Fraternal organizations. The Elks, the Moose, the Oddfellows, all that. Considered kind of obsolete in modern life, right?
Used to have an economic “function” - sufficiently large risk pools for the procurement of life, health, unemployment, and disability insurance, but were later displaced in that role by governments, employers, and unions.
You don’t see much of them anymore. There’s still the American Legion and VFW, but they draft off the military services’ collective identity formation (initiation rituals, shared experiences, collectively sung songs) rather than doing their own in-house.
But, you know, there’s potential there. Fraternal organizations can pull off some serious shit. You get a bunch of guys drinking and singing songs together, throw in some woo-woo mystic aesthetics, add a hierarchy with absurdly pompous titles and you get… the Nazi Party. (Beer Hall Putsch, and all that.)
Or the Freemasons. (Who no, don’t rule the world, but have been pretty important to several national revolutions.)
Or the Ku Klux Klan.
It’s interesting to see particularly where each particular one lifts their goofy aesthetic from. College fraternities invoke Greece, or at least the platonic Greece of Platonic Greece. I guess that makes sense for the intersection of academics, drunkenness, and homoeroticism, but other than the three letters and the occasional toga party they don’t push that too hard and their everyday mytho-aesthetic is pretty much civic Americanism - leaders are called “president”, “secretary”, “treasurer”, etc.
The Nazis were all into German palingenesis so obviously they went heavy on the historic Germanicness as a theme, something I didn’t pick up on until it was explained to me was that a lot of their everyday terms - gau, gefolgschaft, etc. - would have come across as archaic and medieval even by the standards of a culture that had been a feudal monarchy in living memory. The American equivalent would be like if the government was conquered by renn faire types who started giving things goofy-ass D&D names.
EXCEPT OH FUCKING WAIT, THAT’S THE KU KLUX KLAN. Wizards and Dragons and Realms and Provinces and Giants and Cyclopses and Goblins. The Klan was also really into being 2spooky4u. Like, as I write this, it is Frightful PM on the Wailing Deadly day of the Sorrowful month, as the Kalendar reckons it. But then that was always the schtick: “We’re knights! Or are we… ghosts?! ~oooOoOoOOOOoOoOooo~”
And I mean “really, who could take this seriously?” Well, tumblr, who could take your whole Halloween spoopy Skeleton War shit seriously? The answer is no one, so you don’t, but you keep doing it anyway, and so did they.
The Freemasons were weeaboos! I mean not as we know it now, Masonry predates the opening of Japan and subsequent Japonisme, but it’s the same thing, a goofy appropriation of an idealized version of the exotic Orient, using the then furthest-east culture they were in contact with, the Ottoman empire. There was some Moorish stuff too, so maybe the theme should be “Mediterranean Islam”. Temples and fez-wearing Shriners (ahem, “the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine”) and the Moorish Rite. THE FREEMASONS WERE ISLAMABOOS.
(Actually, you know what more recent organization has combined fraternal socialization, revolutionary potential, and a cod-Islamic theme? The Nation of Islam.)
On the one hand, fraternal organizations have been able to wage campaigns of violent subversion capable of overthrowing or supplanting governments; on the other they have always been total fucking nerds getting drunk and geeking out, the two are in no way exclusive.
History and Works of the Noble Order Moorish Science Temple Moors
History and Works of the Noble Order Moorish Science Temple Moors: THE EMARET (EMIRS) and EMANET (EMINS) Epochs 1, 2 and 3
as written by Sultan Rafi Sharif Ali Shah Bey
The Sultan appointed an Emir (lit: Commander) as the head of a new NOMS Temple when it was chartered. In most cases, that honored one remained the Emir, until such circumstances required the Sultan to make a new appointment. At times, Emirs were those who held the position of an Emin (Trusted One) in an established Temple, and then established a new Temples in other locale. Some of the Emirs were college students. When they graduated, they shifted their residences. Rather than designate these new Temples as “Branch Temples,” as is the practice in the MSTA, they became full Temples, but placed in a Province, the headquarters for which was the oldest established Temple of the area.
