Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Wow, I do seem to be out of touch

I was a little mystified, a week or two ago, when I got the Board's letter about changes to the Sanctions and Investigations policy on the SCA Announcements mailing list. My initial reaction -- "okay, somebody's clearly accused the Board of doing something incredibly stupid" -- turns out to have been entirely correct.

Today's news is much more interesting -- TRM have signed a petition calling for the impeachment of the majority of the Board. From what I've been able to discern so far, I would tend to agree. If you, like me, were kind of wondering what the heck is going on, I recommend following this trail from TRM's letter:I suspect that none of this is news to folks who have had more time to keep up with events, but having been following only a modest number of LJs recently, and little other social media, I'd missed the whole kerfluffle. It's a little one-sided, but presents enough documentation to make the chain of events (if not necessarily the original incident) clear.

Basically, it appears that the Board of Directors of the SCA got a scary-sounding letter from a lawyer, alleging some awful behaviour from a Duke and Duchess down in Atenveldt (who, I infer, have made a few enemies over the years). It sounds like the Board panicked; started proceedings to kick them out of the club; didn't get the response they wanted from the investigations; kicked them out of the club *anyway*; and all hell broke loose.

It's all depressingly familiar, frankly.

Those who hang around me will occasionally hear me refer to The Crisis -- when you hear me capitalize the words (and yes, you can hear the capitals), that always means the Membership Crisis of 1994, when the SCA came within a hair of schisming. That was a heady and horrible year, with Carolingia pretty close to the center of the mess simply because we've always been the group that doesn't put up with nonsense. (In the wake of the mess, it led to the creation of the Grand Council of the Society, with three current-or-sometime Carolingians -- me, Tibor and Caroline Forbes -- deeply involved in setting it up.)

In the abstract, the current debacle and the Crisis seem pretty similar -- the Board got panicked about something, made a decision in haste, got its collective pride wounded when folks told them they were committing procedural errors, dug in their heels, rationalized left and right, and turned what *should* have been a self-contained matter into a constitutional crisis. Then as now, the Board was made up of good people doing a performance-art interpretive dance illustrating the old principle that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Because when you get down to it, it's all about Rule of Law. The SCA *loves* Law -- loves it to death, and loves it way too much, as I often rail against. But at the top, the Board has always tended to be a little contemptuous about the idea. It's easy, when you are the ones writing the laws, to suddenly find that the law is inconvenient, sweep it aside and say, "Oh, no -- we just made a mistake there". That seems to be what's going on here: the Board managed to publish laws that they didn't even believe (possibly, didn't even know about), and have been rather too cavalier about brushing them aside.

So -- yeah, the petition. I have to agree with it, albeit more reluctantly than I might once have done. I have a nasty suspicion that it will come to naught unless someone gets as bloody-minded as goldsquare and company did back in '94, using legal action to force the Corporation to follow its own rules. But the situation isn't tolerable: while we may *play* Middle Ages, we demand modern-world accountability from our leaders, and that means things like following the rules and transparency. Above all, it means that the Society needs the ability to demand redress from the Board when they act stupidly, and drive home the lesson that good intentions aren't an excuse.

The Coronation of Edward and Thyra ended with a detail that I think was brilliantly apt -- the Latinized chant of "You rule because we believe". That's absolutely true within the game, and monarchs have occasionally been taught that lesson the hard way. It is every bit as true of the Board, though -- the SCA *works* only if folks actually believe in it, and that demands believing in the folks at the top. By being so blithe about their own rules -- the rules that are the only tiny check on their power -- they've broken faith. I'd like to hope that they will finally get the message from this near-ultimate slap in the face, and start to make some real changes...

[EDIT: a couple of the links above are now broken -- this is apparently because someone got concerned about the postings being on an eastkingdom.org subdomain. Personally, I think that is a *great* example of the sort of stifling over-rationalization and bureaucratic paranoia that causes so many of the SCA's problems, but I'm not really surprised -- it's very typical. I'll update the links once this is resolved.]
Tags: sca politics

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