean to be intolerant of intolerance? Is it a sustainable position, or some kind of logical fallacy? Ok, I think I can see some sensible practical ways out of it, e.g. a yes vote will allow us to get back to the old solid footing of “you’re now free to practice your tradition within your own community”… but it’s certainly fun to spend a few minutes in suspended animation thinking about what it all means!

    Liked by 1 person

    • samjandwich September 4, 2017 at 12:06 pm #

      Oh, I just watched that clip of Andrew Hastie, and was reminded of the mythical “beast with two backs”. Is that the tradition we’re up against?Well it’s no wonder they never listen!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson September 4, 2017 at 2:16 pm #

        Hastie has revealed what sounds like a sad sexual life, maybe that’s one of the problems with the right, they don’t know how to enjoy sex, it’s all hydraulics to them

        Liked by 1 person

    • drsusancalvin September 4, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

      I view this through a “quality of service v denial of service” lens. The one with the most privilege pays.


    • paul walter September 4, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

      Typical Murdoch/IPA slime.


    • Jennifer Wilson September 4, 2017 at 2:15 pm #

      Ha! Intolerant of intolerance indeed.
      Intolerance is subject to law, so I guess if the intolerance is law abiding it can be tolerated?
      Sorry. There’s men here knocking holes in walls and I can’t think above the racket.


  12. allthumbs September 4, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

    It seems to me Jennifer you are defending a tradition, a questionable tradition, the tradition of marriage, and wanting to make that tradition more accessible to groups of people who traditionally have not had access to that tradition, a questionable tradition, the tradition of marriage, and by doing so, reinforcing the lifeblood of that tradition, a questionable tradition, the tradition of marriage. :-).

    I suppose that is why we invented divorce, a tinkering at the edges of a questionable tradition.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson September 4, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

      Well, allthumbs, I have a small dilemma as I don’t wish to defend marriage because I think it’s bollocks especially for women. However, as it is one of our core institutions it should not be denied to adults on the grounds of their sexuality because that is discriminatory.
      My favoured position would be abolish marriage, but I don’t think that’s the answer to the current struggle for equality.


      • doug quixote September 7, 2017 at 11:04 pm #

        Yes indeed and there is only one question on the plebiscite/survey.

        Stay focussed!


  13. FA September 4, 2017 at 12:59 pm #

    One point to keep in mind is that it is far easier to work out ways to break something then it is to make it work. This is obvious in the case of mobile phones, but applies equally to societies. I would sat, therefore, that overturning tradition for the sake of overturning tradition is inherently dangerous, and should be considered carefully.

    (I would argue, for instance, that many of the political problems we face today are a result of major changes to the status quo that the development of the birth control pill brought about. That isn’t to say the pill’s development is good or bad, just that its introduction was such a major change we still feel its reverberations today. A similar case can be made about the automobile a half century earlier, and the major effect that had on city design we’re still trying to work out. The secularisation of society is yet another example.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson September 4, 2017 at 2:24 pm #

      Of course change means a certain amount of upheaval, FA, this is why conservatives are so resistant to it: they cannot cope with upheaval.

      Marriage equality doesn’t fit into the change for the sake of change category, I don’t think.

      As for the pill – not a problem at all, only a problem for those who do not wish to see women liberated from endless childbearing and sexual repression.


      • FA September 8, 2017 at 10:46 am #

        It’s not a matter of not being able to cope with upheaval, but that change can (and does) bring chaos and death. There may be a pile of gold on the other side of the hill, or there may be a deadly new disease to bring back to the village. I see it as yin and yang; order and chaos. We require order to live, but chaos to thrive. Too much order is tyranny. Too much chaos is anarchy. At any point, it is impossible to tell what the balance between order and chaos should be. That’s why free speech is so important. Some of us naturally incline towards chaos, and some of us towards order. Only by talking can we agree to what the balance should be without violence.

        As to the pill, without judging whether it was good or bad, I’m not as optimistic that there were and are only benefits from its development. I think it is far more complicated than that, but that is so far off topic that I don’t want to go into it more.


  14. allthumbs September 4, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

    “Nature abhors a vacuum – and nowhere more than in the human mind, For our understanding of how the mind can be colonized we should thank Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, thinkers revered in the 20th century and often reviled in the 21st. But their great central insights remain valid and relevant: Marx showed how much of what we assume to be independent thought is actually imposed by society; Freud how much actually arises from the unconscious. So there is intense and relentless pressure from both directions – without and within – and the result may well be no independent thought at all.

    However, there is no hope of escaping entirely – or even largely – from either pressure. To live in the world but outside of its prejudices is an impossible ideal. As we live in the age so the age lives in us, And ages are as narcissistic as the people who belong to them: each believes itself to be unassailably superior and demands to be loved more than the others, These demands are usually met. We tend to prize our won age as we prize our native country – it has to be good if it produced us.”

    Michael Foley
    The Age of Absurdity

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter September 6, 2017 at 12:46 pm #

      That’s smart summary. Pity it isn’t up in lights.


      • allthumbs September 6, 2017 at 5:17 pm #

        Paul I found this book completely by accident, I am buying multiple copies and handing them out on street corners.


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