Interdependence is supposedly cause for celebration in our era, and there can be no doubt that the peoples of Earth are more interconnected now than they ever were before. Today, the culture of the so-called developed world is governed by ideas of egalitarianism and materialist cosmopolitanism. It’s believed more honorable to call oneself a “citizen of the world” than a staunch defender of any one tribe or group, because by definition, drawing a line of preference for those within one’s own group would imply that some faraway other is excluded. A centuries-old trend of assimilation in the interests of economic progress is reaching its apex, set to become one of the primary sociological concerns in the near future.
As we see in the jungles of Brazil and the streets of Europe alike, native populations are quickly becoming foreigners in their own lands, their environments radically changing before their eyes. We often hear that the West must absorb more immigrants to support an aging population at home, or that indigenous tribes ought to relocate from their ancestral lands in order to feed some other land’s addiction to natural resources. Now, there are serious doubts as to the long-term effects of an unrestrained and constantly-burgeoning global economy of material wealth, one driven by the globalist principle of free movement of human capital. As a result, the world is quickly becoming one and the same, while individual cultures and ethnicities are either bred out of existence or forcibly assimilated into the mass. Yet we see that this renewed focus on tradition is paving the way for events like the recent rise in popularity of identitarian parties in Europe or the avowed dedication to traditional values and customs by world leaders, as echoed in the rhetoric of Vladimir Putin of Russia or India’s Nahrendra Mohdi.
The most striking question presented by these events concerns the inherent importance of tradition. Why does this matter and why should it have any role in global affairs or even in the lives of everyday people? In a purely materialistic world as ours (both in the economic and philosophical sense), the goals and needs of a society seem to accomplish the exact opposite of stated intentions. The abundance of resources for easier living creates worsening conditions in the place those resources were produced; as it becomes easier to travel the world and see other lands, those lands are becoming more and more identical to the rest of the world; mass immigration to create more jobs, give an area “diversity”, and expand the economy does the opposite after several generations, when immigrants have assimilated and the favorable economic impact of their immigration has been absorbed or even reversed; the constant drive for individuals to present themselves as wholly different from the crowd creates one mass demographic ready to be sold something in order to validate modern individuality. To compare the amount of languages and ethnicities across the world in the 18th century versus today shows that this process of economic globalization has not only proved detrimental for the West, but for all other civilizations as well, and this trend will continue, with an estimated ninety percent of languages spoken today projected extinct by century’s end. In practical reality, the only possible and logical end to this is the consolidation of humanity into a single homogenous group with no differentiating characteristics between regions or even individuals.
Tradition, as a general definition by both the political and religious branches of the Traditionalist school of thought, is a belief that goes beyond mere individuality or human form. The present rationalist economic mode of thinking has attempted to do away with this practice, regarding it as no longer relevant in society (and an impediment to doing business). In a sense, the general tradition of a people is significant as a separate way of thought, a separate existence. And it’s an axiomatic truth that the whole of the world’s intellectual and cultural achievement did not stem from a single way of thinking. As such, anything which threatens the inherent intellectual multiplicity of the world should be regarded as a threat, or more accurately, a disease.
However, there is no single source from which the imposition of a global standard would arise. Most prominently today, it is the egalitarian monoculture emanating from the West that assaults all other cultures, but this threat also emanates from religious zealotry with its own monocultural ambitions, namely Islamic fundamentalism. Yet the constant push to eliminate tribal and nomadic lifestyles from the Earth is something largely ignored by the world. Liberal societies often present us with images of all the world’s peoples in their cultural dress, standing together on the globe holding hands. But as we stated, this wishful idealism has accomplished the exact opposite. A sadly unnoticed byproduct of this historical direction is the negative impact resulting from the demand for the peoples of the world to adhere to a single global standard of civilization. In simple terms, this equates to the gradual dwindling of the world’s cultural multiplicity over the last five centuries or so. Certain ways of life deemed unconducive to economic activity are assimilated to a larger whole or removed completely. This crisis has finally reached its apogee in our century, when not only small tribes and ethnicities are at risk, but entire cultures. Anthropologist Scott Atran describes this trend as the “homogenization of the human experience”. Throughout history, we see the birth of cultures as well as their death, and it remains an indisputable truth that any culture comes with its own expiration date. However, the crisis we see today is the death of distinct ethnicities on a mass scale without anything tangible replacing them. As economic globalization and standardized living continues to expand, this leaves little room for the traditional lifestyles that came before these forces. And as we see with the unfortunately futile efforts of Brazilian indigenous tribes fighting to preserve their way of life against foreign entities, there is little stopping this trend.