Under the Emir of each NOMS Temple, were those holding the title and office of EMIN, or Trusted One. For a time the Emin was styled “Prior” or “Prioress.” The Emin (Emanat is plural) usually received the highest degrees awarded at the Temple, had a personal audience with the Sultan, and performed the various official duties assigned by the Emir. An official list of the Emanat, drawn from the original NOMS Registry, is housed in the official Archives of the NOMS.
A new system of ranking Temple heads replaced the title of Emir. Temple heads could hold the ranks from Rais (Arabic for head) upwards and various levels were also open to the helpers in a Temple.
Each local NOMS Temple was given considerable autonomy to develop according to the interests of its members within the Governing Articles of the Order and under the By-Laws of the Moorish Science Temple of America. Nazarene Grand Temple No. 1 remained the National Headquarters, with the Sultan as its Grand Emir and its officers (Emins) as the Grand or National officers. As the Sultan traveled widely, in and out of the form, from the inception of the Order, he remained the head of the Grand Temple, but The Deputy was acting head of the Grand Temple in his absence.
Districts were created from 1961 when the Sultan moved to California. Later, the name District was permanently changed to Province. New 4-page passports and a series of degree cards of different colors for each degree were introduced along with the wide usage of the universal Sufi winged heart symbol. The Sultan was a friend of Sufi Sheik Musharaff Khan, brother of Pir Inayat Khan, who gave him permission to use the symbol when they met in New York in 1960. Later Hakim Bey also obtained permission from Vilayat Inayat Khan, son of Pir Inayat Khan and present head of the Sufi order in the West.
NOMS & MSTA Noble Order - The Founding True Facts
1. The Sultan has a very special place in the history of the Moorish Divine and National Movement. The young man was praying at a mosque in Baltimore. His name was Yahya Sharif, or Noble John the Baptist. Visitors at the mosque from the Moorish Science Temple were attracted to the youth of seventeen, and invited him to their homes to learn about Noble Drew Ali and his movement. They asked Sharif to work with them for the Uniting of Asia, by acquainting the various Americans of Asiatic descent, especially those that are Moslems, with the works of Noble Drew Ali.
Sharif was fascinated by what he learned and began sharing the knowledge with a select circle of other “Asiatic” students, whom he took with him to the Moorish Temple on Laurens Street above a barber shop. There he met Mother Ann, who came down from Philadelphia. She was the wife of George, s/o Ira Johnson Bey, The Nazarene (Reincarnated). He also sat the feet of Grand Sheik Richardson Dingle-El on Lafayette square, where the wise elders of the community met to discuss their philosophies, and was a frequent visitor of Grand Governor Rufus German Bey at his Moorish Goodwill Store. The Sultan took on a Moorish-American name at the Temple by anglicizing his Arabic name to J. J. Noble Bey.
2. On July 7, 1957, being the 7th day of the 7th month of the European year 1957. Noble Bey and his three closest associates, namely: L Diamond El, C Silver Bey, and R Porter El, founded the Noble Order of Moorish Science. Noble Bey was to have the title of Sultan, and Diamond El, Deputy (Wazir). The new body was officially sanctioned and approved by the Grand Sheik of MSTA No.13, Richardson Dingle El, and the Grand Governor of Maryland, Rufus German Bey. A special gold card was produced for members and the word was spread. Several members were signed up in Temple No. 1 at Baltimore. The charter members, in addition to the above named, included Founders W. Misler Bey, Connie W. El, Barbara V. El, Karen G. El, D. Jacobs El, Diane M. Bey, and Sandra K. Bey. Subsequently the Sultan reported for active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps at Parris Island, South Carolina where he signed up twelve Moorish-American Marines, as a part of Temple 1. (They later became NOMS Vidyapti Temple No. 4).
3. The special mission of the new Order was “The Uniting of Asia” proclaimed by Noble Drew Ali, but yet unrealized. The Order was to attract a variety of “Asiatics” from many houses, residing in America. The rest of Asia had not recognized the “Negro” because he knew not himself, End had not proclaimed his nationality. The Order would direct the lost and fallen Moors to the Moorish Science Temple, while joining with the Moors as united and free nationals and equal American citizens.
