Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Traditional Modernity

Throughout The Whale Rider, the author, Witi Ihimaera, makes you feel so many emotions that at the end of the book, you don’t know how you feel or what you believe. After reading the first half of the book, I stood strong believing tradition and modernity live as one; that without tradition, you would not have modernity. After finishing the entire story, I’m not sure if that’s how I feel or not. In order to understand what I believe, I try to think about how tradition is still a part of my life. I suppose it’s cheating because I’ve always been considered an old soul. I was that 14-year-old girl listening to Etta James instead of Lil Wayne, I asked for a typewriter for Christmas when I was 12 and I collect and listen to more vinyls than I have CDs. So is tradition more important than modernity, to me? I’m pretty liberal and open to change, so I don’t think that’s the answer either. So what is more important, or “better”: tradition or modernity.

In the book, The Whale Rider, you come to find that Kahu is the whale rider. She is the person that the tribe’s chief, Koro, had been looking for all along. Only he was expecting a male whale rider, so he just completely overlooked Kahu’s existence and special talents. He was too focused on tradition to realize that women can be more than housewives. This event in the story makes me feel like tradition is horrible. Tradition is what is holding people back from so much because they’re too caught in their ways to open their eyes to something new. If Koro would have opened his eyes to change, those 200 whales on the beach may not have died that night. If people gave Kahu the chance she deserved, and the credit she deserved, things could have been different from the day she was born. But then that beached whale scene comes into my mind and makes me feel like modernity is the villain. Those cruel, selfish people who were killing the whales and cutting off the jaws of those poor animals were beyond horrible. One would assume they were modernists, because Koro taught traditional Maori beliefs and that was not one of them. Those horrible whale killers ruined so much good and it was all because they forgot their ancestor and didn’t care about tradition.

So in conclusion, I have no conclusion. Tradition handicapped Kahu and her amazing whale riding abilities, but modernity killed 200-beached whales. Both, in my mind, are equally as horrible. So really my statement before, that they co-exist, isn’t really the way it is. Maybe tradition doesn’t shape modernity, since no tradition shaped the whale killers to become who they were. Maybe it’s that you must never forget your tradition and never forget your roots while you also keep up with the times and current events and being modern. I think that’s really the key - always be open to change, but never forget where you came from. If Koro believed the same, he’d be willing to open up to Kahu and teach her all the ways of the Maori tribe. He could teach the change (Kahu) the traditional way. If the modernists had remembered tradition and their ancestor, they wouldn’t have killed the whales. Therefore, tradition doesn’t mold modernity, but you simply must keep tradition in your heart while opening your eyes and mind to modernity.

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