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Tough love and hazing

/ 05:18 AM October 27, 2017

It’s not like we don’t understand hazing. It’s well documented that hazing, or the abuse of new or prospective members of a group, spans cultures, continents and time periods; we associate it with sports teams and fraternities, but assault, sleep deprivation, emotional and sexual abuse, and servile labor have historically been a part of group initiation. We don’t even have to enter a fraternity to experience it; professional training can be its own initiation, and I hear echoes of hazers and hazees when doctors talk about exhaustion and hardship like a badge of honor. The junior years of many surgical residency programs, for one, are filled with stories of tests of obedience and physical endurance, unimaginable to those outside the profession. Which isn’t to say that signing up for a fraternity and becoming a surgeon are the same thing, but the feeling of unity and superiority among those who’ve gone through the same “boot camp” is a treasured thing that perpetuates the practice, more’s the pity.

Understanding hazing doesn’t equate to condoning it, and it’s high time we stopped just tut-tutting over hazing-associated deaths—more than 20 in the past decade in the Philippines alone, with only one conviction—and start actually dismantling the practice. The Anti-Hazing Act is just a start. We only hear about the handful who surface dead or injured. We don’t often hear the stories of those traumatized by hazing, physically or otherwise, who didn’t seek medical assistance. We also hardly ever hear from the families that the dead leave behind. For once, social media has given the family of Aegis Juris neophyte Horacio Castillo III the momentum and the platform to publicly seek justice, and it sounds like a huge joke when those on the side of the fraternity downplay hazing-associated injuries by
attributing a different cause of death.

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In the spirit of critical thinking, let’s focus on the fact that a 22-year-old male endured blunt trauma to the upper body and was seen dead on arrival, with massive hematoma on the upper arms, and that nobody brought him to the ER before it was too late. This week, John Paul Solano claimed that the complainants “conveniently omitted” the hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) in the medicolegal report and that this was Castillo’s cause of death. Collectively, health professionals across the country rolled their eyes.

From a medical perspective, it is true that HCM is associated with an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. To be entirely fair, it also doesn’t preclude athletic
activities such as the ones the victim reportedly participated in. Rants on social media that the cardiac death could have been triggered by the severe blunt trauma may also be true, but are still disappointingly in the realm of conjecture. While more and more Aegis Juris members come out of the woodwork, we may have more details on specific injuries. But in a way, whether he had a preexisting heart condition is moot; the completely degenerate way that a human being was allowed to collapse without assistance, with no competent medical professional to oversee the events and to resuscitate in a timely manner, is its own indictment. Whatever outlandish excuses the frat men will invent next, it’s to the senators’ credit that so far, they’re not having any of it.

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Should the society be held liable for manslaughter or related offenses? Maybe not, but someone has to pay, and to pay dearly enough to set a precedent. Maybe one day the practice of hazing will evolve to include such legal technicalities as consent forms and the constant presence of a trained physician; in any case, something’s got to give. It’s a small battle but one worth winning. We might be helpless against the excesses of the war on drugs or other absurdities sponsored by this circus of a government, but surely we can agree that whatever “brotherhood” is fostered by hazing rites isn’t worth the loss of life. And clearly, since many brothers are scrambling to protect themselves like rats in a sinking ship, it’s also worth questioning if it’s much of a brotherhood at all.

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TAGS: fraternities, hazing, initiation
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