"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Monday, September 16, 2019

GL of Scotland Shuts Down Its Social Media


"You shall be cautious in your Words and Carriage, that the most penetrating Stranger shall not be able to discover or find out what is not proper to be intimated, and sometimes you shall divert a Discourse, and manage it prudently for the Honour of the worshipful Fraternity." 
- James Anderson's Constitutions, 1723

What is it about anti-social media that compels some Masons to take good leave of their senses?

A couple of years ago, the Grand Lodge of Scotland went all in on social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, in addition to its extensive website, with frequent posts about news of the Craft, announcements, general interest articles, photos and more. Those were public pages and posts that were open for all to see. The hope was that this public campaign would help attract new members, along with engaging existing ones online.

Unfortunately, it seems that plenty of Masons couldn't make the distinction between public versus private pages, and how they were supposed to behave in public when it came to private information and their own language and behavior. Over time there was an increase in posts about what should have remained just between the walls of the lodge room, or public language and behavior that had no business being identified with Freemasons, who should know better.

So, what started as a genial attempt to have an open, public face of the fraternity has now been officially shut down by the powers that be in Edinburgh. 

The Grand Lodge of Scotland has just pulled the plug on its social media pages and accounts - although their website still is online. And the story actually made The Times yesterday. 

From Grand Lodge logs off social media after freemasons overshare secrets (it's hidden behind the Times' paywall, so this is an excerpt):
Robert Cooper, the curator of the lodge’s library and museum, who also edits its Twitter and Facebook pages, confirmed that the pages had been put on hold pending an internal review. 
“As with any organisation there are internal private discussions that shouldn’t be aired in public,” he said. “Unfortunately, some of our members are doing that. Naively, they are putting up messages on Facebook saying, ‘What do you think about what the Grand Lodge are proposing?’ Issues being discussed are not public but then, all of sudden, they are in the public domain.” 
Mr Cooper, an author and historian, said that there had been instances in which individuals had been revealed as members without their consent. “There are some people who work in sensitive occupations that don’t want their membership to be known,” he said. There also have been cases where online disputes between brothers became less than fraternal.
“People are putting things on the likes of Twitter and Facebook that are simply not appropriate,” he said. “Certainly things you would never say face to face to people. That’s causing all sorts of internal disciplinary problems.” 
Mr Cooper hoped that the pages, which made announcements, highlighted items of masonic history and addressed popular misconceptions about the organisation, could return. “We have got 25,000 people from around the world who read the posts regularly,” he said. “We have had lots of queries as to why we have stopped.” 
The article goes on to quote a couple of members about the development:
Gordon Paton, a member of the lodge, whose initiates refer to the organization as "the craft," called for the sites to be reactivated. He said: "Social media isn’t going to go away. To ignore it would be extremely introverted whereas we should be outward looking and communicating positively about the craft." 
Ian Hunter, another member, added: "I am all for making the craft more accessible to the public as most lodges are seeking to bring in new members as our numbers are dwindling. "We could have a closed group where anything goes for masons only or a public group where only the secrets and rituals are kept off." 
Many grand lodges have done just that on Facebook - created private pages to discuss matters the public doesn't need to see. In the ancient days of the early 2000s B.Z. (before Zuckerberg), private online forums hidden behind password protected sites with verified member identification accomplished all of this. It's probably rank nostalgia to pine for those halcyon days of yesteryear, but Facebook and Twitter have not been the best development for the fraternity. Only one of the laziest and most insidious, since it's everywhere.

In addition, more and more jurisdictions are establishing social media policies and guidelines for their members in a possibly forlorn effort to bring back the forgotten skills of common sense, decorum and manners to their members. Possibly because of their New England scold tradition and having way too many Harvard lawyers on hand, I know that Massachusetts has a truly enormous one they developed in an effort to think of every possible transgression. Maine, Virginia, Florida, Rhode Island, Mississippi, Minnesota, Hawaii, Texas, Illinois all have them, and I'm sure many more do, as well. Prince Hall jurisdictions have them. My own jurisdiction in Indiana is hammering one out right now, and we might actually be among the last to do so. More and more grand lodges outside of the U.S. are creating them, as well. 

