Gongol.com Archives: September 2023
College football season is a time when the word "tradition" gets a lot of exercise. The astute observer could pick from hundreds, from ringing a bell to banging a drum to waving to hospitalized kids. ■ But it is healthy to recognize a difference between traditions that are worth keeping and traditions that ought to be jettisoned. The stakes are low when it comes to college football, but traditions affect all kinds of other life experiences, including some of the most important choices about how people live their lives. ■ A tradition that hasn't been tested is really nothing more than a good rumor. If people like to tell one another a story because it makes them feel good, that may be harmless -- who cares whether you rub Knute Rockne's nose for good luck? But a "traditional" way of doing things can also mean taking chances with people's health or obstructing an entire gender from participating in government. ■ When they are used to remind us of good practices, traditions are among the most useful tools that human civilizations have. Not everything can be written down as a rule, and even written rules can be broken. Elections are usually conducted according to rules, but the peaceful transfer of power is enforceable more by tradition than by anything enshrined on paper. ■ For the good of society, individuals need to feel an intrinsic and inescapable pull to defend tested traditions rather than to go with their momentary passions that might suggest otherwise. People of goodwill ought to appreciate the testing of traditions because they bear out whether one is worth keeping. ■ A tradition shouldn't be tested arbitrarily or unnecessarily, but it ought to demonstrate some merit of its own. If a tradition fails a test -- if it turns out to be useless, antiquated, or counterproductive -- then we shouldn't hestitate to jettison it. But nothing is more obnoxious to the present than to worship artifacts of the past that don't build constructively towards the future.