I’m gunna rock this boat, rock it gently; roll this boat to the sea… 14 Traditions that really, seriously, need updating

‘Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat; energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.’

Warren Buffett

WARNING, this post might just piss most of you right off. That’s because it might challenge your religion, your work, your family, and your social habits. It might just make you question things you hold close to you, or things you have never thought of, but it’s all for good, not evil.

I happen to think it’s healthy to question yourself first; question others second and question everything else third.

Surely you must have thought why do we always do things in this way?  What purpose does it serve now? Why have we never ever tried another way? What can we do to change things for the better?  Every Christmas Eve I have these thoughts, but this year will be different!

Some of you might say “well, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” or” tradition is our foundation and without it we will be finished” or you might even go so far as to say “don’t rock the boat, Missy”.

What about these so called traditions? Why do they occur in your family, your community or in your world?

Traditions can be a good thing; they can provide us with a sense of belonging, belief and ritual that is passed from generation to generation. Traditions ensure that what are considered the ‘good beliefs’ are indoctrinated into the next generation and so on.  Traditions are the unwritten laws that guide the generations to come, but what if those generations start to question their relevance? What then?

When the focus is on trying to improve and update the traditions the tradition is likely to live on for longer.  You see, when a tradition has been put through its paces and been assessed and pulled apart; more effort has gone into reviewing its purpose. Therefore we can tentatively assume that perhaps the best ideas are kept and developed, and the old outdated ideas are left behind.  However, just because traditions contain valuable knowledge, does not mean they are always right.  If the only people reviewing it are fundamental in their thinking then nothing much will change. When the focus is on keeping the tradition in tact at all costs, the opposite occurs and the tradition is in danger of dying out because the next generation questions its validity and its relevance to them in their changing world.

Blind faith and blind belief in my opinion are dangerous things. I say this because anytime we believe in something without question we are assuming that what we are told is right just because someone told us so. We need to be more critical thinkers; we just can’t accept that because the president told us so, all is right and true.

I get why people don’t rock the boat and don’t want to change outdated traditions. I get that there is a cost to them and even their loved ones. They might be outcaste and lose a sense of belonging; they might even be ostracized legally or morally. They might not want to be the one who ends it.  I understand that when people have a strong sense of belonging to something, they feel a sense of safety and security in knowing that “this is my mob, and this is how we do it”. It takes a brave and clever person to rock the boat and suggest that maybe things could be done another way.

I also get why people want to hold tight to traditions. I get that familiar is safe, and change is frightening. Change brings uncertainty and as humans we are not great with uncertainty, we are predictable beings who tend to like routine, order and tradition. I’m not advocating change for the sake of change, that’s just time consuming and resource intensive nonsense.

I think change should occur because there is a need and a purpose for it. Getting stuck in our ways and staying stuck is not good for our survival as a human race. Technology is forcing us to change at rates never seen before. We have to address this fact, after all the only thing that is constant is change.

I also see why timing is important with regards to changing long held traditions. Often change makers from history have been described in retrospect, ‘ahead of their time’. The late Gough Whitlam knew this, so too did Galileo. Timing with change is important; if the masses or those in power are not ready for it, it could backfire. However the consequences of trying to influence change before people are ready are not all bad. The benefits for society as a whole are useful. While the individual may have been heavily penalised, society benefited because the change was introduced and people began to debate and question things for the first time. The wheels of change will start to move, nevertheless and sadly at the cost of the individual. Years or decades later someone else raises the same proposal for change.  They are considered a hero. In many respects timing is everything when trying to change outdated traditions.

Of course the idea that a tradition is outdated is subjective and the lists I have provided below are only my subjective thoughts. However if enough people start to question it then surely the message is that: change is imminent and should be supported. You would think this the case, but often Governments, the law and community norms are slow to respond. When those in power don’t agree with the proposed changes, progress for the masses is slow.

Here are 14 traditions that I think need updating, some are silly some are serious, but all need a serious look at what their purpose is today.