What is it about the bizarre anonymity of online interaction that sends our whole notion of subduing our passions right out the 10th-story window? Far too many Masons proudly display a square and compass on their profiles, or even profile pictures and avatars, and then go right on unleashing rude, crude and reprehensible public posts and comments that would have gotten them bounced from the fraternity even a short decade ago. Political diatribes, religious rants and insults, personal arguments deliberately guaranteed to elicit rage, and regular strings of F-words, D-words, C-words, N-words, S-words, and ABEGHIJLMOPQRTUVWXYZ-words all pour out online next to a shining avatar of the fraternity. The problem is frankly worldwide, but U.S. Masons seem especially uncircumspect in their online discussions and behavior while displaying public badges of Masonry. So, in a world that has lost all manners and common sense, rules and regulations must now replace what used to be those things you "just don't do." 



The problem is that non-Masons regard every single Mason as a freestanding example of the fraternity. In other words, to echo the hairy old bromide, "You are someone's idea of Freemasonry." That's triply true among anti-Masons, or just those who are on the fence about us. In a culture that questions and sneers at nearly all religious and non-activist organizations, and declares hypocrisy to be the most egregious transgression on the planet, Masons who don't publicly live up to our own standards and expectations do us more harm than any anti-Masonic fanatic ever could.

So Scotland has just decided to solve their situation by closing down their social media altogether, at least for now. Hopefully they will come back with private pages, because Bob Cooper was posting fascinating and informative stories online for several years. 

Unfortunately, Times reporter Marc Horne loses ten points from his fair reporting scorecard for his concluding paragraph that resorts to the requisite (you guessed it) 'handshake and trouser leg'  reference:
Last year Scotland’s freemasons allowed cameras into their lodges for the first time for a BBC documentary, Secrets of the Masons. The lodge refused, however, to reveal the details of its handshakes — or grips — or to allow its initiation ceremonies, which are said to involve blindfolds and raised trouser legs, to be filmed.
I'm now convinced that all reporters in the UK have a keyboard shortcut that just inserts this same reference into every single news story by hitting Cmd+33. Odd that they wouldn't dare insist inserting a reference to Catholics 'genuflecting and bead jiggling,' or Muslims 'banging their foreheads on the floor,' or Jews 'wearing their funny little skullcaps' whenever their traditions are reported upon. Because I guess that would be rude and insensitive.

Whereas we Freemasons must just be silly old farts of no real consequence, unworthy of any respect, but always worthy of a parting sneer.


H/T to R. J. Johnson

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

MSA Issues Disaster Appeal For Bahamas

Photo: Loren Elliott/Reuters
In the wake of Hurricane Dorian last week, the Masonic Service Association of North America has announced an official Disaster Appeal for the Bahamas.

The hurricane made landfall on September 1st and stalled over the Bahamas for two days. The Category 5 storm had gusts of more than 200mph with a storm surge of close to 24ft, flattening homes and destroying infrastructure of the islands. Destruction was widespread on Grand Bahama, Abaco, and Eleuthera. 

As of today, at least 2,500 people are listed as missing in the Bahamas, and UN officials estimate 76,000 are homeless. The official death toll there is 50 people so far, and continues to rise.

The storm also hit the Virgin Islands, North Carolina’s Outer Banks and near Halifax, Nova Scotia, and is believed to have killed seven others in the southeastern US and Puerto Rico.

