Inclusion and Banter

Don’s Diary (Inclusion and Banter)

In essence, Freemasonry is a fraternity of like minded men. It is inclusive in that it welcomes men and is “colour blind” in respect to where they have come from and their religious beliefs. However it is “selectively” inclusive, only welcoming men with high moral qualities and integrity. We are included, as we say, meeting on the level and departing on the square. However this masonic civility cannot always be assumed and between two people there can be “banter”. Between good mates, this can be friendly and affectionate. However, sometimes it can be unconstructively competitive and even veil hostility. It can take you places wise men of honour should not go.

The purpose of banter may be to demonstrate how smart and dominant the inquisitor is, to show off, to embarrass and make the victim uncomfortable, or the vaguely explainable objectives some will argue of finding out more about the victim and his areas of sensitivity, his social and masonic credentials, those who can be trusted or to assess whether he will fit in and be able to be included: more often than not an exchange of offensive intrusive personal jibes. The banter may be initiated under the guise of a jocular or humorous comment. The victim seldom sees the humour. The perpetrator sometimes do not realise they are victimising someone.

It may start with small talk which is harmless and easily identified. The banter will then commence with an innocuous remark about, say, the wisdom of the football team you follow, then a probing observation on some controversy that demands a response – even a non response will tell a story. There might be a demeaning comment about your role in your profession or something else you would normally defend. It might be about the company you keep, your family, the car your age or a lack of head hair. Politics, religion and sexual preferences could also be topic in a full blown banter. There will be observations that demand a denial or knowledge that a conclusion will be drawn by the inquisitor that you do not like if no response if given.

Bantering may have its place on a building site or on the waterfront where a robust physical rebuttal is not out of place, often an appropriate remedy. However it is out of order where we expect there to be a natural courtesy between men such as in our assemblies. It amounts to bullying when the inquisitor knows the victim places a higher priority on maintaining harmony and good manners than his own defence.

Men need to be able to deal with offensive bantering as one has to learn to deal with any bullying. The best way is to not to engage right from the outset, feint deafness and join another conservation. Do not walk away but avoid that company in the future. What is offensive to somebody may seem bland to another. So avoid it altogether. Banter is likely to be detrimental to masonic inclusion and I see no need for it in the masonic environment.

Yours fraternally,