How Is Traditionalism Changing Communities Negatively?

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Traditionalism is the adherence to doctrines of tradition, like culture or religion, and the resistance to change. The question of how traditionalism is changing communities negatively is divisive, and has always piqued my interest, as staying in Malaysia, a more conservative nation, and having many relatives who are traditionalists, I have always found myself questioning certain traditions and pondering on how they affect and change communities. This is an important question, as it affects how communities should decide to grow and advance, whether to cherish and maintain tradition, or sacrifice certain traditions and cultural aspects to evolve with constantly changing environments and circumstances. With politics and law being my passions, and fields I wish to pursue in the future, this topic and question aligns with the path I have set for myself as well. That is why I really relate to this specific topic, and I believe it deserves more attention.

The issues that change communities negatively due to traditionalism is how it harms and slows down modernization, creates a rift in harmonious exchange between people and limits individualism and freedom. The first issue is that traditionalism is harming and slowing down the development and modernization of communities and even nations and it is a very serious issue, as it affects the future of communities, and determines how prosperous the community will be. As like all species, humans must continue to evolve and change as our environment does as well. Thanks to this change, we have eradicated many diseases, increase life expectancy and are able to access knowledge instantly, yet some people reject modernization and prefer to live lifestyles which endangers themselves and slows down the development of nations socially as well as economically. During the dark ages, religion and culture oppressed scientific development for centuries until the renaissance period. If not for this oppression, society now could be much more advanced. Presently, from a global perspective, the most common example would be the rejection of vaccinations by traditionalist across the globe, even in Malaysia.

Vaccinations are one of the greatest inventions in modern history, and has saved millions of people. An overwhelmingly majority of the scientific community and other professional institutions agree that children must be vaccinated, yet traditionalists still resist. These traditionalists believe misconceptions like vaccinations cause autism, or that it overloads the immune system, even though institutions like the World Health Organization have provided evidence to disprove such fallacies. This issue is becoming more important, as the number of people believing in not vaccinating their children are increasing, and are harming not only their children, but their community. Another example would be the rejection of industrialisation and modernization of rural communities. Industrialisation of rural communities bring many benefits such as higher employment and better education. However, traditionalists argue that changing these communities will destroy their culture, and protest against the modernization of these communities. To give a local perspective, this issue is present in my own country, Malaysia. The share of rural population In Malaysia was 24.63% in 2016.

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Due to traditionalists, the rate of which this rural population is decreasing is being slowed down. This negatively affects their community, as mentioned earlier that industrialisation increases economic opportunities and wealth, which have a positive effect on health and life expectancy. However, the argument that traditionalists use isn’t strong, as there is evidence showing how people and communities still keep their culture and traditions even though modernization and development has occurred. Development does not equate to the loss of heritage and tradition. These problems aren’t even the most harmful. There are many cultures, especially in the continent of Africa, where there are traditions which greatly discriminate against women, not allowing them to work and improve the community, and even traditions which physically as well as mentally abuse and harm women such as female mutilation which are a violation of their human rights. These traditions are, in every way, wrong and inhumane. Another issue is that traditionalism creates a rift in harmonious exchange and coexistence between people. Although difficult to accept, a virtual barrier exists that hinders interaction, acceptance and equal opportunity between people of different cultures and races. This negatively affects communities as they change and grow. This cultural barrier divides people and serves as a basis of countless arguments, conflicts and even wars that have left communities and cultures destroyed or unable to recover. Different cultures and religions behave differently, speak differently, believe in different things and dress differently. These differences, although gives people a sense of specialty, separate them from other people. It is in our blood to prefer people with similar mindsets. This is why, on average, people get married to those who are of the same race, religion or culture.

The reality is that favouritism exists in everyone. It is due to this, that cultural discrimination takes place in almost every corner, especially in the workplace and public spaces, and it has negative mental health impacts on victims in culturally diverse communities. This occurs in most communities, making it a serious global issue. An extreme example of this issue, is that there are some who believe their culture is superior, and abuse people of other cultures. An example of this, historically, would be the Nazi ideology of the “master race”. This radical idealism of cultural and racial supremacy still continues today in the form of groups like the Ku Klux Klan, a group of white supremacists. From the different languages we speak, to the colour of our skin, traditionalists who put focus on these factors are what hinder us as a society and are changing our communities for the worse. Lastly, one more issue is that traditionalism limits individualism and freedom. There are many different cultures that exist, each with their own traditions and teachings. Firstly, it limits individualism as certain cultures, specifically many East Asians cultures, do not put as much emphasis on values such as freedom of speech and self-expression, instead promoting conformity and uniformity which do have an effect on cognitive performance as well.

