We occasionally comment on small groups and lack of willing officers and how it leads to people wearing too many hats.
What we don't always consider, however, is that the way the SCA structures its officer divisions in some ways combines disparate duties under a single title. Let me give you a "fer instance" or two.
Herald: There a voice Heralds, there are list Heralds, there are Protocol Heralds, and there are book Heralds. Very few people are good or even interested in all aspects. However, a local group Heralds is expected to maintain the OP, herald Court in the event of a Royal Visit (often the Kingdom Herald is there to do this, but there are instances in which the local Herald is just "it."), AND assist members with name and armory submissions. This, I posit, is a poor breakdown of job descriptions. Because, let's face it, most local heralds that I've met are exceedingly poor and usually disinterested book Heralds. They have no wish to learn the submissions process, and therefore they give out Very Bad Advice and lend heavily toward the poor image the CoA has with the general membership. Those folks who DO like book heraldry often avoid stepping up as a group Pursuivant on the possibility that they might someday have to herald Court. It would make a heck of a lot more sense to make the group Herald responsible for the OP and Court-based stuff, while having At-large Consulting Heralds who are trained at submissions. We get half-way there with consulting tables, but still.
Web Minister: OK, let's face facts. A lot of local group pages are an affront to nature. The fact is, a lot of folks who consider themselves "tech savvy" - learned HTML 1.0 in 1997 and never kept up. Think I'm exagerating? (Sorry, Lettice, but this sucker makes my retinas bleed on several levels, in addition to being WAY out of compliance with corporate policy). The problem? Well, first that aforementioned lack of updating coding skills. The other issue is that the intersection of groups of folks who can code with groups of folks who can manage aesthetics and graphical design to any degree is vanishingly small. And yet, we lump them all into one group. No, I don't know how to solve this one. I'd noodled on the concept of suggesting would-be WebMin's ask their groups to purchase a good web development book. (As the typical SCAdian webMin can't or won't drop $20-30 on a book...) However, it doesn't make a lot of sense for the Canton/Shire/Barony to own a book that will be outdated by the time the office changes. Maybe a list of good on-line resources for basic development skills. The other aspect - good design - is more challenging. It would be nice if a pool of folks with talent in that aspect could be developed who could design a graphical layout, and then just send it to the WebMin of a given group to be sliced and used in the creation of the code layout. But I'm not sure how that would work in practice.
Fuzzy chains of Command: Traditionally, in this neck of the woods, Regional officers pretty much collate reports. They have responsibilities... but no authority. They don't exist as an independent body, so they don't talk to each other. They are, strictly, deputies of their Kingdom superiors. But more can be made of it, with a little effort. While the Regional deputy for a given office doesn't have the authority to require much of anything and can bring no sanctions for noncompliance - beyond reporting to their superior - they CAN encourage things. They CAN call meetings at events. The Regional Chatelaine and Chronicler have been known to do so. Some of the others could do so as well. (It might not be bad for the Regional Marshall to sit the Group Marshalls down and have a heart-to-heart on their reporting responisbilities, as an example). It's one of those areas where the officers have exactly as much authority as they exercise... so long as no one intervenes from above. But they don't have to be just decorative...
If you spend any time as a scribe, you get very used to writing out award texts. Which, almost unfailing, speak about bestowing "all the rights and responsibilities thereof."
Much is made in SCA documents, at events, and in articles all over the intarwebs about the various "rights" and "responsibilities" - most often of the bestowed Peerages. Though those things are often contemplated as regards Landed Barons and Baronesses, and even less frequently amongst holders of GoAs.
I've noticed one thing, though. Amongst all the manuscripts, articles, and Fori (Forums is NOT the proper plural thankyouverymuch), often you'll find Wisdom (TM) regarding how to treat Royalty. Also, there will sometimes be discussions regarding whether Royalty has the authority to do This or That. What tends to be missing is any real discussion regarding the Responsibilities of Royalty.
Presumably they have them. And certainly everyone's expectations are different. But, what do YOU consider to be Their Responsibilities?
Answering letters addressed to them by Their Subjects?
Sending out timely Thank yous?
Apportioning out Their time equally amongst different activities?
Providing an adequate Image of Royalty?
Attempting to ensure that everybody has a chance to be part of the Pageant that is Royalty?
