Friday, November 30, 2012

The Purpose of Violent Fraternity Wars and Initiations

Lifted word for word from Social Psychology by David G. Myers, 2010, which is the required textbook in U.P. Diliman.

The near consensus among social psychologists is that – contrary to what Freud, Lorenz, and their followers supposed – viewing or participating in violence fails to produce catharsis (Geen & Quanty, 1977). Actually, notes researcher Brad Bushman (2002), “Venting to reduce anger is like using gasoline to put out a fire.” For example, Robert Arms and his associates report that Canadian and American spectators of football, wrestling, and hockey games exhibit more hostility after viewing the event than before (Arms & others, 1979; Goldman & Arms, 1971; Russell, 1983). Not even war seems to purge aggressive feelings. After a war, a nation’s murder rate has tended to jump (Archer & Gartner, 1976).

In laboratory tests of catharsis, Brad Bushman (2002) invited angered participants to hit a punching bag while either rumination about the person who angered them or thinking about becoming physically fit. A third group did not hit the punching bag. When given the a chance to administer loud blasts of noise to a person who angered them, people in the punching bag plus rumination condition felt angrier and were more aggressive. Moreover, doing nothing at all more effectively reduced aggression than did “blowing off steam” by hitting the bag.

In some real-life experiments, too, aggressing has led to heightened aggression. Ebbe Ebbessen and his co-researchers (1975) interviewed 100 engineers and technicians shortly after they were angered by layoff notices. Some were asked the questions that gave them an opportunity to express hostility against their employer or supervisors – for example, “What instances can you think of where the company has not been fair with you?” Afterward they answered a questionnaire assessing attitudes toward the company and the supervisors. Did the previous opportunity to “vent” and “drain off” their hostility reduce it? To the contrary, their hostility increased. Expressing hostility bred more hostility.

Retaliation may, in the short run, reduce tension and even provide pleasure (Ramirez & others, 2005). But in the long run it fuels more negative feelings. When people who have been provoked hit a punching bag, even when they believe it will be cathartic, the effect is the opposite – leading them to exhibit more cruelty, report Bushman and his colleagues (1999, 2000, 2001). It’s like the old joke,” reflected Bushman (1999). “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. How do you become a very angry person? The answer is the same. Practice, practice, practice.”

For the last few days I have been turning this problem over and over again in my head. I’ve also spoken to frat men friends and my personal council of elders, or the people around me who I look up to as mentors, tossing ideas related to this around.

The question in my mind is, “What can one do to attempt to take down this violent beast?” This process led me to the thought of perhaps taking the fight off the streets into an organized venue, where combatants can engage using the rules of some sport with clear boundaries. The thought was that by elevating the fight to the ring you are guaranteeing that while fights will still occur, deaths will not. Here, pugilists can fight against each other with a referee in charge - weaponless and bound by internationally accepted rules. From there though I started to do research to see if this idea was backed up by science, and in the process I found the textbook I used in the Social Psychology class which was required reading for me last semester.

A few sentences into my reading these lines jumped out at me, giving me the answer to the complex questions which have left me sleepless for the last two days:

Expressing hostility breeds more hostility. Retaliation may, in the short run,  reduce tension and even provide pleasure. But in the long run it fuels more negative feelings. Venting to reduce anger is like using gasoline to put out a fire.

As I read these I knew in my inner cathedral that the divine was telling me that no amount of organized and supposedly “fair” competition between two groups that hate each other, will make that hate dissipate. In fact, that would only make things worse. I think that thought in itself was a trick, a deception, telling me to encourage the “lesser evil” when in fact there is no such thing, as evil is evil, no matter what docile costume it has on. Martial artists in the UFC and boxers in matches worldwide normally smile, hug and sometimes even kiss their opponents right after the final bell has been sounded. I do not see this love for the sport, and the honing of one’s fighting prowess in a disciplined manner in the frat wars of today. Thus, in my opinion, sanctioned fighting between frats will still not result in any kind of peace.

As the textbook clearly points out, the frat war and arguably even the initiation, seems to fulfill a need though - a need that most human beings would like to believe doesn’t even exist in us. This is the sick pleasure that comes from hurting another human being. This is also what the Marquis de Sade has become an expert in, finding the pain inflicted on another pleasurable.