I personally understand this point as I grew up and stay in Asia. Similarly, Asian cultures put emphasis on work and achieving good results for examinations, which puts pressure on youths causing more stress, anxiety and limiting their freedom to enjoy their youth. This is no small matter, as this stress leads higher suicide rates, and Asian nations rank among the highest. Traditionalism in this example causes communities to change into societies with less individualism and freedom. Another point on this issue, are the cultural restrictions that bind people and communities. These restrictions control people on what to eat, who to marry and how to live, sometimes even targeting specific genders or income groups, and this affects education and even healthcare. These restrictions can be harmful to communities, as certain ones like those targeted to women, such as not allowing them to drive or work, slows down development and their local economies too, and an example of communities that have done this is Saudi Arabia, which only just allowed women to drive legally. One more example of cultural restriction would be on love, especially cross-cultural love. Many cultures have rules that dictate how and who people should love, and in most cases, loving someone of a different culture is looked down upon. You can read about such strife even literature. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the story of forbidden lovers is a clear reflection. Although fictitious, this story of restricted love because of their different culture and background has been occurring for centuries. This problem harms communities by changing them into being less open, and especially harms diverse communities by causing more strife.

Out of these three issues, I believe that harming and slowing down modernization is the most important issue that should be addressed. This is because, even though the other two issues are important, how traditionalism is slowing down modernization is the most controversial, so it is the issue that people are trying to solve the least. This issue is also the most important as it affects the entire community, and even nations. If communities are traditionalist, they will never change for the better and evolve, instead they slow down progress and scientific advancement, which would decrease potential deaths as well as increase productivity along with employment. The issues of traditionalism making coexisting within communities harder, and limiting individualism as well as freedom are serious issues as well, however the consequences of these issues aren’t as severe as slowing down modernization and development. Development and modernization will help the future of communities as well as last longer, while the other issues deal more in the present. All three of these issues do have solutions and courses of action however, and some are not that complicated. The courses of action to take for the issue of traditionalism slowing down modernization is to, firstly, have governments focus their monetary efforts on modernizing industries like agriculture for rural communities, as well as build better infrastructure and better education.

An example of a nation that did this, was Singapore, which was once filled with rural communities and areas, but is now completely modernized and developed, with almost no rural areas or communities. Using this solution can have many benefits as well, like Singapore, who thanks to rapid modernization, became one of the four Asian tigers, which are Asian nations with high-growth economies. In the case of examples of this issue such as traditionalists who believe vaccinations are bad, governments should publicly protest such misbeliefs and make vaccinations compulsory. Finally, traditions that are inhumane and go against people’s human rights should completely be illegal and have strict punishments to deter their practise. The courses of actions for the issues of traditionalism causing a rift in harmonious exchange between people in communities, and the limitation of individualism and freedom are quite similar. The best solution to both these issues is simple, and it is education. It is very hard and almost impossible to change traditionalists in their way of thinking, as they are stuck in that mindset, so instead more emphasis should be put on ensuring the future generation are taught the correct values and not believe in harmful traditionalist values. Values such as being kind and accepting of people from all cultures, equality, freedom of speech and choice and so on. In the case of cultural discrimination in public spaces and in work, governments should illegalize such practises, and traditions along with laws based off traditions that discriminate against certain genders or people groups should be stopped and discouraged profusely by the government and those with influence.

In conclusion, communities are always changing, and due to traditionalism, they are changing negatively from at least three issues, which are the slowing down of modernization, increased difficulty in coexistence, and the limitation of freedom and individualism. I strongly believe in this conclusion, however through research I do understand the positive points of traditionalism, especially for art and literature, and the formation of cultural identities. Nevertheless, I believe that there are many harmful aspects of traditionalism that cause communities to change negatively. I have learnt new perspectives for this global issue from researching such as the challenges with solving it, and my interest for this topic and issue has vastly grown after writing this. This individual research has many strengths such as a clear conclusion and a wide variety of sources, however, it is lacking in certain areas too, as there are more issues due to traditionalism to explore, and it would be better if this topic was delved into in greater detail. I would like to personally revisit this issue and topic in the near future, and I am grateful for being able to have the opportunity to write this paper for Global Perspectives IGCSE.


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