Opinions welcomed. Be specific. Essays of more than 3000 words generally seem to gack the comments system.
(side note: back to the microeconomics thing for a brief instant - it isn't that I don't care about all the big issues. It's that I don't have the emotional energy to get into it. So I let it go by. My choice. Emotional energy goes mostly to my girls. After that - I think about fluff. So - On To The Fluff!!!)
I've rambled on this before. But ride along, just for the fun.
This latest train of thought started when there was an announcement on a local list regarding a wedding at an event. I was grumbling under my electronic breath (sorry, still think it's tacky), when a friend pointed out that the local group probably is in favor. They need the attendance, or the event will die. I might have annoyed her with my response - and that was, some event are going to die.
Here's the big picture version.
Middle Kingdom = 100+ groups if one includes the incipients.
The calendar averages 4-6 events/weekend. Exceptions are Crown and Coronation - which are the only events on those weekend by Law. And really, Christmas and Thanksgiving. But this still puts us at 200-300 events per year. O_o
This was fine, when times were good. But these days, the economy is on life support. Michigan is especially hard hit, but all of the Midwest is struggling. Event sites are getting harder to come by, and more expensive. Which means that site fees must go up.
The average SCA attendee is likely to be feeling the pinch. And many of us are tightening our belts by reducing the total number of events attending.
Which means that all these events are, in fact, competing for a dwindling number of attendees. The weaker among them must die - it's inevitable. The sad thing is, some of the most vulnerable, smaller events are amongst the most enjoyable. But they may lose out to another event on the same weekend that has a higher draw or pulls in Royalty for a number of years.
Nope, I don't know the answer to this one. But it's something to maunder over.
Visiting Grandma and Grandpa always gets them both a little wound. There wasn't all that much sleeping, and quite a bit of carrying on. But, at least they got to play in the wading pool and Rori got yet another birthday cake.
The trip back and forth makes for good philosophical discussion time for John and I - since neither of us is much into Spongebob. We spiraled around Meridies' sumptuary laws, Western wars, the structure of the Kingdoms of the west and politics closer to home. And hit on this little bit of fairly obviousness. IKA is partially kingdom history, and partially strongly related to the culture of the mundane area in which it is based. Meridies' has the most extensive sumptuary laws I've run into. I'd guess that some of this relates to an enthusiastic heraldic corps, some to possible early Excess of display - and some to the fact that Southern culture is much more sensitive to the niceties of social standing and the tiny ways it is expressed than most other places.
That said, we stumbled onto a revelation. The Middle Kingdom started in Chicago, Lansing, and southeastern OH. It's base culture was shaped by the the Union mentality which permeates the rust belt. Which explains a hell of a lot. The general "we have our minds made up, don't confuse us with the facts," attitude, the "if you will only listen to us explain while we're doing this for your own good, you'd agree with us and quit arguing," and general refusal to let go of one single iota of something that somebody considers the "prerogative of the crown."
This presents me an especial problem in that I grew up with the Union mentality, in a GM town (Flint, MI). And I never "got" it. Nor did I ever learn to rub along with it. Attempts to make me toe the line usually ended in my giving them the finger collectively and going about my own thing - even in Jr. High School.
This is not a matter of "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." It's more "The nail that pops up gets hammered down."
What never seems to be understood is that power is like a small bird - hold too loose, and it flies away... too tight, and you crush the life out of it.
I'll leave it at that before I carry the metaphor far enough to speculate on who our equivalent of Jimmy Hofa might be.
Some of you are on various filters, so some of this will be kind of a repeat, though in more general terms.
In terms of what makes the game "fun" for you in the society:
I've held forth before on my opinion that people tend to play on various "levels." Some people operate primarily at the Society level (On the Grand Council, Mayor of Pennsic, etc). Others at the Kingdom level (Curia, many Peers, Crown and coeteries thereof). Others operate at the Regional level (Regional officers, those in a Regional fighting unit, etc). The rest more at a local level. Some people are also more adept at moving in between.
So in general terms, people operating at the Kingdom level feel pretty tied into the Kingdom. But what about the rest? What, specifically, makes people at the Regional level or below feel like part of the "magic?" (and by below, I don't really mean to imply anything other than that's how the tree looks in my head. I suppose I could have gone right-to-left, but my brain is more vertically oriented). Royal visits? Retaining? Helping your local group host Crown, or Twelfth Night? Getting awards and seeing other people in the local area get awards? Fighting under the Midrealm banner?
