Monthly Archives: October 2015

Sorry, You Don’t Get To Tell Me How To Be A Peer

Facebook has a page or a group for damn near everything. And well it should. That’s pretty much the point. Connecting everyone to everyone and everything.

Most of the time I don’t have a problem with this, but today, well today is a little different.

There are a couple of Facebook groups that I am a part of that make me open to questions. That’s okay, if I wasn’t open to the questions I wouldn’t participate in the groups. Occasionally it makes me a target for someone’s ire because I am a part of “the standard”. I’m talking about the groups that are open to anyone asking questions of members of The Order of The Laurel and The Order of The Pelican.

As a member of both of these orders I am held up as one example among many of how to behave as a Peer, what a Peer is looking for, and how a Peer is supposed to act.

Obviously there is a wide range of possible answers to those questions, but even so Peers do generally have a standard to which we gravitate with a certain amount of standard deviation around that point.

So it never ceases to amaze me when someone who is clearly not a Peer comes swooping in and tries to question us and challenge us on our standards and behaviors. It’s one thing to not understand. It’s another to come in and tell me how I am supposed to act.

No.

Sorry, but unless you actually have some standing that makes you an authority on the subject you don’t actually get to tell me anything about this.

I’ve been a Peer for 16 years. What that means is that for some people I have been a Peer longer than they’ve been in the SCA and to others it means I’m still a young punk learning the ropes. However I will argue that at 16 years and 2 Peerages, I probably have at least some of this game figured out.

So I’m going to address some questions that I’ve seen floating around, including the ones I am particularly annoyed with at the moment and we’ll see if maybe I can clarify a couple of things at least enough so anyone who reads this knows where * I * specifically am coming from.

Is It Fair To Judge You?

Yup. Next question.

What? You want more? Okay…… The moment you put yourself on any Peerage track (either by becoming an associate or just by really stepping up your participation in a particular area) you are opening the door to being judged by the Peers of whatever order you are working towards.

That’s the process. And you might be surprised to discover that this process has been in place for something along the lines of 45 or 50 years now. I could go look up when each of the orders started but you get the point. So we kind of have it down to a system by now. A system that takes a lot of factors in to consideration.

Or were you thinking that we all just love each other’s company so much that we like to have meetings at events at really early hours or late in to the night where we talk about nothing in particular?

How Can I Judge Someone I Don’t Know?

Pretty easily really.

Listen, first off you have to remove the negative stigma in your head about the word “judge”. Usually when we people talk about judging one another what we’re really saying is “looking down” on someone. If you’re coming at this whole idea of the Peers judging people being a bad thing than you are insulting the Peers and you’re making yourself look bad.

Here’s what really happens.

“Hey, I’d like to talk about candidate X, they do Y and its really a good thing.”
“Yeah? Tell us about it!”
“Blah, blah X, blah, blah Y.”
“Anybody have anything else?”
“Yeah, I had a bad time with X at the Plumbers Guild meeting and they kinda came off like a dick.”
“Yeah? Tell us about it!”
“Blah, blah X, blah, blah dick.”
“Anybody know why that might have happened?”
“Yeah, turns out X was having this issue and it screwed them up pretty bad.”
“Ah. Okay, but what are they like generally? What is the consensus?”

And some kind of consensus gets reached, usually something like “Let’s keep an eye on them for a bit and see if they really are a dick or if this was just a one time thing.”

In other words, as a group, whether we directly know you or not, we do collectively find out about you. We pay attention. We take notes. We have people who do know you and we trust them and their judgment. Some of us will go off and meet you more directly to find out even more about you. If we have an issue with you we take the time to find out about that issue and get it resolved before we move forward.

Eventually enough information is compiled and enough people have watched you and paid attention to you that we figure out if you are a dick or if you are someone we want to be part of our little club within the club.

So yeah, we can judge you. As a body we defer to the people who have more direct knowledge of you, and those of us who don’t know you ask all the questions to find out enough that we can be comfortable making a decision about you.

