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.

Prudence. 
Justice. 
Fortitude. 
Temperance. 
Faith. 
Hope. 
Charity. 
Courtesy. 
Chivalry. 
Diligence. 
Kindness. 
Patience. 
Humility.
Mercy.
Courage.

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

31 comments:

  1. Well said. I'll join you in this quest.

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  2. Brava. Well spoken, and well written. - Yrsa Gudrunardottir (Laurel and last Princess of the Principality of the Sun)

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  3. Thank you , Melessee. So very well put. Applies also to mundane life of course . I have been one of those easy going, don't make a scene people. But in our screwed up world we need to speak up, (I just hope , not to get shot in some situation)
    The last 40some years I have taken a stand ( mostly with memberships) for environmental matters. I shall now take a stand
    when my ethics are offended !

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  4. Thanks for posting this. Well put. I hope that many take it to heart. I myself have not been the target of bullying or bad behavior, but there is always a first time, and I have heard far too many stories about the behavior you describe. If a peer's view of him/herself is based on bullying people then they don't deserve the honor. I know I will never be a peer because I'm not at nearly enough events to be that well known, but I absolutely feel that courtesy and kindness can go a long way, and I intend to continue modeling that.

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  5. I think one of the most courteous things that we can do, in the face of bad behavior, is speak open Lee honestly and directly to the person with whom we have grievance. Too often people talk to everyone else but the individual who was offensive. Words can be misheard or taken out of context. What maybe offensive to one person may not necessarily be offensive to another. I always believe that it is better to have conversation then to start rumors which can turn into angry mobs and witch hunts quite quickly.

    My two pence for what it's worth.

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  6. Oh dear, this is not very encouraging. To hear it happening in any organisation is bad but to hear it in an organisation whose members are there to have a good time is quite frankly horrendous. I am not currently a member of the SCA, but have asked if I may apply, and if I am able to will state that my persona "Henri de Ceredigion" is "about as much of a gentleman as it is possible to be, always letting ladies go ahead of him and asking if there is anything he can do for anyone, and on those very rare occasions he exclaims "Odds bodkins", he immediately apologises for the exclamation and explains why, usually that the weather is far too hot for him and he's getting fed up of it!"

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  7. I love your post and believe you've touched upon something that needs to be said.

    I'd like to add more but I'm having a tough time articulating it right now. Let me sit on this for a bit.

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  8. Loved reading this! I have stopped playing because of some of this! I miss the SCA but I don't miss the "crap" I took.

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  9. Ive talked about this myself many times, and have seen "its just a game" used as a blank check / pass more times than I care to recall. its infuriating.

    its also a sad situation where squires (just for one example) honestly don't care because they re able to say 'this is Facebook, it doens't court" and by my understanding, at least locally, the local circles do, or did, in fact, think that way.

    Sorry, that's going to turn into a soap box, and I don't intend it to.

    Excellent thoughts, thanks for publishing them.

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  10. I adore you.

    I've been thinking about posting something along these lines for quite a long time, and just never seem to quite manage to sit down and organize my thoughts and actually write the damned thing. Thank you.

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  11. Thank you. I am not involved in sca but they are lucky to have you xx Have faith more will follow. Great job.

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  12. Yes! Thank you! This is beautiful!

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  13. Hear, hear.

    And, if somebody ever needs to be talked to about bad behavior, I'm all in favor of forgetting about our silly game of "nobility" and "royalty". We're just fellow hobbyists; some rude schmuck isn't actually better than you because they have a made-up title or wear a metal hat.

    -- Adriano du Cabochon
    MKA: Steven Doyle
    Pen name: Manuel Royal

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  14. Someone posted this on FB and I think it falls under the same theme...

    The Racist Tree

    By Alexander Blechman

    Once upon a time, there was a racist tree. Seriously, you are going to hate this tree. High on a hill overlooking the town, the racist tree grew where the grass was half clover. Children would visit during the sunlit hours and ask for apples, and the racist tree would shake its branches and drop the delicious red fruit that gleamed without being polished. The children ate many of the racist tree's apples and played games beneath the shade of its racist branches. One day the children brought Sam, a boy who had just moved to town, to play around the racist tree.

    "Let Sam have an apple," asked a little girl.

    "I don't think so. He's black," said the tree. This shocked the children and they spoke to the tree angrily, but it would not shake its branches to give Sam an apple, and it called him a nigger.

