IF THE SYSTEM
HOW DO WE FIX IT?
W:.Tim Bryce, PM, MPS
Palm Harbor, Florida, USA
"A Foot Soldier for Freemasonry"
"It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new ones."
- Machiavelli, "The Prince" (1513)
As a lightning rod for Masonic discord I hear some rather amazing stories from Masons all over the world complaining about injustices they are experiencing in the fraternity. There are of course Grand jurisdictions doing some rather noble and progressive work, but they are being overshadowed by the many others where there is contention, some frivolous, some rather serious. The stories that particularly bother me are those where a Mason is being expelled or suspended without proper due process. Masons are turned on by other Masons who behave more like a gang of thugs demanding their pound of flesh as opposed to Brothers trying to help each other.
We're all also acutely aware of our dwindling membership and financial resources. Some Grand jurisdictions are addressing the problem, but most want to pretend it doesn't exist and introduce inconsequential legislation instead, such as changing the name of the Grand Organist to Grand Musician. I refer to this as the "Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" phenomenon.
This is all very disheartening to Masonic purists who believe in the nobility of the order. So much so, many believe the Grand Lodge system is broken and in need of major repair. But what can we do as Masons? As I see it, there are six alternatives at our disposal:
1. LIVE WITH IT. Instead of fighting city hall, most Masons are content to let the fraternity to run its course. This of course represents an apathetic course of action which the power brokers count on to maintain control over the status quo.
2. DROP OUT. Many Masons become disenchanted with the seemingly frivolous bickering and political shenanigans that go on in the fraternity. So much so, they simply drop out of sight. Sure, they might continue to pay their dues, but they basically go AWOL as opposed to participating in the process. The problem here is that we have lost too many Brothers who have left in disgust and disillusionment.
3. TALK ABOUT IT. Developing a dialog on the problems of the day is healthy, but only if you allowed to do so unfettered. Some Grand jurisdictions do not allow this as it is considered disruptive to the status quo and move swiftly to censor those who dare to ask questions.
4. WORK WITHIN THE SYSTEM. We would all like to believe this to be the proper way for enacting change, but if the legislative process is tightly controlled and manipulated by the powers that be, than it is nothing more than an exercise in futility which many people have had to learn the hard way. It is one thing if the legislative process is fairly and impartially implemented, quite another if each piece of legislation is politicized.
5. REVOLUTION. This represents a major overhaul of the current system and as enticing as it might sound, you have to replace it with something better. I have heard many suggestions for modifying and improving the current Grand Lodge system, but I have yet to hear of an effective alternative to it. And for any revolution to occur there has to be a groundswell of discontent from the masses, and as mentioned earlier, most Masons are apathetic in this regards.
6. LEGAL MEANS. The only remaining avenue for implementing change is through legal means. This means implementing lawsuits and seeking government support through such institutions as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Masons have historically tended to avoid seeking outside legal assistance and tried to solve their problems internally. But as the current system buckles and cracks, we are beginning to see more litigation emerge. Frankly, I believe legal challenges to the Grand Lodge system are not just likely in the years ahead, they are unavoidable.
In a nutshell, there is a Catch-22 for just about any avenue for change. But there are basically two elements needed to support any change; first, an outcry for change from the constituency, after all "You cannot treat a patient if he doesn't know he is sick," and; second, a recommended course of action. So the question is this, do we sit back and watch the fraternity continue on its path of self destruction, or do we as Masons take matters into our own hands and try to correct the problem? Just remember the old adage, "Not to decide is to decide."
Keep the Faith.
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this essay are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of any Grand Masonic jurisdiction or any other Masonic related body. As with all of my Masonic articles herein, please feel free to reuse them in Masonic publications or re-post them on Masonic web sites (except Florida). When doing so, please add the following:
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