Picture a big, beautiful building. To enter, you’ll have to answer questions and provide a password. Before that, you had to be taken there by a special driver. You’ve been invited by a particular person with the authority to give you the correct password and the correct answers to the questions you’ll be asked at the front gate. After all of that process, you’re there. You look around, and see people wearing fancy clothes while others are naked and having sex in front of them. You think: Well, this is freaky. Of course they’re all secretive about it. Now picture another scenario. It’s broad daylight and there are cameras in the room. The president is there, along with other politicians and journalists. He’s signing some papers. Everyone knows what’s in those papers, and with each signature, the president is making life harder for other people, reducing their rights and diminishing their possibilities of living a good life. Which of these scenarios is the scariest?
We’re all a little scared and intrigued by powerful people’s lives. When we think about their privileges, all their money and resources, we let our imagination fly to picture what they decide to do with all of it. That’s why we’re so fascinated by secret societies and associations. Their secrecy offers a void we’re able to fill with our fantasies and fears about those who have the ability to control our lives. One of these societies is Yale’s Skull and Bones Society, which started in 1832 thanks to William Huntington-Russel, Alphonso Taft, and its twelve initial members. Ever since, the society selects a small group of new members from the junior class. When we hear about it, with the few facts and anecdotes we know about, we’re left wondering about their process of selection and the practices that make them so eager to keep the secrets of the whole endeavor.
Their members are called Bonesmen, and many of them have been important American politicians and officials. The most notorious being the Bush family and former president William Howard Taft. But aside from the hundreds of members in governmental positions, a considerable number of Bonesmen have reached powerful positions in mass media and finances, handling the fortunes of families like the Rockefellers and the Carnegies. All of them have carefully kept the society’s secrets, but not the fact that there are secrets to keep. In his autography, George W. Bush mentioned it, adding the fact that he cannot say anything about his membership. That’s strange, isn’t it? Why call attention to it by mentioning it at all? Isn’t that like breaking the rules of Fight Club?
It’s easy to conclude that the society actually benefits from the fact that we’re distracting ourselves with obscure fantasies instead of taking a look at their actual practices, which are simply less fascinating to most people because they involve boring things like bureaucracy and nepotism instead of orgies and Satanic rituals. Their initiation process and the mystery around it, for example, lead many people to come up with theories about animal sacrifices and magic, instead of questioning real issues like the fact that they only started including women in the nineties. If their members have almost direct access to positions of power, what does the exclusion of women mean for the political sphere?
I know we’re all still interested in the secret part of these societies, so let’s analyze some of the known initiation rituals for another one of those societies, as well as the murky stuff about them. Apparently, to be accepted in one of Oxford’s drinking societies, you have to do pretty stereotypical stuff like running naked covered in animal fat around the university. When I read about the topic, I didn’t think I was going to find typical scenes from a bad movie about fraternities and dumb college kids. Anyway, after you’re accepted, you get to go to their parties, which are full of illegal drugs like ecstasy and cocaine. Exactly: like any other party. The difference is that they have more money, so add some caviar to the mix.
There’s no magic or Satanic stuff. Then, what’s the real danger about an unusually opulent party? Well, privilege makes some of the members (Oxford’s Black Cygnets, in this case) think that they can plan things like a “fox hunt,” an event where the male students were supposed to choose attractive young girls, make them dress up like foxes, and chase them through the town. Those are the dudes that get to be presidents later, people! Let’s be frightened about that, not about secret handshakes. Some theories speculate these secret societies being responsible for creating the nuclear bomb and owning the CIA. You know who’s responsible for those things? The government and that’s not a secret. I love conspiracy theories too, but I recognize that I love them because they are amusing, and they distract me from a disturbing, complicated reality that is going on in broad daylight.
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