    "I can't believe the racist tree is such a racist," said one child. The children momentarily reflected that perhaps this kind of behavior was how the racist tree got its name.

    It was decided that if the tree was going to deny apples to Sam then nobody would take its apples. The children stopped visiting the racist tree.

    The racist tree grew quite lonely. After many solitary weeks it saw a child flying a kite across the clover field.

    "Can I offer you some apples?" asked the tree eagerly.

    "Fuck off, you goddamn Nazi," said the child.

    The racist tree was upset, because while it was very racist, it did not personally subscribe to Hitler's fascist ideology. The racist tree decided that it would have to give apples to black children, not because it was tolerant, but because otherwise it would face ostracism from white children.

    And so, social progress was made.

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  15. Great piece of writing, and a timely thought. My friends and I have been shaming literal white supremacists (actual neo-nazis) out of the SCA since we found out they were in. Recently we have expanded to creeps.

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  16. Great piece of writing, and a timely thought. My friends and I have been shaming literal white supremacists (actual neo-nazis) out of the SCA since we found out they were in. Recently we have expanded to creeps.

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  17. You make a very important and very salient point. Even the Roman Catholic Church does not officially grant the expungement of confession without the the individually feeling remorse and promising to go forth and do better. The only caution I would offer is the "all things to all people" caution. When using terms like "hateful rhetoric" without clear, objective definitions, we open the door to personal opinion becoming "the rule" based on individual opinions of what constitutes "hateful". Is it hateful to denigrate someone based on race/color/gender/etc? Yes. Is it hateful to express support for a political candidate with whom someone else has an issue? Most likely not... yet many people will interpret it as so.

    I love your conclusion, as well as your list of virtues. At the very least, speaking to someone whose behavior you find questionable can result in the clearing up of misconceptions. At the very best, it can be a big step to keeping the SCA from suffering the ills that are currently affecting mundane society.

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  18. “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.”

    My memory said that was George Bernard Shaw. Google thinks it was either Maya Angelou or Samuel Johnson. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (6th ed.), which sits beside me as I type, doesn't have it. It's a good line, whoever said it. I don't trust most online quote repositories.

    Oxford does give me this one, from C.S. Lewis:

    “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” (Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave (1944) ch. 3.)

    I have about five other dictionaries of quotations (I collect the things), but they're all in storage.

    TRiG.

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  19. Something to reflect on, Karl Popper in the 40s identified the Paradox of Tolerance. Cut short: a tolerant society can not abide intolerance. Intolerance just be stopped if need be by force.

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  20. Well said. The SCA is like any other group out there that is subject to the destructive nature of bad people. In a society whose philosophy desires to bring out the best in people (with the principles of trust, tolerance, courtesy, etc.), and then coupling it with a rank structure that is largely gained by social perception (with winning crown being the exception, and even that is subject to social restrictions) creates an environment that is particularly vulnerable to those who wish to game that system.

    Sociopaths, with their methodologies, their charismatic traits, and expertise in manipulating people are the ones who are masters at this gaming, and the SCA has quite a few them at all rank levels. Now realize people with anti-social personality disorder are on a spectrum like autism or ADD. Some folks are just touched with it (and are relatively harmless), and some are full-blown psychopaths. In my time in the SCA, I was victimized in the extreme by several. The SCA is rife with them, as it's an easy place for them to feed their egos and manipulate people. It's these people who call on the very principles of what is best of the SCA to allow the worst.

    And it is sadly one of the many reasons I don't play anymore. I loved the dream, but the reality became too much to bear.

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  21. Well spoken! Thank you always for your very wise words.

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  22. Thank you for your post. It touched my heart. I long been in the receiving end of domestic violence from an SCAdian and been mistrusted by others because of that.

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  24. I continued to attend SCA events despite feeling like I was crashing an insider group that I wasn’t welcome to join. I volunteered, did dishes, made lunch, did other things to help at events. Enjoyed re-enactment and experimental atre,pots at creating medieval objects.
    I’d probably still be going, but health issues interfere. I’m white, middle class, English speaking North American. Now if I feel shut out, how do people from other cultures, people of colour feel? I will say I’ve seen no lgbt 🏳️‍🌈 discrimination, but that IMO is due to being Canadian.

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  25. Excellent essay... Thanks!

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  26. I am happy you wrote this. I am one of those who has been tormented by a noble. A peer even asked for kingdom assist. I know the second noble had her heart in the right place. But in the end nothing was done. And it continued until I moved away.

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melessee@gmail.com