Discrimination & Prejudice
Below are two articles which appeared in the Oct – Nov Edition of Devotion News
By Bob Dixon, MPS – appeared in The Waller Mason Lodge # 808 Online Newsletter – September 2011 edition
Link to Waller News http://mastermason.com/WallerNews/
I belong to a Freemasonry mailing list available over the Internet. There's a wealth of available information and opinion on Masonic subjects, and I can't imagine being a Mason without access to this list.
On the list, a discussion went on over a period of days about a particular elementary school which refused the offer of a Masonic Cornerstone for their new building. Among their concerns was that Freemasonry discriminated against women and atheists, and they felt it inappropriate for a public school to be associated with such a group.
As a result of the discussion, I was forced to conclude, sadly, that Freemasonry "does" discriminate on the basis of sex and religion.
Because of this, I decided that I should leave Freemasonry, find an organization that "does not" practice any form of discrimination, and join it.
I first thought of the Girl Scouts. I was raised by my mother, and I appreciate women and the cultivation of domestic skills. But I am not a girl and I am too old.
Maybe the Boy Scouts. I was a Scout once, and I am sure they would take me back. I peaked out at First Class, and I would like to start over as a Tenderfoot and see if I can get my Eagle this time. Unfortunately, I am still too old.
Maybe one of the churches in my community. But, no, these churches will only allow me to be a member if I adhere to their particular doctrine and standards of behaviour. This is clearly discriminating on the basis of religious belief.
Maybe I could go to college again and join a sorority. After all, I do feel more comfortable among women than men. But sororities don't accept men, and colleges don't accept those that are too stupid to pass the courses and too poor to pay the tuition.
Possibly the elementary school whose leaders felt that Masons discriminate. Surely they wouldn't discriminate, and I always did enjoy naps and colouring. Haven't had a good glass of chocolate milk in ages. But alas, I am still too old and have too much education.
After this, I resolved to go home to my sweet family and forget the whole thing. Except that my family discriminates against people who are not my blood relatives or friends of the existing members. Not just anyone off the street can join us at the dinner table, and this is clearly exclusionary.
Perhaps I could live in a vacant lot, not bothering anyone. But, again, my community discriminates against those who can't afford housing. People are just not allowed to live in the open. Stores refuse to serve those who can't pay.
Certainly an intolerable situation.
Still, I resolved to give up "all" organizations who discriminate, no matter how difficult this is. A matter of principle, after all. I will live in the woods, by myself, where my pure standards can be best appreciated. But, alas, "even nature" discriminates, against the sick and the weak. When I get old or sick I will quickly be eaten by some animal stronger than I am.
Oh my! Maybe the Masons aren't so bad after all.
...the suppers are pretty good and they don't eat you when you get old.
Prejudice By Damien IPM, Lodge Devotion 723
Every Fellowcraft Freemason is charged with making his “passions and prejudices coincide with the just line of his conduct’ and to “hold the scales of justice” with poise. Earlier, an Entered Apprentice is urged to “imprint indelibly on your heart the sacred dictates of truth, of honour and of virtue.” Latter a Master Mason is told he will come to appreciate the “connection of our whole system” and how each part is dependent on the others. Freemasonry is full of values and lessons, but we can’t just focus on one element in Freemasonry – we should try to embrace, understand and then apply our whole system. This takes understanding and work.
Freemasonry calls upon a man to examine and to improve himself. If we stop doing that I suggest we are failing to be the best Freemasons that we can. The lessons and messages contained in our rituals can be applied in our daily lives to make us better men. Even at first glance at stand out charges like the Working Tools, it is obvious self examination and self improve are central in being a Freemason. As our MWGM said on 27 June on Channel 10’s The Circle. “...there has been one or two occasions when I thought “which way should I jump with a certain situation?”, I’ve been able to latch on to a Masonic principle and say, that is the right way to go in this certain situation.” Freemasonry has much to ponder, to teach, and to guide, for all of us, regardless of our Masonic knowledge and experience.
On the previous page we read of “discrimination” – a word stigmatised in our modern society through current use in relation to differently abled people - not to overcome discrimination as the word was once used and how it is still used in a Masonic sense, but rightly in applying judgments to overcome prejudice. Less murky than the distinction between “charity” and “benevolence”, the distinction between prejudice and discrimination in Freemasonry is clear - being two distinct and varied concepts. In Freemasonry, Discrimination is making choices based on sound and fair criteria. Prejudice is about preconceptions (often negative) unduly influencing our choices and attitudes. Discrimination is bad when based upon prejudice but not bad in itself.
Prejudices are tricky things – obvious ones are easily identified (especially in others, HA!). However bias is often hard to identify in ourselves and in our actions. Recognising our prejudices comes from having an open mind to two things. 1) you might be wrong (or right for the wrong reasons) and 2) you might, and probably do, have prejudices you are not aware of. Not admitting this could see you charged with being a zealot or even worse, a persecutor – most unmasonic. Prejudices are often founded in fears. To be a self actualised person, and a good Freemason, we must recognise our fears and control them. This journey overcoming fear begins with our first step in Freemasonry – our initiation when we enter the unknown trusting in the reputation of the Craft and the intent of our proposer.
As Freemasons who embrace men of immensely varied social standing, wealth, colour and different values and religions, there is a great danger we will declare ourselves free of prejudice and become complacent. As men interested in self awareness and improvement, we should remains vigilant for prejudice in ourselves and examine our serious decisions by asking, “Am I being prejudiced?” where prejudice might be a factor. Our prejudices can lie in our “passions” (emotions) which masons are charged to keep in “due bonds” and control. The first steps in that is identifying our passions and to subdue them.
Further, we are often told to act “on the square” with something’s which may be compromise if our decisions, attitudes and actions are distorted by prejudices.