Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Paean to Household Cleaning Products

As the two university professors approached the gates of the school, the visiting Englishman doffed his hat. The American asked why he'd done so. The Englishman said: "In Britain it's a tradition that e take off our hats as we enter the gate to the university." The American paused briefly and then said: "As of today it is now a tradition here too."

I don't come to the thought of tradition via the cautious wisdom of Edmund Burke. Rather, I see in tradition images of tiny coffins. Burke confuses me, but the sight of dead children is starkly clear. I think I'm not alone or even in the minority in seeing tradition as reaction, as hide-bound repetition of entrenched privilege, as entitlement, as exploitation of the ignorant by the elites, of misoneism, as, for example, the Taliban. Tradition is a hatred of and destruction of innovation, of creativity, of exploration, of questioning, of individualism, of personal choice. In tradition I see the endless repetition of ignorance that leads to the total closing of the Human mind to improvement, to progress, to betterment, to continued existence of Human life itself. In tradition I see a desperate clinging to power by the corrupt, the savage, the insane. I see "traditional cultures" so beloved of the Left as the worst of Human experience and possibility. I see dead children dead due to their mothers not knowing and not being able to know of germs, mothers who fetch water from streams chocked with shit, mothers cooking with water bobbing with turds, women washing their clothes, themselves, their children in sewage; and I see tiny coffins. One doesn't interrupt the ways of a traditional culture unless one is a horrible neo-colonialist such as myself, a racist Yanqui imperialist. That children die because parents are too incapable of thinking in sequence is not of import to the philobarbarist Westerner. No, what matters to them is the fetish of "tradition." It is the philobarbarist whose head I would remove and shrink on a stone in the name of my own tradition had I my evil way. Tradition is whimmitude, is slavery, is sadism, enslavement, torture, murder, and ritual murder. Tradition is revenge, is fury, is Irrationalism, arbitrariness, and rote. I have no liking of tradition.

Tradition is more than what I see it as, though the definition of tradition in terms of Judaic rites is arcane to me, removed from my grasp of living, and not to be bothered with other than to be accepted as the way of friends in their privacies. Tradition is something only a 21 year old should be allowed to accept.

I see tradition as a mental and emotional slavery. There are some, perhaps many, who see revolution as Che Guevara, as wild-eyed lunatic killers bent on imposing on the people dystopian nightmares and mass pogroms. I see revolution as household cleaning products. I see revolution as germ theory. I see revolution as flush toilets. I see the banalities of a clean floor as the ultimate in revolutionary victory over reaction.

Allow me to stop here briefly to indulge myself in some rather fine poetizing;

"Ode due Toilet"

A fine man of History and dapper
Is our universal friend John Crapper.

Crapper is a hero without vanity;
He put back the needed sanity
Into sanitiation.

We can now continue with my understanding of Modernist revolution, at least until I am again caught up in this passion for cleaning products that makes me versify so profoundly.

Like most people, I use Mop and Glo as hair tonic, toothpaste, and shoe polish. But by chance I have discovered a use for it that exceeds all others: I don't actually like the taste of Mop and Glo at all, finding it enough to make me gag in the morning when I brush my teeth with it, which lead once to me gagging it up all over my floor. I bent down and swabbed it up only to find it made my floor both clean and shiny. A miracle! I love the stuff.

I also love Windex. I used to wash my dishes with it, it leaving my wine glasses absolutely spotless. Now I also I spray it on my windows and wipe them with a sheet of newspaper. The glass comes out clear and shiny too. Life really is good!

And it gets even better, friend. I discovered Tidy Bowl. I clean my toilet with it. Oh, yeah. Life. It's the best thing going that I know of. Much of the reason for it is cleaning products. I'm a fan.

Floors, windows, toilets. There are so many places on Earth that I've lived where such things don't exist that when I moved to Canada and could take them for granted I nearly fell over from shock. I sometimes forgot about the ordinariness of doors and windows and floors. And cleanliness? Live in a jungle for a few years to come to fully appreciate it. I love Tidy Bowl. Flush toilets turn me on so badly I want to remarry just to have someone to share the joy with. In fact, I want everyone on the whole planet to have a flush toilet, windows, and a floor one can mop clean. Hardly anyone has such things, and there are many in our Modern world who think that's a good thing. That wouldn't be me. I am a nut for household cleaning products. Call me a revolutionary if you will, and you'll find I say "Yeah, baby."

