Is Traditional Culture Even Possible Henceforth?

The acid eating at tradition is cheap information. This is to say that the acid eating away at cultures – all cultures, properly so called – is cheap information.

And information is from now on essentially free.

Can there then ever again be such a thing as a coherent traditional society?

Sure, tradition is necessary; it is the atomic stuff of culture as such. But is it even possible anymore? Are we looking at the death of culture?

In the quest for as many eyeballs as they can attract, content providers on the internet have no option but to appeal to the lowest common human denominator; which is to say, to the basest, most vicious thing about us, all: our concupiscence. Concupiscence is remarkably homogenous from one country to another. It boils down always and everywhere to the Seven Deadlies. So the internet is bound to promulgate the Seven Deadlies, and to make war on all things human that prevent or heal our indulgence in them – such as the traditions that all societies have instituted, to prevent them and palliate their effects. E.g., families, sexes and their roles, true religions, mores and customs, nations and their rites and costumes, their languages and cuisines, and so forth.

The internet then is on the whole a titanic engine of subscendence, pushing all people and all cultures toward a maximally sinful, maximally stupid, maximally ill and maximally mad way of life. Let’s be clear what this means concretely: the internet is systematically pushing all human cultures ever more toward the Cult and Culture of Death.

That’s what global culture is. It is the zero of local culture, and so a fortiori of idiosyncrasy, and so of idiosyncratic or local excellence and moral virtue; for, idiosyncrasy, and for that matter conformity, are possible in the first place only in the context of a distinct cultural milieu. And distinction – then likewise the discernment and discrimination, the mere *thought,* that follow upon it – is just what the internet is willy nilly most interested to destroy. The machine that is dedicated solely to the production and promulgation of memes is interested to destroy all barriers to that promulgation. It wants a maximally bland and homogenous population of individuals, in which any notion is as likely to stand out as any other, so that each provider’s stock in trade has a shot at a global audience of at least a few thousands.

Where there are no local traditional cultures, every man is an idosyncrat, utterly self-determining; and so, everyone is just alike, and equally alone.

There are of course beneficial aspects to this new state of affairs. The global homogenization is likely to result in the universal use of tools and techniques that work really well: free market capitalism, denim, pants, knit cotton, double entry accounting, html, Excel (thanks be to God for Excel!), global standards (of measurement, performance, reporting, and so forth), just in time inventory, the best way to get rid of tree stumps, joint stock corporations, and so forth. These are all works in progress, but they are in fact progressing. They keep getting a bit better. This progress is implicit in the logical discipline necessary for coding – and (so) for life.

So, the basic universal tool kit is likely to get lots and lots better over time.

And the acid of cheap information eats away at bad ideas even more than it dissolves traditions. The internet puts insanity on display for all to see, and most do see that it is insane – if they don’t, then we deserve the death of the human species that will ensue. Some bad ideas can be more alluring than the good ones, but the good ones are more durable; and most bad ideas look really, really stupid, prima facie (this is the universally interesting topic of the fail videos online). Viz., the Democrats are looking pretty doggone stupid right now, to anyone with the foggiest notion of how things work in the real world. It’s comical. Laughter is the best medicine for that disease, and our adversaries are utterly humorless; this is why our side’s advantage in the meme wars is so valuable. We’ve got all the good jokes, because our adversaries are handing them to us on silver platters, every single day. And we’ve got all the good belly laughs.

Nevertheless the acid of cheap information eats away at all ideas whatever. What’s the problem with that, though? Won’t it result in the destruction of all the really bad ideas, so that the only thing left is the pretty good ideas, which can then compete with each other, breed, and so forth? I mean, doesn’t natural selection handle the problem rather tidily? Truth needs no protections, and all that?

Truth indeed wants no defense, for he is a Lion, who cannot be tamed, and who shall out in the end, and then prevail utterly. It can’t be otherwise. But it isn’t Truth we are worried about after all, is it? He’s eternal, so worry on his behalf is rather inapt. It’s not the Lion one must worry for, but the victims of the Witch. It’s men we must be worried about; male, female, young and old. It’s frail children of dust, and feeble as frail, who want protection, and education.

People want the Lion, but “they” say (as if they had any way to know) that he hasn’t been seen around these parts for some time. Meanwhile, here’s the Witch with her goddamned Turkish Delight, every single freaking time we go online.