Indeed, one of the important considerations of our time must be the preservation of regional cultures and, naturally, human biodiversity. Having visited Russian Old Believer communities in Alaska and adobe farming villages in Mexico, I bore witness to the effects of modernity on these communities firsthand. The old generations remained, while the younger members depart in increasing numbers to metropolitan areas, thirsting for all the comforts of city life. Similar stories can be told for the Sami tribes in upper Scandinavia, the steppe nomads of Mongolia, and countless others. A void appears, and formerly independent men are quickly learning to forget how to provide for themselves. In the cities, the assurance that our basic needs are provided for by someone else, that there is an institution somewhere to fight your battles for you, that the need for self-sufficiency is outdated has meant that the modern individual can concern himself with the most trivial and self-serving tasks without regard for progeny or neighbor. Today’s generation in particular is often said to be the weakest thus far, claiming entitlement and foregoing the qualification that should come with it. It’s become entirely acceptable in civilized countries to sit inside one’s home without leaving and indulge in one self-destructive pleasure or another. The Japanese have termed this ‘hikikomori’, and many lament hesitancy to establish meaningful social connections as the root cause for the country’s falling birthrate. Is it any wonder, with such atomization becoming commonplace across the world, that traditions are dying?
Traditional societies existed on the basis of interconnected individuals with important roles (literally, a tribe), their very cornerstone. Just as the relationship between two individuals will create inside jokes and shared values, traditional societies do so with traditions, although at a much deeper level. The contemporary presentation of the world’s economic history illustrates a gradual expansion of general wealth and increasing utility of resources from Europe (or rather, the West) onward to the rest of the world. These definitive centuries have ensured that the process of economic globalization is nigh inescapable today and a sufficient opposing ideology has yet to fully form. The influence of this historical process means that political considerations are now made strictly in the context of economic benefit to specific interests (i.e. profit-thinking). Despite what some might foolishly assume, this has yet to conclude and, in fact, it continues to spread. To join in the global economic game necessitates a certain degree of conformity, as when countries are coerced into giving up their own specific currency in exchange for the opportunity to participate in an economic zone or in superficial matters such as the post-imperial Japanese discarding their traditional dress in exchange for western-made suits and ties in the interest of conducting business with other people also wearing suits and ties. Consider also how many small-town industries have been destroyed by the forcible expansion of ‘free trade’, foisted on the general population by a select few for the benefit of the few.
Globalization has increasingly eroded these national boundaries and made it structurally impossible for individual nations to sustain independent, or even autonomous, economies, polities, and social structures. A key feature of the current epoch is the supersession of the nation-state as the organizing principle of capitalism.
So how does one reconcile the inevitable interconnection of people with the preservation of specific regional cultures? This will not come about through a favorable election, or even a violent uprising; this necessitates a mental restructuring on what it means to live in the modern world. Meaning that regional identity ought to be asserted, and not merely in superficial ways, but in direct benefit to one’s own people, whether it be family, tribe, city, nation, and so forth, with individuals navigating a return to a more true and honorable way of life. Our interconnected global economy has shown that should one facet fail, the rest of the body goes down with it.
Some people of anti-consumerist mind understand now the detrimental effects of this global economy on how people live and exist on this earth, and they’re aware of the environmental harm it does as well as the often unfavorable economic conditions it provides to one nation for the benefit of another. But as it stands, hardly one of them will link this trend to the decline of distinct cultures and seek their preservation throughout the coming centuries. Understandably so, as many people, particularly in North America, have lived generations without any connection whatsoever to their original heritage. As such, the people of the modern world have no sense of belonging left but brand loyalty and perhaps the parade of vapid “identity politics” that dominates public discourse today, though even then we see how quickly tiresome such “identities” become. The reversal of the global liberal order will not mean peace in itself; it does not imply that disputes between peoples will ease, or that cultures will suddenly thrive and become the realms of supermen, but it does mean that differences are saved and that some sort of breadth of viewpoint will remain among man. Likewise, nothing guarantees that the culture of one nation or ethnicity will look the same as in a hundred years’ time. Yet this is essentially the point – that there is room for individual peoples to develop and progress. If diversity is as truly valued as some claim to believe, then the notion of a manufactured “brotherhood of man” ought to be discredited.
For more thoughts and essays, visit Evgeniy Filimonov’s blog Read What you Sow.