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.