by Zadie Smith
White Teeth Tradition Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"Well, take Alsana's sisters—all their children are nothing but trouble. They won't go to mosque, they don't pray, they speak strangely, they dress strangely, they eat all kinds of rubbish, they have intercourse with God knows who. No respect for tradition. People call it assimilation when it is nothing but corruption. Corruption!" (8.86)
Is Samad missing the point with his focus on tradition here? Is tradition really as unchanging and timeless as he imagines?
To Samad, as to the people of Thailand, tradition was culture, and culture led to roots, and these were good, these were untainted principles. That didn't mean he could live by them, abide by them, or grow in the manner they demanded, but roots were roots and roots were good. (8.122)
Samad can't even live up to his own expectations when it comes to tradition. He wants his children to become better upholders of tradition than he is, but they are out looking for their own lives.
If religion is the opiate of the people, tradition is an even more sinister analgesic, simply because it rarely appears sinister. If religion is a tight band, a throbbing vein, and a needle, tradition is a far homelier concoction: poppy seeds ground into tea; a sweet cocoa drink laced with cocaine; the kind of thing your grandmother might have made. (8.122)
That is about the darkest description of tradition we've encountered, and, in White Teeth, tradition often manages to live up to this reputation.