Culture (May 2019)

Every child of my generation and heritage would have been aware of the Eureka Rebellion and its consequences. It was instigated by gold miners in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, who revolted against the colonial authority of the United Kingdom. It culminated in the Battle of the Eureka Stockade, which was fought on 3 December 1854 between miners and the colonial military and police of Victoria, created only three years earlier. The rebellion resulted in the deaths of at least 27 people, the majority of whom were rebels. The rebellion was the culmination of a period of civil disobedience in the Ballarat region during the Victorian gold rush with miners objecting to the expense of a miner's licence, taxation via the licence without representation, and the actions of the government, the police and military. When the captured rebels were placed on trial in the colony's capital of Melbourne, the mass public support for them resulted in the introduction of the Electoral Act 1856, which mandated suffrage for male colonists in the lower house in the Victorian Parliament.

This rebellion, the depression of the 1890s, the major Federation drought, World Wars 1 and 2 and the Great Depression between the wars all had a major impact on forming family values, our special culture and norms. They bred mateship, a demand for a fair go, often a very forthright and direct disposition, resistance to dictatorial authority, little or no respect for leaders unless it is earned and are trusted, and the demand for a vote especially when their money was involved. These norms are largely those of the candidates for Freemasonry. Unless their expectations to enjoy a similar culture in Freemasonry is realised, there is bound to be alienation.

Rather than actually achieving something, it amazes me that we are still having forums, with more planned, about the need for and nature of Constitutional review and the practical enfranchisement of all Freemasons so that more than eight percent of our membership, particularly from the country, can have a say in a secret ballot. The current forums are dealing with problems and issues that were identified and made public almost 12 months ago. The Battle for Britain could have been fought four times already since then and there still seems to be no suitable plan for any real action. One could be excused for thinking that no one at the top wants to change the balance of power and control which is clearly not leading to success.

The election of a new Deputy Grand Master will take place shortly. I hope those 17 brethren elected by us will vote for the candidate who best recognises and understands our distinct Victorian culture and will not bring “baggage” from a “masonic career” in the past that got us into our present unsatisfactory situation, time-servers and sycophants. I hope that the preferred candidate will be able to demonstrate that he has the wisdom to comprehend what has to be done, be aware of the limited time-frame to do something due to the major attrition in our ranks and our fragile financial situation, and be able to demonstrate that he can solve the problems to save the institution.

To most Freemasons, Freemasonry is about the doctrine in our Craft in our ritual book. However there are major activities of Freemasonry that do not rate a specific mention and they include activities and issues which are a major source of grievance and expense yet their status are likely to be unchallenged in the current re-writing of our Constitution. There is an absence of an appropriate established process to enable us to contribute to the review process. Current guidance on the current Constitutional review initiative seems pre -1854 Eureka Rebellion and Colonial in nature. It will simply result in the Constitution being put into modern day format to make the same old stuff easier to read, legally very correct, beautifully written, no doubt presented with aplomb, but inappropriate. However, it is likely to be passed because of the current undemocratic and inappropriate contrived voting system. Members who have reached their Eureka moment will revolt by voting with their feet as they do now.

Maybe we should go back to the fundamentals of Craft Freemasonry: our Craft Lodge brotherly love, relief, truth and belief in a Supreme Being – the rest is arbitrary and very likely superfluous. The latter which has a strong, often uninvited omnipresence is certainly a likely major cause of alienation and attrition. Our situation could be seen a bit like some major churches today: their hierarchies and activities that are far removed from our modern day societal values and principles and the doctrine in the Holy Gospels.

Yours fraternally