society

Traditionalism vs modernity, constant fight for harmony

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I believe that there is a long-lasting conflict in our lives that started probably with the first conscious, perhaps civilized yet not necessarily, man. I´ll try to resume it in one question: What weight has the tradition on our life and how much of it should we sacrifice in order to be modern and have more control and awareness? First of all, I have to say that there is a problem with this kind of question, which is that the definition for what tradition is and how far it reflects on our life can vary from one person to another. Yet, let us try to present a rough common idea suggesting that tradition is the older frame of thought, actions and codes that the different generations follow from their past (referring mainly and commonly to the sense of family honor, valor, moral, the role of a woman, kind of nutrition, clothes, social behavior and such). Modernity on the other hand can be understood as any thought or action that does not follow the established set of implicit and sometimes explicit rules of conduct (Normally I would have like to give an example like western society set of laws but we know that we’re not quite there yet when it comes to equality of gender, race and freedom of choice).

Probably the most common thought of the hard-core traditionalist is that there is no need of thought. It might sound a little harsh but I guarantee that it is not my argument, but what I’ve repeatedly heard as an argument for many daily actions. That is to say, as a curious person, a large majority of the time that I ask a traditional person why he does what he does, the answer is “I don´t know” and after briefly insisting, the usual reply is “you think too much”. This, of course, can be very difficult for their younger and liberated environment that does not necessarily share this repetition of archaic set of codes (as romantic as we would like to think of them).

It seems to me that what will eventually bring us closer to happiness is change and not stubbornness in beliefs. Let´s take a difficult example. Imagine two poor people, one traditionalist and the other modern. The first will save his money to buy a nice holiday dinner/something to donate in his temple/to be able to afford his daughter’s wedding. All reasons are valid and honorable, that is certain. Now, think about the poor modernist, the kind that sees the world and possibilities beyond tradition and custom. He will save his money to be able to go from time to time on a cultural experience, almost one can say adventure. Yes, he might not have a big dinner party with all his family around him, taking out one bottle of expensive poor alcohol and trying to show off as much as he can the little he has all while complaining about the poor economy and bad business. However, he might simply eat with his family a symbolic holiday dinner and later, him and all his family will be able to go to a cheap vacation to different country/buy better equipment for their biannual mountain travel/afford a diving course for his second son. It probably wouldn´t even matter if it will be a poor adventurous holiday (actually the poor travel is always the more imaginative one). And I’ll even risk saying that every vacation of that sort will be much more memorable for her and her family. The possibilities are as great as the imagination and while the traditionalist rest at home to rejoice the holiday closer to how they did for centuries, the latter invent and create her own path. Needless to say, both families receive values and mores.

Another small example is something I experienced recently. A friend of mine confronted what he saw as unjust behavior of a superior (taking credit for his hard work), the superior’s argument was that this is how it was always done, telling my friend how he had to live even worst experience when he was in that situation. I was a little surprised at first because the experience was in the new technology field and both my friend and his superior were supposed to be kind just people. However, after remembering that this superior always was traditional in his views, my friend tried a different approach, he said that precisely for this reason, that it was always like that and even the superior himself doesn’t like this way of working, it is time to change it. This is perhaps what is most frightening, the change. While it seems that the traditionalist is about the security and comfort of how things were always done, the modernist tries to change (even if it doesn´t succeed for humans, modernist of traditionalist will always stay humans). It didn´t work.

La corrida de toros, Pamplona
La corrida de toros, Pamplona

Why do I think change is better? Aside of the obvious reasons of innovation, improvement etc. there is also opportunity, growth and equality. Somehow I´m having difficulties to imagine a traditionalist caveman stepping out to build a city under the open sky, or to sit on small piece of wood attached to round iron circles in front and back leaving your feet in the air and riding/driving/flying.

So what are some positive points for tradition?

–          Maintaining a structural society that provides security extracted from the known and familiar (very important for the children/sense of family value/keeping voters happy).

–          Bring to life warm memories that by imitation are coming back to life and make us feel happy.

What are the negative points traditionalists usually have?

–          They are strict, usually thinking that the way they grew up is the only one and every other way of doing things is a danger for the known structure.

–          Unable to adapt and learn. Crucial for the younger generation that is exposed to new ideas and function from the outside but cannot break free from the older traditions.

As for the negative and positive of modernity I will leave it up to you for the perspectives are endless (even sometime with false accusation as I write about in my book). No doubt, to unite and live in awareness and peace between the two is not an easy task, and certainly is not meant for everyone. I admire the people who are capable of doing it right and dichotomize important aspects in relation to that (as the imperative separation of religion from tradition). So far I only know very few families who can manage and I will be more than happy to hear about others and how they succeed in the continuous battle for harmonizing tradition with the modern life.

So why is it this hard to find a constructive middle ground? One strong argument is as a friend of mine recently debated about education or control. Trying to establish a form of new age educational system that question constantly repeated, what is education and what is control over those fresh absorbing minds of our youngsters. What for some is education for other is control and vice versa. The same goes for those two universal terms: tradition and modernity. When coming down to practical day to day individual life each one chooses her path and what is black and white in the grand scheme of things, very quickly becomes gray. This is where I tend to use Trispectivism, an exterior view on the constant interaction in my mind between my use of those big words as modern and tradition and my day to day actions.