Am I Making You Into A Conformist?

Nope. And no Peer in my entire experience has ever done that.

First off, unless you are my apprentice or protogee I have no reason to try and make you into something specific. Secondly, even if you are my apprentice or protogee I have no reason to try and make you into something specific other than a Peer.

My job as your Peer is to teach you and to guide you. Not break you and shove you into a cookie cutter mold.

I’ll brag on myself here a little bit. For many years I was unique in the SCA. My Laurel came about as a result of my studies in Period Performance Magic. To the best of my knowledge and research I was the first in the history of the SCA. Since then there have been a few others but still, to the best of my knowledge and research there are less than a handful of us.

I value unique and different. I want my apprentices to be unique and different. I want my protogee to be unique and different. I want my students to be unique and different.

But I know of no single Peer who has ever insisted that their associate give up what makes them special and try to conform to a group dictated standard. Why is that?

BECAUSE THERE IS NO GROUP DICTATED STANDARD!

And frankly when someone comes along and tries to insist that this is what we Peers are doing it pretty much pisses me off. It’s a pretty clear indicator that they have not been paying attention at all to what really goes on around them and I have a real problem with willful ignorance.

Why Isn’t There A Check List Of “What The Peers Want(tm)”?

Oh boy.

Short answer:

Because if there was a check list then someone would use it and when they completed said list to their satisfaction then they would loudly proclaim that all the Peers are evil because we won’t let them in to our club even though they have done “all the things!”

Longer answer:

The group at large is the check list. We all have a collective point of reference for each of our specific orders and we all have individual things that we are curious about. Generally speaking that list of things is more or less the same for each of us, but as individuals we weigh them differently.

Skill level, quality of work, etc etc. These things can be judged by a more or less objective standard. But chances are that if you are already a person we’re talking about then it was your relative skill level and quality of work that put you on our radar in the first place and thus you probably don’t have to worry about that. We’ll make judgments about “how close” they are to achieving the standard we agree on as being Peer worthy, and whatever work you are doing is likely either already “there” or about to be “there.” Nothing to concern yourself with.

Those elusive “Peer-Like Qualities” however, are another matter.

They are subjective. How do you determine whether or not someone has the right attitude, the right diplomacy, the right chivalry, the right honor, the right courtesy, etc etc etc.

If you are a Peer of any kind you already know the one overwhelming truth of Peerage discussions. If you aren’t a Peer then get ready because, to borrow a phrase, “I’m about to drop a knowledge on your ass”:

You will never know how to judge someone’s PLQ’s by a “standard.”

Sorry folks. A “standard” just doesn’t exist.

At best you can get to a level of understanding that makes you think “yeah, I want them in my club,” but you are never going to get to a place where you can explain that level of understanding to another human being. It’s fluid. It rises and falls. It changes with the tides of the Society as a whole. It changes with tides of an individual Kingdom’s culture.

We talk about there being a “bar” which is code for “standard”. Not a subtle code, but I never claimed that Peers where subtle. We have a pretty good idea of what we are looking for, and often it can be summed up with that grand and glorious phrase:

Don’t be a dick.

So, here’s my advice. It’s the same advice I give to everyone.

Be who you are and do what you want to be doing. If you are true to who you are, and you maintain a “personal standard” that you can live up to, the Peers will notice. If what you are doing in whatever your particular field of endeavor is powerful enough to be noticed then the Peers will notice it. We will pay attention. We will watch.

We will judge. We will talk about it. We will make decisions about whether or not we want you in our club.

But if you think we are going to give you a check list, or force you to conform to a group dictated standard of behavior then you are mistaken. It’s not our job to make you into something else.

It’s our job to figure out who you already are.

And if you think that it makes sense to try and tell us how to do our thing as Peers, you aren’t going to get very far or make a very good impression. That is just the way it is.

