Being the sort of person who reads - and comments - at blogs, I've found myself in discussions from time to time regarding the morality of animal use. Lately, the context has been the Canadian seal hunt and efforts by Native advocates to justify one form of seal hunt (traditional), but condemn another form (capitalist). Notably, the major American animal welfare organizations also make this distinction between traditional use and commercial exploitation. I am in the minority, it seems, as I am opposed to animals being slaughtered by Mr. Money-bags just as much as I am opposed to animals being slaughtered by Noble Savage.
Advocates of the "traditional" hunt will routinely make reference to using much more of the seal's carcass than what is found in the "capitalist" hunt. (Although the reason why Mr. Money-bags doesn't use the entirety of the carcass is likely because there is limited potential for commercial exploitation (e.g., meat, oils, by-products) and, if there were, seals would be rounded up and placed in factory conditions.) Of course, the advocates of "tradition" usually forgot that a commodity, the base unit in capitalist economies, is any good produced for sale. The seal is, indeed, largely slaughtered for sale - the "traditional" hunt is as capitalist as the "capitalist" hunt.
But, from the theoretical standpoint, that isn't the most interesting thing - fetishizing cultures isn't really an academic interest in mine (although one has to wonder if the fetishization of Noble Savage as engaged in an authentic lifestyle outside of capitalism has something to do with a feeling of inauthenticity experienced by many living in large cities where no outside of capitalism can be seen; it is the urban advocates of the "traditional" seal hunt that are interesting). What is interesting is the recourse ostensibly "progressive" people have to defenses of "tradition."
Why do self-named "progressives" find security in tradition? What is so "progressive" about tradition? The question I put to them is quite obvious: how do you justify one form of "tradition" for the very reason that you perceive it to be "tradition" but condemn another form of "tradition" because you just don't like it? How can the seal hunt be defended because it is "tradition" but anti-semitism, homophobia, racism, sexism, and the like cannot? How can you say Noble Savage is a being who finds his moral core in the traditional hunt while at the same time condemning marital rape or genital mutilation? How do you distinguish between "good" traditions and "bad" traditions? Can that even be done? Once you've defended one thing "because it is tradition," it seems that only logical position one can adopt is to defend all practices deemed traditional.
The only response I ever get is that I am being shrill.