Thus, if I need to resume all that view in a post, I tend to conclude that tradition is how things are and modernity is the approach for a change, improving (though not always successfully, I admit) the existing. It is the movement forward as opposed to stagnation in the known and familiar (“because that’s how we always did it”). Ever since I deconstruct that aspect in me, I began to rebuilt my perception in my own way, according to many different live’s perspectives I saw and learned around me. This sensation of power over who we are and how we think is, in my humble opinion, overwhelming.

Can a lie really be white?‎

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Truth and Lie

Surely, one of the worst difficulties in relationships is trust. In a world where lying is more than an epidemic but a lifestyle, can you really expect more from the relationship? Thus, when it comes to that, it seems that the importance of lying is underestimated (no matter if they are lovers, friends, coworkers, or two strangers in a supermarket).

Did you ever wonder why we lie? Have you ever lied? Of course you have (be careful of the ones who say they never lie, they always turn out to be the biggest and not so sophisticated liars). So why do we lie? You can say things such as, “I lie to my boss because he exaggerates with his expectations and demands, so I have to lie, it is the only way to reach my goals and/or be promoted.” Or, “I lied to my girlfriend because she will never understand that last night meant nothing to me and I truly love her.”

Richard Dawkins tells in his book The Selfish Gene how a bird mimics hawks signals, the howler monkey can howl like a tiger in the dense jungles of Costa Rica, how a butterfly can look like a terrifying face of an owl. Butterflies, he says, derive protection by mimicking the external appearance of other distasteful or stinging insects. We ourselves are often fooled into thinking that yellow and black striped hover-flies are wasps. Some bee-mimicking flies are even more perfect in their deception. Predators too tell lies. Angler fish wait patiently on the bottom of the sea, blending in with the background.

The only conspicuous part is a wriggling worm-like piece of flesh on the end of a long ‘fishing rod’, projecting from the top of the head. When a small prey fish comes near, the angler will dance its worm-like bait in front of the little fish, and lure it down to the region of the angler’s own concealed mouth. Suddenly it opens its jaws, and the little fish is sucked in and eaten. The angler is telling a lie, exploiting the little fish’s tendency to approach wriggling worm-like objects. He is saying ‘Here is a worm’, and any little fish who ‘believes’ the lie is quickly eaten.

Lie, hence, can be considered as a biological evolutionary strategy (natural, social, military, economic, political of course etc.). Thus, one can keep saying, subconsciously or not, that we are doing it for the greater good. Unfortunately, others might not be so accepting of your motives. It is true that most lies are made for the benefit of the person who tells them, even if he believes it is for a universal greatness. It is also true that in spite of everything we might think, we know lying is not positive, so we invent a variety of milder expressions such as “little white lie” in English, or even worst, “pieux mensonge” in French and “mentira piadosa” in Spanish (literal meaning: “pious lie”). And so you excuse yourself from the wrongful act of lying. Now, can you say with 100 percent certainty that the recipient of the lie will think the same thing? That when you explain to your interlocutor about the reasons for the lie they will agree? If someone tells you a “pious lie,” will you not feel hurt because he or she believes that you will not understand? Or would you rather know the truth and decide for yourself the path and actions that will follow? That is the first problem with any kind of lie, that when we only think from and to ourselves, we can find only right reasons to do so (or anything else for that matter).

However, when we connect emotionally or logically to others, when we enlarge our perspective further away from our point of view, we then reveal a broader view, a bigger meaning, and we then understand the importance of issues we did not even notice before. Thus, trispectivism reminds you that considering what is best for the other is not the same when you do it thinking from your point of view or trying to put yourself as the other.

So what can we do? Is telling only the truth possible? Of course not! If everyone starts telling what is on their minds, all hell will certainly break loose. Most of us do not want to be lied to, but at the same time we do not want to know everything. So what is the other possibility? Well, there is a compromise, a much-debated one, but still a compromise: lies are not the same as not telling. Many people say that not revealing information is the same as lying. It is not! People like to tell stories; it is in our nature. Yet stories are sometimes too personal to tell, and that is something one needs to consider. If someone asks you about details you do not desire to share, simply tell the truth, that you do not wish to share this specific information.

This is where many people choose to lie, in order not to insult, not to bother, not to create a commotion, not to provoke a fight, or simply because they want to be seen in a positive light, they would rather tell a (“pious”) lie than simply not share. This is lying, and in the end it always leads to a worse result than telling the honest truth or simply saying nothing.

Lying gets you to negative and unfavorable places, unless you are a master schemer, for whom lying is a part of your illegal profession. Lying is what starts a snowball that sooner or later becomes the avalanche that will cover you, head to toe.

As a part of trispectivism, any negativity you emanate directly from yourself becomes a part of your interior All, a part of you. Some call it karma, others natural justice, but whatever name one chooses, it is part of our existence. Furthermore, unlike many people who think that karma will catch up with you, some disagree. The negative you discharge into trispectivism will accompany you into whatever venture you pursue. People like to claim that karma is the cause of negative events that happen to negative people, but the reality is that it is simply a materialization of what was inside those people all along.

Telling the truth is much easier than any lie that builds itself inside of us. If I lie, I have to be fully conscious of it and its consequences. Then, thinking and creating a list of excuses for the lies I procured, justifying and living by its entanglements and measures. Oh, just too complicated…

A simple example taken from day to day life is to promise someone you will do something or be somewhere, knowing it will never happen. You might say to yourself that it´s just a little white lie not to disappoint him, but what really happening is postponing the inevitable. Is it that bad to say that I can´t? Even if it means that I would have loved to in any other circumstance, and that I risk to be excluded next time something comes up. I guess it is at times.

Fill this short questionnaire of the behavioral economist professor Dan Ariely about our white lies.