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.

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About santiagosgrimoire

Magician, Entertainer, Actor, Cook, Leather Worker, Artist and generally very busy.

Posted on October 13, 2015, in SCA. Bookmark the permalink. 40 Comments.

  1. You are genius. Not just for saying so eloquently what I’ve struggled to say since I got my first award, which wasn’t an AoA and therefore angered people that I’d somehow jumped over them… no you are a genius for casually using Anvilania in a legitimate sentence.

  2. I repeatedly said, my Viscounty, Knighthood, and the rest of my scrolls and accolades all piled in a heap, plus $1.10 will get me coffee at McDonald’s. 🙂

  3. In general YES! Of course people will pay attention because you are a high muckity muck. They’d just go “Sour grapes!” if someone who isn’t said it.

    On SCA communications, class notes, etc. I use my certainly-less-than-26-letters alphabet soup so that people know I already have my AoA or that I am already a member of the Order of the High Flying Goose (CHFG). Just in case someone thinks I should be and wants to recommend me. Does that make me a jackass? Should I stop? Eep.

    I wear what little regalia I have pretty casually. I do enjoy it when people remember to introduce me with my title but I don’t get miffed if it doesn’t get used.

    What does miff me is that very often my opinions, advice, etc. are ignored until people see my alphabet soup or notice my regalia. The tune often changes.

    It also twinges a bit when people say “But I thought you were already a (fill in the blank)!” Though I am pleased that my knowledge and behavior gives that impression, what I want to say is “Well if you think I should be, let people know.” Meritocracy only work if people see and speak.

    • Have just recently had a conversation of the “But I thought you were already a (fill in the blank)!” type. Reassured me that I’ve been doing things the way I wanted to be doing them, actually. (I’ve already received the highest / most important title I ever aspired to, and that was given to me outside of the SCA context…) Amra, or if you prefer “that annoying herald – bard – knife sharpener”, AoA OSCA F.O.B &c.

  4. My Awards Go Jingle, Jangle, Jingle
    by Master Gerhardt von Nordflammen
    (Tune: My Spurs Go Jingle, Jangle, Jingle)

    Chorus: My awards go jingle, jangle, jingle.
    As I go strutting pompously along.
    Oh I see you’ve only got a single,
    If you think that I’ll talk to you, you’re wrong!

    Oh I’m a peer,
    Yes I’m a peer.
    If you don’t outrank me don’t come near.
    But if you do,
    Yes if you do,
    And you give me something, I love you.
    CHORUS

    Oh there’s the Queen.
    Yes there’s the Queen.
    I’ll run up to her ass and lick it clean.
    And there’s the King.
    Yes there’s the King.
    Let me put my lips around his thing.
    CHORUS

    And there’s the Dukes.
    Yes there’s the Dukes.
    I’ll go fawn upon them ‘till they puke.
    And there’s the Earls.
    Yes there’s the Earls.
    But we mighty peers don’t talk to churls.
    CHORUS

    I’ve got a leaf.
    A laurel too.
    If you don’t have one, then fuck you.
    I’ve got the QOG,
    And pelican.
    And I’ll be an Arts King when I can.
    CHORUS

    Oh I don’t fight.
    Or come to blows.
    But if I did I would be the best God knows.
    I’ll take a shield.
    I’ll take a sword.
    When just touching them will get awards.
    CHORUS

    At the grand march,
    Now don’t forget.
    Announce my name and then half the alphabet.
    My greatest joy:
    Titles and name,
    Take heralds half an hour to declaim.
    CHORUS

    Awards aren’t cheap.
    Buzz off you creep.
    There’s no more room at the top of the heap.
    Now I’ve got mine,
    ‘Tis my design.
    To make all you bozos stand in line
    CHORUS

  5. all is fair im guessing. try the other end of this. try doing it for YEARS with no recognition at all. itll sour you i guarantee.

    • I’m with you, Charles! Been playing for over 3 years, and not even an AoA yet…very discouraging if one is a lady in waiting….