Supporting the West Kingdom Rapier Community

rapierportraitSo, first off, for my new readers in other Kingdoms, some of what I’m going to talk about here is probably not entirely clear. However, if you live in an SCA Kingdom that has a thriving rapier community I would very much appreciate hearing your ideas.

Backstory for Non-Westerners

Rapier in The West Kingdom has been through a whole lot of trouble. The very very short version is that when it first started we had people who played but didn’t really make a very good impression on “people in authority” so some of those people decided to ban rapier.

Eventually it came back, and over the course of roughly 15 years it has become a thriving community in The West until about the last three or so years. These last few years the community has started to lose itself and lose participation.

As a person who has been a pretty active part of the community over these last 15 or so years it is an issue that concerns me as well as many others. So now we want to address the issues and see what we need to do to bring it back up to speed.

Causes of Burn Out

So the reality of the situation is that many of the people who were most active in the community (myself included) have hit a significant level of burn out with the community. We’ve hit that for a variety of reasons, both SCA and mundane. But regardless we’re burned out. We’ve given our all and we got Whitescarves. And then we gave even more and eventually we got Masters of Defense.

Yay us!

But here we are now with some Whitescarve’s and some MoD’s, but a community that is worn out and tired.

Some areas have been identified as being sources of the problem. I am not sure I agree with them entirely as “sources” but I do consider them to be contributing factors. So I’m going to address them individually and see where that leads me.

Garb

I’m not really sure I agree with this one.

I understand some of the complaints, but from my perspective it isn’t just the rapier community that has suffered from snooty “garb” people (not using the term garb-Nazi, so please don’t use it in a reply, it’s offensive and non-productive).

We just have some people who are unfortunately unable to restrain themselves when it comes to being judgmental about garb.

We also have people who are to overly sensitive when it comes to having their garb critiqued. My experience tells me that more often than not the person who is saying something isn’t trying to be rude, they are trying to be helpful. They just suck at people skills. Like a lot of us.

By all means, we can and we should address the garb issues, and I’ve seen plenty of “garb as armor” type classes taught by a wide variety of people over the years. Teaching these is going to be a good thing in the long run no matter if it is an actual “source” of the problem or not.

Attendance

The SCA at large is experiencing attendance issues. There is no one cause of this. If events in general are experiencing less attendance then rapier is going to suffer from that as well.

However I think that there is a valuable observation to be made, and I’ve already seen it made by others. If there just aren’t that many rapier activities being offered up then the cost/benefit ratio of going to an event pretty much sucks. We need more opportunities for there to be rapier that is worth doing.

Most of the rapier fighting done at events right now is fighting for roses at Crown and Coronet level events. There are a couple of other places where rapier is a much more integral part of the event, but roses is the main stay of rapier in this Kingdom right now.

This needs to change. The question is how. There are a couple of other things that are sitting there and waiting to be more actively used but at the moment they aren’t. I’ll touch on those in just a little bit.

Cross Supporting

I see this as a big one.

Right now in my estimation there are only really four “big” rapier activities that are happening in this Kingdom; West Kingdom Championship (which has a really big problem in my opinion), Mists Rapier Champion, Cynagua Rapier Champion, and Falcon’s Treaty.

Falcon’s can be taken off the list in terms of cross supporting because it is an event entirely devoted to rapier and there isn’t much else going on with regards to other SCA activities for a reason. I will touch on this event more shortly.

The Mists and Cynaguan Rapier Champion tourney’s happen at regular SCA events and in those cases get turnouts according to the location of the event (how far do I have to drive to go to the event) as well as a somewhat better turnout because there are already enough other activities going on that the cost/benefit ratio to go is high enough.

West Kingdom Championship is the one that I think is suffering the most and is also, in part, a source of the problem. There are three different communities having their respective Kingdom level championship here, but the event draws little attention from anyone outside of those communities (Eq, Archery, Rapier). I have never gone (I’ll explain why shortly when I address all my other explanations together) but from everything I hear over and over again it sounds like even these three communities don’t really cross support each other. The Equestrians aren’t watching the Rapier fighters. The Rapier fighters aren’t supporting the Archers. The Archers don’t care about the Equestrians.