The protection and education of men, against the sweet sticky suasions of the Witch, is the perennial, traditional function of tradition. Tradition is our inheritance from forebears who have done already a lot of thinking on behalf of their children: us.

When no tradition is sacrosanct, everything is always up for grabs; for reinvention – which is to say, attack – at the whim of the next clever sophistical sophomore who can write and has access to the internet, and who thinks he knows better than all his fathers. Under such conditions, only some of the mightiest and most educated intellects are safe from perversive persuasions.

Is it possible, under such conditions, for *any tradition whatsoever* to perdure?

I ask the question. I do not know the answer. I fear that it is no. I doubt it is possible, in the Age of the Internet, to form a coherent traditional society that can ward off virulent memetic ingressions from other domains of the intellectual realm.

How would a society that had reacted radically against the perverse and pervasive subscendence of global “culture” need to be organized in order to immunize itself from the sly soft constant subtle alluring attacks of the Cult and Culture of Death? Could such a society continue to use the internet? If it did not, how could it survive the day to day practical competition with other societies, that did? How, that is to say, could it survive the competition with the global Cult and Culture of Death, that had pervasively conquered all other countries?

I don’t have answers to these questions yet. I’m worried about it.

18 thoughts on “Is Traditional Culture Even Possible Henceforth?

  1. You posted this during my mental blue-hour where i can’t distinguish between exhaustion or mental acuity, so you’re getting a prompt reply, and i’ll issue my regrets in hindsight.

    Three points which combined I think form some kind of answer to your question.
    1- Tradition is (rather, can be) a moving reference point.
    2- Bad Ideas thrive where good men fail to scorn them.
    3- Culture is prone to cycles, but they don’t appear to be gradual but rather precipitous preference cascades.

    1: Tradition, as you mean it above, I take to mean “The mores and methods that informed a lively and thriving past society, and which if adhered to today could enliven and revive our present society.” You may also mean a specific set of mores and methods. You might also mean, more simply, that the way we used to live is preferable to the way we live now.

    So, the acid of cheap information eats at all tradition indiscriminately, true. I will push your metaphor to the limit: Acid can in some cases, dissolve rust off of a nail or dissolve the nail entirely. It’s yet to be seen whether cheap information will destroy all of society or just the parts that aren’t helping it.

    You say:

    the internet is systematically pushing all human cultures ever more toward the Cult and Culture of Death.

    I argue that the culture of death has traditions of its own which are eaten away by cheap information of the productive kind. Your comment reminds me of this quote from Abraham Lincolns Lyceum address:

    At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

    Indeed, the culture of death is cultural suicide. So long as some men remain dedicated to a culture of life, they will win in the long game. I turn to scripture: In Exodus, after Moses came down from the mountain and found his people worshiping the Golden Bull, he ground it up and made them eat it, then murdered about 3,000 of his own people. It took him 40 years in the desert and many hardships like that one to learn his lesson, but those who worshiped the culture of death, successfully found death. Those who worshiped hope and life successfully found hope and life. The desert need not be limited to so short a time as 40 years.

    2: Cheap information has brought the primordial soup of ideas to a boil. Presently society scorns things like “tradition” and “self deprivation” and “theism” and “monogamy”. By their fruits ye shall know them, and the fruits of our society are death and despair. It is not the fruit of the Orthospherian Culture. Society is not scorning things, at present, which it ought to. You recognize this when you say:

    Viz., the Democrats are looking pretty doggone stupid right now, to anyone with the foggiest notion of how things work in the real world. It’s comical. Laughter is the best medicine for that disease

    We ought to, and do, in our circle, scorn the bad ideas which cheap information allows to multiply. Scorn works like an inoculation: We become aware of, and thus immune to, the acid eating away at society and thus remove ourselves from the equation. Vaccine protection works by group-protection. We may be an isolated cluster protected in a vast unvaccinated population, but that population does not have our longevity and is not aided by our isolated inoculation.

    Thus cheap information enables us to identify and dutifully scorn those ideas which deserve it, and while we ourselves may receive scorn, our ideas are not leading us inexorably to destruction.

    3: I openly acknowledge it is my generation, we millennial, which have trademarked nihilism and made it a defining trait. What nostalgia will we have? What “traditions” will they lay claim to? An extreme case, perhaps, but consider the Tinder phenomenon: “Ahh, yes, I had so many partners back in the day.” Will they consider that healthy and socially profitable? What will their children think of such stories?

