Friday, June 3, 2011

About traditions

A tradition is usually associated with something old that is kept alive, such as Christmas or people singing songs. They can be persistent and difficult to change. They can be vulnerable, but still experienced as inviolable. They can incite a breach or preservation. We can do well without Christmas or singing songs, but without living traditions, we can not survive as a human society. Antony Giddens uses the concept of tradition, in his book about the Consequences of Modernity (1997), as a counterpoint to modernity. He writes: "It's a way to deal with space and time, where we place any activity or experience into a continuity of past, present and future, which in turn reconstructs recurrent social practices" (p. 34).

Tore Lindholm wrote in 1980 an article which he called Tradition. Article is unfortunately has never been published. Lindholm gave me a copy of this article some years ago and I think he raises many interesting questions. He writes among other things, that traditions are life forms, activities and opinions of the obviousness, they are passed on, more or less unchanged from one generation to the next, and provide the individual's social coordination, their continuity with the past and future and their immediate spontaneity in action and thinking. He further says that the best examples of traditions are our living languages. Language is a form of social action, which we act and think "in", to the extent that we speak the same language in a society. Whatever we do, we find ourselves in situations that have just been a
specific tradition to the extent that our expectations about ourselves, others and the world, are obvious and unproblematic, and that we necessarily can take them for granted. Yet it occurs in all situations, small and big problems, were the solutions not not of obvious.

This process is something Marianne Gullestad views in her book The Norwegian seen with new eyes (2002) She discusses the controversy in the Norwegian society about the word "nigger". The controversy apparently acted on whether the word "nigger" is a neutral word in the Norwegian language (neger) and took place in the winter of 2000-2001 in Norwegian media. Her analysis of the controversy surrounding the concept put our prejudices at risk by viewing the Norwegian peoples lack of reflection on their own values, values ​​we take for granted. Lack of discussion of our traditional patterns of thought and language helps to make everyday harassment and discrimination possible, says Gullestad. We can imagine the way many other concepts and statements could be analyzed in the same way, for example in relation to sexual abuse and domestic violence, which are two areas I teach and research in. Within these disciplines, I often meet notions that testify to our lack of reflection. For example, that women are responsible for the rape they are subjected, that children are responsible for the sexual abuse they suffer, or that women and children deserve the violence they suffer in the homes where they should feel safe, etc. All these are serious statements that it are important that we constantly speak loudly about in the public arena, and discuss tham openly so that patterns of thought in society can change over time. Traditions are persistent but they may change over time. In order to change a tradition, it is important to have insight into why the traditions are so important as they are and what role they play in society.

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