APPEAL FOR RELIEF – BAHAMAS

The Bahamas have experienced an unprecedented amount of damage and destruction due to the two days that Hurricane Dorian battered the islands. While food, drinking water, and supplies are needed, the best way to assist them now is through your monetary donation.
The Bahamian Masonic leaders under the jurisdictions of the United Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and the Grand Lodge of Ireland have combined their efforts and requested the Masonic Service Association of North America (MSA) to issue this Disaster Relief Appeal.
Donations can be made online at www.msana.com. When remitting by check, please clearly mark that you wish the funds to go to the Bahamas Disaster Relief Appeal.
Please forward any donations you feel appropriate to help our devastated Brothers and their families in this stricken jurisdiction to MSA. Please make checks payable to MSA Disaster Relief Fund and send to 3905 National Drive, STE 280, Burtonsville, MD 20866.
Please remember, MSA deducts no part of your contribution for administrative expenses including charges by PayPal, bookkeeping, and cost of acknowledgment letters. Your entire gross donation will be sent to the affected jurisdiction.
MSA is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

To donate to this appeal online via Paypal, CLICK HERE. 

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Seniors, Loneliness and the Lodge

(Getty Images)
A study was just done in the United Kingdom that brings up a sobering problem, and Masonic lodges in particular need to take notice of it.  Grand lodges are single-mindedly obsessing about the Millennial generation, but the truth is that, right this moment, the biggest growth cohort for new Masons is currently the Baby Boomers - men over about 55 years of age.


If you read the Path Forward survey done by the Scottish Rite NMJ three years ago, you'll discover that our current TARGET now should be the Baby Boomers, aged 55-75. They are settled, with time and money, stable, more likely to be married and with older kids and grandkids, frequently bored now that their careers are slowing (or ended), and most important, still have a grounding in the virtues and morals from the remnants of any shred of religious traditions or connections from their own upbringing. Sadly, more Millennials don’t have that and are rudderless, which means more heavy lifting on our part to teach what they don’t have just to reach and retain them. That’s all why the Boomers are currently our growth target right now.

We already have a major percentage of Brethren over the age of 65, and more are joining every day. Moreover, if you look at the precipitous decline in the birthrates in the U.S. and most European countries over the last 40 years, the simple law of supply, demand and aging are all combining to further skew our demographics to the older range. As fewer of our own members have children and even get married less, by their retirement years they will have even less of a close support network than seniors have today.

Which brings me back to the study in Old Blighty. A group called AgeUK partnered up with Cadbury Dairy Milk for a study on aging in the U.K. They surveyed 1,896 seniors over age 65, and they veered into a situation that is alarming, depressing, or just plain sad, depending on how you look at it. 

And our lodges can actually do something about it, if only among our own members.

According to their survey, about 22% of seniors over 65 (around one in every five) will speak to no more than three fellow human beings in an average week. In the U.K. that translates into about 2.5 million seniors who don't have any human contact on a daily basis. Bore into it a little deeper and you'll see they found that 225,000 seniors there will go a whole week without talking to anyone face-to-face. And one out of eight seniors say they don't leave their homes at all because of loneliness.

So, sure. That 225,000 sounds like a lot until you step back and see that the UK has 67 million people. In that light, a quarter million is a rounding error statistic. But it isn't.

From the article Lonely Lives: Alarming Number Of Seniors Go Entire Week Without Talking To Anyone:
“Loneliness is a huge problem because retirement, bereavement and ill health mean many older people find they are spending a lot less time enjoying the company of others than they’d like,” says [Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK]. “Loneliness can affect your health, your wellbeing and the way you see yourself – it can make you feel invisible and forgotten.”
About 40% of seniors say they’d feel more confident to head out each day if they knew their neighbors. Just the thought of someone stopping to chat with them brightens their outlook: 54% of respondents agree that even a short conversation with a neighbor or acquaintance would greatly improve their day overall. And a quarter of older adults say it makes them feel good when someone smiles or acknowledges them while waiting in line at places like the bank or grocery store. One in five would be thrilled if someone stopped to ask them how their day had gone.
Meanwhile, another survey of 2,000 people ages 16-45 in the UK shows that 55% of younger folks admit to worrying about being lonely in their elder years. With that in mind, two-thirds of this segment say they’re willing to do something to help boost the confidence of a lonely senior, but 37% worry that such a gesture wouldn’t be well-received. Another 30% feel too shy to spark up a conversation with seniors, 27% admit they aren’t sure how to help, and a quarter say they’re simply too busy themselves.
As you age, your connections with the past are more important than at any other period in your lifetime, and yet they get yanked away at an ever increasing rate. Talk to literally anyone over about 70 and you'll begin to hear the same thing over and over. "All my friends I've known are dead, dying, or moved far away to retire or be with their grandkids" (if they have any). It's highly probable that they've lost their spouse, all their contemporary friends, and even the house they lived in and treasured for 30 years gets replaced by a 8x10 room in a retirement community. That's where the loneliness sets in described in the study.