    I believe in the cyclical nature of society. I believe that the children of hedonists become traditionalists. I believe, perhaps vainly, that the children whose parents are mutilating them due to a fad induced by social indifference to gender dysmorphia, will have a fascinating story to tell when they are 18, 25, 40, years old. I do not believe, perhaps naively, that it will be favorable to their parents decisions. I further believe that we are already seeing signs of this in the generation following mine, Gen Z.

    Therefore: Eventually, a disease hits the population which only the inoculated are prepared for, and it sweeps through with violent force. A preference Cascade, which you’ve discussed before. And then, we will be on the side of the majority, heaping scorn on the ideas which are deleterious to society. And, with the benefit of hindsight and cheap information, perhaps we will do so in a way that has longevity and strengthen that society, whatever it looks like.

    and so! To specifically answer your questions:

    Is it possible, under such conditions, for *any tradition whatsoever* to perdure?

    Yes, indeed I believe it is inevitable that tradition, including and especially tradition informed by Catholic morals and teachings, can perdure.

    How would a society that had reacted radically against the perverse and pervasive subscendence of global “culture” need to be organized in order to immunize itself from the sly soft constant subtle alluring attacks of the Cult and Culture of Death?

    I don’t think any change in structure needs to happen. I think cheap information cuts both ways, and when the majority of society scorns the “Turkish Delight” found on the internet, consumption will decrease. The danger will always be there: The forbidden fruit, after all, was from the tree of knowledge. Cheap Information being the acid of society is simply an acknowledgement of original sin. It takes self mortification and diligence to work against it, to say nothing of the heavy doses of Gods grace and mercy we require.

  2. As I understand it, tradition needs to be unconscious – tradition Just Is; as soon as it becomes conscious, it implicitly ceases to be pure tradition.

    Therefore, once a tradition is gone, once the lineage is broken; what comes after cannot be the same tradition as before – but must be something different; founded on a different basis.

    We therefore need to cease hankering after what is irretrievably lost (potentially for good, as well as ill), and understand how best to move forward from where we are.

    • It would seem that the innocence of pure tradition cannot survive an encounter with a foreign culture. Implicit in an awareness that other people have other ways is an awareness that it is possible to have other ways, and that the ways of one’s own people are therefore not necessarily simply given and unquestionable.

      But that would mean that almost no human culture has been innocently traditional for thousands of years. Yet traditions perdured, sometimes only due to terrific labors. Xenophobia, borders, and war are presumably all responses to the problem of maintaining tradition under a fairly constant assault by foreign memes.

      It seems clear that our society has quite lost the golden thread. But we are casting about for it. I feel fairly sure it is still out there somewhere, and that when we find it (if we are that lucky), we shall see how it connects our new traditions to their forbears. The new traditions will be new, but if they are any good at all, one of their main effects will be to reinvigorate the remnants and relicts of the lost traditions of a former age. The Oxford Movement is a palmary example of such a thing. It petered out, but that’s what happens when traditions are not actively kept.

      My more basic concern is that such a thing as keeping a tradition may no longer be possible. A bug in my ear tells me that it is possible, but I can’t see how.

  3. Tradition & Faith: Contrary to the popular notion, faith, the essence of any tradition, is not a crutch but a type of heroic challenge. This is especially so in the case of the absolutely minimal Christian faith, which consists in an uncertain truth. (If faith were certain, it would be a syllogism, but faith, despite its participation in the Logos, is not reducible to logical causality.) As the most-wise Herr Voegelin once pointed out, the mass of people prefer certain untruth to uncertain truth. All those memes and “woke” shibboleths belong to the category of certain untruth. Paul wrote: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen… Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Letter to the Hebrews) Voegelin comments on the historical process: “[The] great masses of Christianized men who were not strong enough for the heroic adventure of faith became susceptible to ideas that could give them a greater degree of certainty about the meaning of their existence than faith. The reality of being as it is known in its truth by Christianity is difficult to bear, and the flight from clearly seen reality to gnostic constructs will probably always be a phenomenon of wide extent in civilizations that Christianity has permeated.” (Ersatz Religion)

    P.S. Uncertain truth has about it or in it the element of mystery — and it is mystery that guarantees freedom in the spiritual domain. Cheap information, which, being mainly gossip, has always the character of certain untruth, is the opposite of mystery. Rather than freeing, it binds. Click-bait is causality, i.e., unfreedom or slavery.