4. The Order, basing itself on the “Circle 7” Holy Koran of the MSTA, set out to undergo the travels of The Nazarene to India, Persia, Egypt, etc. and to explore the mystery schools with which he no doubt was affiliated in his pursuit of Light and Knowledge. This was accomplished to a high degree by the Sultan and his various representatives. Further, in the realization that Truth is One, though paths many, the order undertook to go deeply within various major faiths to their respective mystic inner core. An experiential methodology was undertaken, so that order members became in. fact, Yogis, Orthodox priests, Buddhists, and Sufis, bringing their discoveries back to the inner circle of the NOMS. By 1964, the Order was officially restyled the NOBLE ORDER OF MYSTIC SUFIS, MST OF A., and remained so through the Third Epoch.
5. The Sultan had the confidence and support of many famous Moorish leaders – R. Dingle El and R German Bey of Baltimore Temple No. 13 have been mentioned. Also, the Sultan traveled to Chicago with Muhammad Ali El, son of Givens El, the first reincarnation of the Prophet and to Newark where he participated in the Moorish Teachers College while staying with Grand Sheik Hommett Anderson El. He also spent considerable time at New York City Temples under Grand Sheiks Jeffries El and Pearsall Bey. In addition to being recognized as head of the Noble Order, the Sultan was appointed a Teacher in the MSTA, and taught from the Holy Qur’ân of Mecca. He was also made a Sheik in the Adept Chamber, along with his constant companion and private secretary in New York, C. Silver Bey, a NOMS Founder.
A meeting with Jarad Faruk Bey, Head of the Moorish-American Religious League (who embroidered “Moorish-American” in green on their fezzes and wore a large red and gold version of the MA button) resulted in recognition of the Noble Order. L Diamond El engaged in correspondence with the “Calumet St. Sheiks” of the Moorish Divine and National Movement of North America, Chicago, which resulted in their visiting him at his Queensberry street residence. The Sultan also met Nelson Bey, National Grand Sheik succeeding Kirkman Bey.
6. The Sultan sojourned across the States accompanied by Sister Barbara V. (Aisha) El, National Secretary, to reside in California, where there were no established Moorish Science Temples. The Sultan and Sister Barbara were married at a Mosque in Sacramento, and were subsequently blessed with two sons and two daughters. While in California, the Noble Order was expanded there and down into Mexico, and the Sultan was named and acknowledged as the Grand Governor for that State of the MSTA. He promoted the MSTA under the Charter of Temple 13 but did not set up any new MSTA Temples at that time, working with the Noble Order and the Resurrection as well. The Sultan met with many leading Masons, Rosicrucians, Occultists, and others that flourished on the West Coast.
7. The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh comes, and unto him the people shall gather. At a Moorish national convention, Timothy Dingle El, younger brother of the aforementioned Richardson, raised a simple question. Does a child go from the 1st grade to the 3rd grade? No. There has to be a Second Grade. He referred to the structure of the MSTA by which the general membership was said to be in the First Heaven, and the Sheiks in the Third Heaven. Timothy Dingle El was to setup Baltimore the Second Heaven under the name and title - Supreme Grand Resurrection. Timothy had become a special friend of the Sultan and was sincerely fascinated with the Noble Order. He was a great innovator. It was Timothy, who became a Grand Sheik of his own Branch Temple No.13, who got the Sultan and Noble Order on the official convention program of the MSTA held in Baltimore. The Sultan was in California, but was duly represented by his wife, Sister Aisha Sharif Bey. It was Timothy who caused the Sultan to be appointed National Grand Inspector of the MSTA. When the Black Fez was placed on the Sultan’s brow, Timothy said that if a house doesn’t look right to a building inspector, he can say it has to come down. “The Forerunner (the Sultan’s special title) can do the same about a man.”
8. When the Resurrection was announced, the Sultan invited Grand Sheik Timothy, and the SGR Founders to a Special Joint Meeting with the NOMS, an historic meeting indeed. This was held at NOMS Matheno Temple No. 17 at 931 of St. Paul Street in Baltimore, hosted by Barry B. Bey, local Emir. The Sultan, the Deputy L. Diamond El, Barbara V. El, National Secretary, and several NOMS Delegates participated. It was a Holy Contest. The Sultan threw; the Supreme Resurrector threw. Calls from NOMS Temples, near and far, came into the Secretary. It was an atmosphere of prayer and excitement. Finally, Timothy spoke of the missing Seal of John, and drew it forth – complete with Resurrection symbols. All were satisfied that he carried the day.
