“The only reason we are still alive is our inconsistency in not having actually silenced all tradition” (Gerhard Krüger, Geschichte und Tradition)
Modernity versus Tradition
Although historians generally distinguish between the modern era (the 18th to the middle of the 20th century) from the contemporary post-modern period, the dominant worldview of the latter is still highly influenced by that of modernity.
“Modernity” is not merely a matter of dates but a philosophical vision largely formed by the worldview whose main characteristics can be attributed to the cultural and socio-political revolutions of 1517 (Protestantism), 1789 (the French Revolutionary ideology), 1917 (Marxism-Leninism), and 1968 (Cultural Marxism).
By the late twentieth century Modernity had consolidated its position as a mentality inherently hostile to Catholicism and to the Christian civilization it had founded, rejecting Catholic Tradition, the Christian sensitivity to the customs of the past, the role of the family, the distinct roles of father and mother, and the nature of the nation and society as an extension of the family.
Instead, it placed the individual person, exempt of any responsibility except to the state, on a pedestal at the center of society.
This worldview,unknown to all other epochs of history and to all previous civilizations, whether of East or West, has at its core the deep conviction that the modern world is superior to preceding centuries due to its technological progress, accelerating globalization, secularism, individualism, and the application of the central doctrines of the revolutions of 1517, 1789, 1917, and 1968.
“The new is always better” is one of its hallmarks. In this it opposes the realist outlook of Tradition for whom there is no ceaseless march of progress ever upwards and forwards but rather a jolting, swerving journey of success and failure due to the moral behavior of individuals and the social institutions in which divine providence harmonizes or collides with human liberty.
Hence, Modernity is essentially a Utopia. It opposes the respect for tradition inherent to all civilizations except our contemporary one. It rejects the worldview characteristic of Catholic civilization – and of all other civilizations – which recognized that every person, even the greatest philosophers – is necessarily dependent on Tradition in order to have the knowledge, customs, and skills necessary to make authentic progress in knowledge and to live and act in the best manner possible. Dwarfs on the shoulders of giants was how the medievals humbly recognized themselves. And all the great musicians, artists, sculptors, and architects of Western Civilization achieved grandeur because they first immersed themselves in and disciplined themselves by the study of the tradition of their field.
As post-modern Western civilization, now the dominant global culture, continues to decline demographically and culturally into a “Culture of Death” (John Paul II), let us not hesitate to define one of the leading causes to be the assault on Tradition. The family, respect for the unborn, veneration and care for the aged, deference toward authority, and even basic forms of courtesy are all being ruthlessly annihilated.
Against the Dictatorship of Relativism
In its assault on Tradition, the contemporary society uses the ideology of cultural relativism ‒ cultural marxism to be more precise ‒ as its main weapon in the creation of a “Dictatorship of Relativism” (Benedict XVI).
In this it is a worthy successor to the two great dictatorship systems of the twentieth century, Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, both of which were built upon this foundation. Of course, the contemporary intelligentsia are careful to avoid this embarassing fact ‒ and so many people, on account of their ignorance of history and imprisonment in the here and now, are all too easily duped.
For it is clear that ignorance of Tradition and traditions creates an empty society whose boast about having finally liberated the masses is achieved at a high price. As Josef Pieper, referring to the thought of the philosopher Viacheslav Ivanov, states:
“Confronted by the liberal historian who is hysterically rejoicing in the good fortune of bathing in the stream of the river Lethe [the mythical river of amnesia] in order to wash away every memory of religion, philosophy, and poetry and then walk to the shore as naked as the first man, he answers with the decisive judgment: ‘Freedom achieved by forgetting is empty’.” (Josef Pieper, Tradition, 2010, p. 67)
Our contemporaries are men and women –and, most pitifully, children and teenagers – who have been disinherited.
It is time to restore their heritage!