Your Title Doesn’t Mean Jack, Part 2
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,