9. Terms of the Accord between the NOMS and the Resurrection.
a. The Sultan received the status of a Founder of the SGR with the rank of 4-Star Hierophant, and the NOMS recognized as a special body of the MSTA. The SGR was recognized as essential to the MSTA and Noble Order Moors would promote and aid in its establishment at all MSTA Temples.
b. The NOMS and SGR would deal with the Houses of the Church and Masonry in accord.
c. As Grand Sheik, Timothy would issue for and through the NOMS, a new MSTA Nationality Card with a blank space to insert the nationality before “ _________ American,” as to serve to bring into the MSTA as full members, all Americans of Asiatic ancestry (as determined by the Noble Order).
d. The Noble Order would utilize the four Resurrection degrees in its Second Heaven work, and sign up Noble Order Moors in the Resurrection. The Sultan would also utilize his resources to develop and actually craft the written form of some of the degrees.
e. NOMS and SGR members could travel freely within each others’ gatherings, and work in unison within the MSTA across the country.
f. The Accord was to remain in effect until such time as both the Supreme Grand Resurrector and the Sultan decide to amend, suspend, or otherwise make additions or corrections, or when one of the same shall pass out of form.
10. Manifestations of the above stated Accord.
a. The Sultan, C. Silver Bey, and G. Foster El met Archbishop Augustus Franz Itkin (El) of the Old Catholic - Evangelical Communion, who with his deputy, Bishop William Peter Crowley (El) sought to be initiated and receive the degrees of the Noble Order, offering in exchange, ordination to the Holy Catholic Priesthood after attending a Brooklyn seminary for several months. The Sultan made the prelates members of NOMS Temple 2 after and soon after the Sultan was consecrated a Bishop and the Archbishop sanctioned the ORDER OF THE RESURRECTION. Fatah El, N.J. Governor became ordained a priest (and consecrated thirty years later), Governor Walid el-Taha and Founder Salim Bey were ordained as Deacons and about 30 Noble Moors were received into the OR. The Liturgy followed that of the Syrian (Antiochian) Orthodox Church headquartered in Brooklyn under Archbishop-Metropolitan Antony Bashir. In this work, NOMS members were often known as “Moorish Orthodox.”
b. With members of the SGR, the Sultan and Barry B. Bey, were initiated into the degrees of Masonry through Eureka Lodge at Good Hope Hall C Subsequently, the Sultan received all of the Masonic degrees, both rites, East and West, Asiatic and European. The Sultan investigated the AANOMS (Shrine) from within and thus became a “Noble” as did Noble Drew Ali. Grand Resurrector Henry Young Bey also presented the Sultan to the Masonic head of the “National Compact” Jurisdiction, and the SGR and NOMS worked in said circles of harmony.
c. The SGR degrees were available to NOMS members, and the new Nationality Cards were produced and offered under Temple 13 through the NOMS.
11. In due course, it must be noted, the Sultan returned “the Church and Christianity” to the Archbishop and invited him to accept Islam, whereupon the former did attempt to dissolve the Order of the Resurrection and excommunicate its Noble clergy from his particular line of authority (Catholic Evangelical Communion). However, when one is ordained a Priest and consecrated a Bishop according to the Church liturgy, the office is bestowed “forever,” so the ranks and degrees of Christianity were not lost to the Noble Order. The Order of the Resurrection continued as an independent Moorish Orthodox religious order.
12. Subsequent to the above events, and while the Sultan was away from the Atlantic Coast, traveling in India, some members of the Noble Order did establish the Moorish Orthodox Church. These members included S. Zill El (T22, T14), M. Maggid (Majid) Bey (Emin T2), G. Foster (Fatah) El (T14) Chancellor of the Order of the Resurrection, S. Scully El (T2), and P. L. Wilson (Hakim) Bey, (T22) who became the Metropolitan of said Church, which operated independently of the Noble Order. Both Sultan Sharif Bey and P. Wilson (Hakim) Bey subsequently procured Bishop’s status and license through the Universal Divine Life Church.
