Saturday, July 07, 2018

Tolerating Intolerance: The Trap of SCA Courtesy

The Tree of Virtues
Give them another chance. Let's not rock the boat. Oh, he didn't mean it that way. Well, he didn't say it at an event. But she is so helpful in the SCA.

Stop right there. Rewind and consider: did you just make an excuse for someone's bad behavior simply because they are in the SCA? Are you trying to grant them courtesy and chivalry by allowing an individual a second, third or seventeenth chance? Are you apologizing for someone just because they are a peer, an officer, a longtime SCAdian, popular or well known?

Let's throw a red flag on that.

Courtesy can not be a forever one sided effort. If it is always being granted in one direction it ceases to be courtesy and just becomes an excuse that allows bad behavior. That "courtesy" has now become "permission". When you blow off the concerns of people again and again, you are granting your permission to the behavior of the offender. You have, in effect, become their agent, protector and cheerleader. Yay?

So, at that point you should really consider if you are ok with what you are now supporting. Is it racism, sexism, drunken bad behavior? Have you allowed someone to get away with a behavior that would make you wildly angry if it had been pointed in your direction? Does it make you uncomfortable? Is it starting to feel a bit icky as we break it down? Then, just maybe, you have extended too much courtesy to someone who has abused your kindnesses.

Do people make mistakes? YES! Should we forgive them? Maybe if they actually seek forgiveness and present a sincere apology or work to change their bad behavior! If they don't? Stop making excuses for them in the name of courtesy. It's a trap! It's enabling.

Is it courtesy when we allow an SCA royal peer to be embarrassingly drunk at events and make passes at women, because he had a bad day and drank too much? No, it isn't. It is discourteous to allow that behavior to be directed at other SCAdians. Some friend or peer should take their buddy aside and redirect him to his own tent, or somewhere to sober up. If he continues to act in this manner at multiple events then your buddy has a problem, not the women that think he's a drunken lecher and warn each other about him. Without correction and with this permission you have given, there is also the chance that the behavior will get worse and that one night, no will not mean no. That the argumentative drunk will get in a physical altercation. Will they put their hands on someone without permission?

Is it courtly to allow a member of the SCA to spew hateful rhetoric online and dismiss it simply because "it was online" not "at an event"? Nah. When this happens with a known member of the SCA and they continue to get away with it, they have become a representative of our group online who is being defended by other members of our society. They now have the permission of their friends to say terrible things without consequence. Potential members of the SCA see this and choose to do something different with their weekend, because we look like the wrong sort of people. People who are on the edge of the SCA drift away because of their discomfort. This "courtesy" to one person has then lost us potential membership, sometimes current members and has ripples that will affect us long into the future.

If anyone is always on the receiving end of forgiveness: it's time for them to stop doing the thing for which they need to be forgiven. If you are always helping to prop up someone who needs that constant forgiveness because of who they are in the SCA: are you being a good friend and are you being a good SCAdian? Maybe not?

This trap of courtesy extends even down to people we allow to be routinely rude to others. We just wave off those who are offended because that is just "who they are". NOPE. No matter who that person is in the SCA, they are also a grown-ass-adult and have to take responsibility for their own behavior and face the consequences of it when it sucks. Do you get away with that at work? It that permissible in the real world? NOPE. It's even more dreadful when the person being rude or unkind is a peer, a noble or a royal. Their behavior is smeared all over every symbol that they are wearing and the memory of these incidents will stick with the people who were treated poorly or even just saw someone else being treated poorly.

Yes, we will all have bad days. We'll all be, at one time or another, the person who is "the problem" to someone else. But when your bad days and behavior turn into just "you", it's time for a reality check from your friends and hopefully from your own brain. If your behavior is permitted only by the meekness, good will, pleasant memories of yore or resistance to making a fuss of others- it is not your detractors who are the problem.

I have decided that I will not sit meekly by when I see things that disturb me. I will use my voice because it carries far. I will set a blazing neon arrow above bad behavior to make sure that everyone can see it for what it is. That is my courtesy- to make sure terrible people don't get away with terrible things. I will make sure individuals are not picked on and threatened. I will say something when I see racism or homophobia or extremism. Suggestions of violence and humor about hurting others will not be put by the side as I blithely continue on my way. I will not be that peer.

The virtues of the middle ages demand us to be champions of those less fortunate, not those who bring the sky down upon them by being cruel or drunk or using their power for their gain. It's a rough road, but when I reach the end of it, I would like to have been on the right side of history- even if it is just in our medieval make-pretend club. Even in this game, the virtues matter to me.


I think, most of all, I may need courage. 

Friday, July 06, 2018

Social Media, the SCA and You: an editorial.

Ahoy, stormy seas ahead.
Social media exists. It is pervasive and has seeped into every cranny of our society. This can be seen as both good and bad, but it does give us unprecedented new ways to connect with people and stay in touch. In the SCA, that is fantastic for letting people know about events, classes, cancellations and helping people find the other folks out there that share their geekery for "Citrus in the medieval era" and "10th century cheeses from the Anglo Saxons". Or whatever floats your coracle...

These connections allow us a deeper level of play, association and collaboration than has ever been known in the SCA. We can coordinate remarkable things because we have so many ways to stay in touch. We can find new students and teachers for any topic. We can access information for research or watch a Youtube video of someone breaking down how a particular type of sword shot is achieved. We live in remarkable times and we will only continue to find new ways to connect as technology continues to advance and enfold us.

