27th Paris to Chartres Pilgrimage, 2009 - See more photos hereTo the untrained eye, the world of humanity is divided into two groups. Group (1) is comprised of those who look back with nostalgia and attempt to conserve what is salvageable. They generally do not trust human judgment, even their own. These are called reactionary by group (2). The other group, group (2), are those who spurn the past and look forward with great hope in the power of humans to change things for the better. They are ready to jettison tradition and believe that if they can get group (1) out of the way, the world will soon take a turn for the better. They are usually called hubris-filled by group (1).
Group (1) will often take great nostalgic pride in country, land, and other human institutions (monarchy, democracy, etc.). Group (2), if one scratches deeply enough, will often be seen taking part in to be what René Girard calls "negative imitation;" that is, what one might sum up in the converse of the saying, "The grass is always greener on the other side." In this case, group (2) thinks that whatever group (1) says, believes, thinks is wrong, bad, worthy of contempt and, therefore, must be stifled, suppressed, stymied and/or destroyed.
After a while, group (1) begins to imitate this belief of group (2), and the model/rival swirl of contempt becomes a hideous dance of death.
All of this is a shallow explanation of what René Girard correctly calls the problem of the doubles, or double bind. It is obvious when one isn't caught in such a doubling rivalry, but when one IS - and every single one of us is susceptible to it at one time or another - there is not any extreme one will not go to prove, logically, coherently, incontrovertibly, that one's side is "right" and the other group "wrong". The most powerful PhDs occupy both sides of this dance of death, and use their considerable powers of ratiocination in the service of their side.
You have pegged the usual suspects here, haven't you? Of course you have. Group (1)'s nostalgia for past greatness and group (2)'s hope for the future in human community are not bad in and of themselves. However, both are hopeless and doomed to failure without help from outside, beyond, mere human torpitude .
The good news? I say this not as an immortal being who is above such human funny business, but as one who found his way to an Alternative (or, more mysteriously, got found and was graciously hoisted toward the Alternative).
The Alternative is not made up of infallible individuals, but fallen persons like those comprising groups (1) and (2). There is "one, holy ... and apostolic" Body not of human origin that continues to stride through human funny business and history worthy of all of our allegiance and honor and praise.
It and It alone produced all that we love most about the past. And if we look to times before Its founding (ancient Greece, etc.), we can be certain that Its Founder was sowing seeds of truth, goodness, and beauty there too. Yes, I speak of the Catholic Church. If you love England, it is the noblest and most honorable of the "old religion" that made what you love possible (cf. Hilaire Belloc's works, as well as those, more recently, of Eamon Duffy). If you love the great holy days of the calendar, know that these, too, would not exist without the vibrant liturgy and sacramental grace of Mother Church's magisterium.
Everything else is downstream. There is abundant life beyond the futility of group (1) and group (2). Christ our Lord has made It possible. And everything that you love most that those two sad try and fail to deliver already IS in the Church that Our Lord has promised to sustain until He comes again.
"Put not your trust in princes..."