How many times have we all contacted a Brother whom no one in lodge ever heard of to pin a 50-year (or 75-year!) pin on their lapel, and heard him say,"Gee, I haven't been in a lodge in 45 years?" As a lodge Secretary, I heard variations time and again. "I still proudly keep my card in my wallet. But I couldn't work my way in, I've forgotten everything. And besides, I don't know anybody there. All the guys I joined with, and my mentor, the officers - all gone now. It's not even the same building I was raised in. Why don't you just mail me that pin?" 

You hear it over and over.



Freemasonry's core principles are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. If your lodge has a group of aged members you've never seen or heard from, make it a point to call them all. Visit them. Sit in their living room, hear their old stories, learn their histories, and invite to drive them to lodge events. Become their new mentor to bring them back to their lodge again. Ask them to just come and describe the old lodge to your members as your education for a night. Tell then they are the connection with the lodge's past that the rest of you need. Make them a star for the evening. 

Within reason, be a pest in the most fraternal way possible, because what you're really fighting against is his firmly held desire not to be a burden to anyone. Just like your old physics teacher said, objects at rest require far more energy to get moving. It goes for people, too.

Do the very same thing for your lodge widows, because those ladies may be every bit as lonely and bereft of human contact as your senior Masons. 

And don't just do it once, keep it up. Because in addition to actually engaging in Brotherly Love and Relief, you're also setting an example to your fellow lodge brothers to follow when the day comes that it's YOU sitting alone in a retirement home.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Ex-NFL Player Larry Johnson's Anti-Masonic Musings

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
I'll probably regret posting this because I have given up believing that Masons bother to subdue their passions when it comes to anti-social media these days. Plus, reporting on anyone's Twitter ramblings is almost always a spectacularly bad idea. More so when it ventures into pseudo-political-cultural territory. But here goes.

Mr. Larry Johnson, former NFL running back for the Kansas City Chiefs (2003-2009), burbled out onto his Twitter feed a couple of twisted anti-Masonic insults last week. The most egregious being a suggestion that, while Christian churches and Muslim mosques have seen mass shootings, Masonic temples (and Satanic churches which are somehow associated in his mind) have remained unscathed. 

His obvious inference being that something out to be done about that. Or something.




And then Johnson decided to veer into loopy paranoia territory with this little bit of prose poetry:



If you seriously have some morbid desire to read the totality of his public drivel for yourself, you'll find the whole silly saga string HERE, reported on the TheComeback.com website by Andrew Bucholtz.

But it's odd that most of the media seems to want to only highlight the "Masonic Effeminate strategy" post, while ignoring what is the more alarming one of suggesting that something maybe outta be done to a Masonic temple and the Masons inside.

For all I know, Mr. Johnson could be deemed an Einstein of the field, or football's mental equivalent of Lenny in Of Mice and Men. I make no judgement either way in the vacuum of my own ignorance. Bear in mind that I am not a past or current football fan. I have never endured an entire football game on television or in person. In 60 years, I have only been compelled to hold a football in my hand three times, and I immediately divested myself of it before coming to any personal danger. Nor do I pretend to keep up with the comings and goings of past athletic has-beens of any variety. But I don't have to be a football fan to spot a stupifyingly irresponsible and unquestionably daffy pair of remarks better left unexpressed, at least in public. Even in an age when making you look is the point of self-gratifying clickbait.

