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There are those who will start (as they always do) by saying "We are not voting orders, we are polling orders, our advice is just that, advice, and we should simply respect the Crown's decisions and be happy that they take whatever time they feel they can give to decide to give awards at all" and just stop worrying about the inequities and problems.  You have all heard it before.  You will all hear it again.
 
That is fine if you believe the purpose of awards is to give the Crown something to give to people, to add to the pageantry and ceremony.  I for one don't believe that for a second.  I believe the purpose of recognition is to make sure the individual that is being recognized knows the regard in which their effort is held, and has reason to continue to develop that set of skills for the betterment of the Society.  The second is to provide the populace clear indicators of VETTED individuals whose counsel can be trusted within their field to be useful in the advancement of others.  Giving the Crown something to gove the people is far down on my list of reasons for awards, it is a by-product.  For gift award, we have the Court Barony.  Every other thing should have a specific purpose and be a specific indicator.  And I do not believe it is disrespectful to say that their should be less ambiguity in meaning for awards - I am not saying there should be less subjectivity in the giving, because that could border on treason (no merit-badge checklist, we need the ability to judge unmeasurable qualities even if the measurable skill is there, sometimes we just have to have a way to say no when everything is actually present, or to say yes when several things are lacking, all the arguements that have been rehashed every quarter for eternity)
 
I have always been a firm believer that you give a relatively focused activity it's own award structure, and you allow it to grow it's own level of respect.  Creating an umbrella of arts and sciences makes the proper first impression, but in order to properly identify the talent pool to those most in need of knowing (not the recipient, and not the members of the order, but the populace for whom all achievements are ultimately meant to benefit) it is important to retain some sort of narrow field recognition by title as an intermediate indicator.
 
I for one would not have any problem with actually separating the Laurel into Master of Arts, Master of Sciences, and Master of Miscellany.  Each carrying the Title of Laurel, each being able to be distinguished by the sub-title.  And because things that aren't directly related to the common and traditional (even if not written) definition of Laurel have been lumped into that peerage track for lack of willingness to be accepted elsewhere, and the likelihood is that more will be as more activities are embraced by the Society, it would be a very reasonable step to eliminate confusion and to aid the general citizenry of the SCA in locating and taking advantage of the people of whom they need assistance from the most.
 
And again, I am not saying that order members have to vote, that the responsibility of final decision would not fall on the Crown.  I believe that many Crowns have hosed up decisions and should be judged like everyone else based on that, and I believe that many have made great decisions and should be judged based on that.  Being in power should never exempt you from the consequences of your decisions, in fact, it should be a heavy reminder of them because they have greater effect than the ordinary powerless individual's decisions.  But it should be left to the Crown, and orders should not vote, but counsel.
 
The organization of the structure has nothing to do with how it is used or misused, it is simply there to help provide a way to provide the highest level of meaning to each of the parts of the structure.  I am not about chaning the mechanics, just the way the parts are named, so that the labels that go with awards are clearer.  In the end, I believe that would make it much easier to recognize people who fit cleanly into category, and still provide a way to recognize those who don't in a way more generally acceptable to the communities built by those who hold, not just those who give, awards.  Because while it is the absolute right of the Crown to give an award, they step down in 6 months and the awarded individuals become part of a growing and vibrant sub-community for life, their involvement doesn't stop the day they receive the award, their responsibility in fact expands from that day forth into growing and nurturing the community of those who do what they do.  So while there in all actuality would be no difference between sticking a target archer under a combined Laurel structure because they have demonstrated for years they can hit targets with their arrows, or putting that same person in a Master of Arts category because what they do is performance, or putting that same person in a new Master of Miscellany category because their skill doesn't fit in the traditional boundaries of the existing structure, the difference perceived by the community of peers would be substantial, and I believe that once a person reaches that rank, considering what they perceive is critical - they are not each other's peers, they are Peers, and if we are going to be told to respect those who sit the throne because of their rank, we need to remember that Peers have rank almost as high and should be granted respect commensurate with that rank.
 