Now can we - civilized, educated, elite and powerful men accept that the true reason we paddle and punch and hit our neighbors (regardless of whether they are brods or rivals) is not for tradition or honor but actually for blood. I would imagine that this thought would be repulsing to a frat man or a military guy who would swear on a stack of bibles and say, “No, that certainly is not me. I am an Atenista or an Isko ng Bayan or a Lasalista, or a PMAer. Mayaman ako, hindi ako taga-Bilibid gang lang. Ako ay may pinag-aralan. I would never hurt another human, especially a future brod, unless I am absolutely certain there is some much higher purpose being served, like honor and tradition and developing a common bond. And I am positive beyond a shadow of a doubt this blood brotherhood can only be developed in this specific way. There is no other way to get people to connect with each other as brods except through repeating the process that has been passed down to us through many generations.” And in response I would say, “You know what bro, think about it really, really, really hard. And don’t ask your brods because they will surely be able to give you some logical rationalization to justify your collective actions. Think about it when you are alone at home before you sleep. And before you think about it pray earnestly for guidance, asking the good spirit to allow you to hear the slightest whisper of your soul. Now ask yourselves quietly, “When I paddled that guy, or spat insults in his face, or pounced on that rival frat man, or kicked that neophyte or plebe, masarap ba ang pakiramdam ko? When I hurt another human being did I feel that evil demon inside me growing and snickering, or is this really all about justice, honor and tradition? Did I derive some secret, primal pleasure from this experience? Kaya ko ba hinanahap-hanap ang ganito, kaya ko ba siya binabalik-balikan?”

The more you hurt another, you will get to the point that you will eventually hate them, and then maybe transfer that hate to either that person or some other target. If you hit and hit and hit someone you get more and more enraged till the beast inside all of us is released. Logically, you also get the same effect with any positive emotion such as empathy, forgiveness, kindness and love. The more you love people around you, the more this emotion grows and grows, till cheesy as it sounds, all you see is love. That is why couples who adopt can shower their kids with a lifetime of unconditional love even if they aren't the biological parents.

Hazing, violence, frat wars and the like are obviously complex problems which need deep thought and answers that go beyond the simplistic. These issues are as complicated as overpopulation, corruption, the wide gap between the rich and the poor, and other similar social ills. Some people see these huge problems of the world and think that since they are as big as Everest, we should just leave them be. I totally disagree. If they are in your sight everyday, looming over you like a giant mountain, attempting to climb this becomes not only a quest, but a responsibility. This is all our problem - frat men, military men and normal citizens alike.

 Every single problem, regardless of its size, has a solution. I am convinced of that. Otherwise, why were we even given hearts and brains? But the solution needs to be well thought out, and I certainly cannot do it alone. And this isn’t a frat man versus non frat man war either. Many of the most wonderful, decent human beings I know belong to these organizations. My best man at my wedding was the head of his very illustrious frat, one the oldest in Asia I am told. These men are not bad people and so many of these brods, especially the older ones that have outgrown the primitive cycle of demanding tit for tat, want the violence to end too but are also stumped as to how.

I think that before effective solutions can be reached the right questions first have to be asked. So what are these questions anyway?


  1. You mentioned in your earlier post that you spend half the day Saturdays at the National Bilibid Prison visiting jailed fratmen. How many of their fellow fratmen visit them? Can those who trashed your store be required to visit their jailed counterparts in the manner of community service in lieu of jail time for causing a public scandal?

    I fully support your stand not to create a new cycle of cyber violence against these frat men. We do not need to feed the wolf of violence within us but I think they should do more than pay P10,000. If the objective is testing oneself, can we create a different test that promotes inner and outer peace?

    I work with an NGO that helps children in a slum. A big issue for these children is violence in their school, home and streets. I would love to see frats requiring their neophytes to live with the families of such children to help them navigate the violence that is part of their lives or to do something about it. Have these fratmen also visited any city jail as an individual - not as part of a group - on a regular and continuing basis?

    I propose that these type of experiences would test their mettle more than being paddled or asked to do something else as foolish.

  2. Yes the P10,000 I am asking for is actually just for the physical damage to the store. I actually have asked the frat who did the damage to come with me to jail and they have agreed. In fact, it seemed like they were very open to this. I think this is perfect because many of the inmates need paralegals (who are normally lawyers-in-training) to help them with their paperwork, otherwise it never gets through the red tape.

    Thanks for understanding my stance against cyber violence. I have heard for example that Chris Lau, the "I wasn't informed" guy is a wonderful human being, and it made me sad that everyone pounced on him the way they did. From behind our computer screens, where the mob is faceless, it is so easy for people to let out their fangs.

