COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
I did not join a fraternity/sorority group but my three brothers did. And even if they despise each other as blood brothers, still they would defend each other as fraternity brods. Strange it may seem but true. The bond that links fraternity brothers is greater than that of blood. Sometimes.
My explanation for this phenomenon is that young men and women join fraternities at a time when they are trying to be independent and starting to define their own identities. If they are of the oppressed and rebellious type, they would join a group that would delineate them from authority figures. In our young people’s search for identity, they are either pulled to identifying with those they come from or go against with those they come from.
School organizations for that matter feed the need for power to be your own individual and the need to belong, and provide the privileges that go with having the connections. In big universities, you’re a non-entity if you’re not a member of an organization; and unless you’re exceptionally bright, popular, or talented, joining an organization becomes a matter of survival.
From the outside, the attraction in joining a group is to be on a level with any or those you look up to, and to be considered an equal. Aside from channeling your interests and talents, the pull in joining a group is more of getting acceptance from within and recognition from the bigger community.
This sense of fellowship and brotherhood within, especially among fraternities dates back to the early secret societies like Freemasonry and Rosicrucian. This kind of associations are based on the universality of man giving one a sense of universal brotherhood, transcending the bond created by blood, race, or religion. The brotherhood formed creates collective power, and in return gives each member a sense of power as an individual.
School fraternities however include hazing in their initiation rites as a matter of tradition. The older ones who went through rigid forms of initiation would consider later generations to be half-baked if they are spared of the rod. So the cycle of violence continues. Besides, going through the same rituals is an equalizer for all. You cease to be the son of a general or a governor or a peasant once you go through the rites.
Unfortunately for Cris Anthony Mendez of Sigma Rho at UP Diliman, he did not survive the initiation. Maybe he did not know what to expect and he ignored his physical state enough to subject himself to the tests. This is a case of the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
On the part of the initiating members, testing an applicant’s physical endurance up to his last breath is unjustifiable. It is grossly an irresponsible act not to know when to say: “Sorry, you did not pass.” It shows a lack of discipline on their part. There could be a great deal of anger and hatred let loose during the process.
Which reminds me of a statement made by a military officer many years ago over that hazing incident here on PNP recruits that claimed lives: “We expect five percent casualties.” Maybe yes, but not send them off to the morgue. When you undergo an initiation or training, you’re not going to war or launching a suicide attack. You still expect to come out of it alive – pass or fail.
Brotherhood is not only formed by shared experiences of physical and psychological tests. Loyalty cannot even be based on physical endurance but more on character and moral fortitude. It is not in calling “brod” after being beaten by a brod. It is more of not squealing on a brod when you’re being beaten by an enemy. And it is living day to day a shared ideal higher than your selves and struggling for continuity and progress.