S. (Pasha) Zill El was the first Editor of the Moorish Science Monitor while he was in Baltimore at Temple 14, Johns Hopkins University. Zill El was in fact reared in the Orthodox Church. Additional information on The MOC will be provided in a separate profile. Said body has established ten local “lodges,” operating under its own version of the Adept Chamber “Third Paradise.” A great Accord between the MOC and Noble Order came about in 1996 at which time the Moorish League was formed meeting at Nazarene Temple No. 1 in Baltimore. Hakim Bey was given the title “al-Dabir.” “The Scribe” as he authored “The Sacred Drift” with an informative historic narrative of the MSTA, and other literature.
13. WHO is THE SULTAN? You have heard of a Consultant? Namely, an expert to guide you in where you want to go. The Sultan does the same, but without the “con.” It is noted that Kirkman Bey, a legitimate successor to Noble Drew Ali through the Moorish legal corporation, also used the title “Sultan.” The Sultan was best known among the Moors as, “The Forerunner,” believed to be the reincarnation of John the Baptist which was of great significance to primary Moorish leaders. Further explanation is offered in the Adept Chamber.
14. The HIGH COUNCIL of the NOMS for the 1st Epoch was the highest executive body under the Sultan and consisted of the Founders: L. Diamond El, Silver Bey, and R. Porter El, the Province Governors – Warren T. El, S. Foster El, and S. Rochlin El C and D. Auclair El, an Emir on the West Coast who made the 7th member. The High Council was disbanded after the 2nd Epoch, and is being reinstated in this 4th Epoch.
15. Regarding the ethnicity of the Noble Order Moors, much fascinating material can be provided. Some were of the true and royal House of Israel, being Karaites from the line of the Persian Exilarch Benjamin Nehawendi (830-850 AD). Others trace to the shipwrecked Arabs on Sicily. Some were from the Celts, whom Noble Drew Ali himself, established as an Asiatic nationality for. Others came from Egyptian Copts, Indians, Tatars, or Mongols. Yemani Arabs and Hebrews were joined by a variety of “Asiatics” that have commingled, wandering the globe for centuries, and ending up in America being simply called “white,” “black,” “yellow,” or “mixed.” Youthful adherents to the Noble Order often had parents who did not know themselves any more than most Moorish-American’s families.
All of these Noble Moors came to appreciate the plight of the Americans of color without a nationality and helped them learn of the Ancient Divine Creed of their forefathers through the MSTA.
16. True to the mission of the Noble Order, members have pursued various religions, knowledge, spiritual and esoteric systems, advancing far on those paths. Rahman El became a world expert of Tibetan Buddhism, Diamond (Almas) El, of pharmacology. Sharif Bey, Fatah El, Muqaddim El, and Basir Bey became Bishops of the church. Several were established in traditional Sufi orders such as the Naqshbandi, Naimatullahi, and Jerrahi. Some practiced Islam for decades. Others devoted their lives to two or more of the eight limbs of Yoga. Some were accomplished in Adept/Magi work, Rosicrucian and hermetic studies, numerology, astrology, and Chinese spiritual medical practice. Some were skilled writers such as Founder Salim Bey, Governor Hakim Bey, and Governor Fatah El, and others were inspired musicians like Governor Walid El Taha. Some are university professors like Almas El, Pasha El, Gardner Bey, and Berg Bey. Many Noble Moors fought for social justice for all, and most performed regularly, some useful forms of service to humanity.
So a rivalry of /pol/ vs. Shia LeBouef is gonna be hilarious from the concept alone.
But the fact that /pol/ can go from analysis to infiltration operations to counting coup anywhere in the Anglosphere within 48 hours… and remember thosetimes they were comparing subtle background details with satellite maps to target airstrikes in Syria? Plus their workaday schtick IS “conducting propaganda and provocation campaigns to increase unrest, influence elections, and congeal scattered resentments into an insurrectionary force”.
I mean, insert banepost here, but we should acknowledge they’re organically developing as a 3-letter intelligence agency.
The phrase “Blue Lives Matter” is as ridiculous as it is offensive.
There are no such thing as “Blue Lives”. Regardless of all the quasi-secret society/fraternity bullshit they promote, police officers are not a people apart from the the public at large. A career is not an identity in the way that gender or race or even socioeconomic class are. It doesn’t matter if your dad and your granddad and your great grandma were police officers. Your life is not blue. The only thing blue is your choice to become an instrument of legitimated force.