What interferes with feeling part of the Kingdom? Do you get aggravated when you feel your area is neglected? When nobody local has gotten recognized, even though YOU feel they deserve it? Does fighting under a Baronial or Shire banner make you feel more part of the Barony, at the expense of feeling like part of the Region of Kingdom? Do household loyalties interefere? What if the Household is multi-Kingdom?
Those of you who primarily operate on a Kingdom level, do you feel more loyalty to the Kingdom than before you "peeked behind the curtain?" Less? Do Household ties or local pressures make you feel like you're between a rock and a hard place? Do people who have claims on you expect you do favor them specifically, and do you find that a stressful situation if it's perhaps in contrast with what might be better for the Kingdom as a whole? Do the people locally feel as strongly tied to the Kingdom as you do? Would you know if they didn't?
Speak forth and share your opinions. I know y'all have got 'em.
ETA - This post is wide open for a reason. ;-) I'm interested in opinions even of people I don't know. Those in areas that seem to be less tied to their Kingdoms in some ways - Tir Mara, the proposed An Tir Principality, Norther Atlanita, New Zealand in general - and those that ARE the epicenter of their kingdom. As well as opinions from older Kingdoms about WHY they are now Kingdoms, whether that process was smooth or not.
Which brings up another question - Is it the responsibility of the Crown and Kingdom to make a concerted effort to look for signs of "marginalization" and attempt to correct it? The responsibility of those who feel marginalized to FIND ways to be part of the Kingdom? Or just a sign that things have changed and it might be time to re-evaluate the entire relationship?
First - the size of the Kingdom. In conversation with someone from a smaller Kingdom not long ago I asked "Do you have a 100-mile rule for events?" The response - "Not formally. We just try not to be assholes to each other."
Hmmmm. I note a few too many people who seem to absolutely glory in being assholes to certain other people or groups. Dad likes to say that most of the regulations in the Navy are written in blood. A flip through Kingdom Law gives one the distinct impression that a lot of THOSE are written in angst, if you will. Now, a fair few of them get utterly ignored. Some are obeyed in letter, if not in spirit. Frequently dependent on who is on the Curia and whether they care to pay attention to certain "small matters" or not.
Add to this, that with a large group of people, chances are you don't run into and therefore don't know folks on the other side of the Kingdom. Which leads to a We/They mentality.
Second - Yet another SCA aphorism is that the West Kingdom is the Kingdom of the Book (Corpora above all, as laid down by the illustrious ancestors), while the East Kingdom is the Kingdom of the Word (The King's word is law, if you don't like it, well, wait till the next reign.)
The Middle Kingdom - is the Kingdom that Bows to Furniture. Now, part of this is a disparaging remark about the Custom of offering reverence to the Royal Presence, whether Royal Butts occupy it or not at any given moment. But, more deeply, it marks out or "national character," if you will. That tendency to pay homage to tradition (sometimes in the face of utter contradiction of Corpora - Squire's Chains, anyone?) and worship it without ever stopping to think about it. The reaction is knee-jerk, ingrained, and generally has taken root in a newbie by their 3rd year of participation.
One major facet of this is resistance to change. Any kind of change. (How many Midrealmers does it take to change a lightbulb? Change? CHANGE? That was Cariadoc's lightbulb!!!) This is the only rational explanation for the rabid attempts to suppress each Principality that has ever made its painful way to independence from it.
What's rather amusing is that some of this made it into Kingdom Law - but the reasons for it lost so to the mists of time that no one pays any attention whatever.
F'rinstance, at one time officers, champions, etc were prohibited to any regional entity not listed in the seneschallorum. Which allowed the name of "Northshield" to be banned, and prevented it having it's own officers. Notably, other prinicipalites had, at various times, held "regional champion" tournaments - that ammounted to a Coronet List in all but name. Any attempt at "regionalism" was stamped out. Firmly. It just refused to stay stamped.
There also seems to be a knee-jerk anti-Pentamere sentiment. I suspect (with no good reason, just suspicion) that this dates back to a time when a lot of Royalty came out of Pentamere. There was a lot of grousing, whining, and complaining about why 12th Night was always held here.
