Pleebs and Stairwells

Informant, was a Naval Officer for much of his life (though not any longer), and had gone to the Naval Academy. Though not open to telling me many stories about the Naval Academy Rituals as he thought they were too inappropriate to tell a young lady, he offered to explain a few.

When asked about why these traditions are done, he said this, and elaborated on another tradition:

Informant: Um. One it keeps the guy’s minds off of the fact that they might be homesick.

Author: Mmhmm.

Informant: It does, you know, they have to start to work together as a group. Not so much shouting but just um [Pause] that you can get in and push and go beyond your limits, you know? [pause] But yeah, everybody does it. Some things I thought were kinda silly like. Only Upperclassmen can use this particular stairwell, and I remember, going back there as a Company Officer, and  they were yelling at some Pleeb because he was using that Stairwell, and I says I said: “Why are you yelling at this guy for using this stairwell?” “We’re not supposed to.” “Well, for what reason?” “Because of tradition!” “Well, that’s a pretty short lived tradition [laughter] ’cause  just seven years ago, when I was here, they could!” Just goes to show you how traditions go sometimes.

Author: Right, right.

Informant: Traditions are an excuse for a weak mind.

I feel in looking back on this transcript, that it is interesting to note how when someone is no longer in the system of initiation rituals, such as graduated, or moved on from that group, they then look back on these traditions as silly. However, in the midst of these traditions, they are very important, even if they have changed from their inception to their current versions. Perhaps it is only when someone no longer feels like they belong to a group, that they can then critically analyze their group’s culture; or perhaps it is only when someone is no longer a part of that group, that they feel compelled to criticize the old group.