Furthermore, there exists no systematic structure for the persecution of police; there is only the long-simmering public outrage over the various institutional protections they receive from responsibility for their mistakes and their crimes. Police officers have never been threatened, as a group, in the same way that black people, as a group, routinely are.
If that outrage makes them feel threatened, then the police and the society which employs them need to fundamentally reevaluate what kind of people they hire to be officers, what their situation is regarding legal liability, and ultimately what the purpose of a police force actually is.
years the Revolution has been much criticized for having failed, indeed
refused, to give rights of citizenship to women. It should be noted that this
important question of political rights was still not resolved in our own
period, even in a country such as France which, we should remember, only gave
women, the right to vote in 1946. But as far as the Revolution is concerned, we
know that the question was posed as early as 1789, for example, in the
Fraternal Society of Both Sexes, and later in the women’s societies like that
of the Revolutionary Republican Women. That the question should have been posed
is remarkable. As far as the practices of citizenship are concerned, we must
distinguish between the right to vote and the right to be elected to positions
of responsibility. We have already seen that women took part and voted in the
primary assemblies and general assemblies of the village communes and of urban
assemblies made up of the common people. For it is well established that what
was decisive here was which class one belonged to; women of the common people
took part in the primary assemblies, but not women of the upper classes. Is
this a class distinction? Did the domestication of women go along with this
distinction on the basis of class? That is what popular traditions seem to
exclusion of women took place on the level of the right to be elected to
positions of responsibility. The question to be examined here is that of the
consciousness of women themselves, for we have no example of a woman elected to
a post of responsibility, even as chair of a session in the general assembly of
an electoral division. Only women’s societies tried out such functions among
themselves. But it is important to note that the Revolutionary Republican Women
did not demand the right of women to be elected to functions of responsibility,
but first of all demanded the right of
women to bear arms like citizens, as a first expression of their participation
in the sovereignty of the people, and they took part in military training
The French Revolution:Revolution of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (Florence Gauthier)
Two symbols of the Royal Arch Masonry - Past H and Past J.
Freemasonry describes itself as a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. The symbolism is mainly drawn from the manual tools of stonemasons - the square and compasses, the level and plumb rule, among others. A moral lesson is attached to each of these tools. The meaning of the symbolism is taught and explored through ritual.
All Freemasons begin their journey in the “craft” by being progressively initiated, passed and raised into the three degrees of craft. During these three rituals, the candidate is progressively taught the meanings of the lodge symbols, and entrusted with grips, signs and words to signify to other Masons that he has been so initiated. The initiations are part allegory and part lecture, and revolve around the construction of the Temple of Solomon, and the artistry and death of his chief architect, Hiram Abiff. The degrees are those of Entered apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason.
Thinksquad’s Guide To Friendly Societies
Today, you can’t watch TV without hearing someone opening their pie-hole about health care, we are constantly being told, the United States faces a health care crisis. Medical costs are too high, and health insurance is out of reach of the poor. We here at Thinksquad agree, the cost are getting higher each year.
The cause of this crisis is never made very clear, but the cure is obvious to nearly everybody: government must step in to solve the problem. Or should it?
Let’s travel back in time eighty years ago, Americans were also told that their nation was facing a health care crisis. Then, however, the complaint was that medical costs were too low, and that health insurance was too accessible. But in that era, too, government stepped forward to solve the problem.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one of the primary sources of health care and health insurance for the working poor in Britain, Australia, and the United States was the fraternal society. Fraternal societies or “friendly societies,” were voluntary mutual-aid associations. Yes the first time we read about them it brought back images of the Flintstones, and the Grand Poobah.
Their watered-down descendants survive among us today in the form of the Shriners, Elks, Masons, and similar organizations, but these no longer play the central role in American life they formerly did. Most of the poor and middle class made up these Friendly Societies. Friendly societies were particularly popular among blacks and immigrants. (Indeed, Teddy Roosevelt’s famous attack on “Hyphenated Americans” was motivated in part by hostility to the immigrants’ friendly societies; he sought to “Americanize” immigrants by making them dependent for support on the democratic state, rather than on their own independent ethnic communities.)