And please, that isn’t a judgment statement. It’s an observation from the outside.

What I think Is Going On Here

First a little history here.

Let’s start with Falcon’s Treaty. I am one of the people who founded the event and over the years it has pretty much been considered my event because I have been the one to run it for almost every year it has existed.

It’s purpose when we started it was to create a “rapier only” fighting event. There are a shit-ton of heavy fighting events and more seem to be happening all the time. There is only one rapier only event.

There used to be two. When Falcon’s came in to existence one of it’s goals was to be a Mist’s rapier event to stand with a sister Cynaguan rapier event called Della Spada. That event was run almost exclusively by my good friend Ximon. But when he ended up having to move out of Kingdom no one took up the mantle to run Della Spada. That’s unfortunate, but it is one of the early steps that lead to the decline of the Kingdom rapier community.

But there was still a lot of rapier that was happening regularly at Crown and Coronet events that had a greater purpose than roses. And before someone gets their knickers in a twist about the importance of fighting roses to honor your consort, etc etc etc, all I mean is that the “greater” purpose is something like Kingdom or Principality champion lists.

The heavy fighters go to Crown and Coronet because they are fighting to make their consort Queen or Princess. Which begs the question for the rapier community (a question I have been asking for * YEARS *) – What are we fighting for?

Somewhere in there we finally started getting Whitescarves in this Kingdom. And that created a goal for people to try and achieve, so there was a motivation to fight and push yourself and learn and grow.

Unfortunately due to geography and a few other factors we ended up with a disparity of Whitescarves in The Mists and a bulk of them in Cynagua. Geography being what is in The West it makes regular training and access to these upper level fighters difficult at best.

The general attendance problem is a problem of many fronts, but one of the most compelling of these problems is that of finance. Yes, even though we are a 501(c)(3) organization we still have to be concerned with money and events that don’t draw enough attendance eventually get canceled.

Equestrian runs in to a lot of danger in the financial area. After all a site that supports all the necessary infrastructure of an Equestrian event is often pretty expensive.

So we get the West Kingdom Championship. Not a bad idea on it’s face; combine Eq, Archery, and Rapier championships and you build a whole event with enough attendance to make it financially more workable. Unfortunately in my opinion this was also not a great idea.

Okay, so first off I did mention that I have never been and I would explain why – for me the cost/benefit ratio sucks. The event is always held in Lodi. It never moves. This is because of the available Eq facilities.

I have precisely zero interest in SCA Eq activities. For those of you who love doing Eq that’s great, but it’s not for me. My protogee does Eq stuff and it makes her deliriously happy. But as far as I know even she doesn’t go to West Kingdom Championship. I’ve ridden horses on a couple of occasions and it’s a reasonably fun past time, but SCA Eq is just not for me.

Archery is a more fun past time, but my interest in SCA archery is generally completely satisfied on a yearly basis by attending one event that happens practically in my backyard. So, again, West Kingdom Championship has a very low cost/benefit ratio for me.

The only thing that happens at the event that I might be interested in is the Kingdom Rapier Champion. So the question becomes “is it worth it to me to drive ~3.5 hours out, hang around all day, fight for maybe 2 hours, and then drive ~3.5 hours home?”

The answer for me is “no.” And sadly I know that is the same answer for a number of other people, and so rapier attendance drops.

When the Kingdom Rapier Championship occurred at other regular events I would enter or at the very least I would marshal. I was there and I would be supporting it. And having one more person to support meant that some other person would be able to fight or relax and not suffer as much burn out.

One of the other things that I am hearing from people with regards to West Kingdom Championship is that the fighting is taking place on an out of the way field. This statement rang bells with me.

One of the things that raised the general awareness of the rapier community to the rest of the Kingdom was it’s visibility at Crown and Coronet level events. We fought hard to have the right to have our tourney’s on the same fighting field as the heavy fighters. That still happens at the Coronet level events, but it’s not happening at Crown any more. That is a three-times a year loss of visibility.

