I'm currently reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I'm reading it for two reasons: one, I love her. She's a genius and I want to be just like her one day!** Two, there's a $10,000 scholarship essay to be gained from reading it. So far, there's nothing remotely burdensome about reading this book and so I'll actually enjoy writing the essay.
Anyway, I just read this paragraph that struck a very deep chord in me (bold added for emphasis):
"The controlling stock of Taggart Transcontinental was left to James Taggart. He was thirty-four when he became president of the railroad. Dagny had expected the Board of Directors to elect him, but she had never been able to understand why they did it so eagerly. They talked about tradition, the president had always been the eldest son of the Taggart family; they elected James Taggart in the same manner as they refused to walk under a ladder, to propitiate the same kind of fear."
The little phrase that I made bold is just... wow... so true of what people have such a bad habit of doing. They act as though tradition were some sacred virtue, never to be questioned. I am amazed that people think that things and ideas of the past can't be improved upon. In history, it's been proven, time and again, that there is always room for improvement!
Obviously, tradition is inexorably tied up with religion. If people weren't afraid of breaking the sacred tradition, they would have no problem examining their method more closely. But, dare we offend the deceased? Dare we mar their memory by exposing their errors? No. We must make them Saints, never to be questioned or publicly defamed.
I'm about to defame my own grandfather. He was a Southern Baptist preacher before he died of colon cancer. I didn't have much of a relationship with him, but there are two dynamically different portraits painted of him by family members... and from the same family members to boot! On one hand, he is one of those men who is loved by all; someone revered and admired by his congregation and family. On the other hand, family members have whispered of his hot temper and, possibly, abusive tendencies. I think they don't talk about it now because maybe they don't think it's fair that he can't defend himself. Or, maybe they just want the memory of him left untainted. Whatever the case, I feel the reality of his character should be brought to light so that those who were damaged by him can heal!
In another context, not questioning or overthrowing tradition stunts growth. People suffer emotional wounds through their adult life and don't live up to their full potential; old businesses go under because new, innovative businesses take over; people remain mired in superstitions and spread the disease of religion to others, who in turn declare holy wars to defend their faith.
Tradition can be very, very bad.
**I no longer love Ayn Rand. In fact, I rather dislike her... but I still learned a few things from her.