The principle behind the friendly societies was simple. A group of working-class people would form an association (or join a local branch, or “lodge,” of an existing association) and pay monthly fees into the association’s treasury; individual members would then be able to draw on the pooled resources in time of need. The friendly societies thus operated as a form of self-help insurance company.
Turn-of-the-century America offered a dizzying array of friendly societies to choose from. Some catered to a particular ethnic, or religious group; others did not. Many offered entertainment and social life to their members, or engaged in community service. Some “societies” were run entirely by and for women. The kinds of services from which members could choose often varied as well, though the most commonly offered were life insurance, disability insurance, retirement insurance, and “lodge practice.”
“Lodge practice” refers to an arrangement, reminiscent of today’s HMOs, whereby a particular society or lodge would contract with a doctor to provide medical care to its members. The doctor received a regular salary on a retainer basis, rather than charging per item; members would pay a yearly fee and then call on the doctor’s services as needed. If medical services were found unsatisfactory, the doctor would be penalized, and the contract might not be renewed. Lodge members reportedly enjoyed the degree of customer control this system afforded them. And the tendency to overuse the physician’s services was kept in check by the friendly society’s own “self-policing”; lodge members who wanted to avoid future increases in premiums were motivated to make sure that their fellow members were not abusing the system.
Most remarkable was the low cost at which these medical services were provided. At the turn of the century, the average cost of “lodge practice” to an individual member was between one and two dollars a year. A day’s wage would pay for a year’s worth of medical care. By contrast, the average cost of medical service on the regular market was around one dollar per visit. Yet licensed physicians, particularly those who did not come from “big name” medical schools, competed vigorously for lodge contracts, because of the security they offered; and this competition continued to keep costs low.
The response of the medical establishment, both in America and in Britain, was one of outrage; the institution of lodge practice was denounced in harsh language and apocalyptic tones. Such low fees, many doctors charged, were bankrupting the medical profession. Moreover, many saw it as a blow to the dignity of the profession that trained physicians should be eagerly bidding for the chance to serve as the hirelings of lower-class tradesmen. It was particularly detestable that such uneducated and socially inferior people should be permitted to set fees for the physicians’ services, or to sit in judgment on professionals to determine whether their services had been satisfactory. The government, they demanded, must do something.
And so it did. In Britain, the state put an end to the “evil” of lodge practice by bringing health care under political control. Physicians’ fees would now be determined by panels of trained professionals (i.e., the physicians themselves) rather than by ignorant patients. State-financed medical care edged out lodge practice; those who were being forced to pay taxes for “free” health care whether they wanted it or not had little incentive to pay extra for health care through the fraternal societies, rather than using the government care they had already paid for.
In America, it took longer for the nation’s health care system to be under government control, so the medical establishment had to achieve its ends more indirectly; but the essential result was the same. Medical societies like the AMA imposed sanctions on doctors who dared to sign lodge practice contracts. This might have been less effective if such medical societies had not had access to government power; but in fact, thanks to governmental grants of privilege, they controlled the medical license procedure, thus ensuring that those in their disfavor would be denied the right to practice medicine.
Such license laws also offered the medical establishment a less overt way of combating lodge practice. It was during this period that the AMA made the requirements for medical license far more strict than they had previously been. Their reason, they claimed, was to raise the quality of medical care. But the result was that the number of physicians fell, competition dwindled, and medical fees rose; the vast pool of physicians bidding for lodge practice contracts had been abolished. As with any market good, artificial restrictions on supply created higher prices — a particular hardship for the working-class members of friendly societies.
last night my fraternity had this sharing night where we sat in a circle and went around and shared our backstories and some of the things we’ve gone through and, for the first time in my life, i openly talked about my experience with childhood sexual abuse it was really difficult but i’m glad that i did it was a nice night
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the working class utilized fraternal organizations within their communities to create a network of social safety net functions, and less expensive healthcare alternatives. Today, worker access to healthcare, schools, and social safety nets are limited to acquisition through employers or the state. Sheldon Richman’s discussion exposes the corporate motives and state mechanisms that effectively eviscerated the utility of fraternal organizations within working class communities, and also made workers more dependent on employers. These forgotten social structures offer a paradigm to workers seeking alternatives to corporate healthcare and state social service monopolies.