That's changed. I'm not sure our neighbors to the south are quite aware of just what a hit Michigan has taken in this Depression. I know, everybody's had it rough. But Michigan's unemployment rate dropped to a mere 14.5% last month. I think sustainability will be an issue for some of the smaller groups. So many of our citizens have left to find work.
I would hope we see a little coalescing, to counteract the recent trend to creating ever more small groups at the expense of their neighbors. And don't even get me started on Households. From what I've seen, they're almost without exception divisive, cliquish, pointless, and drain the energy of local groups. When they're not trying to set up a competing group outright. (Which, again, while prohibited by the letter of the law, seems to happen rather often when close attention is not paid. Or possibly, the right questions are not asked of the right people).
Anywho - more brain blobs have thus fallen out. Comment or not, an it please thee.
I have come to this conclusion for a variety of reasons. And I'm not vehemently opposed to awards. In point of fact, I've spent more hours than I have any desire to tot up working on "award documents" (The PC current term for "scrolls"). A fair few of those hours, just this week.
Things that have led to my conclusion:
Watching a Mid-level award turn an already obnoxious individual into an unreasonable bundle of ego when she found out her shiny new award put her above most of the local folks she hangs out with in the order of precedence. She's been cookie-driven for years, and this has only fanned the flames. It would be one thing if this would inspire her to do more worthwhile things for the Kingdom and The Dream. More likely it will convince her to find things to do that will specifically garner more cookies.
The inequity of the Cookie system is inherent. The Crown, by its very nature, can't see everything, and therefore is dependent on recommendations. However, I've seen Shires write each other in for every award in the book. Their stated goal is to have everybody in the Shire get SOME kind of Award whenever they have a royal presence. ?!? Honestly? Every year, everybody needs SOMEthing? Accckkk!! This makes me bananas. There is, for instance, no way that a small group should host a Royal Court with 20+ awards that are all FROM that group. Or nearly all. Especially when the group only has 25 or 30 people. And I've seen it happen.
A lot of genuinely nice people get grant-level awards for not doing really very much. Mostly because their local peeps like them and want them to have an award. This is not a problem in and of itself. However, a lot of quiet folks can hold Regional, Kingdom, or broad offices and never get any recognition at all. Some of those jobs are particularly thankless, time- and event-eating, and burn out-inducing. But since they're not autocrating and event or serving as the local Youth Minister - nobody local realized they're "doing anything," since its not a local office. And nobody higher up seems to take any notice at all.
Then there's the rub between precedence-bearing and non-precedence-bearing awards. I've mentioned some of the problems with the former. The latter retain their cache for exactly as long as they're given rarely. I hope they remain that way. The Award of the Sapphire and the King's Chalice are both still "OOoooh, Ahhhh" worthy because they don't get doled out much. This is a Good Thing(TM) to my mind.
It does seem to be that each couple tries to find that happy medium of trying to find a way to thank all the myriads of people who help with their reign without becoming cookie factories. Of late, Royal Augmentations have become popular. In the past, it's been Court Baronies, Dragon's Hearts, fill in the blank.
It's giving me a headache. I think I'm swearing off cookies for a while. 'cept maybe the chocolate chip. Where did I put those?
I have no idea if they expect this to pass under the radar, think no one will care, or what. No announcement in the Pale. Nothing.
After all, nothing says "none of the rest of you matter" quite like making this big a move without bothering to tell anybody about it.
I'm in a funk, Kingdom-wise. I twitched toward some light muslin at JoAnns the other day - contemplating making another stack of beaded veils. And decided there currently isn't anybody I care to give them to.
Basically, I'm feeling disregarded. And therefore not motivated to put effort into doing anything that isn't for me and mine.
Unless motivation feels like someone parking a couch on your chest. In which case, I'm all kinds of motivated.
Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition.
John has just recommended I go read Heinlein's "The Moon is A Harsh Mistress." I suspect I will have to do so in order to figure out why.
I happened across this blog today. And decided it was sort of the Polar opposite of how John and I operate in the SCA. We find the local groups available to us to be intensely frustrating. The one we do get on well with is a bit far for regular meetings and such. And so we sort of tend toward Kingdom events and operating at a non-local level.
