Resurrecting the Odd Fellows

Well it’s 2013 and the “Insane Clown Posse” masquerading as our elected officials almost succeeded in hurling themselves, and us included, off the proverbial “fiscal cliff.” Fortunately sanity showed its face, however briefly, long enough to avert the plunge into the abyss. You have to give the clowns credit though … with each day they seem to reach new levels of lunatic performance, with the “tea baggers” refusing to relent the headlining role. But we haven’t seen anything yet. February will bring us the debt ceiling “Battle Royale.” We should look for the clowns redefining the term – farcical behavior. Makes you imagine what it would be like if Washington D.C. seceeded from the union and started they own personal dystopia. They could call it “The Lunatic Fringe.”

I was driving through my own dystopia, otherwise wise known as Montana, they other day and I noticed a nondescript building on the outskirts of a small rural community with the signage ~ “The Odd Fellows Lodge.” Now I’ve heard of the Odd Fellows from my time growing up in North Dakota, but I never paid much attention. I figured it was pretty much like the Masons, the Elks or one of the other fraternal organizations that populated the Midwest outback.

When I got home I decided to do some research. This is what I found in Wikipedia:

The name Oddfellows refers to a number of friendly societies and fraternal organisations operating in the United Kingdom. These various organisations were set up to protect and care for their members and communities at a time when there was no welfare state,trade unions or National Health Service. The aim was (and still is) to provide help to members and communities when they need it. The friendly societies are non-profit mutual organisations owned by their members. All income is passed back to the members in the form of services and benefits.

1931 Oddfellows Picture

The name “Odd Fellows” arose because, in smaller towns and villages, there were too few Fellows in the same trade to form a local Guild. The Fellows from a number of trades therefore joined together to form a local Guild of Fellows from an assortment of different trades, the Odd Fellows.

During the following centuries, the idea of common people working together to improve their situation met with opposition (and persecution) from the upper classes, who saw them possibly as a source of revenue (taxes) but also as a threat to their power. For example, when the English King Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church, the Guilds were viewed by him as supporting the Pope, and in 1545 he confiscated all material property of the Guilds. Queen Elizabeth I took from the Guilds the responsibility for training apprentices, and by the end of her reign, most Guilds had been suppressed.

Now imagine if we had Odd Fellows on every corner in our towns and in our neighborhoods. 

The strength and salvation of a society lies not with their governmental leaders. It lies not with their institutions. It lies in the hearts, the souls, the minds and the fortitude of its people … the people of its streets, your neighbors and your friends. And it lies with you. And from your neighbors, your friends and you will lie the solutions.

Our governments have let the safety nets so many depend on, here and abroad – fall to ruin and deteriorate to tatters. And they have shown no willingness to repair them. It is you – and your friends and your neighbors who must step in and be the ones to catch less fortunate as they plummet to the ground in dispair.

It is us that must be there for the elderly in our neighborhoods, those that have no family. We must make sure they are fed, housed and looked after – even it’s just a simple visit for a cup of coffee, or to say hello.

It is us that must not look the other way when see that veteran on the street, the one who risked his life for our freedom in a war he neither condoned nor volunteered for. We must show him respect, and we must provide those services, the services the government who sent him to war – no longer feels necessary.

It is us that must not let our children, everyone’s children – the future of our society, fall through the cracks because of bureaucratic insensitivity and outright neglect. We must look at each child for the talent they have and the contribution they can make to our community. We must listen, even if they say nothing. We must foresee their needs, even before they actually need them. And when they require that extra guidance or assistance school cannot provide – we must step in and provide that guidance and assistance … the tutoring and mentoring that will transition them to life after school. And we must not discount their views, their opinions and their abilities purely because of discrimination due to their age. For their views are the views of the future, both theirs … and ours.

It is us that must patronize the businesses of our friends and of our neighbors. For without us they would have nothing – and we will continue to be beholden to the whims and disdain of the corporate elite in their ivory towers built with “ill-gotten gains.” It is us that must give the hand-up to Main Street that provides the life blood of our community. We do that with our wallets and our purses, even if means spending an extra dollar or driving an extra mile.

We may wish that with a simple pull of lever in a voting booth, things will be all right. But they won’t be. No matter their promises or their intentions, no politician will truly have our best interests in mind when it conflicts with the money that put them and keeps them in office. Only we can be assured that our best interests are protected. This community empowerment is a new societal operandi … an operandi of empowerment we must embrace to survive.

In decades past, neighbors looked after each other, much like the Odd Fellows. But with the advent of suburbia, neighborhood relationships waned under the strain of geographic stretch. Then came the internet and social networking. Facebook and Twitter became the new defacto neighborhoods. Old friends were reconnected and new ones made, but these friends were not next door, and not available for that cup of coffee or that cup of sugar.

Imagine if we could the combine the neighborhoods of the past and the connectivity and expanse of today to create a new generation of societal support. This new generation, this new lifestyle, I call Community 3.0 - the re-establishment of our neighborhoods, the re-establishment of Main Street. With technology and social media, we … the 99% – can identify and provide the needed support and responsibility our governments have so blatantly chosen to absolve themselves of.

Imagine having a community infrastructure which revolves around social support from its residents and local businesses. Government indifference, whether federal, state or local – will be rendered irrelevant. Those in need would be automatically connected with those who can provide assistance. And with this “cause infused” neighborhood connectivity we can can give our local businesses the marketing and loyalty retention tools to compete favorably with any out-of-town, bloated corporate goliath.

No time soon will the “powers that be” relinquish the power they’ve tried so hard to acquire. That doesn’t mean all is gloom though. Fighting these adversaries head-on, on a field that they built, will prove to be futile though. But we must still demonstrate in the streets and keep our message front and center in the minds of our converts, present and future. And we must still fight using our social media superiority to re-establish the world on our terms, not there’s.

But ultimately in the end, they are no match for us on our true field … in our neighborhoods, on our Main Streets and most of all – at the tables of our kitchens.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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5 thoughts on “Resurrecting the Odd Fellows

  1. Yo Clay, after reading this post, I am surprised at your attitude to the George Zimmerman Trayvon Martin issue. How can one person have such radically different views on subjects that are so interconnected and entwined?

    Either you support the local issue, or you don’t… both are about the local issue and supporting the community, but in the George Zimmerman case you seem to have a very strange perception of some twisted reality…

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