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[personal profile] dwolfhunter
The SCA and the sum of all fears. An opinion.
I joined the SCA unofficially in 1978, officially in 1982. We were "poor college kids (tm)" and we looked and acted like it. I can honestly say that, during that time, I have never been as discouraged and saddened by this organization as I am now. Is it a sadness that is unwarranted? Is there reason to be discouraged? Well, I guess you'll have to draw your own conclusions.
When I and many of my contemporaries began in the SCA we had an optimism and a zeal for the "current Middle Ages" unmatched by our clothes, our armor or our camping gear...but we had fun. We had an atmosphere of sharing and ownership that transcended that fact. We also had the small thin veneer of smarter, older members who taught us medieval ideals and who got us motivated to make nicer gear, or provided it on loan when that was not possible.
Sure, some folks abused the privilege...it happens in any organization. But we policed ourselves. We paid attention to the group and we believed that what harmed one of us diminished all of us. When people abused our charity and generosity...they got the hint to snap out of it or move on. We rarely criticized our fellows for their garb or their fighting gear...because ours was little better, if at all. We made small improvements as we went...and sometimes, we made great leaps and bounds.
We didn't go to events and sleep in hotels...we welcomed complete strangers into to our homes and shared what we had or splurged to make their stay an event in itself. Again , sometimes that went badly, sometimes spectacularly well, and it all balanced out. Our events were small affairs...potlucks and small tourneys ...we broke even most times and what mattered was having fun and getting "our Medieval" on. No one was trying to make money or build a group bank account, and when you worked event staff, you were doing it out of charity and responsibility and a sense of duty . Tourney winners got to sit at high table and crown their ladies Queen of Love and Beauty for the day. Most of us were pretty happy with that. Oh sure, we wanted more pageantry and more "periodicity"...but we knew it wouldn't happen today. We dreamt of making it better and we worked for that.
Bigger is not always better. Neither is more always better. Along the way , some of our rules became "guidelines and suggestions"...and we turned into an "big tent" organization. We welcomed people who didn't really share our ideals and who didn't care about our rules...and instead of telling them to go do their own thing elsewhere, we swallowed the BS they spat back at us about how we were unfair, or elitist or "crushing THEIR dream" and we folded like a cheap suit. Worse, fearing that we were all in danger of legal actions and a litigious society that accepted no personal responsibility for itself, we allowed ourselves to be incorporated..."for our own good". Which is really IMO where we as a group began the long slow slide into irrelevance. Corporations do not act for the good of the rank in file...they operate for the benefit of the Corporation. When an organization repeatedly fails to live up to even its most basic tenets...that organization is broken. When an organization cannot operate without breaking its own rules , that organization has failed.
Also, as we grew in the Society and got so that our gear was more historical, or our craftwork became more proficient, we somehow forgot where we came from. We began to treat the kids coming into the Society like they were deficient because they weren't as good as us...despite the fact that were exactly the same as we were when we began. We began buying our gear rather than making it. We shared less and griped more. We began splitting "households" and guilds off from our local groups to avoid the parts of the local groups we didn't like...rather than solve the issues at hand. Households and Guilds can kill Baronies and Shires by bleeding off members. We've all seen it happen. Hell some of us have MADE it happen. We indulged in internecine politics and petty power manipulation, because that's what volunteer organizations do. Not all of our administrators abused their roles...just enough did.
We also forgot that as new people came in...someone of the "old guard" would have to invest in them the way we had invested in each other or others had invested in us. An attitude of "Why should I spend time and material on them if they're just gonna deploy, graduate, move on to another group?" became more than just an occasional thing...it started becoming the norm. We were bitching and moaning about falling membership while simultaneously driving new member away. We were failing to realize that investment in human capital is all that keeps a volunteer group alive. It's kind of ironic that group mostly composed of self-identified geeks, nerds , etc...would end up treating people the way that they themselves were treated in high school, by the cool kids.
So...how do we fix it? Above all we need to police ourselves first.
1: Re-establish a set of concrete rules and policies to govern the group according to its founding principle: To re-enact/re-create the Middle Ages/Renaissance periods of Asia, Europe and the Middle East. No vampires, no pirates, no elves, no fairies, PERIOD. The words "reasonable attempt at pre 17th Century garb" should be changed to specify the materials and items allowed and not allowed per the historical standard.
2: Our membership needs to remember that Duty, Honor and Service are qualities to be balanced with Compassion, Charity, and Fairness. This organization no longer has room for selfish, egotistical, me-firsters who can't conceive of serving something bigger than themselves.
3: I am not naive enough to believe that these solutions are as simple as they are stated to be. I am painting with a broad brush on purpose here. It won't be easy...but ask yourselves this: Shall we continue as a group of idealists striving to portray a historical period? Or shall we ride the present addled, rot-riddled ship of fools down to its ultimately ignominious demise? Maybe we should get smaller and tighter rather than larger and lose our identity completely. That's all I have. Now I will pull on my asbestos undies and await the inevitable parade of the butt-hurt and the sanctimonious who can expound at great length how evil and mean spirited my OPINION is rather than do anything about the problems we are all aware exist.

Date: 2017-04-12 06:32 pm (UTC)
greenleafguru: (Default)
From: [personal profile] greenleafguru
I appreciate your opinion, especially given the length of time you have been in the SCA. I think the solutions you presented are reasonable, especially No vampires, no pirates, no elves, no fairies... In the little time I have been in the SCA, I have been fortunate enough not to have experienced most of the items you opined. In general, I think kindness begets kindness and there are ways to enforce rules. We who believe in the "right" thing need to be officers and enforce the rules. Sadly, I also believe there will always be assholes and cronies to follow them. I think there are more good folks in the SCA than not and we have to continue to be shepherds of what we believe to be our inner Geek.

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