Yes, the Kingdom Rapier Champion is a year long office, but before West Kingdom Championship the rapier community was constantly making sure we had Eric space and time at Kingdom level events specifically for our use, not just a corner of the field for roses.

What Can We Do?

I see a couple of really big opportunities here, but both of them are going to take some serious work.

First, Della Spada. Someone in Cynagua needs to take up the mantle and get that event back on it’s feet and back on the calendar. Falcon’s Treaty can not continue to be the only “rapier only” event on the calendar. We need another one. Falcon’s in The Mists. Della Spada in Cynagua. This worked in the past. It can work again. These two events are able to do all kinds of things because there is no hard fast rule about what has to take place.

With Falcon’s I always try to make sure that there is ample opportunity for anyone in the Guild to play a prize if they want to. I always want there to be The Ladies Tourney, because when we started that it proved to be a lot of fun. But we’ve done all kinds of things over the years.

Rapier games at Falcon’s are a good thing in general. Nytshaede’s Town Battle was a blast. The year I ran a Quest event was amazingly fun. Yes, even games of Blood of Hero’s would be worthwhile. (I’m not a fan but I know a lot of people enjoy it, so go for it!)

Della Spada had it’s own flavor and style, but also it was just as flexible and had many games and tourney’s that made it a destination event.

Second, either disengage Kingdom Rapier Championship and get it back on Crown Tourney fields, or find/create some other “high level” Championship that gets held on Crown Tourney fields so that we start being visible to the Kingdom at large.

The Queen’s Ring jumps immediately to mind.

Currently The Queen’s Ring can be fought for anywhere. Instead of that, make it an “official” tourney to be held at Crown, and start arranging with autocrats and Royals that The Queen’s Ring becomes something that regularly happens at Crown. That makes it possible to advertise and make more noise about rapier activities. It makes it possible to put meaningful rapier activities at Crown, and it puts rapier back in the public eye at Kingdom Level events that everyone is at.

That is what raises awareness. That is what raises attendance. That is what gets support growing again.

In my opinion anyway.

If other people have ideas I would dearly love to hear them.

Thanks!

Your Title Doesn’t Mean Jack, Part 2

I don’t know who this lady is but I know I like her!

Well, it seems I hit a nerve.

My blog was really never intended to be much more than my occasional ruminations and rants and wanderings with regards to my two main hobbies; performance magic and the SCA. I thought I was doing really well when I posted something that got 250 views that were mostly not me. On average I think I get about 20 views because my closest friends like to keep tabs on me.

As I sit and write this I have had just under 8000 unique visitors and just under 10500 views. I’ve heard both publicly and privately from people all over the country.

I am shocked, stunned, and truly humbled.

That being said, when I woke up this morning I had a few things I was thinking about that I wanted to further elaborate on with regards to this topic. But with all the comments I’ve received I think there are a few more things I’d like to address as well.

When To Use Your Titles

Now these are not, in any way, a hard and fast set of rules. Far from it. This is just my guiding principles.

I only use my most immediate titles (Baron and Master) when I am doing something official but not necessarily specific in nature. In most courts I am one or the other.

When I am fighting as a heavy fighter I use no title at all because I have no title that relates. I’m not a knight, viscount, count, duke, etc.

When I am fighting as a rapier fighter I use my Guildmaster title if it’s appropriate for me to do so.

I apply this to my regalia as well. I can always wear my baronial coronet and my Laurel/Pelican medallion. But I only wear my Golden Branch when I am operating as a former Bard of The Mists. Otherwise there is no point for me to do so really.

As you can see its really a process of careful selection based on circumstance. And certainly there are variations again. For example my apprentice, although she is a Peer in her own right as a Pelican, chooses instead to use her honorific of Madam from a lower ranked award as opposed to Mistress. And the Baroness of my local Barony chooses to use the title “hlaefdige” rather than Baroness, a term I am given to understand is closer to “lady of the household”.

