Can the internet and traditionalism get along? On the face of it, the net sums up the most extreme features of the modern world. It destroys particular connections by making everything equally present to everything else. With all things in the same setting and position, the meaning and significance of things has nowhere to establish itself. Personal relationships become casual. Identities change at will and disappear. Everything becomes either an object of undifferentiated appetite or aversion or else a resource for some further purpose. Money, government decree, and technical rationality become the sole principles of order that can be relied on in the face of adversity.
So the internet is hardly tradition-friendly. Still, the basic issue for social order is less what elements are present than what principles are decisive. Life always goes on, and what doesn’t work dies out. To the extent coherent traditions are necessary to social order they will exist regardless of technology. The infinite choice the internet and modern life generally offer is still consistent with a tradition capable of anchoring a loyalty that transcends self-interest, and thus with a tolerable way of life. For that to come about, however, the choices have to be restrained and channeled by a sufficient principle of identity and authority. History suggests parallels. The Jews lived by trade and had no country of their own, but for centuries maintained their religious and ethnic identity through attachment to their history and their God, and through self-imposed restrictions on conduct and attachments. Modern conditions require something similar of us all.
What are now called tolerance and inclusiveness may be inescapable requirements of the modern political outlook, but they have no future in anything like their present form. They provide nothing by which men can live and order their lives, or that can sustain them when times are bad. If modern thought requires them then modern thought will disappear. The serious political issue today is what does have a future. It’s difficult to deal with that issue in general public discussion, because the outlook that has become compulsory in public, an individualistic universalism that can’t accept sex, class, ethnic culture, or religious authority as functional elements of social life, forbids discussion of essential points. The future isn’t likely to be anything like a continuation of present trends, but since it’s accepted that the true morality and rationality have now unquestionably been found to propose fundamental change sounds crazy and evil. Hence the emptiness of present-day political discussion. All significant issues have been irreversibly decided, no one can propose going back, but the result is a form of society that as a matter of basic principle tries to suppress fundamental aspects of human life. It can’t manage or even recognize the resulting problems, which are as basic as failure to reproduce and maintain identity.
The difficulty of public discussion is not surprising. A public exists though common assumptions, so the broader the public and the more public the discussion the less it can deal with basic points. A multicultural society that lives by electronic mass media can only discuss trivia, and advanced liberalism accommodates the situation by deciding all issues before discussion even begins, leaving only minor points open for debate. Still, the American notion of freedom, and electronic media like the internet, make possible even today at least semipublic discussion of basic issues. Tradition itself requires a much denser and more enduring network of connections and a more definite principle of authority than the internet can provide. Nonetheless, the articulation, defense and re-establishment of tradition in a technocratic world require dealings in that world and a way of going around the bureaucracies of thought and knowledge. Hence this weblog and similar efforts by others.