Setting structure that provides, in the end, the comfortable general perception of the Peers starts with the most basic divisions.  And again, I am not saying anything about how to put people into the structure, that should be left to the Crown.  But setting the structure should be done with great respect for the opinions of those work has earned them the highest title, and thus the highest respect.
 
Since we are never going to break some logjams regarding how to integrate an activity into existing and well established community 'units', orders and groups formed and focused for so long on one particular set of activities and ideals that the forced injection of a not-specifically-compatible activity for simple administrative convenience causes havoc and hard feelings, perhaps it is time to explore the development of an expanded, rather than streamlined, structure, one that shifts the benefit from the administrators to the recipients and the populace.  Perhaps it should be time to start to grasp what recognizing someone actually means, not just giving an award, but giving the advancement that goes with a true acknowledgement of the achievements of each individual.
 
Perhaps the structure should be based on similarity of product.  Those who build, out of metal, wood, fabric, clay, glass, might have huge differences in tools and techniques, but can recognize and usefully promote and comment on all building crafts.  Dancers, singers, thespians, performance artists who take something that is an idea and transmit it not through the creation of an object, but of a story, might not be able to work in each other's craft, but they can recognize and relate to the basics necessary in each of these fields and have an innate ability to be 'compatible' to a large extent, thus strengthening the community and eliminating much confusion related to the awards sturcture.  Perhaps something that makes sense when you remove the people both giving and receiving the award, and just analyzing for indication and meaning of labels.  
 
We give people 6 months on the throne not only so we can have the responsibility of doing all the work of tourneys and coronations every 6 months, not only to limit the cost to the volunteers who become the figureheads, but to limit the amount of damage that can be done by one couple.  Our tradition recognizes that nobody, even the best among us, will do things right all the time.  That is why an underlying structure that makes sense as a method of guidance is better than one that increases ambiguity.
 
So you see, any junior high debate squad member could provide an impassioned argument about why we should change, and the benefits of any new proposal.  There was the exercise, the mental game.  But here is the reality.
 
Perhaps we shouldn't discuss this approach any more than we should discuss combining.  The world has not imploded under the current system, it's administration has not become unworkably onerous, and no matter what benefits could be gained for one set of people there would be an equal cost paid by another, no matter which approach might be adopted.  Probably best to just keep it where it is, a certain benefit is delivered and certain headaches are present, but at least where it is is a place people have gotten used to in spite of the problems, and time if nothing else has seemed to provide adaptation and adjustment by those in the existing structure that allows the benefits and headaches to be shared pretty much equally, at least as equally as any other system would allow.
 
Sometimes, the adage "if you aren't changing, you're dying" isn't true.  Sometimes change is destructive, and sometimes time has provided the best possible alternative and any change would be harmful.  I think right now that while the existing structure provides no end of issue for me in my Laurel field, any change would only make it worse,
 
Kaz
Semi RED (retired, extremely dangerous) Laurel

> Greetings one and all,
>
> Something that has bothered me for more than several years and many
> Reigns: Every year or so we have the same subject come up.
> Combining the Arts GOA's and the Sciences GOA's under one award.
> What bothers me about this is the difference in the two discipline
> tracks which I define loosely as: Arts-I can break it with a hammer
> (yes I can break Elizabethan costume with a hammer), and Sciences-I
> make it with a hammer, it is my definition-one that works for me. I
> hear no discussion occurring on
> combining the now 3 different Marshallate GOA's under the same
> thought process, although by logic if it is good for one to
> streamline its good for all. I am opposed to a combined A&S GOA.
> It leaves many starting over in the awards structure as then the
> pool of individuals to satisfy becomes much larger, and the number
> of folks who know nothing of the craft in question are now getting
> to discuss folks without adequate basis in the skills required. The
> biggest concern here is that the
> people who always want this to happen, are people who already have
> these awards, and just seem to want to put a mark on Kingdom
> history and customs, IMO be it good or bad. That is a rather self-
> centered and self-serving stance IMO. There was a reason for the
> creation of the current award structure, and one that has served us
> well. Discuss away
>
>
> Master Gottfried von Koln, OP