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August 6th, 2013

An SCA reality-check

Posted on 2013.08.06 at 12:12
At the risk of offending some people’s sensibilities, I’m afraid I’m going to go off on a bit of an SCA-related rant. It may burst some bubbles. It may offend some people (although that is not the intent). But hopefully, more than anything, it will give some people a few things to think about. Ready?

Sometimes peerage just SUCKS.

No, I don’t mean that the Order of the (fill in the blank) sucks. Rather, sometimes actually being a peer sucks. Why? Because a bed of roses has thorns.

Yes, the SCA is a game. It is a hobby that can take up as much or as little time as you choose. And it has a system of rank and recognition – peerage being the highest. But peerage isn’t simply a title and a rank. It comes with responsibility. And that is something that a number of people just don’t get. You can’t just walk around as Sir such-n-such or Mistress such-n-such on fair-weather days, but decide to go duck and cover when the storm brews – at least not if you care one bit about your reputation and the respect of those who stick it out through the dark times. The suckiest part of peerage is, whether for good or bad, a very important part. Peers need to do the dirty work. And no, that isn’t pleasant.

What do I mean by dirty work? I mean that sometimes a peer is the one who needs to grab somebody by the earlobe, drag them out from the back of court and quietly chew them out because they have just done something incredibly rude or disrespectful. Sometimes, it means having to stand up in a roomful of people and fight back the tears as you tell them that you do not support a candidate, even though that candidate is your best friend – because you know in your heart that your friend just isn’t there yet. Sometimes it means gritting your teeth and casting a “Yes” vote on a candidate who deserves the accolade, even though you can’t stand to have that person anywhere near you. Sometimes, it means having to make a very public protest against the perceived powers-that-be if they are about to steer the Kingdom off of a cliff. And always, it means sounding the alarm when you see a threat on the horizon.

In Caid’s history, I think back to a particularly dark period of time years ago. A number of people found the political climate of the Kingdom unpleasant. So they voted with their feet. Perhaps some of them believed that to be the most visible and active method of protest? But in any case, it turned out to be the wrong thing. Why? Because as the “Staff” of the Kingdom effectively left, it allowed a despot to throw out tradition and ride roughshod. And who is there to safeguard tradition if not the people who have time invested in it? Despite the fact that the Board finally removed said member-formerly-known-as-Duke, Caid has never fully recovered. Mostly, it has. But not fully. And I say now as I said then – he only got away with bad behavior because people let him.

This sort of a thing is not isolated to Caid. Heck, if anything, Caid has been blissfully free of the drama and trauma I have seen in other kingdoms where the loud-mouth-bully generally wins simply because the peers just don’t want to go up against him. And to be honest, I don’t have any sympathy when things go bad. Having stuck around myself through some incredibly ugly and personal situations that would easily have sent most people packing their bags, I believe that peerage means having the balls to do what needs to be done. The peers are, by design, the backbone of the society. That isn’t just some sort of lip-service to make it sound like the peers are oh-so-great. Rather, it is a job responsibility. It really is. And the success of the Kingdom, and of the SCA as a whole, relies heavily upon the continuity of the peerage taking an active role in keeping things on track – not just when things are happy and cheery, but when things seem dire or nasty or personal or political.

So where am I going with this rambling rant? Simple. If you find yourself aspiring someday to become a peer, take a moment to really consider what it means. It isn’t just about you getting your fifteen minutes of fame, a cool ceremony, and a faux title that is used only on the weekend. It is a very real responsibility within this game. And if you aren’t ready to take on that responsibility, think twice before you decide to take on the accolade.

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