Having clean water to wash a tile floor is revolutionary in our world. Having a flush toilet is a profoundly moving experience. Having windows that keep out bugs and snakes and filth blowing in the air is supremely challenging to the traditionalists who would have people living like an anthropologist's wet-dream phantasy. Clean people are healthy people, and healthy people can and do ask "Why?" That is the end of tradition.

The Left fascist move to an imaginary pre-lapsarian Eden of equality and mindless bliss is a move to tradition, in my understanding of the term. It is communitarianism, slavery of mind and body, of violence, of disease and death. Tidy Bowl, Windex, Mop and Glo. It is so trivial that only when you live without knowledge of such things is it revolutionary. And it is revolutionary. It is Modernity itself. Long live this revolution and the people who are clean and healthy because of it.

In deference to those who are traditionalists still, I offer this prayer to the gods of my life:

Our man who art Oats, Quaker be thy name.
Hail Aunt Jemima, full of nutrition.
Blessed is Betty Crocker among women.
Thank you God for the extra strength of Mr. Clean.
And amen to vivisectionists who wantonly murder lab rats.
For truly we are blessed to live in our beautiful Modernity.
Thank God!


CGW said...

I'm all for Yankee Imperialism.
The ultimate solution to islam.

truepeers said...

What is the purpose of modernity? Ugly modernist housing ghettos, with shiny clean floors? Or Georgian town houses... with shiny wood floors?

People who cannot go far in answering the "what for" question get depressed, don't reproduce themselves, live to shop and never to mop, etc. etc.

That's what a tradition of transcendent representations is for, when it's working properly: you can use it as a discipline and add to it: it tells you what the modernity we need to embrace is for: renewal. Modernity and revolution, after all, are rather traditional Christian-Gnostic ideas.

No doubt many people have crappy traditions, but can they really free themselves without getting good ones first? What are the school teachers with guns going to teach?

truepeers said...

I just saw the "tongue-in-cheek" comment at CZ. You will have to forgive me Dag, for I'm far too serious at times. I insulted some friends last night, telling them I thought their favorite Monday night sitcom was pornographic! I've got to get into the swing fo the season, but this global force of Israel-hatred is driving me up the wall... how to find the faith to surf this one?

dag said...

When I encounter phrases such as "traditional turkey dinner" I could weep. I use the word atheism to sum up people who are so cut off from living that tradition is meaningless pufferey and the only greatness they hope to attain to is more cash to piss away at the shopping mall. I shrug; but also I am pained in a serious way that our own are so bereft of values and morals, morals in the sense of the moral of the story, the sense of our Human narrative, that buying consumer products is a substitute for God. That side of Modernity is so disgusting that I would rather live in a cave. I don't like atheism, and I try to examine living for something better than stuff and nonsense. It's in that that I find my relief from endless and deep depression: elenchus and aporia, rigourous examination and then a leaving of judgements to time and further experience and more consideration. Just to ask and to say we don't know with certainty but that we can try to find out at least more than we think we know now, that to me is a valuable occupation for many. Socrates does it well, and he, unlike me, has his traditions to rely on to pull him through the times when a real problem arises that is beyond the scope of one man's ken.

Tradition is our way of retaining, as Truepeers has pointed out to me many times, our way of preserving the best of our experiences from our past without having to reinvent the moral wheel each day. I'm not qulified to write on the concepts of tradition from a traditionalist point of view. Both Truepeers and Charles Henry and many others are, and those who will I urge to do so that I may post their work on the main page.

I made light of tradition, and now it's time to get a serious reply to it. I am serious that many if not most Westerners, and Americans particularly, do not share the idea of tradition as a good thing. Tradition is something we fled so we could begin anew in the New World. But that is not what tradition is, and it needs explaining so those of us who are unclear can take stock of the claims for it.

