Wednesday, July 22, 2009

OFFSPRING: Chesterton and Tradition


There is one thing I have never from my youth up been able to understand. I have never been able to understand where people get the idea that democracy was in someway opposed to tradition. It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. Tradition refuses to submit to a small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. I cannot separate the two ideas of tradition and democracy; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea. We will have the dead at our councils. (G. K. Chesterton, ca, 1900)


Few people can get at the heart of a matter as well as Chesterton. Here he demonstrates how underdeveloped and antiquated it is it is to ignore tradition. We in America have built our society on a new model we call democracy, yet, at the same time refuse to be democratic every time we act as revisionists. We suffer from the arrogance of the living. This arrogance is fueled by a little voice that forever tells us that we are smarter, better, and more able than those who went before. In succumbing to this voice, we undermine the protection that comes from democracy’s ability to prevent one small group from leading everyone into disaster. Tradition is a safety net that keeps us from the wiles of the manipulative oligarchs.

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