  1. Australia Day:

Why are we still persisting with having this day on January 26th when our Indigenous people have clearly said it is not a day of celebration? I agree with our? Indigenous brothers and sisters. I think the time has come to have a national day where all Australians can celebrate the land and its people. That day is not January 26th. Our National Day has to reflect inclusiveness and the truth of what happened before, be a reflection of where we are now and the hope that exists for the future.

  1. Flight Crews:

I know it has always been a tradition that the crew of a commercial airline look respectable and well-groomed but seriously isn’t it time we questioned this? Why do the women working in flight Crews have to wear copious amounts of make-up, perfume and high heel shoes?  Why on earth would you want to wear heels on long haul flights, this can’t be good Work, Health and Safety practice, surely? The silly heels need to come off before using the evacuation slide in an emergency, really!  I’m not saying they turn up for the flight dressed in a flannie and Ugg boots, but do they really have to fit a cookie cutter look from the 1950’s? Isn’t it time we embraced diversity in the skies, can’t they just once wear flat sensible shoes and have their makeup how they would like? I thing this tradition should be left behind and it’s time we gave the female flight crew a break and let them, let their hair down.

  1. Our drinking culture:

Where do I even begin here? The tradition of drinking a yard glass on your 18th, the tradition of getting smashed on your bucks’ night or the tradition of having alcohol soaked events for all occasions are just some of the examples of our alcohol soaked society? I think it’s time we started to question our drinking traditions on an individual level, community level and national level. Alcohol causes more deaths and more harm than any other drug yet we insist on including and abusing it in every circumstance. Maybe next time you attend a 1 year olds birthday party ask yourself, do we really need champagne to accompany this event?  Do we really need to start new alcohol traditions when we already have enough harmful ones to wreck us forever?

  1. Insurance Companies using an act of God as an excuse:

In an age where not everyone has a god, some people worship many gods and others worship things I wonder why our Insurance companies insist on calling it an ‘Act of God’. How do they still get away with this? I understand that they are protecting themselves and trying to ensure that profit comes before people but an ‘Act of God’ in this day and age! I would love someone to challenge this notion in a court of law. Time to update and check our policies I say.

  1. Ancient harmful female traditions and mutilation:

I know this is a tricky one because it can verge on coming across all high and mighty as a privileged western woman. Putting my own western cultural values onto other cultures, which sometimes reek of ignorance? However there is a fine line between being culturally sensitive and challenging outdated traditions that are not in line with basic human rights. When does a tradition stop becoming a tradition and instead a breach of human rights?

For example female genital mutilation needs seriously needs reviewing. Why on earth do they still need to mutilate little girls and do it in a barbaric painful way? This still happens even in Australia today. Thankfully just this week Nigeria has outlawed female genital mutilation.  The idea that purity is of more value than anything else with regards to girls is dangerous. Japanese foot binding is another example of a tradition that is barbaric. Girls were forced to apply painful tight binding to their feet to prevent further growth. The practice came from upper-class court dancers during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in China. It eventually became common among all classes, maybe comparable to plastic surgery in todays world. Foot binding became popular as a means of displaying status and was adopted as a symbol of beauty in Chinese culture. Foot-binding resulted in lifelong disabilities and a few elderly Chinese women today still survive with horrific disabilities related to their bound feet.

The debutante ball in western culture -which originated in France- is a way to parade our ‘ripe’ young women who has reached the age of maturity. They are introduced to society: ready and apparently available to marry, on display to eligible bachelors.

Debutantes were and are still handpicked by the fine upstanding older members of society. Although some might say this tradition doesn’t cause harm, it does in the long term, as we continue to buy into the fact that girls are commodities to be sold off to the best possible suitor depending on class, religion and money. Most Debutant balls today are done mostly as fundraisers but I still believe we need to change the name. Call them fundraisers, don’t allow our girls to be debutantes displayed and sold off to the highest bidder.

  1. Circumcision of boys:

What an odd tradition, subjecting baby boys or teenagers to the excruciating practice of surgically removing the foreskin to become a man or to be more like Dad is really an odd tradition.

