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Rant #330
(published May 17, 2007)
Tradition and Progress Are Often in Conflict: A Twenty-Minute Practice Essay Suggested by the College Board Writing Service
by Noah Berlatsky
Tradition and Progress are often in conflict. For instance, last time I saw Tradition, he was festooned with the dead hides of moribund shamans and wore a desiccated abacus on his sternum. Of course, Progress couldn't stand for that. "Abacuses don't count," he declaimed, and on those grounds disqualified Tradition from ever again participating in the All-Universe Geometry-a-thon. This riled Tradition, who, because he was old-fashioned, hadn't heard about conflict-resolution therapy, and bapped Progress a good one in the thorax. Unknown to Tradition, however, Progress had removed his thorax (Progress' own thorax, that is — not Tradition's thorax. Tradition would never allow his thorax to be removed. "I was born with a thorax (or at least near several of them) and I will die the same way," he said, providing a fine example of the blind allegiance to one's insect ancestors characteristic of simpler (but nonetheless valid and exploitable) cultures) because a thorax would only hold one back in today's competitive business environment.

And what about the way that Tradition fondles his children's genitals while reciting the national anthem? Are you going to say that that's okay? Why wouldn't Progress object to that? It's as if Tradition were a subjunctive verb and Progress were an anti-subjunctive verb which werentent dare to not believe in the importance of dangling prepositions up. Or like Progress makes everything good and shiny and happiness and Tradition drops joy from a great height and steps on it and then condemns it to Hell and forces it to walk there in the cold carrying a school-bus and an outhouse. But then, on the other hand, in my Jewish home, Tradition filled us with respect for our ancestors and allowed us to say that people we didn't like were Hitler.

So I think we can see clearly why people don't like each other, and why what we need is a blending of Tradition and Progress, like broadcasting old T.V. shows to other planets or hunting computers with spears. If we lose our Traditions we will become unstuck blobs of id floating through virtual encounters like Steven Spielberg, but if we don't make Progress we have to go back and see Freud FOREVER.

[Author's Note: "This piece is based on an actual College Board essay assignment, and was written within the allotted time (more or less)."]

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