If we do not reclaim the values of our past, our traditions, we will forever walk toward the check-out counter of Life only to find we have missed life altogether, childless and disgusting and oh so Moderne! It is worthless. So write, this season, of Tradition to dag dot walker @ g mail dot com.

Charles Henry said...

Tradition is like cooking, it’s not automatically bad (unless it’s my cooking!) and it’s not automatically good; it’s dependant on How it is what it is.

I view tradition as necessarily abstract, a thing existing in adaptable principle, not as absolute rule; tradition must possess a slight vagueness to it, so that there may be room for adaptation.
Your example of a man having to take off his hat to enter school, suggests that the tradition is having the humility to show respect for learning: it is the principle of the thing. It is not a Rule that one must wear a hat so that one may take it off upon entering a school, or that there must be schools built so that there be things to take one’s hat off of upon entering, or that armless men must be given hat-doffing machines in order that they too may be made capable of showing respect, of participating in the tradition to do so.

Is it not the case, that the more meaningful the tradition, the more it is laid down in principle rather than rule. When Moses brings down the commandments, they are all outlined in principle, rather than explained in detail, requiring us to rise to the challenge of interpreting them. That’s a respect for the student that any teacher can learn from.
“You shall not murder”, as a principle, makes us have to reason when killing is not murder. “Honor your father and mother”, as a principle, makes us esteem that which came before us, while being grateful for our existence, and makes us reason how that may be done: by simply repeating that which our parents did, or by adding to their experience… by progressing from their contribution, using it as the starting point. Sometimes the honor will come from repeating, and sometimes by departing, from the parents example. To tell which is which, we need to think of "honor" in principle, not rule.

“Having no other gods before me” is a great procedure for remaining humble, a necessary ingredient for learning (the moment that someone thinks there’s no longer room for improvement, that corresponds to the moment they begin to decay); as well it helps us avoid the danger of idolizing fellow humans as somehow incorruptibly perfect… which is the height of human arrogance. It doesn’t need to be taken literally, accepting the old-man-with-a-beard ritualized image of a heavenly father. It can be followed, as I sense you have followed it, in principle rather than as a rule, and remain a beneficial code to live by.

As humans engaged in a trade or craft or living off our skills in some way, there will always be someone more skilled than ourselves, either in our past or right alonside us in the present, or coming along unexpectedly in our future. We’re all in some glorious “middle”, because of the existence of progress. This we are wired as human beings to forget, yet nevertheless capable of remembering, courtesy of the invention of ritual.

By ritualizing a tradition, it supposedly makes the tradition’s founding principle more attainable, as acting out a role in a play should make an actor sympathetic to the character being portrayed, whether hero or villain. Where ritual fails us is when the physical no longer stands in for non-corporeal ideas, and becomes the end in itself. It is meant as the means to an end, and when it becomes the end in itself it loses its purpose and fails us as human beings.

Tradition, I firmly believe, is necessary to humanity, in that it is part of the proof that we are human and not animal. For example: Tradition makes us dress in a way that ennobles the people with whom we are interacting, suits and ties being merely the present form of the ritual; the five senses that animals possess omits humanity’s “sense of occasion”.
Tradition is to eat food by raising it to your mouth and not lowering your mouth to the food, to not chew with your mouth open, siting up straigh yet leaving elbows off the table, actually having a table to eat at… all in accordance with our attempt to ennoble dining, by humanizing it, raising ourselves above the animal way of eating our daily sustenance.

Believing that there’s something better to become, is our fundamental tradition as human beings, and we struggle generationally to remember that and to understand it’s implications.

We can follow these traditions in principle, as you do, and be made better for them. The more they are taken as Principles, rather than Rules, the more universally beneficial they may become.

dag said...

That's lovely, Charles. Thank you.

callieischatty said...

Well I think something like a 'traditional turkey dinner' can be a wonderful thing.
Its all about rutabaga, brussels sprouts, stuffing, cranberries with oranges butternut squash and happy memories of the same dinners being eaten long ago.
Old people and young people coming together to laugh and eat is a good thing.
What is bad about tradition is when ignorance and a lack of respect for life get the upper hand.
This sadly, happens from time to time.
But in my house traditions are happy things to be treasured and enjoyed.