And still they choose to use these titles only when acting in some official capacity.

There is a difference between using a title when it is appropriate and using a title to gain something over someone else. It seems an obvious point but clearly enough people have experienced problems that my words from my previous post resounded with more than 8000 people.

Peers Have Asses And You Have Feet

One of the things that seems to come up frequently is that people of “lesser rank” aren’t allowed to call out someone of “greater rank.” I’ve heard the complaints and occasionally I’ve actually heard that this is a “rule” in the SCA, a misconception I have gone out of my way to correct every time I’ve heard it. I’ve tried to encourage people to speak up no matter who they are and no matter who they have to speak up about, but the fear is understandable.

I recognize that it’s relatively easy for me to say the things that I am saying. After all, I am a Peer, and High Muckety Muck, and I have a bowl full of alphabet soup. But that hasn’t always been the case and I might even argue that one of the reasons why I have all these titles and awards is because I was willing to call out the bullshit around me when it needed to be called out.

We are trained to give respect automatically to people of high rank, and of course “The King’s Word is Law”™. But I can tell you, as an example, that at an event I was at when it got back to my lady that the King himself was saying something untrue about her and I she did not hesitate one moment to go and speak to him about it.  She is even more formidable than I when it comes to such things.

As I said in my previous post, no one is beyond being held accountable, no one is beyond noble behavior.  Not even the King.

Some people needed to have their asses kicked. And it does seem that people need to be reminded on occasion that ass kicking can go both ways. Peers have asses and you have feet. Don’t be afraid to use them.

Sometimes “Being Nice” Translates To Not Saying What Needs To Be Said And That’s A Problem

There are many people who are willing to say that they are blunt and don’t have a problem getting in people’s faces. Most of the time that’s just talk unfortunately. The number of people who will actually follow through is great deal smaller.

That isn’t a dig on any of us though really. I mean let’s face the facts here; we as an organization are largely made up of the school kids who weren’t always the most popular, the people who were often bullied because they were in to Dungeons & Dragons, or were more interested in science and history then they were in sports. We are as a group very non-confrontational.

It is hard to confront anyone. It is even harder to confront someone who “out ranks” you. We spend so much time playing this game and being invested in the identity that we create, that we forget sometimes that it is a game.

But it can be, and often is, one of the greatest games there is to play.

In the years I have been in the SCA it has impacted how I operate in the “mundane” world. I get strange looks from people for holding open doors; I’ve lost a job because my integrity didn’t allow me to do something my employer wanted me to do; I’ve been complimented on my manners.

Amusingly enough I have even been asked if I was gay because I was “so polite.” No joke! But imagine what must be going on for the person who asked me this question, that they associate polite with gay, and that in their world a straight male is expected to be less polite in general.

Frankly I consider all of these things to be good things. That the person I have become over the years because of the SCA is really the kind of person I want to be. I have often said that the point of this game is to discover how to be the best possible version of ourselves that we want to be.

However, in order to achieve that we have to be willing to protect and defend the environment that allows us to do these things. We have to be willing to step up and challenge the people with “ranks” and “titles” and remind them that just because they are Duke Sir Master IveDoneItAll, it doesn’t mean that they get to backslide into being jerks about it.

We don’t want to be confrontational. It’s against our nature for the most part. We want everyone to just get along and we certainly talk about how the SCA is one big happy family. But in a lot of ways we aren’t. In a lot of ways this family sometimes has a crazy aunt or uncle that needs to be reminded that they aren’t the be all, end all of all things SCA related.

We don’t want to be confrontational but sometimes we have to be willing to step up and be the ones who say “hey, this BS isn’t cool. It isn’t noble, it isn’t honorable, and you are being a jackass.”

That’s the price.

So What Do We Do? What Do Our Titles Actually Mean?

I want to make sure that I head off a potential misunderstanding.