There is a catch to this though- it becomes very difficult to just be your best self at an event, especially if your best self is very different from you in the mundane world. You may play a Knight or a Laurel on the weekend, but if you come home and spout racist garbage or hate speech on your Facebook wall, everyone is going to know that Sir X or Mistress Y might not be the type of person they actually want to hang out with, in or out of the SCA.

You can present the most chivalrous face at an event, drip with courtly love, be kind to widows and orphans and hand roses to ladies. You will likely be adored for this behavior because it is our medieval ideal. However, if you come home and post up some more-than-slightly-racist meme or make a "joke" about the Holocaust... that is the thing you will be remembered for. You will be the Racist Knight or the Nazi Laurel. Ouch.

My cat problem is well known. I share pictures all the time.
I cannot later deny that I foster cats because I am
covered in them all of the time.
We don't get to turn off our SCA personas when we leave the event and have our mundane works and words entirely discounted in our game. That wall between persona and the mundane falls the moment you post something online where anyone can see it. It is there to be seen. That's why we post things online. This sounds obvious and redundant, but it is a key point of social media that a lot of people miss.

You post things online because you want someone else to see it, read it. and connect with you on some level. This goes for anything, positive and negative. You have to make a choice after writing or copying a meme to click on 'send' or 'post'. You have to take responsibility for that choice too.

In the wanderings through social media, the Law of Unintended consequences should be considered. Will your post make someone angry? Will your post hurt someone? Will someone share your post beyond the audience you intended? Will your words go farther than you meant them to? The answer to all of these questions, quite simply, is: YES.

A wise friend once told me to dance like no one is watching but write every email as if it will be later read in a deposition in court.

That seems extreme, but it is also entirely sensible. If you mix your real life, work life, political leanings, religious beliefs and SCA life online: People will get to know all of who you are in those arenas. They will see a bigger picture than what you generally present at an SCA event. Once that happens, there is no returning to your two-dimensional SCA persona that only exists one weekend a month and two weeks a year (much like the Reserves, in a way).

You are now a whole person to everyone who can potentially see your online postings. You are, quite simply, what you post because that is the way most people will interact with you and view you. Through this lens, try to look with the eyes of someone who does not know you and review what you have put online. Look carefully at what picture it paints and how it could be taken or misconstrued.

I'm not suggesting that anyone be politically correct; heaven forfend. Rock on with your bad self and post whatever your wee heart desires. If you want to push buttons and poke bears: go for it. It's your world, your oyster. However, remember that what you say, do, post and re-post will be seen. It will be shared. People will know you by your words and deeds before they ever meet you.

My reality is: don't post anything online publicly or on someone else's social media unless you are cool with your dad, coworkers, fellow SCAdians, colleagues, and former parish priest seeing it. That is literally a part of my public audience. If I want to share something with a smaller group, I use filters to reduce down the number of people who will see a post- sometimes to friends, or friends without acquaintances and sometimes to only close friends. Filters are your friends. No, seriously, filter your 'friends'. It makes a world of difference because not every conversation needs to be a public affair.
Look, it's me in garb. Anyone on
Facebook can figure out I am in the SCA

Nevertheless, if you put it online- be certain that you are comfortable having others view your post and respond to it. Because they will. Don't feign surprise and claim that who you are in the 'real world' and who you are in the 'knowne world' should not be mixed- because you allowed them to mix online.

If you have a single photo of yourself in SCA clothing or regalia, a work polo shirt, a club gathering, a religious event or any other aspect of your life on your social media, understand this: You are now a representative of that group. Your words, posts, and memes will be applied to that group and to you.

Unless you keep your worlds entirely separate- you will be known as a whole person with beliefs and jokes and troubles like everyone else. But that whole person can never be ironed flat again and slid back into the small, comfortable box that is one facet of your life. You have provided access to more of yourself and it will not be forgotten.

Choose your words with care. They define you and will linger in some internet archive forever. And if you do not use care, they will haunt you and be passed ahead of you to color the outlook of those you have not even met.

Free speech has consequences. Lots of them. No one will stop you from saying anything. However, maybe there are times you should stop yourself. If not, prepare to be judged.

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

― Omar Khayyám, The Rubáiyát 

Thursday, July 05, 2018

A Shield for Sir Segdae hua Morda

I have this buddy in the SCA, Sir Segdae. We go to events together and sometimes I am his consort when he fights in tournaments so it makes me happy when he looks good on the field.

My buddy had been carrying a boring plain green shield for way too long and I threatened to make sure he would get a new moniker if he didn't fix it.

Sir Segdae, the plain green knight.

So, turns out he a.) believed I could pull that off b.) wanted a swanky shield and c.) didn't want a crappy new nickname. So, he handed his shield over for blinging.

Thanks to Countess Ennelynne von Hessen who did the rough design work and Mistress Milesenda de Bourges who did the main cartooning and helped me with the fill painting. I like group projects. I finished the painting and detailing. (Free-handing triskeles is super fun)

Now, Segdae has a boss (center boss, actually) new shield that makes people say "Woah!" and look down at his shield when they meet him on the field. Seems that works out nicely in more than one way.

Decorative and deadly. My favorite.