Culture evolution: Rite of passage

Active travel means evolving our culture. You need to address cultural icons, of which the strongest are a “rite of passage”. Traditionally, in Australia, getting your driver’s licence has been – and still is – one of those well celebrated and cheered rites.

“A rite of passage is a ceremony or ritual of the passage which occurs when an individual leaves one group to enter another. It involves a significant change of status in society” Wikipedia

If you want to understand how to change rites, then the answer is to substitute one for another, and not to try to abolish them. You need to replace them with another status symbol of equal or more value.

Rites are taken as rights. That is the problem.

Let’s look back in history for answers and examples of this. With the Christianisation of Rome came the abolition of pagan holidays. Rome tried suppressing the pagan festival days but could not stop them from being celebrated. You cannot stop a party. For every pagan holiday, they invented a Christian one and celebrated it on the same day instead. The tactic employed here is a substitution. They changed the livery but not the habit.

To have an idea of how tenacious cultural traditions can be and to see how cultural traditions, changed by the Romans, still dominate until this day: Christmas traditions, wedding traditions, and Augustus’s morality laws. If you have the time or keen interest, listen to The History of Rome.

I recommend listening to…

  • Episode 18 A History of Rome Christmas – where our Christmas traditions
  • Episode 69 A History of Rome Wedding – where our wedding traditions come from
  • Episode 53 Reigning Supreme – Augustus’s morality laws, starting at 16 min



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