    • While this post was made quite some time ago, I hope that by this time that you are not still disenchanted with the organization or your participation therein. For I too have never received any formal recognition for my participationary efforts. Yet, as for myself, there is a very clear reason. You see, when I first joined, some 30 odd years ago, when the Kingdom of Trimaris was new and shiny, I saw or heard about people being given awards for doing practically nothing while others who had worked hard for years had received little or no recognition. I was given a patented reason for this, that being “well, you have to have people write letters”. I quickly made a decision that I would work hard to participate WITHOUT being “wallpapered”. So, while I have put in years of dedication and hard work, performing all kinds of deligent acts, supporting the organization and being a ‘crat of this and ‘crat of that for years (usually voluteering for positions with the explicite promise of not having letters written for me)… To this day I happily do not have any awards; and to my great personal relief, do not have to deal with much of the petty politics that gow with them. My service is for the benefit of all, not my ego.

      • santiagosgrimoire

        Aelfgar,

        Thank you for your comment. My post really is far more directed at the people who get an award and then abuse it. They might have earned it honestly or not. I sympathize with the position though. I encourage my apprentices and protogees to do what they do for the sake of their art or service and not for the reward. If we gather our satisfaction from the work itself no reward is truly needed other than the occasional “thanks.”

        Santiago

  6. Gwilym o'r Afonydd Tair, etc,etc,etc..........and on.

    Very well said, young man. I have found this to be very true. Gwilym, lowly archer in AEthelmearc.

  7. Charmain Hopkins

    I think I love you for this.
    Thank you. No, seriously…THANK YOU…for saying this. It is so very true (and was among the reasons why I left the org so many years ago)

    Charmain Fletcher-Hopkins
    Aka Yrsa Gudrunardottir
    (Insert alphabet soup here)

  8. The “award” that means the most to me, isn’t an award. I am a Master Chirurgeon. As crusty old Master Grimbold (who is both an MC and a Pel) says, “This is not an award, an honor, or attaboy. This is targeting markers for fan-shit. As in when it hits the fan, you’re out front with a catcher’s mitt. Gold stripes on your baldric aren’t as rude as a brown bullseye on your back.”

    My highest dangly thing is Grant-level. I refuse to use THL, anything I have to sign, I do so with Lord or Ld.

  9. I know folks with a ton of awards and titlely type things who still come scrub the floors in the kitchen and you would never know they had any awards. I also know “pointy hats” who think their poo doesn’t smell and they do extremely little except look down their noses and make “pithy comments” about anyone who doesn’t measure up.
    I know folks with no awards who don’t deserve any because they only complain and berate others, never do any work. I know folks with no awards who work their heinies off at every event and never have a bad word to say, even when they’re elbow deep in spoiled chicken.
    Folks is folks. If you are an arse, it doesn’t matter how pointy your hat is, I’ll tell you that you’re an arse. I have a lot of awards and somewhere I do own a circlet(that AoA thing) but I couldn’t list them out, I don’t remember EVEr being referred to as “Lady” and I don’t really care one little bit. I don’t work for awards, I work because I enjoy it. I do enjoy getting an award in a vaguely embarrassed way, and I do enjoy showing that award to people(especially my last scroll which has googley eyes on it!). But it’s just the joy of “Someone thought I deserved a thank you!” not in a “I’m better than you are!” way. I’m a scullery maid, a kitchen monkey…. a pot scrubber. And I’m quite happy doing it.

  10. Bravo. I’ve seen this so many times and more than once I’ve seen nice people become not so nice once they were “important”. It saddening really. I got my AoA after about 20 years in the SCA. I bounced from kingdom to kingdom for many years. I guess that’s why awards don’t really mean much to me. It should always be about having fun and helping others have fun too. After all, it really is just a very elaborate game of dress-up.

  11. Wait. Are saying that when I find a front row parking space at the fabric store that it’s *not* because of my SCA awards? That was just dumb luck? Dammit.