I am not against awards, ranks, and titles. I mean, obviously I’m not. I have a nice tidy collection of them. More than a lot of people even realize. In fact I was told this morning by a friend that they had no idea how many awards I actually had until I wrote my previous post and shared my alphabet soup in it, which was to me a compliment.

First we have to remember that we are a meritocracy. Our awards and titles are not something to confer new respect or value to who you are. They are there an acknowledgement of what we have already achieved. Not every award is a Peerage, but a line from the Peerage ceremonies is a good one to remember regardless of the award; that you will “continue to do as you have done.”

Second, we have to remember that as we climb further up the award ladder, such as it is, that what we are doing is making ourselves more visible and thus more of a target, both of admiration and potential derision. We climb up and we become the model others might use to emulate. Or the example others might use to learn what not to be.

Somewhere I picked up a bit of wisdom that was directed at Peers specifically, but I think should apply to everyone –

“Remember that you are the first person(Peer) someone new to the SCA is going to meet.”

This is probably the last article I’m going to write on this topic for some time. I feel like I’ve pretty much said it all and my readers (all several thousand of you now apparently – * gulp *) are obviously pretty damn smart. You’ve listened to what I’ve had to say and you’ve been kind and generous in your response.

Thank you. I hope that I can continue to provide other words of interest in the future.

Yours in Service,
Baron Master Master Jua…. Ah screw it,

Santiago

Your Title Doesn’t Mean Jack

In the SCA we are all supposed to behave like nobles, whether we have a “title” or not. We earn our titles in a system that is basically a meritocracy; a system of reward via your efforts. We also, as a natural consequence of that, assume that people with “more” titles, or “more” awards are somehow “more” worthy of respect.

The math is simple; they clearly must be consistently doing good things to be rewarded for their efforts, and therefor we must be obligated to show them respect.

The problem with this is simple; if you’re acting like an ass then it doesn’t matter how many awards and titles you have, you’re still an ass.

Lately I’ve been running into this a lot more than I would have thought. It usually comes in two forms:

1 – I just got my first award and I need everyone to know it.
2 – I am a high muckety muck and therefor can act like an ass and no one can gainsay me.

There are variations on these themes, but fundamentally these are the ways it seems to break out.

And I know that different SCA Kingdoms handle their “title culture” differently than we do in The West. That’s cool. I’m still sure that these kinds of problems occur simply because people are still people and are therefor fully capable of being, well, stupid.

I Just Got My First Award

Virtually everyones first award is the “Award of Arms.” This comes along with ones first “title”; Lord or Lady. And let’s face it, this is generally a very cool recognition. It’s the first time that you get called up in court, and everyone cheers for you and applauds your efforts.

But if you aren’t thinking it through it can happen that you let it go to your head. You start putting emphasis on the “Lord” or “Lady” when you introduce yourself. You correct others when they forget it as they introduce you to someone else.

Or you try to browbeat people with your title even when you are making a simple request of them. “Hi, I’m LORD Vexorg, Destroyer of A Thousand Shields, and I need you to do this idiot simple thing for me because I am LORD Vexorg, Destroyer of A Thousand Shields.”

Sound stupid to you? Well, it certainly is, and yet I still hear people do this kind of thing.

An offshoot of this is also what I call “alphabet soup”. We shorthand Award of Arms as “AoA”. Well, you can do that with pretty much every award, and when you do that you get some pretty stupid looking stuff as your signature on the end of a letter or email.

For example here is mine –

Baron Master Master Juan Santiago, OL, OP, GMoD, PoG, ORL, OLM, OAL, CA, CV, CM, AoA

Is it any wonder that when I sign things I just write “Santiago”?

And believe me, it can and does get worse.

But here is reality; if I browbeat someone with all my titles and awards and whatever else I am only achieving one thing; telling them I’m a jackass. (And yes, I can hear my various detractors saying “you are a jackass.” If that’s you then I invite you to think about why you are so busy reading anything I have to say at all.)

