Recognizing Skill and Good Works

Aodhan Ite an Fhithich aodhan at
Thu Oct 24 22:35:42 PDT 1996

dennis grace wrote in a message to All:

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

Apology accepted.  Let me tender an apology to anyone I offended with that
subject line - I do tend to call 'em as I see 'em.

(Boy am I glad I decided not to respond to those this morning...)

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

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

The confusion comes from the fact that you both post from the same account,
thus the From line (see below) is the same for both of you.

 dg> From: amazing at (dennis grace)

The mail software I use here picks that up and generates the "dennis grace
wrote" automagically.  Multiple persons on the same account is not that common
here, so I'm not in the habit of editting that line the computer so kindly
provided me.  Also, as e-mail has allowed us to communicate with more people,
we've ended up with more people to communicate with, so that, in the interests
of answering in a timely fashion and of having time for other things, there has
been a tendency to omit such niceties as salutations.

Guess I'll have to work on that.  However, *I* knew who I was responding to,
although the clues in my post clearly indicated otherwise.

 dg>         I.  Ansteorra has too many awards.  Baron Aodhan says the
 dg> SCA has too many awards, but I think the problem in Ansteorra is a
 dg> bit larger than average. 

Oh, I don't know about that - check out the East, Midrealm, or Meridies award
systems sometime.

 dg> I see this as a good reason to eliminate some
 dg> of the redundant awards, not as a good reason to prohibit the
 dg> creation of a new award that would fill a void (which, I maintain,
 dg> exists in the case of SCA archery), 

And which I maintain either does not exist or else exists equally for several
other fields of endeavor.

 dg> nor as adequate disincentive
 dg> for creating a principality award structure.

I never argued against a principality award structure, but against one grown

 dg>         II.  Our award system looks like a merit badge system.  

I am in general agreement with the rest of this paragraph.

I would note, however, that I am not saying merit badge systems are bad, but
rather that they are not appropriate to the culture we purport to portray.  I
believe we should strive for a system of rewards that is appropriate to our
stated purpose as an organization.

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

I am not sure what you are saying here?  Do you like the Sable Thistle or no?
While it might be more appropriate for it to be non-armigerous, I think it's
strongest feature is that it can be used to reward people for gaining facility
in a new craft.  Being a Laurel, I am not at all comfortable with the notion
that skill in one craft implies skill in all.  If the Thistle were not
structured as it is, I might expect this notion to be applied more universally.
I am uncertain whether service can be divided into as easily delineated fields
as can crafts, but, if such a division could be devised, I would not oppose
modifying an existing service award to allow recognition of service in a
specific field.

Note that I am assuming above that we are merely adapting our present awards
system to better serve our needs, rather than building a new one from scratch.

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

I don't believe I indicated that such personal tokens *should* be placed in the
RoP.  Certainly, the King's Gauntlet and Queen's Glove are listed in the RoP,
as they are armigerous.  Had the "me" from now been present and involved when
our awards system was being established, I would have argued against them being

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

Which gifts are you refering to here?  

Tokens for service in general or skill in a craft would be created by artisans
of the kingdom and given to the crown for their use, just as is done now with
award insignia. It provides a way for artisans to both practice their craft
*and* serve the kingdom.

Tokens for personal service to the crown should come from the crown.  They
could be crafted by the crown if they have appropriate skills or otherwise
purchased by the crown.  It *might* be appropriate for the crown to pass on to
them gifts the crown recieved, but have no use for after the reign, but that
the recipient *could* use (I'm thinking particularly of the costumes crowns
receive or have made in order to fit the theme of an event *because they are
the crown* but would not have had otherwise).  That could be a bit touchy,
however, *I* would rather the crown pass on something to someone who *would*
use it rather than let it molder in storage in case some future crown *might*
use it.  However, I digress.  The people these gifts would be given to are the
crowns' closest retainers - the people who set up their camp, see they get fed
at meals the event isn't providing, wipe their children's noses and/or bottoms,
cheer the crown up when they're down, calm then down when they start to spat at
each other so that they can present smiling faces to the populace, ...  These
people have spent much time, effort, and money on behalf of the persons of the
crown.  They are the crown's intimates.  They deserve an intimate, personal
token of thanks.

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

Verbal praise can be accompanied by a token or a scroll.

 dg> This idea, turning the Laurels,
 dg> Pelicans, and Masters-at-Arms into knights, met with its strongest
 dg> opposition from the non-knights, largely over the matter of
 dg> swearing fealty.  

Such was my objection, as fealty is a concept unknown to my persona and I would
be uncomfortable being forced to either swear or to appear to swear while not
actually doing so.

 dg> Baron
 dg> Aodhan has also noted, however, that the majority of the difficulty
 dg> in maintaining the OP stems from inadequate reporting practices on
 dg> the part of the Pursuivancy and court heralds.  This problem needs
 dg> to be addressed within the ranks of the heralds; 

Which I have attempted to do numerous times with exhortations in the Black Star
and in heraldic meetings.  I finally reached a breaking point when those
exhortations appeared completely ineffective.  So, I used the only "stick" I
had left (my only "carrot" - listing those who did report in the Black Star -
was obviously not working), I quit in a huff.

Fortunately for my successor, the Crown's personal herald is *very*
conscientious about sending in reports.  It remains to be seen whether Their
Highnesses will be able to find a similarly conscientious herald.

 dg>         VI. Baron Aodhan has not addressed two problems frequently
 dg> cited with respect to this issue.  One is cookie collection.  Some
 dg> people find pleasure in trying to amass a huge collar of SCA
 dg> awards.  It's ostentacious, and some find it offensive.  I,
 dg> personally, don't see the harm.    

How should I address this? Should I provide for it or should I attempt to
prevent it?  I, personally, don't understand the phenomenon.

 dg>         The other unmentioned problem is award inflation.  

 dg> Eliminating the awards system in order to fix this problem is, to
 dg> my mind, like burning down the house to avoid vacuuming the carpet
 dg> (and, yes, I frequently consider doing this).

Which is why I'm not advocating eliminating awards entirely, but instead
reducing the number of different awards and giving them more sparingly.  Award
inflation is a problem even in the mundane world - how much clout does a
British Knighthood really carry these days?


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