  12. Sadly, those that need to understand this, never will. Even if they read it, they’ll simply scoff and pass it off as “sour grapes from someone who can’t get an award”.
    Those who understand and agree with what you’ve written, don’t need to be reminded. They know it, and have seen it. And, try as they might, it never gets better. This is, I believe, why we lose many good, talented people.
    The SCA is not what it once was. I’ve been a member since 1982. Pennsic 15 was my first and 22 was my last. My fondest memory was making lemonade with one of the greatest, and humblest people, for kings and queens that didn’t recognize him, despite the fact that he was a duke, sat on the thrones of two different kingdoms, and was one of the most talented people I know. And he was more than fine with that.
    People in the SCA keep saying “it’s not about the awards” yet they use that carrot on an ever elongating stick, to get people to do more and more work. All the while telling them “you’re so close! Just a little more!”.
    And when the person burns out or leaves because they weren’t politically connected enough to get the award, they say “ah well, that’s too bad. Now, who want to fill the position they just left?”.
    And we find ourselves surrounded by more mediocrity, by more sycophants and less and less of “the dream”.
    When the SCA inc. was ordered to pay several people money due to a lawsuit, what did they do? They raised the price of membership. Instead of taking responsibility and acting with the same honour they tell us to have, they did the opposite. If the administration cannot live by the ideals the SCA stands for, how can anyone be surprised or upset when those ideals are set aside by the members?

  13. A wise man, who happened to be my knight, once said to me, “The only title in this game that means anything is ‘lady’ or ‘gentleman’. If you are not a lady or gentleman, then the rest of the titles are meaningless.”

  14. I think some people forget its a game. We all play to the best of our ability. We all pay membership every year. I also have a few tags and depending on who I am writing i use them. When I do award notices I tend to include them. When I do officer reports I don’t.

  15. Very very well said. While I don’t have the history some do with the SCA, I had enough. After our shire was recognized the nuked then basically told our area just didn’t exist by hats who didn’t want to travel that was enough for me to walk away. 6 years ago, I helped with the beginning of a new game. A new dream, that has so far delivered everything the SCA couldn’t. I play with a group of people who actually do try and act like nobles regardless of their title, our Prince and Princess (yes our numbers are at that level, we used SCA standards for this) are two of the most giving and hard working people in our game. The people of the SCA have gotten too big and full of themselves, but they are just normal people who can’t handle power. Even though if that power was gas it wouldn’t be enough to drive a piss ant’s motorcycle around the inside of a cheerio.

  16. One of the pieces of advice I tend to give in peerage vigils is “You get the respect you earn. Your title may mean people speak to you politely but that isn’t respect. You have to re-earn respect from every person you interact with.” I tend to pull people up if they introduce me as Mistress Baroness Kiriel. I tell them that if I need to intimidate someone I can do it all by myself, there is no need to start off the acquaintance that way! 😉

  17. Oh but I do use my full list of titles in one circumstance – when writing award recommendations to their Majesties.

    Have you heard of the silliness which is the order of the etc? You can trade any three awards you have for an order of the etc.

    Maitresse Kiriel du Papillon etc etc etc

  18. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Bravo! Well said!

    Micaylah of a small alphabet soup
    But you can call me Caylee like everyone does!

  19. Reblogged this on Caylee's Catches and commented:
    Something to think about and very well put. Thank you Santiago!

  20. Clearly this points up a need for more awards at carefully calibrated levels, ideally with more titles and forms of address.

  21. Amen. And a large part of my not being around much anymore – overexposure to jackasses.
    Thank you for eloquently stating something I struggled with for quite a while.

  22. While I wholeheartedly agree with the message of this, I will say one thing. In the line asking if this is the behavior of people attempting to live like nobles, the answer is yes. Petty squabbles, power plays, self-importance and other general jackassery are some of marks of a noble, historically. Any high-born brat could be a ticking timebomb. The point shouldn’t to embody nobles, even if there were some that stood above the rest. The point should be to embody nobility itself, because being a noble and being noble have rarely been one and the same.

