Conservative Tales No. 2: Tradition as Language

The Vikings in their longboats: an ancient seafaring people with a strong warrior ethic.

The Vikings in their longboats: an ancient seafaring people with a strong warrior ethic.

Last Christmas I had to undertake the awful task of combing the bowels of a ‘shopping centre’ to find some inexpensive ‘stocking fillers’ for my children. I wanted to obtain some make-shift replica weaponry for my two boys – swords, axes, a Viking arsenal – the sort of stuff that could perhaps act as an antidote for the poison of emasculation that the modern world brings.

As I skulked around the generic stores – one after the other offering only the cheapest, worst made foreign products, I noticed another fellow who appeared to be doing the same thing. By the time we’d bumped into each other at the third establishment in a row – we struck up a conversation after we gave each other a knowing smile.

This fellow was strikingly different to me, even by appearance. He was obviously of Maori extraction, with an athletic, labouring man’s physique. He had large, rough hands, muscular tattooed arms, a pleasant enough weathered face that bore a classic Polynesian smile (only with a couple of missing teeth). He spoke as a man would of quite limited education, peppering his awkward grammar with the obligatory “ay” and “bro”. However – there we were, two very different men, united in our quest to fulfill our children’s expectations for Christmas morning.

I told him I was after some toy weapons to bring out the inner warrior in my boys. I reflected that if you don’t channel such energy with boys it then runs amok – they become unruly and even violent. He nodded in agreement offering reassurances along the lines of “sweet as bro” – I ventured further…

I then took the step of explaining to him how I felt that whilst they were silly, cheap toys, they could still be useful in giving my boys a lesson in identity, and with connecting them to their past, their history, their place in time and space. Then the most extraordinary thing happened.

Maori Chief 1784

Maori Chief 1784: the Maoris, the native population of New Zealand, a ancient seafaring people with a strong warrior ethic.

As if my words had kindled something deep inside the heart of my new acquaintance – his eyes lit up and he began to share with me the most amazing and personal story. He explained to me his understanding of the origins of his people. Whether it was correct as the historians or anthropologists would have explained it – I’d have to do my own research, but his descriptions of the movements of dark age Pacific sailors in canoes and Polynesian proto-empires was fascinating, lively and genuine. This man knew exactly who he was. Through this obviously ill-educated mouth came the most wonderful wisdom and expression of self. This man was indeed channeling Tradition – and I could see first hand why Burke more or less described traditions as the words of unlettered men.

He then moved on to discuss the warrior culture of the Maori, their concept of honour and chivalry known to them as “Manna”. We compared our understandings of each other’s cultures, origins and codes of honour. There we were, two men who could not be more different from each other – engaged, deeply, in expressing our identity to one another. There was a genuine respect. Where he may have seen a stiff, Anglo, intellectual snob and I perhaps a shabby, ignorant ‘guest worker’ – instead we now saw each other as MEN. We recognised civilisation in each other. We saw each other’s pride in our identity. We partook of something ancient, something more meaningful than any modernist ‘diversity project’ could ever have hoped to have undertaken.

Surely such an encounter acts as an anecdote for the importance of Tradition when it comes to the simple matter of communication. Humans recognise ‘acts of Tradition’ – we are ‘hard-wired’ as it were to recognise sacredness and honour. We look for it when we encounter new people and new cultures. Our starting point is the temple and we work our way outwards. This instinct, this primeval essence that is part of being a human is utilised by us when we engage in even the simplest of communications – such as  a random encounter in a banal shopping centre.

Luke Torrisi, "Conservative Tales No.1: The Instruction of Tradition"By corollary therefore when we seek to displace or over-ride our innate mechanisms of communication via imposed ideological epiphenomena, we distance ourselves further and further from our natural essence. This is why Traditionalists should be very cautious about planned programmes designed to ‘enhance’ communication on the basis of universal democratised ideas. Traditions acknowledge common human archetypes, but they also recognise that humans are not tabula rasa awaiting a script. People are not all ‘the same’  or even ‘equal’ once we wipe away all those pesky ‘social constructs’. Rather, true and effective communication arises as an organic and imperfect experience when the natural and traditional aspect of the person is on display.

I shall illustrate with another anecdote from the wonderful world of consumer shopping (the purpose seen in most of us by those who ‘make things happen’). As I was awaiting my small bundle of groceries to be tallied (slowly but surely I am finding alternate, local and authentic replacements for any item I might need from our retail duopoly), I was horrified to overhear the duty manager ‘remind’ the checkout lady that she has to “stick to the script” when greeting customers and remember the ‘key words’ that must be said to remind (subliminally advertise) customers of card X and special offer Y. It was the sort of thing Vance Packard warned us against decades ago.

I had been served by this checkout lady, a pleasant Fijian Indian woman with a voice like Eartha Kitt, since before my first child was born. She has watched my children grow, seen how my family has changed, noted how our diet has become healthier! I had a genuine human relationship with this woman. She had a basic understanding of how I think, what my priorities were, and yes, she even understood a few of my traditions too. Why should my interaction with this woman alter because of a marketing strategy? naturally I told her that when speaking with me she should throw away her script and we had a chuckle about it – but I wonder if we could  have had the manager been around?

Some of the problems that generate these artificial forms of communication are: mass immigration and the attendant language problems, badly educated youth who are taught ‘lowest common denominator’ English, and an education system that is focused more upon vocational efficiency and use of devices (themselves problematic in allowing the development of organic and natural communication). These phenomena contribute to the use, by various forms of management (whether in government or private enterprise), of imposed codes of interaction behaviour that then stifle an organic growth of communication between people. In particular there is next to no room for expression of one’s innate identity and traditions – the key to any genuine and lasting form of communication.

To have any real hope of genuine, human, communication in this world, we must be allowed to talk to each other organically and express ourselves through our traditions. We risk living in a dystopic future otherwise, where information is conveyed between people – but that is all.

– Luke Torrisi

The author is a legal practitioner and the host of Carpe Diem, Sydney’s only explicitly Traditionalist and Paleoconservative radio programme broadcasting on 88.9FM, between 8:00 to 10:00pm, Mondays.

End Notes

  1. Russell Kirk, “Burke and the Philosophy of Prescription” Journal of the History of Ideas vol. XIV (June 1953) accessed via The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal (undated) <> (accessed 19 November 2013).
Update (20 June 2015): Text reformatted (justification across margins).
SydneyTrads is the internet portal and communication page of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum, an association of individuals who form part of the Australian paleoconservative, “traditionalist conservative” and “independent right”.

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