In college when I was approached and invited by a classmate to join their fraternity. It turned out that he was the “big guy,” the grand chancellor of their fraternity’s chapter, a well-known fraternity for hazing and gang-fights at the time. I responded with a smirk and asked him why I should go through hazing again, been there, done that. He of course downplayed the hazing part.
“Ako ang bahala sa iyo…”, (yeah, right) as those hazing years flashed through my mind.
I was about 14 years old, third year high school in an exclusive boys school, when the high school principal went to our classroom and gave a talk on leadership. He was endorsing the high school’s Midshipman Cadet Officer Candidate Corps (MOCC) as THE venue for the school’s leadership training program. I even remember what he said, “Leaders are born, yes; but they must be molded, they are also made.”
That got me, I signed up.
Leadership training was my reason for signing up. Others would have their own, such as those who came from the province and needed some financial, emotional, and logistical support, similar to the “kapatiran” of fraternities and sororities. Others needed to belong to survive as part of a tradition of becoming men, such as the ‘mistah system” of the PMA. But whatever the reason for joining the program, we all ended up needing to belong in the group to survive.
We suffered group punishments for individual failures. We endured the pain of broken skin and our blood mixed together and united with every swing of a wooden paddle. We suffered the shaming of “elders” who vowed to be our protectors and mentors. We swore to secrecy lest we suffer the stigma of being a “snitch”.
So when my daughters stepped into high school (yup, as early as high school), I had a “talk” with them about joining ANY organized group such as sororities. I’m not sure they understood what I was talking about at the time, but they agreed and they complied. Choosing a school that is not notorious for having student behavioral problems also helped, I suppose.
But it seems that the school offers more extra curricular activities nowadays than they did during my time. This could be suspect to fraternity or sorority activities. Any responsible parent must exercise vigilance and, at the same time, restraint at this point. This tension between vigilance and restraint MUST operate within the boundaries of sensitivity. The last thing any parent would want to do is to negatively affect the self-esteem of their children by unnecessary intrusions. Any parent would be proud to have brought up self-confident children.
College was the same thing. They received the same spiel, but this time with extra emphasis on the NO. But actions speak louder than words; good thing our children are sensitive to what they see (you think they’re not watching?).
More than the high school phase, we became more sensitive to their feelings. We were careful not to criticize their friends and activities so as not to alienate them. We kept an open mind about their world (very different from ours) and the values they pick up from it. But because we do not criticize them, they are more open to accepting the almost rare criticisms we bring up with them. We are careful not to criticize the person. We criticized behaviors, situations, even the environment they find themselves in, but never the person.
There was constant reminder of WHY they are in school—to study—and to finish the course. Therefore, any activity that would hinder them from accomplishing these goals are never to be perceived as options. After all, we remind them, we are only talking of 4 to 5 years of their lives, a necessary effort for a healthy future.
We taught them how to decline an invitation. Smile and gently say no. If they persist, be firm. But always say it with courtesy.
Fortunately for my children, the schools they got themselves into encouraged school organization participation. They were asked to select an org during orientation. Orgs made presentations about what they are and what they stand for, the activities to be expected by incoming members, and the like. Students then make choices based on career path or interest.
Besides the need to guide to make the right choices in selecting which paths or interest to pursue, as in life in general, there is a deeper issue that families, even society, should look into: why our youth continue to patronize fraternities despite the risks to life and limb. Perhaps one reason is that when families break apart, where do our children go for recourse?
To undergo hazing as a group offers an illusion of unity to our children, the illusion of family, as together they submit themselves to pain and shaming. If they continue to stay together, maybe they’ll survive the ordeal together, sticking things out till the end. Sticking things out together also offers an illusion of security. Indeed, a paradox and symptomic of self-abuse.
We don’t want our children to risk life and limb. We don’t want our children to seek recourse some place else from where family is: at home. For when a child is secure within himself and knows his dreams and aspirations will be supported by his family and the community he is part of, he will no longer see the need to validate his being through acceptance by violence.
Young people are prone to be vulnerable, yes. But when a child is taught how to value his life and live with peace and compassion, when he is taught that life is all about taking risks AND foreseeing and accepting its consequences (especially when he engages in stupid and violent things), and when he is made to realize that hazing is nothing more than bullying, then he would have been empowered to say the word NO.
How about you? Tell me what you think.
Roderick Marfil, RGC, is a family therapist. He is available on Thursdays by appointment only at the Ilaw Center, Miriam College in Quezon City. For inquiries: (0939) 211-0403; (+632) 520-5400 loc. 1134