The Common Good.
“It is possible that people should combine for the common good; hence we have societies…united by a compact, which protects their members.”
There are several things in the above quote that an Odd Fellow can observe. However, I’ll focus specifically upon the idea, put forth in the quote, of a social contract. Odd Fellow’s philosophy refers to this as a “compact.”
A social contract (compact) is an agreement among members of an organized society defining and limiting the rights and duties of each. In other words, “we all agree we can do ____ without penalty; we all agree that if we do ____, it results in penalty.” This is the basis of law and how governments and communities operate.
Where would humanity be without a social contract?
Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher believed that without the civilizing influence of society, our lives would be lonely, poor, brutish and short. That we would live in endless fear and in constant danger of a violent death. He wrote that we had to have civilization to live a worthwhile life. And without a social contract that allows us to give up some of our rights to a strong leader, humans would constantly be at war with one another on a massive scale. So, humans formed societies to live good lives through cooperation.
If you think that humans are naturally rotten and mean, you side with Hobbes. NSFW.
Jean Jaques Rousseau a French philosopher thought that without societies humans would be “noble savages.” That humans would lead a solitary existence—peacefully. Humans would only be concerned with satisfying their immediate needs. He saw the need for a social contract, but for different reasons. He wrote that our problems were created by civilization. For instance, he believed that property rights, a basic part of a society, could only result in inequality. Inequality creates social frailty, selfishness, and evildoing. The only way to overcome this was through a social contract where the people accepted the authority of the “general will” of the population—a nod to majority rule. Sort of.
If you think humans are naturally good and decent, and it is society that corrupts us, you side with Rousseau.
It is clear Odd Fellows recognize, like Hobbes and Rousseau, that humanity has organized society for the common good. That humanity must combine in societies to protect its members. And that Odd Fellows are there to assist within the frame work of civilization to relieve the distressed.
Scott The Conductor
Scott Moye is an award winning history educator and collector of Arkansas folkore. He grew up on a cotton farm and is currently a museum worker. Hobbies include: old house restoration, writing, amateur radio, Irish traditional music, archery, craft beer, old spooky movies, and street performance. He is a member of Marshall Lodge #1, in Marshall, Arkansas. He is a founder of Heart in Hand blog.