Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Those murderous frats

Posted on August 05, 2012 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated August 05, 2012 12:00 AM

Another one bites the dust.

Drei Marcos, a young man who wanted be a lawyer was murdered last week by the fraternity he wanted to join. Killing, maiming and injury done by fraternities to those who wish to join them have been going on since as far back I can remember. This is not new. But even if it has become a rather common occurrence, each time it happens, we are deeply upset, dumbfounded, angered, asking why something as senseless as this had to happen.

I have been trying to understand and analyze two things: one, why fraternities are attractive to young people, and two, why violence has to be involved in the recruitment process.

Picture a young man who enters a big university. From the high school he has just graduated from, college can seem like the big new world he has dreamed of for sometime. This is where he will take the course that will set him up on a successful career for life.

He ensures his chances for success by seeing to it that there are enough things going in his favor. He needs to take the best classes under the best professors, join the best orgs, and of course, be aligned with the best fraternities which have in their roster powerful power players in society and already successful practitioners in the field he wishes to enter. After all, the frats do foster and develop a culture of camaraderie and brotherhood where members vow to help and protect their brods and help them rise in society.

To be among these elite and be bonded with them by virtue of simply belonging to the same fraternity is something that is desirable and good. Besides, a big group that can help make college life so much easier will really help, especially if you are from the province and studying in Manila for the first time. They know the ins and outs of campus life, and are well-connected in helping you have a social life. What could be wrong with that?

But to join a frat, there is the initiation, which often involves physical violence inflicted by more senior members on the neophyte. The elders pull rank and demand complete obedience from the aspiring member. No doubt, this situation opens everyone to the dynamic of abuse. The higher ups exercise their power over the aspirants, and the common and accepted way to do this is to humble the newbies by inflicting some physical violence.

It is not difficult to see that there is participation mystique or a trance at play here. One guy takes a whack at a neophyte with a paddle and everyone else takes their shot at doing the same thing. There is something primal here and as primal urges go, people often lose all sense of civilized behavior and rational perspective as they get into a frenzy of violence.

One guy hits harder than usual. There is probably some prompting going on to hit harder. There is camaraderie among those inflicting the violence. “What could be wrong? Hey, we all went through it,” must be the common justification playing in their minds, or the little that’s left of it.

Rationality and compassion fly out the window. No one is thinking of the feelings and physical condition of the young man undergoing the hazing. It’s all happening in the spirit of brotherhood.

No one is thinking about the incongruity and utter madness of the situation — that they are bloodying someone in the name of brotherhood and bonding. And never mind that the fraternity members are law students and their meritorious seniors are topnotch lawyers and politicians with prestigious standing in society. And certainly, no one in the room would dare ask how all this violence and maiming will make anyone a better lawyer or leader who will respect the laws that govern the nation.

What is happening there is a shame and a shaming. Each one who takes a whack at the victim was also whacked when he joined. He was humiliated, scorned, cursed, made to do unconscionable things. And now he is passing it on to this neophyte. And when it is all over, they are “brothers,” bonded in shame. Like in Vegas, what happens during initiation stays there. A vow of silence guarantees that.

The practice is so entrenched; it has been going on for years. Many frat men have survived it, but a growing number have met violent deaths at the hands of their so-called “brothers.”

Every time I hear news about a senseless death through frat initiation, I think not only of what the victim went through but also what their parents will be going though for the rest of their lives. How is it that a life one brought into the world, nurtured, fed, educated, cared for, protected and loved for years is snuffed out in so senseless a manner? How can a son be alive and full of idealism and promise one day and be dead the next? What did he do to deserve this? All he wanted was to be a lawyer or whatever it is his ambition was.

And how do the killers, who were born of so-called good families and studied in prestigious schools, live with what they have done for the rest of their lives? How do they justify what happened? How can they live with the awful truth not just as lawyers who vowed to uphold the law and deliver justice but as simple human beings? Will they not get married and have children of their own someday? Would they want this to happen to them?

The stonewalling of the truth in many of these cases goes all the way up to the high echelons of power where many of their brods reside, and who often look out for their beloved fraternal members and protect them from punishment.

Earlier, I tweeted in disgust the question, “What is the difference between murderous fraternities and the Mafia?” I answered my own question with, “Sometimes, the Mafia gets caught.”

The authorities must get to the bottom of this murder and deliver justice. And universities and colleges must clamp down hard on these practices. We must get rid of this culture of shaming and bullying that bonds people in a dynamic no different from the Mafia, gangs and other violent organizations.

You want real bonding? Go build GK houses, do social work, plant a million trees, or test your strength by climbing a mountain where you expend physical power on something socially constructive and physically satisfying. That’s real character building that will certainly improve the practice of law and politics in this country.

* * *

At last, there will be a run of Tapping the Creative Universe, the six-session version. This is the most-cutting edge creativity workshop for adults. Dates are Aug. 13, 15, 17, 20, 22 at 7 to 9 p.m. Venue is at Arts in the City, FVR Park, 7th Ave and Federacion Drive, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Call 399-2311, 880-3028 or e-mail info@artsinthecity.ph for details. http://www.artsinthecity.ph/news-and-events/featured-news/tapping-the-creative-universe.

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