A recent hazing flap involving a professional football rookie, prompted me to write last week about my first experience with hazing–when I was a fraternity pledge. And, yes, it very much had an “Animal House” quality to it.
The second instance was government-sponsored “hazing.” It was called “basic training”! It had all the classic elements of hazing: name-calling, physical exertion, humiliation, intentional infliction of mental distress–all in an effort to forge you into a unit where the goals of the group supersede those of the individual. The person in charge was a highly disciplined, physically imposing, and much-feared training instructor (“TI”) who looked like he came right out of Central Casting: the chiseled and intimidating Sergeant McCoy.
Basic training, arguably, has a higher purpose than pledgeship–making you a member of the armed forces inculcated with the essential skills and attitude to serve in a military unit. But both experiences had a lot in common. In fact, having gone through pledgeship, basic training was a breeze! I got it. I understood the theatrics. When the TI yelled at me, I knew the drill: take it — but not personally.
There was another big difference. I never got the impression that our TI enjoyed making us “suffer.” I can’t say that about some of the actives in the fraternity. There was a contingent of meatheads who took real glee in the humiliation of others; they enjoyed seeing other people suffer just a little too much. It was a real eye-opener — and an important lesson in my education — for me to encounter a group of people who believed, “I had to suffer, so you should, too.” They were like a group of collegiate Neanderthals–outside the process of evolution. Apparently, in professional football, that lineage continues.