Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”.
The DMC has quoted this line several times, and yet there are lodges throughout California and the United States that are losing members, yet persist in bland repetition until their ultimate demise. In my years as Grand Master and then Sovereign Grand Representative I was told many times how the DMC was somehow anathema to the Odd Fellows, that we were too jovial, too public, too accustomed to having fun. I spoke to a gentleman in Baltimore, who with a straight face, lectured me on the seriousness of our Order. He told me how bad the DMC was, how disruptive, but when I pressed him for specifics, he turned and walked away. At Sovereign Grand Lodge, they pass out member counts for each state in the U.S. and I noticed that his state had less than 200 members remaining. The thing that appears startling is that he apparently hopes for more members by doing the same things he has always done. And yet, I spoke to one of the bigwigs at Sovereign Grand Lodge and was told that he was widely admired. I have no doubt of his value to his state, but the fact of the matter is, the Order in his state is failing. Whether you are liked or disliked at Sovereign Grand Lodge is of little import if at the end of the day your own jurisdiction is failing.
The question that eventually must be asked is what, if anything, Sovereign Grand Lodge does for the individual jurisdiction? This is not a reflection on a single person, state, or idea, but rather, the premise of some inanimate object holding sway over failing jurisdictions. If you owned an appliance, for example, and the company you purchased it from had sold 50 similar appliances, but one third of all of them were failing, would you not question the design of said appliance? The reality is that our order needs a massive overhaul. Every member in the United States pays money to Sovereign Grand Lodge. What is the return on our investment? The response I often hear is that the dues are not much, and evidently you get what you pay for, but sooner or later the internal mechanism must be called into question. Whether or not some one is liked by Sovereign Grand Lodge is irrelevant; rather it is the vantage point that must be called into question – in other words, do you like Sovereign Grand Lodge?
Of course, as many have pointed out, Sovereign Grand Lodge can only do so much, but in my short time there what I noticed with great abundance is the ponderous nature of things. Legislation to implement change is held over and generally dismissed, and certain individuals not only control the events, but squelch any new ideas. One constantly hears of five-year plans, that are eventually diluted and discarded since each Sovereign Grand Master only serves for one year. Sovereign Grand Lodge Central Committees are often run by the same members (yes, they are well liked too) for decades, and if you serve on these committees you tend to have very little input on the basic functionality of the committee. Of course, Representatives, particularly in the larger states, are by design, belittled, since if you are a Representative in California, for example, you represent 2,000 members each, while in some states you may represent only fifty. Many states are failing, and all debate aside, it doesn’t matter again whether you are liked or not, simple longevity factors, will force the absolute vanishing of at least one third of the U.S. within 10 years. This is a simple, non-debatable fact, if the average age in a state is 65, and the life expectancy is 75, the state will be gone in probably less than 10 years. The fact that the DMC is disliked by states with less than 200 members is like being healthy and hated by those with an incurable disease. The state of California is twice as large as any other state. The DMC is just one reason for this simple fact.
So, what is the answer? I agree that Sovereign Grand Lodge can’t solve everything, but they can attempt to clear the logjam. Also, any legislation that is more restrictive rather than less restrictive should be by its own nature objectionable. Membership should be our one and only goal. Supposedly, we are trying to be non-discriminatory, and yet legislation is still being circulated recommending discrimination. Whether it’s a matter of religious discrimination or racial discrimination is irrelevant. Discrimination should not be tolerated in any degree. Is discrimination tolerated or is it not? If membership is not now the focus of Sovereign Grand Lodge, why is that the case? Any onlooker would note that a state with 200 members is failing – why don’t we? A major portion of the United States has jurisdictions with less than 200 members! In my year running for Sovereign Grand Warden I pointed out that no one who ran for office even broached the subject of membership. In fact, several Past Sovereign Grand Masters told me that no one wanted to hear about membership. Supposedly, that’s the kiss of death for candidates, but if we don’t conquer the problem of dwindling membership, when do we do it? Shall we wait a few years until a third of the Order in the United States has vanished? Sisters and Brothers, it’s up to all of us, whether we are liked by Sovereign Grand Lodge is irrelevant. Let’s stop setting up committees to study the problem. Let’s start to make integral changes right now.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles.