“It’s all Greek to me” popular saying.
In my college days I got involved with a social fraternity. In all honesty there were positive aspects and negative aspects involved. What I can say is that the effect upon me was profound and life lasting.
When I escaped my home town to engineering school I was anxious to start over. I was very unpopular with a handful of friends and saw the new environment an opportunity to create, a new, better me. One thing that I found very enticing was alcohol and there was plenty of access to beer at fraternity parties. I was only eighteen and the drinking age was twenty one but nobody cared. In fact never once had I been asked for my i.d. to prove my age.
The fraternities of course were very deceptive in their practices. They all swore they didn’t haze while in fact they all did, some very severely. The pledging period was over two semesters and the hazing intensified in the second semester. At that point one is already hooked on the fraternity which constitutes the majority of one’s friends. The hazing comes to a climax during ‘work week’ which is a euphemism for ‘hell week’.
So what were the positives?
For one thing if you are in a fraternity there is always somebody to do something with. That is you always had a friend if albeit a superficial one. Pledging is designed to create a group identity. In my pledging we had a scavenger hunt, put on skits, and of course partied a lot. We had to learn fraternity history and interview all the ‘brothers’.
The most positive thing I gained from my association with the fraternity was to develop my personal skills. In fact next to learning how to work hard it was the most valuable thing I learned from engineering school. It is a skill that is universal and helps in any walk of life. I have the ability to engage with a total stranger without intimidation no matter who they are. Later in my years when I did evangelistic work I would attribute my capability to the lessons of my fraternity.
Another thing that went with the fellowship was that there was always somebody to study with. Unfortunately with myself I was hopelessly lost in life during my fraternity days. I did more drinking of alcohol then studying in those days. But to be fear there were some fraternity members who were very dedicated students and excelled academically. A lot of what one got out of the fraternity was what one put into it.
On the negative side through the fraternity I got involved with drugs and alcohol. My circumstances were the perfect case of peer pressure. I was so ‘intelligent’ but I couldn’t see something that I was taught. From alcohol I went on the marijuana and hallucinogenics. In all honesty I enjoyed smoking grass and tripping. My alcohol drinking, which was seven days a week I put down as self medicating. I no longer use any drugs besides those prescribed by the doctor. I no longer need a great escape from life as I have my faith in God.
I bought into the fraternity concept of ‘brotherly love’. However with the selfish bunch of arrogant people I soon saw the hypocrisy exposed. Still I held on and clung to the ideal. In a sense the teachings of the fraternity prepared me to accept my Christian faith.
When I was a pledge I was severely hazed. My personality was very rough and I needed a lot of work. As such there leads the question if the hazing and drug abuse contributed to my mental illness or if it was hereditary. My grand mother had mental illness as well as my two nephews who have autism.
Finally I talk to nobody from my fraternity these days. The closest are friends on Facebook. It has been thirty years. When I was in my time of need they were noticeably absent.
You can read about my wild days and my life in my memoirs “More Than The Madness”. https://johnkaniecki.weebly.com/more-than-the-madness.html
Photos by Philip Larson,