Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fraternity

I belong to only one fraternity. The Terroan frat. We have only one initiation and that is being brought onto planet Earth. All Terroans share a single origin for their DNA. The sentient Terroans as far as we know are members of the Homo sapiens taxon. This species believes that some in their society are different from other members of their species. And to support their belief they hesitate not to kill, maim or hurt.

Thus I have never believed in the wisdom of exclusive associations college fraternities included. Whilst I was at Louisiana State University, I learned that fraternities and sororities are called Greek societies and members are called Greeks. The bus that passes the street where the frat houses are is called the Greek Bus. While they carry on with some of the best of university traditions, only a minority of students apply for membership. Membership may carry certain privileges such as being able to live in the frat house. I learned that in a few decades back frat members can stay for free. Now they have to pay a fee. So living in a frat house may not be as different from living in a dorm.

However the Greeks carry on with their service orientation and membership still involves an initiation. Greeks raise funds for muscular dystrophy patients, people living with HIV, child protection, education etc. Greeks by doing these services share their uniqueness and identity with the rest of the community since they actually do the work and not just get sponsors for fund raisers. I have never seen a "rumble" in the university. Greeks tolerate other Greeks. On free speech alley, Greeks recruit members in a jazzy Louisiana brand of marketing but this is completely outdone by the US Army which needs more warm bodies for Iraq! Greeks don't make offensive speeches here. Religious fundamentalists do.

Contrast this in Philippine universities. If I am not wrong the first Greek societies were organized in the University of the Philippines. Again an American import was grafted into class conscious and inequitable Philippine society. As our elites will do anything to maintain their status, privileges and power, I am not surprised that these organizations will use violence to initiate, maintain membership and even after graduation they would accept that this is part of fraternity life and enjoy the privileges of the old boy network. If this is a meme, then it is an extremely adaptive one and is transmitted.

Thus the service idea of the American Greek society is barely to be found except in the social events of the elite. Now for the poor student, joining the Pinoy version of a Greek society is one way of joining the elite. This kind elite culture seems to thrive in a culture of violence. The violent culture cuts through social classes and you have Greek societies in the universities of the lower and working classes. The same tragic stories of hazing deaths happen there too in an almost yearly basis. None makes the broadsheets save for a few lines in a sleazy tabloid. It is in the intellectually, powerful and wealthy universities that educate the ruling elite of the country like the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila, De La Salle and Santo Tomas that a hazing death makes the front pages and attracts a congressional investigation.

Society would say "sayang" or what a waste of a life since these young students would have lived a life of privilege. Than we forget the indignation when the next school year opens. Now that there is indignation some politicians and university officials would like to outlaw fraternities. I think that violates the freedom of association guaranteed by the Constitution.

Now that we have a law against hazing the only thing needed is to prosecute organizers of initiation activities and mete them the most serious penalties given by the law. If they aim for a career in law, make sure that they will never be called to the Bar.

But the culture of elitism, exclusivity and elite privileges should be shattered if this thrives on violence and intolerance. Sadly all aspects of Philippine society suffers from this hideous sin. Even in the Catholic Church the Gawad Kalinga and Couples for Christ split is a reflection of intolerance and exclusivity with one party having a literal interpretation of church teaching and the other having a more inclusive interpretation.

If only our elite have more compassion for the poor then we will have a good fraternity and I won't hesitate to be initiated.

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