That might explain something about my current mindset.
Curiouser and curiouser, thought Alice.
Why I could not care less about a principality
June 23rd, 2008 by Ascelyn
The discussion/flame war about forming a principality in northern Atlantia has, happily, been taken off the Merry Rose (the Atlantian kingdom mailing list, for those of you reading from afar) and transferred to a Yahoo! group. After much delay, and with great fear and trepidation, I peaked into the site and found all my fears quite well-founded. I’ve looked back in from time to time since then, skimming through pages of assorted arguments and reading any that look particularly interesting or that were written by people I know. Thank heavens the messages are viewable to non-members, because there’s no way I’m subscribing even to a digest.
Quite frankly, I just don’t care. I mean, I feel really guilty about that, but I just can’t bring myself to get all worked up about it either way. I feel guilty about not following the presidential race as closely as I have in past elections, too, but at least that’s about deciding the fate of our country and, let’s be realistic about this, the world. Some people might hate me for saying this, but the SCA is a pasttime, not life. It’s a game. A game that can teach us a lot, both about history and about life, but it can’t be allowed to become life itself.
If the northern and southern halves of the US were to begin quarreling and one side wanted to take its toys and play elsewhere, I’d be pretty concerned. But while I love my kingdom, and I’m proud to consider myself an Atlantian even with my AEthelmearc address, I’m not going to get involved in this battle. I’ve even dared to think that it might be interesting–and completely period!–if a the chosen prince and princess would try to take their portion of the kingdom and the king and queen would fight back.Â All in fun, of course, but why beÂ bureaucratic about this when it could be fun instead? Isn’t that why we do this–because it’s fun?
Hey, I know we can’t dare let something like that happen. But I can dream, can’t I? After all, dreaming’s what got me here in the first place.
That’s beside the point, though My point is, that I don’t care. Call me a localist if you want, and tell me that what happens to the kingdom trickles down to affect us as well, but I have enough on my plate trying to get a local group going. Though I might not like it if some kingdom event I want to attend is being held in South Carolina again, I’m much more frustrated by having to drive over an hour just to sit down and break bread with a fellow Scadian. I’ve got work to do here, and it’s far more important to me than a kingdom division ever could be. Plus, I don’t like politics, and the whole “I’m doing this for fun” mentality requires me to avoid pulling my hair out by the handful if at all possible while still serving my barony with honor.
I’m an Atlantian. Someday I might be part of a northern principality, but as long as they don’t raise taxes, I’m perfectly content. Someday I might be part of a canton, and that makes me quite happy. But first and foremost, I’m a loyal servant of the Barony of Highland Foorde, and that I shall forever remain.
…Now I just have to figure out how to say all that succinctly, so that when someone asks me what I think about the principality movement, I don’t just say “I don’t care” and sound like a total loser.
Leaving me here on my own....
Weird, weird weather. My peppers are not going to do diddly-squat, as it's not warm enough. My 'maters don't want to ripen, either. *sigh* The raspberries never got past the unpack-the-stick-that-looks-dead stage. Apparently they WERE dead. I cleaned the peas out of the garden - along with the Chinese Cabbage that bolted and never produced a single head. All went into the compost pile. Which at least is well-fed.
The Chickens tried for a Chicken Run last night. I must figure out which one knits. And John needs to finish the coop!!
I might seed my garden with Winter Wheat as a cover crop when my veggies are done. I'm not sure how long it takes it to ripen in the spring - I'd like to have the wheat. Though I might settle for the straw. Maybe I'll learn the seven-strand plait and weave a hat for one of the girls. Or both, if there's enough straw. It might make a cool A&S project. Though why I care about that at this point, I'm not sure. I suspect at least 2010's Faire will be in Cinci. Whether this will be a permanent thing or not remains to be seen. I still think it's a bad idea. For a host of reasons other than just that it's on the other F'n side of the Kingdom (No kitchen facilities for the people entering cooking to use, and a seemingly twitchy management that may or may not be cool with regular events over the years, etc. etc.)
I have looked it over and dropped my Pentathalon plans for the moment. The logistics of what I want/can do and getting it done/to Cinci just about gives me a Migraine. I know when I am defeated. *white flag*
So I will shove it in the Happy Box, work with Sarafina on RUM stuff.
