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.
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)”?
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!”
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.