The Truth is Risky Business

29 August 2007 Memorial of the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist
Mark 6, 17-29 The Truth is Risky Business

Speaking God’s truth is still a dangerous business. The prophet Zechariah, John the Baptist, and Jesus died doing it. Many heroes and saints paid the price with their lives.

Last Monday, Chris Anthony Mendez, 20 years old, a graduating BS Major in Public Administration, died of hazing. He bore bruises in his arms and thighs. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the Veterans Memorial Hospital. He was a councilor of the student government of the National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) and was running for honors. One of his friends said that he would accompany them to their dormitories when their activities ended at night. He was a true gentleman.

Members of fraternities, sororities, athletic teams, military and secret societies who have hazing rites say that hazing is supposed to promote loyalty through shared suffering (dinaanan namin itong lahat!). In many cases, this is part of their ‘bonding’ experience. Nevertheless, there is no justification for death. In the Philippines, hazing accompanied by any form of temporary or physical injuries (resulting to death), sexual abuse or any act that leads to mental incapacity are punishable by law.

To speak up against hazing is difficult. Study says that those who experienced some form of hazing in initiations which includes spanking or paddling do not recognize hazing when they are involved. Statistics are an underestimate of actual hazing incidents because of the strong code of silence amongst the members of the fraternities. Dr. Susan Lipkins said in her book, Insidehazing, said that 46% of those she surveyed said that the most important thing is to “keep the code of silence.”

Speaking up against hazing is also risky business. The fraternity could gang up on you. Friends, especially those who belong to organizations with hazing initiations could withdraw their friendship. It may cost you your head, like John the Baptist. The hazards of living with the truth is undeniable. That is why, lying often becomes easier; and in some institutions, deception has become an acceptable system.

But it will soon catch up on us when someone gets killed, the mystery that shrouds Chris’ death will continue to haunt us. Like Ninoy Aquino and numerous victims of political killings. John’s beheading, for instance, is political in nature. The key figure in the issue between Herod Antipas and John the Baptist is not Salome, but John’s speaking of God’s truth. John accused Herod of ruling unjustly and immorally, calling him to repent. And Herod was afraid that John’s speech will cause an insurrection. So he arrests John, and with the suggestion of his new wife and stepdaughter, orders John’s execution.

Our intellectual lives have enlightened us about injustices in our systems. We have numerous complaints about the government and the system in our universities. We are a people of shoulds and don’ts. But often, we do not lift a finger to do something to change it. Apathy is now the scourge of the new generation. A student once said that speaking the truth is risky: if he catches his friend cheating in the exam, he would rather keep it to himself, than losing their long-lasting friendship. So, should we just ignore Chris’ death and continue with our lives?

3 comments:

anti-hazing mom said...

I am just enraged how people are silenced by this senseless killings. The Malu Fernandez brouhaha has elicited more response, to think that nobody died from reading her stupid article. If frats/sororities, fratmen and women are serious about ending this tradition of violence, my challenge is this: that your frat or sorority release a condemnation of these hazings and a commitment to a hazing-free initiation rites.

I have just read the official statemet of the UP Law Student body on the death of Mendez and this is what I have to say: cut the crap!! I have enough of your cry for temperance. This is the only statement I need to hear from you and your orgs: WE CONDEMN HAZING AND WE WILL NEVER CONDUCT HAZING FOR INITIATION RITES EVER AGAIN. Simple and clear, you don't have to be a lawyer to say that!!!

anti-frat mom said...

I am just enraged how people are silenced by this senseless killings. The Malu Fernandez brouhaha has elicited more response, to think that nobody died from reading her stupid article. If frats/sororities, fratmen and women are serious about ending this tradition of violence, my challenge is this: that your frat or sorority release a condemnation of these hazings and a commitment to a hazing-free initiation rites.

I have just read the official statemet of the UP Law Student body on the death of Mendez and this is what I have to say: cut the crap!! I have enough of your cry for temperance. This is the only statement I need to hear from you and your orgs: WE CONDEMN HAZING AND WE WILL NEVER CONDUCT HAZING FOR INITIATION RITES EVER AGAIN. Simple and clear, you don't have to be a lawyer to say that!!!

Jessel Gerard said...

Hi po! Yes, I agree with you. When I heard about Cris' death from text messages from UP students asking for a mass, I was stunned and enraged. In fact, when I said mass there for Cris on the day itself, I was overwhelmed by my emotions. I still cannot get reason behind hazing: or the irrational behavior of those initiating it. I know of the code of silence and the "mass psychology" but it isn't enough to justify violence and death. Why can't they have a much more productive way like planting 1,000 trees or cleaning up the whole UP campus as a humane way? If they said that common suffering makes them one, why not planting these trees, it would be more sacrificial than the usual paddle? But I admit, that I too am at a loss how to end this affair when the university is set at statements. There is no concrete suggestion to end it. Do you have one? Perhaps, if the code of secrecy is at its best, then we can counter it by letting everyone know through blogs, emails, etc. Check out my blog at upchaplaincy.blogspot.com. Thanks.