And continue my Sooper Seecrud Lone Looney crusade. ;-) (let the banners fly and the bells ring out - eventually).
Ælflæd of Duckford
A recurring theme in these writings is that people should use their imaginations and be creative in their service to and participation in the Society. Here's something I wrote as part of another article some time back, but I marked it "too dangerous" and shoved it away. Now that I've come across it, I've decided to risk putting it out.
"All the power is in the Barony of Far-from-us." I heard that from someone in a barony that housed a kingdom seneschal and chronicler and treasurer. If those three together had no power in the kingdom it could only be that they had no imagination or were waiting for someone else to come and tell them what they might do. A dynamic seneschal / chronicler / treasurer team could turn a tawdry shire (or any other group) into a glorious showcase in a few months.
So that's it. That's the paragraph I was easily dissuaded from publishing. People complain about power (usually complaining about not having any) but anytime I've gone past the complaints into discussing the nature of power in the Society the audience seems to get very nervous.
CALM DOWN, FOLKS! There's enough power for everyone. See the section on royalty, and that on seneschals, if you're really into reading everything I've written on the subject, but here are some things I believe about power:
* Many people can be powerful all at once.
* Power is not a bad word. Think of it as strength; confidence; energy. (If you think of it as control and domination, no I don't want you to have any.)
* Power is given to you by others; demanding it is just being a bully.
* Power/influence can be earned by just about anyone.
The following article first appeared in the October 1991 Outlandish Herald. Its title was to have been "How You can get Power in the SCA (or Maybe You Can't)." I chickened out of using that title.
Lesson one in power: Power is given to you by other people. Influence you earn by yourself. Influence is always power, but power isn't influence. A king, an officer, an autocrat—they all have the power to screw things up; they don't necessarily have the power to make things great. If you think you want more power, what you probably are wanting is to be more influential.
Here's the recipe for influence. It's not regional, it's not given by the king, and you don't need the whole list: integrity, credibility, intelligence, humor, knowledge of law/history, service to the Society, concern for others, humility—HEY WAIT A MINUTE—I'm just listing requirements for peerage. Does that mean that being named a peer makes one influential? No, it means that influential people generally become peers.
Another factor is authority. Authority is second-hand power. Our kingdom seneschal has authority based on the power of the steward and the Crown. She also has her own power, given specifically by kingdom law. Add this to her influence, based on personal Ariel-specific attributes , and you have a strong kingdom seneschal. People are not listening to Mistress Ariel because she's a peer, she was made a peer because people were listening to her.
If you take a person who has no following, whose voice never carries an argument, who isn't sure what's going on and make him a seneschal, what have you got? An ineffectual seneschal. Take a person, a newcomer, who's friendly, sharp, helpful, thoughtful, and willing to serve and make him seneschal. What have you got now? A good match of disposition and position. Find someone with influence and give him authority. That's power.
Some people seem to think the only power is in being king or queen. It's frightening—people who believe that would probably make really bad royalty, because they see it as a presto-chango situation.
Power Not Power
Integrity Physical Strength
Credibility Ownership of Coronet
Service Lots of friends
In many cases of discussions of "power" it turned out that the people who were coveting power wanted to hurt people, not to better the lives of their neighbors. The "if I were king" fantasies that are expressed are often "I'd fire so-and-so," or "I'd throw out the law about ..." I'd be afraid to hear some of the unexpressed fantasies.
If you are respected you will have power whether you hold office or not. If you have squandered your honor, even being king wouldn't make you really powerful. The power to do good begins with goodness. What are you doing this afternoon?
 This phrase got much attention back home—poor Ariel was saying "what are 'Ariel-specific attributes'?" I meant her own integrity, credibility (see the paragraph just above for the full list) plus her own charm and height and blondness and singing voice—all the things that make her unique and which contributed to her having the position in life she has—she's a member of the Order of the Pelican, was a really great seneschal of Caerthe (Denver) and has been seneschal of the Outlands for a quite a while, at this writing. After Ariel isn't seneschal, you could change the line to "personal attributes" and it will still work. Change the next line to "People are not listening to [name a name], for example, because [he or she] is a peer ..." (This note is for people who might want to reprint this.)
( On to the Viewpoints )