    I have actually spoken with my frat friends in Muntinlupa last Saturday and we are trying to organize exactly what you are talking about - a venue for neophytes and free frat men (regardless of their affiliation) to interact with jailed frat men. I think this would be helpful for both sides. Like yourself I am trying to do my share in the world in whatever little way I can. I think that this event at Whistlestop was a real wake up call for me that I have to do more. And that more I am talking about doesn't involve trying to get even by dragging these young guys to court. I am unsure if the frat community will step up to the plate for this kind of community service in the same manner they seem to do when they are in a fight with a rival group to defend their collective "honor". I am really hoping for this though, that they see that futility in their current direction of feeding this monster of violence. Hopefully they'll realize that the more they feed this blob the bigger it gets and every paddle, every punch, every slap, adds to the gravity of the problem.

    If we can make something happen at National Bilibid Prison then maybe we can really turn this situation in a transformative one for frat men and their neophytes. Many thanks again Olie! Merry Christmas to you and good luck with your NGO work! Let's keep contributing however we are called to and surely it will help.

  3. I only found out about the violence in your restaurant recently, and am a student of the college and law school. I am not affiliated but am friends with people who are not. I think I have made my disdain for these affiliations very clear -- they teach exclusion and nepotism, basically. They exclude those who are not members. They beat up those who do not belong, and beat up neophytes to make them feel like they belong because of this "shared experience" (as if the brutal torture of law school wasn't experience enough), and these neophytes take it because they need to belong. That is truly beyond me. This behavior has no place in any law school. How can one study the law, then take the oath to defend it, when on the way to get there, they broke it? Hypocrisy abounds in law schools, and as a student it is incredibly disillusioning.

    Anyway, I read this and your other post about it, as well as the comments, and I do agree with most that you need to release the videos. I personally don't understand why you shouldn't despite what I have read. It seems to me you have little faith in our laws, which I understand. But I think this is bigger than our laws. You're Atenean right? Didn't Immanuel Kant say that we should "act only on that maxim which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." I feel like it is a great injustice to universal, or perhaps better termed, moral law, if you do not act on this. Imagine if each and every person does not report a crime. Even if legal channels are imperfect it is there, and it serves its purpose. If we don't have faith in it, then we will regress back to the Dark Ages where blood will be paid for in blood, an unending doom.

    That already is the curse that follows these fraternities. Will your filing a case start a revolution? I doubt it. But not acting on it will do nothing either. Why not take the chance? Legal systems (except those in Scandinavia) do focus more on punishment than rehabilitation, and you said that no one system is perfect enough to make the change. Then why not go through all systems? Challenge them in court, they are lawyers, they know the consequences of their actions and they are ready for the commeupence. Hold them directly responsible. That's one. The other would be your open letter, your own actions that perhaps would start grassroots, along with the alumni who you say are "stumped" as to how to stop frat violence. With all do respect, are they stupid? If they want to stop the violence, stop it WITHIN YOUR OWN CIRCLES. Stop hazing! Tell the current members to stop paddling! I am very certain there are better, less violent ways to "uphold tradition", "teach discipline", and to have a "shared experience" and "create loyalty" to the group. Bottom line is, I don't get why you are choosing one channel of weakly attempted change over the other. If one is weak on its own then go all the way. I hope your not filing charges is not influenced by the advice of your affiliated friends trying to protect their brods.

    I don't think you should upload the video in social networks. Outrage is trending amongst our countrymen when they really don't have any idea. BUT I think you should file charges, or allow the victim to. That is your Kantian/moral/civic/Catholic duty, maybe even entrepreneurial duty. You already have very little faith in our legal system sir. Allowing these 10 criminals to join it will reduce everyone else's. Hold them directly responsible. P10,000 will never be enough to shoulder the damage they caused to you and the victim. Besides, just asking them to pay for damages kind of makes you seem a little...calloused, to the actual damage that happened. It wasn't to your property, sir. But to the victim.

  4. Oh, and finally... I also don't understand your worry of people condemning the 10 frat guys and calling for their crucifixion or imprisonment (even if I don't agree with uploading it online). First, they do deserve the latter. Second, I don't see the need for any context here. This is different than the Amalayer video -- truly, there two sides to that story. 1 is to 1. Here, it is 10 is to one. Even if the single frat guy goaded the 10 guys, hindi dapat pinatulan. Sampu sila eh. What context do you need to defend a fight of 10 against one? There is no defense to that. They are cowards, they should be taught that we citizens will no longer stand for their crap, and that the world nor the system will not pander to them. You sir are in a perfect position to do that. I just don't understand why or how you can propagate this pack mentality, above-consequences attitude.