John Scalzi has a really good post on the “frat meme” that is going around, comparing the abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib prison to fraternity hazing. Rush Limbaugh has been pushing this meme, as has Tom DeLay. Scalzi rightly blasts this ridiculous idea, but what fascinates me are some of the comments that have been made. Scalzi had mentioned in his post that he tends not to care much for fraternities, and I have to agree with him. A couple of frat members came along to say that their frats didn’t haze and only the bad ones did. But then along comes this guy, Jeff Porten, and he says:
As a guy who carries a Zippo lighter with my fraternity emblem on it, I try to be informed about the sociology of fraternities. And the research I did back in grad school showed that the best military corollary to an initiation isn’t prison sadism. It’s basic training — the breakdown of the self-image of an individual, followed by the rebuilding of that image as a member of the group.
Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Why on earth would anyone volunteer to have their self image broken down so they could be rebuilt as a member of the group? Is their self-image that piss poor that they can only define themselves as a member of a group? For crying out loud, this is supposed to be the land of rugged individualism, yet we have hundreds of thousands of our best and brightest youth volunteering to subordinate themselves and have themselves rebuilt, so rather than being Mike or Joe, they’re now “Lambda Chi Member”. I find the whole thing creepy, just as I did when I was in college.
On a side note, if we call fraternities “frats”, why don’t we call sororities “sores”? Then you could subdivide it. The bitchy ones would be cold sores, the slutty ones would be open sores and the fat ones would be dinosaurs. I did that joke at a comedy club with two sororities there for a special show once; they were not amused. I’m guessing I was the wrong guy to be performing for a bunch of sores in the first place.