The Extinction of Customs and Traditions

By Taha Gesala

Special to the Chronicle

Extinction is the state or process of a species, family, or larger group being or becoming extinct. Tradition is an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (such as a religious practice or a social custom). Although culture can often be confused with tradition, the main difference between culture and tradition is that culture is the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular social group whereas tradition is the transmission of customs and beliefs from one generation to another. Traditional values, like an art, never end in one point; they have multiple implements and infinite value. They should always continue and be renewable. As a younger generation we should take care of the old inheritance and try to develop it and preserve it for future generations. We should pass these concepts on to others who will come after us. We need to preserve tradition, specifically, traditional values for posterity in order to promote peace and harmony, foster respect, and strengthen our society in general.

Although we need to preserve traditional values for the benefit of our larger society, tradition is slowly going extinct. Compared to those of today’s youth, old habits and most ancient traditions have disappeared and vanished entirely. This is a very sad fact, given that young people are a very important element of any community; they represent important segments of and the organization of society. They are the sign of the future, and a powerful energy for progress. Young people capture creativity, vitality, and our bright hope. Yet, some young people believe that as science and technology advance, traditional values diminish in importance. From my point of view, scientific progress and technology do not conflict with maintaining these lofty values and mission of building society and keeping families from disintegration. On the contrary, science and technology can deliver traditional values. But first, the youth must recognize their importance. This conflict is what we face today in our societies.

Some people, especially the younger generation, believe that customs and traditions bind up or confine the lives of individuals. The current mentality of young people is programmed towards all kinds of freedoms: freedom of opinion, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of choice, and freedom of speech. Nevertheless, young people should not forget to improve the handling of morality towards others, including the elderly, youth, men, and women; in other words, they should follow traditional values. They should not discriminate in their treatment of them. For example, when a man looks at a girl whom he does not know, he should consider her a person to respect, like a sister, and show her deference. If the man does not have a sister, he should look at the girl as if she were a mother or an aunt. If we go with this kind of concept, we could avoid rape or improper sexual desires and advances. This also applies to respecting the elderly and assisting them at any time in anything without any kind of delay.

Yet, young people form part of a larger societal element which thrives on tradition—the family. When I talk about the disintegration and weaknesses in our communities, I find the family that belongs or is committed to time-honored customs and traditions encounters less problems and difficulties in their lives than the families who do not adhere to such practices. For example, marriage and divorce are two very important factors in society. One will find they are sacred things in conservative and traditional families. This keeps the continuation of families in the creation of a great generation which honors ethics and values. This also speaks to human nature. We are classified as human beings and we have been made distinct from the rest of the world’s creatures by our logical way of having wonderful reasoning and higher-order thinking. The use of reason sends people into the right direction, and obliges them to serve humanity and accustoms the soul to nurture good manners. In the case of the family, this also means peace and harmony.

It is unfortunate to have heard many people say we were doing this in our covenant or fathers’ covenant. If we comprehend very carefully and consider the previous sentence, we will notice that it’s in the past tense. As we all know, the past tense means that it is something which has been done in the past. The question is what is the matter today in our communities? Is it ignorance or indifference?  I know a lot of countries in the present day are still doing these things or habits. Habits have become “tradition” and regular and natural things to do without asking for a wage and people do them to comply in word and deed. Yet this stands in contrast to the traditional value of respect. Respect will embed love and affection between the hearts of people, and the only effective way to do this is through customs and traditions. We need to come together as one, united community and gather our efforts to revive this lost tradition of values. We need to put our egos and personal problems to one side and focus on the center of the community and how to develop our community to become a better place to live.

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