In the article that reported this, author Andrew Bucholtz explained,
It should be noted that Johnson himself told Kent Babb of The Washington Post in 2017 that he believes he has brain disorder chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), that he has anxiety, paranoia, and occasional self-destructive impulses, that he’s considered violence towards himself and others, and that he has growing gaps in his memory. So there’s maybe more going on here than just Johnson saying ridiculous things...
Reportedly, Johnson has posted no shortage of ridiculous and irresponsible things to his 15,000 Twitter followers ever since leaving the NFL in 2009 and discovering the joys of electronic self-expression. His risible conspiracy theories and rantings are apparently something of a legend among those who get their comedy from this sort of thing. If he's truly got an authentic brain disorder, perhaps someone should wrest the phone from his grip before he makes any more allusions to attacking anyone. That's not an idle concern. 

Forget gun confiscation - phone confiscation is really what needs to become mandatory.

According to the font of all wisdom and knowledge, his Wikipedia entry says that Johnson has been arrested at least six times since 2003. Five involved various physical assault charges against women. In 2014, he was arrested for the sixth time after punching a man in a Miami Beach club and allegedly cutting him with a broken bottle. So it isn't especially comical for him to muse on the lack of terrorist attacks on Masons.

None of this would even raise an eyebrow except that NFL news sites and mainstream news sites are picking up the story (albeit concentrating on stirring up "outrage" over Johnson's LQBTQ comments, and soft-pedaling the Masonic stuff).

And if comments get out of hand, I'll just block them.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Man Busted In Georgia For Impersonating a Shriner


Sometimes there are just those run of the mill freelance freeloaders who do stupidly despicable things at the lowest possible level that leave rational people speechless. 

Meet Mr. Tommy Walker, (alleged) panhandler and moron. Walker was busted last week in Cleveland, Georgia by the local constabulary for plopping a fez on his head and claiming he was raising money for the Shriners Hospitals on a street corner.

Really.

This reptile is currently residing in the local calaboose for his caddish attempt to defraud unsuspecting passersby and motorists alike from their spare change by slithering under the fraternity and quite literally robbing from crippled children. 

That's pathetically the sort of thing that can happen when a non-Mason can so easily get hold of Masonic-related regalia these days. You'll note in his mug shot above that his sunburned chrome dome clearly betrays his guilt all over the pate with a definite fez line. 

From the AccessWDUN website:
A Baldwin [Georgia] man has been arrested after impersonating a Shriner and collecting money on the street, according to authorities in White County [Georgia].

Capt. Rick Kelley with the White County Sheriff’s Office said deputies received a call Wednesday, August 28 about a man collecting money at the intersection of Highway 254 and Duncan Bridge Road. Callers said they suspected the man was posing as a Shriner.

In an email statement, Kelley said he and deputies responded to the location and found the suspect, identified as Tommy Walker, 48, wearing a Fez and collecting money in a bucket. According to Kelley, Walker was unable to produce a dues card from the Yaarab Shrine Temple.
"I contacted the Temple and they confirmed that Tommy Walker was not Shriner," Kelley said.

Walker was arrested and charged with theft by deception.

Kelley said Walker had collected just over $62 in his bucket. The money will be turned over to the Alpine Shrine Club in Cleveland.

For those who REALLY want to donate to support the fine work and facilities of Shriners Hospitals, you can do so online HERE

And for Georgia men interested in the local Yaarab Shriners, read about them HERE.


THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED. AN EARLIER VERSION MIS-IDENTIFIED WALKER AND THESE EVENTS AS OCCURRING IN OHIO INSTEAD OF GEORGIA.