If you want to give people the worst possible impression of you as quickly as possible then please, by all means, spend as much time as you possibly can dropping your “title” every chance you get.

I Am A High Muckety Muck

This one usually happens to two sets of people; either a “well established person” or an “Officer”.

“Hi, I’m the Kingdom Boot Licker, so I have to have my pavilion on the List Field.”

“I am the Lord High Privy Marshal and I have to meet with this person and that person and the other person. I’m very important.”

“I am the King of Anvilania so you have to do this illegal thing or else.”

Yes, I am aware of real world examples of all of these.

But what I find is the most egregious abuse of this category is the “well established person” (for example any long standing Peer or someone who has been a Royal) who tries to bully someone less established as they are into doing something they don’t want to do, or to “shut them up”, or to try and get away with making “outrageous statements” or even outright lies.

“I’m a Knight so I can say this terrible thing and no one can call me out on my honor for doing so.”

Bullshit. Yet I literally just ran in to this.

Does any of this sound like the behavior of a society of people who are supposed to try to live like nobles?

No one, no matter how many titles and awards they have in the SCA is above basic courtesy and noble behavior. No one, no matter how many titles and awards they have in the SCA can get away with behaving like a jackass without there being some kind of fallout; at the very least without doing damage to their own reputation.

So, who do you want to be? Do you want to be someone “important” or someone “respected”?

Awards and Titles in the SCA do not confer additional importance or respect. They are acknowledgements of the importance and respect you have already achieved. But if you use those titles and awards to browbeat people, mistreat people, or otherwise impose unreasonable requirements or restrictions on people then you undermine the importance and respect you had.

Do you know what your awards and titles are worth?

Take them to Starbucks and see if you can get a cup of coffee with them and you’ll find out.

Magic Imposter Syndrom

Imposter Syndrom is a common problem in a lot of industries, most particularly the tech industry. This is the idea that someone who is in fact extremely skilled still feels like they don’t know enough or are not yet good enough to be considered an “expert” (by some arbitrary measure) yet they find themselves in the position of having to be the “expert” and thus suffer a huge amount of stress over their perceived lack of ability to meet the arbitrary measure they think defines a “real expert.”

In other words “No! I’m not good enough!”

As an entertainer have you ever had an absolutely flawless show? No, of course not. No entertainer has a flawless show. What they do have is great shows that everyone enjoyed and that no one in the audience could possibly perceive any flaw in.

But the entertain knows. They know they missed a cue or flubbed a line or didn’t make the right gesture or missed a note or any one of a thousand possible mistakes.

Except tonight. Tonight I had a “flawless” show.

I put that in quotes because I do recognize that there was one big flaw right from the start; I didn’t actually have a prepared set list of magic pieces I was going to perform. I had my “commando bag” (my collection of magic that I can carry with me anywhere and can perform out of without thinking) because I knew I was going to be at a party this evening and I wanted to be prepared. It was with family so there was really not going to be any escape.

But I never really thought about the set before hand.

Yet everything I did out of my commando bag was executed perfectly. So much so that by the time we were on the road home my wife basically had no real critique to offer. Nothing but praise.

And it bugged me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love getting all the praise. But I am not used to a flawless show. I am not used to everything going so absolutely perfect that even I wasn’t particularly aware of any issues. And I am most certainly not used to there being no real critique of my performance.

I look forward to the details being called out. Knowing that there is something that I can work on for the future makes me feel better. It gives me things to think about and to guide me to becoming better.

And again, don’t get me wrong, there is always something to work on for the future, but I am used to at least one of the items on my ever growing list to be something from the last show I did that needs work.

Okay, I know, it seems odd to complain about this. And I am very sure that it sounds silly and even trivial. In a lot of ways it is.

But still, for a bit of time there, I was feeling like a “Magic Imposter”.

However, all that being said, I’ve shaken off the feeling. You see, as I’ve stated elsewhere, my nephews think I’m the most awesome magician in the world. And really, I can accept that.

%d bloggers like this: