Day 39: “Hazing teaches pledges to respect their elders”

Pause for a moment to think of a person you respect.  Why do you respect this person?

Did they expect you to fetch a pizza for them at 2:00 a.m.?  Did they ask you to enter their home through a door reserved for second-class citizens?  Maybe because they gave you an embarrassing costume to wear in public?  Or maybe you respect them because they instructed you to clean up after them every week?  That these activities might instill respect should cause most readers to laugh out loud (or maybe just LTMQ).

Chances are you respect this person because they actually deserve it.  Maybe they provided you with guidance and support or served as a role model.  For whatever reason, we respect people who are relevant to our lives.

Hazers tend to be the brothers who contribute nothing but deadweight to the chapter and, as such, are considered relevant by no one.  That is, no one respects them.  Since hazers can’t earn respect by serving as model brothers, they have to demand it by tacitly forcing new members to obey their every command.

Respecting your elders is a good thing–who would argue otherwise? But all too often hazers distort the meaning of this old axiom to to mean “take everything as given,” or “never question anyone who came before you.” Hazers imply that no command, direction or even suggestion deserves any critical evaluation; if a Brother says it then it must be true.  As Maraka from the SNL hit cartoon ‘Dora the Explorer‘ says, “Don’t question it, just do it!”

This exaggerated interpretation of “respect” is often a recipe for fanaticism and groupthink, leading chapters down a road of complacency or even worse.

Genuine respect is earned and those who demand it probably don’t deserve it.  We can show respect for and learn from our elders without taking their every word as an absolute truth.

This post is part of a series dedicated to providing answers to common excuses for hazing.  The #40Answers in 40 Days campaign aims to promote National Hazing Prevention Week (September 20 – 25, 2010) and to ultimately create the definitive collection of crowdsourced knowledge to eliminate hazing.

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