Even though it seems like an ancient tradition it still happens today, just not as often as it did. It origins stem from religion and some cultural practices. In some cultures it is religious sacrifice and as a rite of passage marking a boy’s entrance into adulthood. It is also part of religious law in Judaism and is an established practice in Islam, Coptic Christianity and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church just to name a few. I guess we have to ask ourselves would we see a difference in men and manhood if circumcision did not exist, I suspect not.  It’s interesting that we term this practice for males Circumcision an for females we call it genital mutilation.

  1. Catholic Priests being able to marry:

While the Church is slowly moving with the times in some parts of the world, largely Catholic Priests are not allowed to marry. The reason the Catholic Church give is because,  priests serve in the place of Christ and therefore, their ministry specially aligns them to Christ. Apparently Christ was not married (except, to the Church). Priests are required to remain celibate and devote themselves to the service of the Church. With the Church’s declining number of Priests coming forward you would think it was time to review this tradition. What if Priests married would it change the way we see them? I doubt it. For the sustainability of the Church I would think reviewing this tradition as a necessity, who knows we might even see a male priest marry another male priest in years to come and still be considered good at his job!

  1. Wedding Traditions:

Let’s start with the obvious Marriage shall be between a man and women. Change it now, it doesn’t reflect our diversity of what family is anymore and the majority of Australian citizens want it to change. Now we have that out of the way let’s look at some other weird and wonderful wedding traditions.

There are heaps of strange wedding traditions around the world like in In Germany the guests buy plates only to smash them at the reception party. Supposedly the noise scares away evil spirits. Homemaker stores are  making money with regards to this tradition! Or In the Congo,  if the marriage is to real it has to be taken seriously so no giggling, the bride and groom are not allowed to smile throughout the entire ceremony.

Australia isn’t exempt from these weird and wonderful wedding traditions.

For example why does the Father walk the Bride down the aisle?  It stems from the tradition of him giving her away. This was done as a way for the father to give away his daughter in exchange for a dowry or price. Today thankfully we have altered this tradition and many people now walk the bride down the Aisle. Although overwhelming the choice is still to have Dad ‘give his Daughter Away’.

The bride wearing white doesn’t have anything to do with virgins, so you can relax it actually exists because Queen Victoria in 1840 donned a white dress in her marriage to Prince Albert. In her day, this was very controversial because the colour white was associated with mourning. So it was a fashion thing, relax wear colourful dresses if you please, no one will know if you’re a virgin or not and besides it’s none of their business.

The groom carries the bride across the threshold to bravely protect her from evil spirits lurking below. Lurking below? Where? Under the floor boards??  Yikes! And seriously why does the bride’s family need to foot the bill for the wedding?  It’s time for parents with daughters to question this age old tradition.

  1. Bank Cheques:

Technology is now allowing us to not even use money these days for transactions, why the hell then do people still insist on using cheques. It’s probably because they take 7 days to clear therefore large corporations including banks can keep the money in their accounts for as long as possible earning interest. The banks love cheques they love them so much that they charge us to buy a bank cheque. Perhaps that’s why they are still around?

  1. Beauty Pageants:

I once lost a beauty pageant at the tender age of 10 to my friend who could afford to buy the most amazing hat there was to buy in the 80’s. I was devastated for months and thought for a long time after I wasn’t pretty therefore I wasn’t worthy (cue for violin). Thankfully as a forty year old I now know I am worthy despite not having won the  Beauty in Hat award in  1985.

Now I’m not saying all people in beauty pageants are as fragile as my ten year old self, and that’s why pageants should be given the old heave hoe. I think that today we are smart enough to know girls don’t have to dress pretty and act pretty on stage to know they are awesome. Isn’t it time we did away with the outdated idea that if you believe in world peace and have a pretty face that you are worthy.

