Fraternity and Sorority

There is a deep staple of conspiracy theories: the Secret Society. These groups of close-knit men (rarely are women included) have some common aim which is usually detrimental to society (and, in fiction, is certainly detrimental to the hero). Members come from all walks of life yet are united in a way that seems rather esoteric to modern man. And today there is only a single requirement to be such a Secret Society: limited membership. If you deny access to everyone (or at least to everyone of a given gender) then you are Secret.

This prevalent view is interrupted only by fraternities and sororities, and even then many of them bear the image of Secret Societies (at least they did; one is hard pressed to imagine a Greek house where much beyond drinking occurs. Though hopefully this is no more real than the Secret Society image). What is lost in this is the ancient idea of fraternity and sorority; that is, brotherhood and sisterhood which are, by nature, exclusive.

To present an example everyone can relate to, friendships are intrinsically fraternal (I will be using the masculine form for convenience; friendships of course can be men, women, or a mix of the two). No close group of friends is willing to admit any individual to their fellowship. When healthy they are always excited to add new friends but for one to be a friend they must meet certain criteria (one group of friends could be founded on watching episodes of the “A-team,” while another may pursue a reading of the Icelandic Sagas). One who fails to pity the fool or snores through Snorri would not be admitted.

But even should one love it when a plan comes together or lament that Balder the Beautiful is dead they may not be welcomed and rightly so. Perhaps he slows the conversation down (or conversely pushes it too fast for the group) or has an inimical relationship with one of the members. He could wish to turn the focus of the group to something that interests him or desires simply to dominate all the fellowship. It could even be that he simply does not belong; it is undoubtable that most people have experienced an attempted friendship which simply didn’t work for no explainable reason.

Friendships are intrinsically exclusive fellowship, so too are fraternal organizations. They hold themselves together by a common bond which, by nature, is not shared by all people. For example, for the Knights of Columbus this bond is an active Catholicism with an emphasis on Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism. If they admitted, for example, non-Catholics the fabric of the organization would come apart.

But today there is a fairly common opposition to fraternal organizations, particularly the more narrow they are. Society says it is unfair (which is, today, the greatest evil) to exclude anyone for any reason (for example, a university recently required student religious organizations to allow people of a different religion to hold leadership positions in their organization). It is considered quite rude to tell someone they cannot be a member of this or that group of friends no matter how little they would belong.

Friendship is a deep and powerful urge in man. But to truly form friendships it must include the exclusion of others. A good fraternal organization (in the classical sense of good) will likewise demand an exclusivity that is rather uncomfortable today. Yet these divisions are fundamental to the truly excellent working of society; without the free little pieces the great engine will soon either fail or become a monster. These newly opened questions will be the subject of several more posts in the future.

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