Whine, whine, whine

dennis guy grace amazing at mail.utexas.edu
Wed Oct 23 09:14:21 PDT 1996

Greetings Cousins,

Lyonel here.  I doubt that I can add much to Baron Kief's eloquent reply to
M'lord William the Warthog, but since he addressed me personally, I do feel
obligated to toss in my two pence.

At 04:09 AM 10/23/96, William the Warthog wrote:

>   I figure I'm going to get pounded for this and that's fine. I am really
>frustrated by two problems I see at the events I go to... While all you
>older, more experienced, nobility types are pounding, help me understand why:

Definitely foremost in this matter:  William, you have every right to query,
and you even have the right to express your opinions.  If this gets you
pounded in a Society context, come see me.  I'll be happy to champion your
right to speak your mind, even if I don't agree with the opinion in question.

>   1. Vicious rumor mongering is such a widespread, almost uncontrollable
>   2. Society members are so ready to crush others reputations with little or
>no thought to what they are doing.

Sad but frequently true.  This is not, as some may try to tell you, a
strictly Ansteorran problem--I've yet to see an SCA group free from this
sort of social poison.  I used to argue that such is the stuff of human
nature, a natural consequence of large, hierarchical organizations.  In
recent years, however, I have come to believe that this problem of excess
politicking is an outgrowth of attempting to re-create a feudal/renaissance
microcosm. Our squabbles and disputes, our rumors and backstabbing tend to
look remarkably like the sort of nonsense that went on behind the Tudor
thrones (except that we don't literally poison one another).

As Sir Kief noted, the best way to help solve this problem is to set a good
example.  I think it also helps, occasionally, to point out accidental

I also think it helps to assume that insults (especially over e-mail, which,
as Sir Kief notes is a highly volatile medium), gossip, "rumor- mongering,"
and various other forms of character attack are accidental.  I find that
most people respond more reasonably to "Pardon, Mistress, but I think your
statement might have been read as an insult," than to, say, "How dare you
besmirch the honor of Sir Fillintheblank!" Likewise, never assume that odd
suggestions from "powerful" individuals in the SCA are evidence of
"political maneuvering."  If you're curious as to why someone wants a change
in the political structure, the awards, the regions, the army, or the rules
of the list, then by all means, ask.  

>   3. I go to events and see people with all kinds of awards and "danglees"
>walking about between courts and lists and things talking about the football
>game, or what they watched on TV last Thursday, or (this gets my "Best
>Cringe" award) what we did when my unit went to the field last week.

This is a separate problem, but it's a tough one.  We're all in the SCA for
different reasons; the Dream differs from person to person.  Some of us want
escape, some are in it just to practice one or two arts that find no modern
audiences, some like the feel of full-contact heavy martial arts.  We do,
however, have this 20th century thang to deal with in ninety-percent of our
waking hours.  Since our principal means of transportation to these widely
dispersed events is automobile, it's hard to hide them away completely, and
hard not to complain about the trouble they give us.  Since period
pavillions tend to be expensive, many of us are stuck with dome tents and
aluminum-pole jobs from Sears.  Since much of our discourse occurs via
e-mail, the internet, and newsgroups, keeping the computers out of our
on-site discourse is a bit sticky.  Moreover, some of us are curious about
the other folks.  I always want to know how the folks I meet in the SCA live
their mundane lives.  (The curiosity can be overwhelming, but I try not to
ask about such matters at events.)

So, what do we do about impinging on one another's dreams?  A friend of mine
in Idaho always said he loves the feeling of big outdoor events at night
--Estrella, Pennsic, Lilies.  He can walk around from campfire to campfire,
a leg of lamb in one hand and a tankard in the other, listening to the
drums, watching the dancers, encountering the odd wandering juggler, perhaps
passing a tent where a knight and his squires are making last minute armor
repairs by the light from their oil lanterns in preparation for the next
morning's battle, and he feels--for just brief moments here and there--that
he really has left the 20th century behind.  If I were to meet him on the
field and say, "Edward, I was just looking for you.  You know that last
posting of yours on the listserve? Well, ...," then I have crushed his dream.  

I think our position on such matters should roughly equate to Jefferson's
stand on Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Hapiness.  In other words, you
have the right to your dream just up to the point at which it disrupts mine.
If you and a friend want to talk about football at an event, you have that
right. I don't think it's fair for you to carry on such discussions within
the hearing of others who may be trying to put away the mundane world.  

Oops, gotta class to teach (didn't even proofread-ewww).  Until I have more
time to "talk," I remain

Yours in Virtual Service

Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace
Dennis G. Grace
Postmodern Medievalist
Division of Rhetoric and Composition
University of Texas at Austin
amazing at mail.utexas.edu

Si hoc legere scia, nimium eruditionis habes.

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