People have made a lot of assumptions about this over the years, and one that's galled (because it's true), is that an organization like this is pretty inauthentic at its core. The design of a fraternity isn't really to accomplish anything other than pulling in students before it knows them especially well, and jam them into a sort of friend-making boot camp. I can't come down on whether this is fundamentally a bad thing or not. Some of them became real friends and some didn't, and if an opportunity comes your way to get to know people you have a good chance of getting along with, then why not take it? Especially if you're a dork in engineering school. (And there's the 2012 version of the argument.)
The trick to indoctrinate new guys is to build experiences together, make them hang out with each other and also with the people in the group. That was most of the hazing we gave, and the purpose of all of it, and if I had to show up and fetch beers for a month, or if I got encouraged to try and get away with things that were funny and harmless, then hell, it was nice when it was my turn to drink and laugh. It's pretty obviously a knockoff of military initiation, or gangs, or the clergy, or high school, or any group that makes a case for its bureaucratic existence rather than just its members. And the format of the rite is similar. Set a group of people apart from the rest, push them into a shared experience that's hard to understand in any other context, and let them join fully when they start to bond. It's team-building, in the horrible corporate sense. If my fraternity had conducted this with anything but mock-seriousness, then I'd have been deeply offended, but when it comes to human organizations, mockery is the exactly appropriate response to an abundance of seriousness. (And this may be how they got to me, the sneaky bastards.)
It's an adage that as empires crumble, life tends to go on for most of us--meet the new boss and all that. I hate to take that one too far: it's terrifying how much they can take down with them (and have taken down), but there's truth too that the failure of power structures most seriously threatens the empowered. [It's a thought that often pops up with me whenever the "ready flow of credit" is allegedly held at gunpoint by the financial establishment, but of course it applies generally to straight middle-class white dudes too.] I don't want to beat on Debt much more than I already have, but I find the historical contention interesting that when externally imposed institutions or governments lost their local grip, as he says they did for much of the middle ages in much of the world, then civilization tended to replace them with persistent hierarchical arrangements, where people were guided by tradition into castes, instead of by institutions. The roles in that arrangment are passed on by collective habit, and over time become difficult to confront. Inequality is assumed instead of coerced, and you learn it at birth. I'm not convinced this makes a better world, and in fact, it unnerves me that this is the only alternative that's much panned out on a civilizational scale, but the argument was that it was somewhat less violent.
You can't really escape it, and it's a topic that I periodically wander back to, maybe moreso than your typical engineering nerd. We are initiated into the game before we even get a chance to question it. The fact that we share non-genetic information from one generation to another, one group to another, that we pass it on, is the very essence of what makes us human. We're pulled into existing conversations before we even know how to talk. To really re-think things, you'd need to make a clean and thorough break from ten thousand years of evidence of other people existing, and who'd get to be the architect of that experiment anyway? In the real world, if there is a better and more fair way to organize humanity, it will be because a tradition of such practice emerges slowly, and we will still have to initiate people to get up to speed with that improved starter packet of information. Even if the guiding idea is a rejection of system, you still have to initiate people into the tradition of challenging it. You have to be conditioned to reject authority. Is it any wonder this species is so fundamentally confused?