“Once we get curtains we’ll be able to conduct a ritual chapter meeting.”
Upon the renovation of my chapter’s facility, a version of that quote was used each week for more months to express the need for curtains in order for our chapter to conduct a proper meeting. We sat out of formation, we didn’t utilize our hand signals, we didn’t even say special words we were supposed to say.
I recall that during one meeting, and to poke at the paranoia surrounding our fraternal secrets, I once shouted “SPIES” and pointed out a window. The joke fell flat, but several looked around and two even ran to the door to look outside. Had we done it right, we would have seen anyone walking toward us, and the most they would have seen was a group of men arranged in a room having a meeting.
This begs the question: “Who really cares if our ritual became public?” I’ve sworn time and time again to keep the secrets of my fraternity, well, secret. I’m not sure what we, or any fraternity, has gained from that process. Our secrets are more often than not just a piece of poetry ripped off from the Bible, among other famous documents.
Throughout this campaign, Hillary Clinton has been attacked relentlessly for her use of a private email server to conduct State Department work. The Clinton campaign implies that it was not quite such a big deal, is being politicized by opponents and that, in the end, she’s still the best candidate (or the least flawed, depending on how one views the election).
Perhaps that is the case; perhaps she really has done nothing wrong.
One of the books on our reading list, Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson, focuses on reality tunnels we build based on what we know and believe. If you believe someone to be a thief, the things he or she does will make he or she appear to be up to thievery.
Narrators on our favorite news programs have categorized Hillary Clinton as out of touch, secretive and corrupt. Notoriously open, sensitive, and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson would say, “wreaking of pay-to-play.”
Democrats have worked overtime to discredit the release of thousands of campaign related emails from their national committee and John Podesta, Chairman of the Hillary 2016 Campaign. The U.S. Government has suggested that it is possible that Russia, the government, is interfering with the U.S. Election.
None of that shakes the fact that people still feel salty to Hillary Clinton.
They will ask: Why be so secretive if there is really nothing to hide? What do our favorite celebrities see in her that we don’t; why isn’t she relatable? Why not just make the emails public? Why ask an investigative firm to publicize evidence? (which never happens during an investigation).
Whether Hillary Clinton is guilty of mass murder or whether she has the cleanest record in history doesn’t matter. The focus on secrecy, on refraining from sharing the reality behind her decisions, will also institute a level of distrust. We’ve mentioned here and here that distrust and resentment cause serious trouble.
Given our equally testy, untrustworthy relationship with news media and the progressive population at large, why do fraternities and sororities play the same, secretive game?
Why are our rituals secret? What do we lose if others know what we believe and how our initiation ceremonies work?
Public literacy did nothing but amplify Christianity. Werner Stark notes that Protestants who moved to Massachusetts from Europe instituted the first public schooling system specifically due to the Protestant belief that each individual should read the scripture, independent of a pastor, to interpret how he or she best could live by it.
What exactly has Delta Upsilon, a fraternity that made its ritual public years ago, lost aside from some street cred? Would we attract fewer shady characters if we were openly about what we believe? Would we attract fewer risk management nightmares if we spoke freely?
What if we spoke openly with students about the cost of risk management? . . . the terms and conditions of lifelong membership? . . . the reason we need to make cut-throat decisions?. . . and that nothing we do to prevent alcohol abuse seems to be working?
Imagine the type of help and understanding we may receive. Instead, we keep everything about how we operate tightly to our chest like the Clinton campaign. It doesn’t matter if we are a net benefit; we are keeping that reality a secret for fear of public gossip about societal issues that our imperfect, human members deal with.
The secrecy around Hillary Clinton’s health concerns has been another needless smudge on her campaigning credibility. The public can see our collapse, they can see the trouble we face, and yet we refuse to address them as issues worthy of attention. Nothing can stop us from achieving our goals of. . . more community service and good grades or something.
No matter the intent behind alcohol education, the amount we invest has so far provided very little reward, compared to volunteer networks of Alcoholics Anonymous. As a result, we manage the fact that we remain organizations which attract alcoholics and appear shocked when news media picks it up.
Honesty should be our friend, but we must trust that being honest will win us the reward. What is the reward in this case?
Maybe the public would better understand what we are struggling with and how effortfully we are trying to fix it. Maybe our students would understand better what we are asking of them, why we ask it, and how we can do it better. Maybe more alumni would come more readily to our causes, seeing that we are not hiding behind the sparkle and glam of a ritual too honest and true to realistically live up to.
Maybe we’d be held accountable to our ritual, just like Hillary is held to her oath(s) of office and the Pope is held to the standard of the Bible. It seems like we are a few publications away from a reformation of sorts, better we lead that reformation than be caught by surprise.
That’s a lot of pressure, but we are leaders, right? We should accept the pressure head-on. This is the information era, and better we out our secrets than Wikileaks.