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Posted by Tim on Friday, January 06, 2006 | Permalink

I've just deleted four posts that I started, saved as draft, and never completed. In each one I wished my readers a happy new year. So . . . happy new year. A bit late I know, but that's just me.

Anyway, I'll now attempt to get to the point of this post.

I don't know how many people in the UK watch David Letterman, but his show is on at around midnight on ITV4 the day after it's shown in the states. I often watch as I find it fascinating from a cultural point of view. Yesterday's show was particularly interesting as one of his guests was Bill O'Reilly - who, in case you don't know, is a typically right wing commentator on the "fair and balanced" Fox network (there are actually considerably worse commentators, though I think that Dave summed him up nicely with the phrase "60% of everything you say is crap!").

O'Reilly's "theme" - starting with the apparent "war on Christmas" - seemed to be about defending traditions (I'm actually getting to the point now) which is something that always bothers me.

Of course some traditions are worth keeping, but people like O'Reilly seem to think that tradition itself is a good thing. I often hear people try to explain how great tradition is by merely defining the term ("because these are things that our fathers did, and their fathers before them ..."). The problem with this kind of conservatism is that it stands in the way of progress (a word that such people tend to say with a tone of disgust).

The obvious example from everyday life is the metric system. Simple. Straightforward. Better that the imperial measurements in every way. Yet it's not only stubborn old people who complain that they don't understand it ("then learn it! It's easy! That's why it's a better system!") - many people my age, who would have learnt the metric system in school, revert back to using feet and inches and things. Why is this?

On a more serious note though - sexism, racism, homophobia - doesn't an obsession with the past keep these and other forms of bigotry alive?


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