Where are our traditions going?

Conservative intellectual that he is, Jesse Norman MP relates embedding yourself in a tradition to understanding where you come from and what the rules in an art form or culture are. You have to know the rules in order to transcend them. All very sensible so far as it goes. Just one further question: You may know where you have come from, but where are you going?

The hazard of modernity (as distinct from the almost defunct tradition of modernism) is that it challenges us to make up our minds about where we are going. And if we can’t make up our minds, modernity will decide for us. A topical example: understanding that our ancient ancestors evolved in Africa without the luxury of sugary sweets, snacks, and drinks does not tell those of us who have already reached the position of affluent consumers how to deal with that. The economists (one set of traditions) join with patriots (another set of traditions) in pressing us to get more affluent, whilst the medical profession (a third set of traditions) tell us to cut down to 7 teaspoonfuls of sugar a day. Liberal democracy is difficult because it leaves us to decide which tradition we wish to follow.


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