Recognizing Skill and Good Works

dennis grace amazing at
Thu Oct 24 14:08:18 PDT 1996

Greetings Cousins,

Lyonel here.  First, let me apologize to Baron Aodhan for the surliness of
my two replies to his posting "Re:  Whine, whine, whine."

Second, I would like to note that the baron's long response to this string,
concerning what constitutes recognition, was a reply to my wife's
statements, not mine.  Not that I disagree, mind; I simply find it ironic
that the baron so fervently insists that he was misread in a response to the
wrong individual.  Her message was signed, "Aquilanne, OL, OP, Baroness,
Bannthane," and she even remembered to turn off my signature, so I don't
know whence the confusion arises.

I'm not offended, just a bit annoyed at seeing "dennis grace wrote" applied
to words not my own. :^>

Third, I would like to concur (no sarcasm, I promise), in part, with the
sentiments Baron Aodhan has expressed with respect to recognition and
awards. I will outline these points for clarity.

        I.  Ansteorra has too many awards.  Baron Aodhan says the SCA has
too many awards, but I think the problem in Ansteorra is a bit larger than
average. I can see no reason for having awards at the AoA and GoA level.  I
think this practice occured to fill the void that could be filled by a
Principality level award system.  I agree, however, that a principality
level award system _in addition to_ an already overly complex award system
will be a burden to the Precedence Heralds.  I see this as a good reason to
eliminate some of the redundant awards, not as a good reason to prohibit the
creation of a new award that would fill a void (which, I maintain, exists in
the case of SCA archery), nor as adequate disincentive for creating a
principality award structure.

        II.  Our award system looks like a merit badge system.  I think this
perception has a positive and negative side.  As a former Boy Sprout, I have
seen the sort of positive incentive awards based upon good works can
engender in the spirits of not only the recipients but also the onlookers.
Beyond this factor, however, I find the artificial hierarchy imposed by
awards to be excessively restrictive.  I abhor the practice, in peerage
circles, of delaying recognition by insisting that candidates have received
all the appropriate awards up the line.  True, hierarchal awards can be a
good clue to growth, but requiring such signs just enforces a sense of
requisite seniority (nah, she can't be knighted yet; she's only been
fighting for five years).

        Moreover, and I don't want to step on anyone's toes here, but the
Sable Thistle strikes me as a perfect example of the sort of problem Baron
Aodhan is addressing.  I can see baronial, principality, and kingdom level
A&S awards, but one for every art and every science?  What's next, the Sable
Paperclip for different forms of service?  We could give a clip for filing,
a clip for chronicling, a clip for court heraldry, a clip for field
heraldry, etc.

        III. Baron Aodhan advocates an informal system of thanks and
gift-giving in lieu of awards.  I agree with this in a very limited way.
First, I see no reason for having awards that expressly address service to
an individual.  In Atenveldt, I received a King's Sigil from a close friend
for whom I had been personal herald for one reign.  I cherish the token,
honestly, but I can see no reason for that token to have a place in the OP.  

As for gift giving, I like the idea but with grave reservations.  Foremost,
who pays for the gifts?  Somehow it doesn't seem fair that this be a
personal out-of-pocket item for the Crown, but then wouldn't we need a
rather complex set of laws limiting who can give what and for how much?
Besides, how many goblets and candle holders can one individual use?

As for verbal thanks, I've seen such presentations at courts as long as I
can remember.  In a system where thanks are given freely, awards stand as a
slightly higher form of thanks.  Moreover, words are volatile.  The award
stands as a lasting reminder of the recognition, be it in the form of
letters after a signature or a token worn in court.

        IV.  Baron Aodhan finds the current system of peerages burdensome
and unrealistic.  I concur.  A few years back Duke Brion of Atenveldt and a
few others (sorry, can't recall the rest) championed a call to eliminate the
three peerage system.  Their theory was simply that all the peers should be
dubbed knights.  This has both period (limited) and post-period precedence.
To avoid the post-period references for the nonce, non-warriors were
inducted into the chivalric orders of the Crown, the Golden Fleece, and the
Star, to name but a few.  Some of these were even dubbed (land-owners,
officials of state).  This idea, turning the Laurels, Pelicans, and
Masters-at-Arms into knights, met with its strongest opposition from the
non-knights, largely over the matter of swearing fealty.  

        V. Baron Aodhan notes that the Precedence Heralds are currently
overburdened, and considers this a valid reason to at least trim the awards
system.  As I noted in I. above, I think the Ansteorran award system can use
a bit of careful pruning.  Baron Aodhan has also noted, however, that the
majority of the difficulty in maintaining the OP stems from inadequate
reporting practices on the part of the Pursuivancy and court heralds.  This
problem needs to be addressed within the ranks of the heralds; trimming the
awards structure won't fix the problem.  Eliminating the awards system
would, of course, solve this problem, but why break down the door when you
haven't even tried the knob?

        VI. Baron Aodhan has not addressed two problems frequently cited
with respect to this issue.  One is cookie collection.  Some people find
pleasure in trying to amass a huge collar of SCA awards.  It's ostentacious,
and some find it offensive.  I, personally, don't see the harm.  
        The other unmentioned problem is award inflation.  Too many awards
tend to numb the senses.  If the Crown gives out a pair of Sable Cranes at
every court, Sable Cranes lose their value.  Supply and demand.  In my
experience, this problem is one Crowns and Coronets must keep in mind when
deciding what awards to give.  Eliminating the awards system in order to fix
this problem is, to my mind, like burning down the house to avoid vacuuming
the carpet (and, yes, I frequently consider doing this).

Again, my apologies for last night's flames.  I won't offer excuses; my
postings were needlessly harsh.  Until I can offer something else to this
particular debate, I remain

Yours in Rhetorical Service

Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace
Dennis G. Grace
Postmodern Medievalist
Division of Rhetoric and Composition
Department of English
University of Texas at Austin
amazing at

Baro, metetz en guatge                    |  Lords, pawn your castles,
Chastels e vilas e ciutatz                |  your towns and cities.
Enanz qu'usquecs no'us guerreiatz         |  Before you're beat to the draw,
                                                    draw your swords.

                   -- Bertran de Born (a really fun Viscount)

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