A friend happened across an interesting paper recently, which was authored by Freemasonry’s own Woodrow Wilson, John Cooper, PGM (at the time of writing, he was still the Grand Secretary). In it he describes, with a large measure of honesty, the history of foreign-language lodges in our once great state. Years after most of these early lodges consolidated with their English speaking brethren, some Grand Masters decided to encourage the formation of new foreign language lodges. The results were less than hoped for. But MW Cooper’s research is interesting nonetheless. But read the whole thing. An excerpt:

In the case of the French-speaking and German-speaking community, as well as the Italian-speaking community, the desire for the formation of a lodge working in those languages was truly a “grass roots” movement. The same thing can be said about a Spanish-speaking lodge, although for the first thirty years of the existence of Maya Lodge No. 793, there was no expressed desire to work in Spanish. Then – in 2004 – the impetus for new foreign-language lodges came from the Grand Master. This was a result of a recognition that California had become a multi-lingual state, and that the creation of lodges working in languages other than English would be desirable. The result has not been particularly good. Although we now have an additional lodge working in Spanish, and a lodge partially working in Armenian, neither lodge has exhibited the strength that a new lodge should have demonstrated. The slowness with which Ararat Lodge No. 848 has progressed toward the translation of the ritual into Armenian is an example of the rather lukewarm reception that an Armenian-speaking lodge has had within the Armenian-speaking community, and the similar slowness with which Panamericana Lodge No. 513 has progressed in obtaining new Spanish-speaking members is an example of the difficult of a “top-down” approach to the creation of foreign-language lodges in California.

Again we see the Mason (Kirkpatrick and his predecessor, not Cooper) so eager to be lauded for his commitment to diversity, that he embarks upon a quest to establish foreign-language lodges. 

Adam Smith had some things to say about central planning of this sort. 

The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.

Now we won’t be too harsh on anyone today. Their intentions were no doubt good, even if not all of us agree with the stated goals. But we thank MW Cooper for his scholarship. 

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