It’s only fair that I say this before we start. I’ve never trusted the freemasons or any other so-called secret society which works on the basis of “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. I dunno about you, but personally I don’t want to spend the rest of my life pondering whether the opportunities that came my way had some sort of basis in merit, or more to do with backroom deals, old boys’ networks and funny handshakes. The feeling that ‘you owe’ has sinister, almost mafiosi connotations and it is, well, not a nice feeling to walk round with.
Who an individual chooses to associate with in their own time is entirely their business, and the right of private clubs or organisations to discriminate in terms of who can and cannot join is one that should be protected, regardless of how poisonous or unpleasant that selection process might look to an outsider. Moreover, banning such organisations and driving them underground does not just compromise sacred freedoms of expression and association, they’re ultimately counter-productive, feeding myths and legends about an alleged ‘truth’ being ‘surpressed’ and what have you.
However, there is a separate question regarding whether membership of such a society or group is compatible with work in the public sphere, where equality of access, treatment and a sense of ‘no fear, no favour’ is paramout. This is a particular problem with freemasonry, since the Masonic oath makes it very clear that its members’ first loyalty is not to the law of the land, or whichever God they might follow (although there is a good case for arguing that Freemasonry is a religion in its own right), but other Masons and the lodge itself.
Having read the book ‘Bent Coppers’ by Andrew MacLagan, it astounded me how much the judiciary and police force has been compromised by the Masonic connection for more than a century. Sir Robert Mark, the last Chief of the Met who was not a Mason (in the 1970’s for fuck’s sake) did a decent job of cleaning the force up with ‘Operation Countryman’, where officers from outside the Met were brought in with the specific aim of weeding out the bad apples.
His departure was quickly followed by corruption, fit-ups and cops on the take in SERCS, the Flying Squad and West Mercia. Everywhere you looked, there were Masons, and almost every time the radar of suspicion was turned on, a fellow Mason was there to ‘investigate’ and conclude that all was above board. Not wishing to take MacLagan’s word for it, I did some extensive and exhaustive research of my own, ultimately concluding that the Masonic oath to ‘look after our own’ and a commitment to equality of treatment at the very least has the potential to be a conflict of interest.
Life by it’s very nature is a bitch and profoundly unfair. There will always be people who go further or not as far as their talent and application merited, due to their, er, connections or lack of. However, teachers, doctors, judges, police officers, councillors and members of parliament have more influence than most of us and the ability to either be of real service to society, or wreck lives. We should have the confidence that our dealings with them are on the basis of impartiality, no fear or favour and equitable treatment.
Everybody deserves the opportunity to demonstrate that their private beliefs or membership of an organisation can be left at home when they enter the workplace – be it communist, one with aims based on some sort of prejudice, or an old boys’ network like the Freemasons. However, where the potential for a conflict of interest exists, openly declaring membership of such organisations amongst public officials and servants ought to be a legal requirement, with the relevant information publicly accessible.
Then people can decide for themselves whether or not favours are being done. After all, it is almost always the case that a favourable outcome for one person represents a manifestly unjust one for someone else. Thanks for reading and take care.