Modern American culture does not have any initiations into adulthood. We have no rites of passage to prepare our youth for the transition of becoming a man/woman. There are some religious ceremonies that mark this transition, but as a society we don’t have a common ritual to punctuate this moment in our personal evolution.
I feel like that is why so many of us still feel like teenagers in our 30’s. Yeah we have more responsibilities, adult pressures, bills to pay, blah blah blah life is so boring… but there was no intentional effort that distinguished this change. I cannot say I am envious the youth in other cultures that do have “rites of passage rituals,” because a lot of it involves knives and your genitals – but I do think there is something to be said about overcoming hardship and self-confidence. Some of the things that young people all over the world go through may seem like torture, but most live through it, and there must be pride in their capacity to endure.
We may not want our children to experience some of these extreme circumstances other cultures practice, like say being eaten my fire ants, or how if you get your first period and live amongst The Nootka Natives of the Vancouver Islands the tribe would traditionally have an elder woman takes the girl out to sea, like really far, way far, out to sea… and then they leave her there to test her physical strength… completely naked. But at the same time, isn’t it more bizarre that we do nothing to mark the end of childhood then it is to leave your son alone in the woods for 7-moons and wait until he comes out a man. I do think we can do more for our youth then handing girls tampons and expecting them to know what it is to be a woman, or thinking college will teach your son to be a man.
So when young people do get into college, they take it upon themselves to figure out what being an adult means to them. Yet the culture of college is less focused on intellectualism, but more partying, sex, and fraternity life. Greek life is the crux of the social stratosphere, and in order to be a part of this “classic” college experience you have to be hazed into the group.
Yet unlike in other cultures where there is some spiritual element to their initiations, in the Greek System it is all about humiliation, power, and abusing each other in ways that are grotesque. Perhaps in the moment it could feel like a meditation to have your dick flicked by 30 of your so-called “brothers,” but I am not sure you are going to have a come to Jesus moment after drinking 20 beers. Alcohol does not clear the mind, but clouds it’s judgment and makes you forget the fucked up night before.
Although hazing may make you feel a part of something, it is ultimately developing a psychological stronghold on both the abuser and the abused. This was why I wanted to interview Andrew Lohse, author of the new book “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy.” Andrew’s book goes through his fraternity experience at Dartmouth College and lifts up the veil of the effects of hazing.