Oct 4, 2010

[Philippines] The Stupidity of Fraternities

Flickr: Thomas van Ardenne - Fraternities AEGEE-Enschede
Fraternities AEGEE-Enschede
by Thomas van Ardenne via Flickr.

With all the hullabaloo this week about the Reproductive Health Bill, the CBCP and all that fun stuff, the media's attention as moved away from a major news item. Just over a week ago on the last day of the bar exams, an explosion broke the peace at DLSU, injuring more than 40 people, mostly students.

But this was no terrorist attack - this was merely the latest in a long history of fraternity-related violence in the country. It's a sordid tale that includes deaths due to hazing, rumbles and more extreme cases like Sunday's explosion. It doesn't matter whether it was actually a grenade or some other form on improvised explosive device (IED). What matters in the end is that it was senseless in origins, pointless in principle and in the end achieves nothing of consequence.

So we do we continue to suffer fraternities in this country? Why do we allow the current system to continue when all we get are meaningless deaths over and over again?

Fraternities are defined to be fraternal social organizations for undergraduate students, in a Western sense. The supposed bonds of brotherhood (or sisterhood) are there to act as a support structure while students are finding themselves in school and to even provide benefits such as lodging in the form of chapter houses.

Locally, fraternities seem to exist all throughout one's college life and play an even larger role in post graduate studies such as law school. They continue to represent a bond of solidarity and brotherhood for its members, although local history is littered with stories and accounts of near fatal hazing, inter-fraternity wars and other incidents of violence. Why is this so, I ask in all honesty. Why have we found the need to redefine the fraternity organization to include such a legacy of violence against their own members and against other groups? Why does it seem like the Western gang mentality merged with the concept of a fraternity into the strange, horrible monstrosity that that we have today?

When I ask around as to why people even join fraternities anymore despite the stories, the basic answer tends to involve statements about support, study groups, having a place to hang out and ultimately networking. Most people always bring up the networking reason - stressing that if you want to get anywhere in your chosen career, then you need to get into a fraternity.

Flickr: cwtreloar - Beta Theta Pi Pyramid 2010
Beta Theta Pi Pyramid 2010
by Chad Treloar / cwtreloar via Flickr.

In the most recent case of fraternity-related violence, one can't help but wonder how the people involved could have any potential to become the future lawyers and judges of this country. Seriously - why would we want anyone with the addled kind of thinking that makes them believe that it's a good idea to use an explosive device in a crowd of innocent bystanders? What possible justification could they have for this kind of aggression? It's not like these fraternities are dealing with issues that will affect the course of world events, right? At best the only possible reasons for their conflict would be some petty squabble or some pissing contest with another fraternity at best.

And are we really talking about networking being a real benefit in a profession like law? Aren't we supposed to have a justice system that is impartial and is based on facts and the true meaning of the laws themselves? So where does personally knowing a person and helping them go up the legal ladder (or whatever you want to call it?) fit with that kind of image of neutrality and impartiality?

I'm sure there are very good reasons for the fraternity system to continue on in this country. However, I feel there are definite areas for improvement. Or more realistically, the whole system needs a major overall. The leaders of these groups need to call their members together and seriously discuss about the future direction of their practices and philosophies. If they want to continue to embrace this culture of violence, the fine. However if they are willing to see the problems that keep popping up time and time again, then they need to also be ready to make the changes needed to better things for everyone.

I feel this strongly about it since in the end, it's young lives that are wasted in fraternity-related violence. This latest incident really struck close to home since a personal friend was affected by the blast and has gone through multiple surgeries since then. While she was one of the luckier ones who didn't have to lose any limbs, many others were not so fortunate.
We need to stop the insanity of these groups. Someone needs to take a firm stand, and that has to come from the leadership of these fraternities themselves.

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