In The Worldly Philosophers,
economist Robert Heilbroner identifies three approaches man has taken to
guard against disastrous societal breakdown: 1) tradition, 2) command,
free market economics. Of
the first he says "He
has ensured his continuity by organizing his society around tradition,
by handing down the varied and necessary tasks from generation to
generation according to custom and usage: son follows father and a
pattern is preserved."
Over 2500 years ago, revered Chinese sage
Confucius indicated his preference for the first approach. Of people bound by tradition he wrote "Lead
[them] with excellence...put them in their place through roles and
ritual practices, and in addition to developing a sense of shame, they
will order themselves harmoniously."
In societies bound by command, he complained, "External
authorities administer punishments after illegal actions—so people
generally behave well without understanding why they should."
His teaching, which provided lessons in conservatism for the
he was part of, was built on a
foundation of disciplined individuals in disciplined families.
As he put it, "There
is no one who fails in teaching members of his own family and yet is
capable of teaching others outside the family...the teaching of filial
piety is a preparation for serving the ruler of the state; the teaching
of respect to one's elder brothers is a preparation for serving all the
elders of the country; the teaching of kindness in parents is a training
for ruling over people."
In the West, in centuries following
collapse of the Roman Empire, feudal society developed as did a
Christian traditional framework (Figure
#34a) built around the Catholic Church. Centered in Rome and headed by
the Pope, this included cardinals, bishops, priests, cathedrals,
monasteries, monks, nuns, religious orders, formally
institutionalized ceremonies, rituals, prayers, communion, confession,
belief in Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, etc.
All this had important social functions.
It brought hope—in a wonderful, just afterlife for
believers—to those who suffered.
It helped parents teach and discipline children.
It encouraged kind,
unselfish behavior, discouraged greed, and kept—as Napoleon put
it—the poor from murdering the rich.
Eventually feudalism gave way to free markets and capital-ism.
in part by the so called Enlightenment—which sought to replace
tradition and religion with reason—only in the last three centuries
have societies based on the last and most complex of Heilbroner's three
approaches emerged. In his
1968 book Lessons of History, in looking toward the future Will
Durant wrote: "in...complex civilization individuals are more
differentiated and unique than in a primitive society, and many
situations contain novel circumstances requiring modifications of
instinctual response; custom recedes, reasoning spreads."
About the time Durant wrote, what Francis
Fukuyama would latter call The Great Disruption (the title of his
1999 book) was
getting going: the transition from
industrial to information age. If the industrial revolution began the
shift from a personal "community" social group setting to an
impersonal "society" type association, the transition to
information age accelerated this. As
Fukuyama put it, "The culture of intensive individual-ism...spilled
over into the realm of social norms, where it corroded virtually all
forms of authority and weakened bonds holding families, neighborhoods,
and nations together." In
democracies, he argued, the information age brought freedom of choice,
weakened large, rigid bureaucracies, and empowered individuals by
increasing their access to information.
As to its affect on traditional gender
roles, he wrote, "The changing nature of work tended to substitute
mental for physical labor, thereby propelling millions of women into the
workplace and undermining traditional understandings on which the family
had been based." Two
revolutions that began in the 1960s led to more such undermining: the
sexual revolution— where new birth control pills and increasing availability of abortion
gave women control over reproduction—and
the feminist movement —promoting
equal treatment of men and
women, and supporting activities advancing the cause of women’s
rights. Decades of decreasing fertility rates, increasing divorce,
illegitimate birth, and crime rates followed. "Can the family make
a comeback?" many conservatives wonder.
While some may see challenges to traditional family values as an
affluent, Western world problem, Richard Critchfield's experience
suggests otherwise. In his
1981 book Villages, he writes, "Almost everywhere, I've
found the same pattern over the years: youth makes demands, parents
resist; after a period of rebellion, youth surrenders to tradition.
This is not always, perhaps the best thing in terms of personal
self interest, but it keeps the villages going. "
Since Critchfield wrote, accelerating
globalization and cultural imperialism has put new stress on
village ties to traditional ways. The
term McDonaldization suggests a spread of multinational corporate
homogeneous culture that threatens unique cultural traditions worldwide.
The challenge that older civilizations face, both from expanding newer ones and associated spread of technological advances, is a significant part of the human history of the last 500 plus years. Yes, Columbus' voyages of discovery have been celebrated. But from the perspective of indigenous people whose lands were invaded and whole way of life changed, that history has been sad: a tragic tale of near genocide! Influenced by such history, the United Nations has recently passed a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Figure #34b). With this, it sets "an important standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples that will undoubtedly be a significant tool towards eliminating human rights violations against the planet's 370 million indigenous people and assisting them in combating discrimination and marginalization."
The Sacred Christian
the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
|Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of
the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit
the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always
steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the
breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2: 42, Greek text), so
that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it
becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common
(second Vatican Council, 1962-65)
| Article 11
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artifacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies, and visual and performing arts and literature.
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.
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