    • Tradition must have about it the odor of sanctity, to be sure, or else it is nothing but a stupid convention. Modernity deleted the category of the Holy. No cult → no culture. Simple.

      So whatever the challenges to maintenance of a traditional culture – i.e., whether or not the internet poses an extraordinary challenge – if there is no widespread confidence in the Holy, there is no chance even of forming a tradition in the first place, let alone maintaining and defending it.

      It’s the Great Awakening or nothing, then.

  4. I don’t think that truth is a lion, unless you mean that it is a beast that men try to avoid. The truth is very often disagreeable, and men take the disagreeable path only under compulsion. The often disagreeable path to the truth is what used to be known as schooling in a tradition, or even the Tradition. This had many disagreeable parts and passages, but the student was given no choice and could not avoid them. Tradition is by definition something one is handed, not something one selects. “Eat your spinach” just about sums it up.

    Few people will eats the spinach if they can get another helping of fried chicken for free, and the all-you-can-eat buffet strikes me as the perfect analogy for the world of cheep (free) information. It is possible to construct a balanced and nourishing meal at an all-you-can-eat buffet, but the pull of the coconut shrimp is strong and that spinach will just have to wait. And wait.

    • Men do indeed try to avoid the lion of truth, even when they hunt for him, hungering and thirsting for him. The very hunt is a hair-raising, arduous, uncomfortable, dangerous, and basically dreadful procedure; the quarry is the sum of all fears, by definition the most awesome and terrifying thing of all.

      So most people prefer to sit indoors and watch TV and eat chips and drink soda.

  5. I think tradition is like gut flora. No one notices it until it’s gone, and there’s no way to build it back right now. You can do without it, but it’s not the best way to go through life. But don’t worry, because if you generally do what you should, day after day, it comes back when you don’t even notice.

    • An apt metaphor. I do not doubt that durable tradition will arise again eventually. The encounter with reality ensures it. But I do doubt that can happen so long as the internet works the way it does now. . The internet is a new thing; indeed, a wholly new *sort* of thing. It has but few traditions of its own, that are suited to it, and that can constrain it properly to proper human ends. So it is going a bit nuts. I call that a search for the Limit.

      The search for the Limit is rather like the hunt for the Lion. You can’t find it by sitting indoors watching the tube and snacking on chips and soda. Nor can you refresh your gut flora that way.

    • I think tradition is like gut flora. No one notices it until it’s gone, and there’s no way to build it back right now.

      Oh but there is. I agree our culture could do with a fecal transplant.

      • From the film Fast Food Nation:
        “It’s a sad fact of life, but the truth is
        we all have to eat a little shit every now and then.”

  6. Hm. Are you familiar with the standards by which the Amish judge new technologies? I might not agree with the specific criteria, but the existence of SOME criteria (or at the very least, a planned stage for informal review) might become increasingly important.

    “how do you expect this to scale enough to not be so marginal as to be globally irrelevant” good question. I’m reminded of people sharing their software or hardware stacks–with instantaneous communication, it might be possible for cultures of restraint to take the good of modernity and discard the poison, and filter this knowledge onwards agnostic of distance.

  7. I think most people feel something is inherently wrong with the world – the key is identifying the cure. To borrow the metaphor from Romans 11, you’ve got to be aware of the olive tree in order to graft yourself too it. As a neophyte traditionalist, the internet provides not only the resources you need but also the self-assurance that you aren’t alone.

    The Huffington Post (I know…) recently published an article “Behold, The Millennial Nuns.” Even the left is observing the rise in young woman pursuing religious vocations (even if it makes them scratch their heads) – and 60% of these women explicitly requested an order that requires them to wear the habit. The article also quotes: “My friend Josh, a convert to Catholicism, told me he was drawn to the church specifically because it ‘doesn’t hold a vote to determine the truth.’”

    The supreme irony, as a Catholic, is we embraced the spirit of the world precisely when it was on the verge of self-destruction. But even the embers of tradition draw in the young – and the olive tree is eternal, we need only know it exists to be grafted to it.

  8. The Internet, theoretically, provides the unique possibility of even a single individual willing ALL Right at a global scale. As such, falsehood has all the odds stacked against it. Because Truth is all-pervasive, Truth necessarily pervades all through the Internet. The only matter at hand is what Orthospherians feed the Internet in terms of orientation and direction?

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