  23. I give both groups the “nerd” or “geek” discount on behaviour. Most the time they’re just excited that they got the smallest bit of attention. Mucky mucks should know better, but they sometimes hold onto their self-importance until real life gives them a good kick.

    I preach patience as others are probably putting up with some of our own annoying behaviours even right now.

    Best.
    George A Lancaster

  24. So, what can we do to fix this? Anything? I’m a low-rank person, and I don’t feel like I can hold higher ranking people accountable for bad behavior without putting myself at risk for getting blacklisted out of possible future higher rank. I also get ignored plenty when my subject matter expertise is significant and relevant but I don’t have the medallion/rank that matters to so many others. I don’t see a way out of this system really without completely giving up on the honor system.

    • santiagosgrimoire

      Sophie,

      As a Peer of two different orders I can tell you that I am unaware of any “blacklist” that prevents people from being put on the watch lists. The closest I am aware of is people who willingly let their personal grudges get in the way. And the good news there is that Royals who do that are few and far between, AND they step down in a few months anyway.

      As I said before, no one is above noble behavior. You shouldn’t be afraid that you are going to get “blacklisted”. Sooner or later the right people are going to realize that you deserve whatever you deserve and if someone says “well, yeah, but she told Duke Sir SoAndSo to shut up once because he was being a dick”, well, the defense is in the statement.

      Doing what is right shouldn’t be predicated on whether or not we are going to be rewarded (or not) for it.

      I do appreciate the fear there but in the long run I think you don’t have that much to worry about. Sooner or later the truth of any situation comes out.

      Good luck!

  25. My first big camping event- I was sitting in the very cramped meal space at a table, when an enormous Knight decided instead of walking all the way around the tables, he’d squeeze himself between the two rows of benches, with chains, belts, bits and bobs all hanging off his enormous personage.
    Now I’m a larger lady, and could see this Knight approaching, and I sucked in as much as I could because I could see people were fussing about him passing them (none of them as large as I). He approached, squishing the person to my left into me (he was literally getting hooked on and shoving people into each other) and then he pushed behind me and I was shoved…chest first (yes- my boobs!) into my meal, which now was plastered to my dress I’d worked so hard on, as he reached out for the pole beside me.
    I turned to say something- and was shushed by my neighbours ‘SSShhhh! Don’t say anything! Just go wash it off and see if the kitchen has some more food! ( I already knew they didn’t- they were turning away people already by that point) Don’t you know who that is?’ I responded absolutely incredulously ‘I don’t give a flying fart who he is- he just shoved past everyone instead of taking his lazy ass around- and shoved me into my meal and possibly just ruined my dress*! Asshole!’ Apparently he didn’t hear me, or I’m told he would have apologised. He didn’t apologise when it mattered though- while he was shoving past everyone. I’m not sure if he was intoxicated at that time, not that its an excuse. I’d forgotten about that experience until I read this post- but it made me very mad at the time- because it hadn’t yet become obvious to me that its all about who you know, and that pissing off those with alphabet soup doesn’t get you very far- even when they’re in the wrong.

    I’ve given what I can when I can, I sucked at some of it, because of circumstances outside of my control- and it was my own fault for not asking for help when I should have. But that lesson has been learned. I only hope that should I hold another office (I’ve been Herald, and Submissions Herald as well as a Webmistress in my 7 years in the SCA) that I am respected for the job I do, and that no one thinks I’m an asshole.

    I still only have an AoA, and I cherish it- it is a beautiful piece of artwork- and I am proud that someone noticed me working my ass off sometime and thought I should be gifted such an amazing scroll and title. If I never get any other award in my time in the SCA I could be happy with that. Although I do have some gemstones that would look fabulous in a circlet! I could handle being unlanded trash I think..if it meant I could wear my pretty gems! hehehe!

