Initiation Rites

The exams and tests we have to undergo in order to achieve academic success or be employed at certain companies are nothing but initiation rites. You undergo arduous and stressful experiences, but if you succeed you get to enter the society. Very similar to initiation rites of secret societies, except you hardly gain access to interesting esoteric knowledge. For most secret societies you have to go through ordeals no-one in their right mind would do, yet social pressure can make you do crazy things. Credo Mutwa said he had to eat a human head for his initiation into African mysteries, Skull and Bones novices have to lie naked in a coffin (which is something I also might like to try, though, without joining the brotherhood), Freemasons too are bound to have some sort of unpleasant rites. In the academic world you have to stress over exams days and weeks before, and when the day finally arrives you have to sit in one place regurgitating information you were to told regurgitate. The aim of initiation is not so much to teach you skills you need in your new job, but rather to make you a loyal follower.

You suffer through painful and humiliating experiences with the thought in mind that there is a reason for this, and when you pass you feel like you arrived. You suffered and you want to believe the suffering had a reason. Therefore after passing the exams/ being accepted into the secret society you, and everyone around you, tell you are good, better than those who failed or did not even try. Pain and humiliation is the price you have to pay to go forward. After all people tend not to value things they got for free as much as things they paid a lot of money for. Therefore in the so called education system the part about teaching people news skills is secondary, and the initiation brainwashing is the primary purpose.

Here in Korea, and certainly in Japan, the education system is really insane in loading stress on students. It’s hard to say which is worse. The education system in Finland is, according to my experience, better, or more accurately, not as horrible. Yet I wouldn’t praise it much. It’s a peer pressure system that indoctrinates and puts stress on people, with some real education added here and there. In Korea the yearly entrance exams into university are a major national thing. The even have a culture of superstition around the exams. Parents and relatives buy kids gifts to give them good luck or pray for them. Some gifts are practical things the student might need during the exams like a pen or a watch, but there are also things that only sound good. For example an axe is one such gift, because the verb in Korean to chop with an axe is 찍다 (jjikta), the verb for marking off wrong answers in a test is also 찍다, therefore an axe is seen as bringing good luck (I don’t think they bring the axe to the exam room though.)

One might say it is cute, having some fun with puns in the school world, and I’m just being uptight by bitching about it. I don’t think it’s very fun for the young people who have to suffer through the exams. Instead of trying to make an unbearable situation less bad with trinkets, they could change the whole system. It’s very stressful for students. Some commit suicide, others break down in desperation since they don’t wanna do it, yet after the breakdown they realize they have little choice and go through with it. And this is how the initiation rites works. It quite literally eliminates the chaff from the wheat, and tempers the survivors to be eager slaves. Once you undergo all of this psychological torture, the fear, the humiliation, yet are able overcome it, and are lauded for it, the initiation is complete. You have been forged a sharp tool for the corporate masters. You can become a good employee for Samsung, LG or some other corporation. And you won’t dare bitch about it as you were at least successful. You may not be happy about it, but you made it. You lived through hell.

I feel like watching Full Metal Jacket again.


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