  1. Sporting stars being sponsored by alcohol companies and described as heroes.

Australia is a great sporting nation and we love nothing better than a ticker tape parade of our finest coming home after winning a world cup. The newspapers hail them as heroes as though they have been overseas fighting in the Great War. There is one problem with this tradition of labelling our sporting stars as heroes, you see a hero to me is any person who is acts with courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities in the face of adversity. Sporting stars are good at what they do but are they any more of a hero than a very good Lawyer or Teacher?

Cricket Australia’s (CA) decision in 2014 to allow Pakistani-born spin sensation Fawad Ahmed to wear an Australian shirt without the VB logo in the one-day series against England has been a big change in tradition. Ahmed wearing the logo could have been in direct conflict with his Islamic beliefs. This created a storm of criticism from commentators to fans, how dare he even consider not supporting a beer sponsor in Australia. These are changing times for Australian sport and sponsorship and well done to CA and Ahmed for being brave enough to challenge this tradition. This may open the way for other non-alcoholic sponsors to step up. It’s interesting to note Women’s sport on the whole is not sponsored by alcohol instead some netball teams in the ANZ championship are sponsored by health promotion services warning  of the dangers of alcohol.  Tradition isn’t about doing what we always do just because, it’s about being inclusive and to do this we need to be open to change.

  1. The Tradition of War:

We are all so over going to war because a  few men in power  decide it’s to our benefit. Have you ever wondered what if women had ruled the world, would we have had as many wars? The wars that have come and gone and the ones currently raging usually only benefit a few at the top. Very rarely do the soldiers and the victims reap the rewards. There has to be a better way of resolving international relations than going to war with one another. I am not being disrespectful to the soldiers that have fought for our country as most didn’t have much of a choice but to enlist or be conscripted. I can bet however most agree with me that war is no way to solve things, not now and not in the future.

  1. The Queens Guard:

So the guys in the fluffy hats and red military uniforms refusing to crack a smile are apparently legit soldiers working to guard the Queens residence in London. These guards have been about since the reign of King Charles II. They are responsible for guarding the Sovereign’s palaces. Contrary to popular belief, they are not just there for tourists to take selfies of they and are fully operational soldiers. Something tells me however in this day and age a large fluffy hat and a stern upper lip probably isn’t going to cut it for security. Surely it’s mostly for show? Also I’m wondering why in 2015 it’s purely men who have this role?

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My next question about this age old tradition is what about job satisfaction for the poor old guard; surely they must get utterly bored with themselves. Some guards have even been seen nodding off; trying to keep awake must be torture for the poor buggers.

Do the Royal residencies really need so many guards? And can’t we give them something better to do with their time?  Surely a dozen of good Corgi’s could do the job of keeping the ratbags at bay!

  1. Socks and Undies for Christmas gifts of relatives.

Seriously Aunt Dot, I don’t need you to shop for my underwear especially when I’m 40. Stop with the socks and undies as a gift, nobody ever wants this for a gift! People want things they wouldn’t or can’t buy themselves. When people buy gifts like socks and undies it says no effort has gone into the gift, no effort to in thinking about the person. So this Christmas change this tradition for the love of your loved one and avoid the undies aisle Aunty! Put some effort into buying your next gift: think about what that person might like, not what’s easiest for you.

I am not saying we should abandon all these traditions, I’m simply saying they need updating, they need addressing by critical thinking people and the young people who will need to carry them through to the next generation. Let’s try and keep the knowledge that is helpful and useful for the next generation, but not force it down their throats, let them be part of the process.

We should respect what others have done before us, but be brave enough to suggest changes, to improve it, with new traditions of our own.

‘Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.’ John F. Kennedy



5 thoughts on “I’m gunna rock this boat, rock it gently; roll this boat to the sea… 14 Traditions that really, seriously, need updating

  1. This is a wonderful post and I agree with everything you have said. There is a body of evidence that says so afraid are we of being shunned by our tribe that we will perpetuate traditions and rituals even if we strongly disagree with them. Our world needs people to challenge the status quo. Bravo!


    1. I like your thinking Bob. We have decided to do no presents for Adults this christmas which is such a relief.


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