    Anyways- I think that you discuss some really important points, and I hope that as I travel on the SCA road more that I keep them in mind and I’ll make my mantra Don’t Be An Ass.

    *yes- my dress was ruined and I had to turn it into something else)

  26. Lawrence Dubreuil, AKA Jean Pierre DuRoche

    As A Former SCAdian Very well said !!

  27. Today’s High Muckety Muck is yesterday’s Boot Licker and has no problems stepping on anyone in his way. And if you’re not in the SCA to become a High Muckety Muck, there is no place for you unless you’re content to a boot licker the rest of your life.
    All this dancing around about being Noble is a nice smokescreen to draw people in, then you’re forced to choose sides

    • santiagosgrimoire

      Peter,

      I have to say I’m a bit taken aback by this particular comment. I am a “high muckety muck” (Double Peer, etc, etc), but I have never been tagged as a Boot Licker, and I can honestly say that the bulk of the Peers I associate with haven’t either.

      I certainly have seen plenty of the breed though. The danger is in painting all with such a broad brush.

      And I don’t think there is any dancing around about being Noble. I think those who choose to care about what that means actually take it pretty seriously. I’ve had the pleasure of watching a lot of people turn their lives around because playing in the SCA has shown them that it is possible to rise above what is usually the petty behavior of the mundane world.

      My rant has a very specific target — people who take themselves way to seriously and forget that what we are doing is still just a game. But it is a game that can have some real value (and consequences) on the character of a person. Your statement suggests that there are only two sides; Boot Lickers and people who will never get anywhere.

      I’m pretty happy to say that I’ve gotten where I’ve gotten by working hard and being the kind of person I want to be. Yeah, gruff and cantankerous around the edges certainly, but proud to be a High Muckety Muck without ever having tasted any boot. Other than my own when I’ve put my own foot in my mouth anyway. *smile*

      I hope your journey gets better.

    • Lawrence Dubreuil, AKA Jean Pierre DuRoche

      Peter,I disagree as long as you enjoy the camaraderie and do not really care to “advance” in Title then there will always be room for “Us” in the SCA,, back in the mid 80’s I joined because a Co-worker told me about it, 6 months Later at an Estrella War I was Summoned to court to receive a Prize for My Garb, I had rented a Japanese Samurai Costume to wear at Court and the Queen was Impressed by it, the prize was Fitting, it was a Gold Plated Ceramic Plate with a an Oriental Peacock, I still have it to this Day, I left the SCA because of the “Political Bias” after 10 years, I had done things to Obtain my “AOA” and was told by certain Peerage to attend certain events because I was told I was to receive it, it never Happened and I believe it was to whom I was Associated with,(the King and Queen at that time were at odds with our Clan Patriarch)……

  28. I get a bit frustrated by people who complain about no one getting awards. As a landed Baroness, I can’t POSSIBLY see all the amazingly cool stuff the folks in my Barony do. I just *can’t.* So, we ask and beg and plead for people to put in award recs! And you know what happens? People DON’T PUT THEM IN.

    You want to see more folks get awarded? PUT IN YOUR DAMN AWARD RECS. Talk to your friends who are in agreement that So and So needs his AoA, or So and So needs her next level fighting award or WHATEVER. And, then? PUT IN RECS. CC your local B&B so we can follow up. Please.

    We are only capable of giving awards that we see, or that our attention is brought to, and we’re not superhuman.

    Also, COME TO DAMN COURT. I have a stack of awards, some of which may have been passed on by the LAST B&B, that we can’t give out because, despite trying to do drive-by courts when we can, people don’t come to court. If you are *truly* that terrified of being dragged up in court, let folks know, and we’ll try to find you at another time, but seriously, come to court.

  29. Many thanks for this post. I have been trying to deal with peers in my Kingdom after some unfortunate events last year with a group of newcomers (I am the Chatelaine.) I truly believe you have hit upon one of the “oliphaunts” in the proverbial room.

  1. Pingback: Your Title Doesn’t Mean Jack, Part 2 | Santiago's Grimoire

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