PGTW: Brotherhood of death

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 3 July 2014, Thursday

Brotherhood of death

Add the name “Guillo Cesar Servando” to the already lengthy list of young men slain in brutal fraternity hazing rites.

Add another family to those grieving the heartbreaking and senseless loss of their sons.

Add another loss for the country to mourn, of someone who had a promising life ahead of him.

There is no quibble about the existence of Greek-letter societies. Their avowed objectives of brotherhood, service, and development of the individual are noble and laudable.

What should be looked into are the rituals and traditions of some groups that involve cruelty and harm and the abusive exercise of power by frat masters and members.

Despite all the reports through the decades of the risk of joining frats, why do such groups still attract applicants?

“Belongingess” has been described as a human need to be part of a group, whether a family, tribe, subculture, organization, barkada, or other type of conglomeration based on common interests, perceived or actual benefits, or other factors.

So essential is this need to belong that psychologist Susan T. Fiske says, if it is unfulfilled, people may fail to clearly identify themselves, leading to difficulty in relating to their surroundings and communicating with others.

Many people derive their sense of identity from belonging to a group. There are groups one automatically belongs to by birth, such as family or regional affiliation – “I’m from the Guzman family of Pampanga” – where choice is not part of the equation.

Thus for some the quest for a deeper development of selfhood may involve joining an exclusive group that might demand hurdling stiff entry requirements.

This is where hazing enters.

Rites and rituals serve to bond the members of a group through the sharing of common experiences that may involve the survival of hardship. Often these are tests of manhood or rites of passage that only the strong may successfully complete.

What this also shows, however, that in many fraternities, physical strength and endurance are the main criteria for selecting members, rather than intelligence or moral rectitude or other desirable trait.

Aside from fulfilling the need to belong, belonging to a fraternity confers status, prestige, and advantages in terms of connections and influence solicitation. Many such groups have been around for decades, and thus possess historical continuity on the solid foundation of time. Among their members are those who have distinguished themselves in their fields, and who, under the rules of their groups, are bound to assist as best they can the brothers who may approach them for help, whether for jobs, business deals, or other favors.

Not all fraternities have violent hazing rituals. A prominent lawyer told me that the group he belongs to does not physically hurt its neophytes – “there is no black-and-blue.” Their initiation rites do involve verbal humiliation, culminating with a token slap on each hand.

But if entry to some groups is obtained only at the risk of mauling, disability, or death, is it worth belonging to such an organization?

Servando had second thoughts about joining the fraternity and expressed his intention to withdraw his application, but this was denied by the frat master.

Instead, he was told, “Quit and be killed”, as another newspaper put it, or proceed with the initiation rites and live – rites that, as it turned out, he did not survive.

How many more will die before steps are taken to prevent hazing abuse? Is the community of fraternities insensitive? Is the law powerless? Is the government deaf?

Nothing good is served by the paddlings and torture that neophytes are forced to endure. It strips the applicant of his dignity and humanity, and reduces him to a mere sack of skin to be used as a punching bag at the whim of psychotic and sadistic frat masters.

There is no brotherhood in beatings. There is no companionship in cruelty. There is no honor in homicide.

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