To the Board of Directors, from Justin du Coeur, (Mark Waks), Greetings.
I've been pondering the "fourth peerage" -- specifically, the peerage for Rapier -- proposal for some months now, and I have to say, I think it's a bad idea in its current form. More precisely, I think the precedent is terrible. Making it easier for the Rapier community to achieve peerage is a good goal, but this is, IMO, the very worst way to go about it.
Honestly, I keep coming back to the horrible but apt metaphor of kids aping their parents' bad behaviour. The Chivalry has always been a screwed-up anomaly in our awards system. Where the Laurel and Pelican are given for very broad *concepts*, the Chivalry is given for a single specific *activity*. That was always unwise, but I've always accepted the exception, on the grounds that (a) the Armored Knight is so central to the mythologies that the SCA was built upon, and (b) it came first, so what are you gonna do?
But going and copying that model is a *dreadful* idea, primarily because of what will happen next. From what I have seen, the archery community is already resentful of the whole thing: there are more archers than fencers, and the activity is far older in the Society. The rapier community got more organized about it in substantial part because of the controversial origins of the activity (I still remember when fencing was very much an oppressed edge-case activity in many places, and it caused the community to get much more organized and cohesive), but it's pretty clear that archery is at least as *deserving*, as an activity, of that peerage. So if we give one for Rapier, we *will* wind up having to give one for Archery, probably sooner rather than later, as that resentment boils over.
At which point, the precedent will be locked down: every martial activity will know that The Goal Dammit is to get to the point of a separate peerage. Certainly the Thrown Weapons folks will have that in the back of their minds -- it is a long ways off, but they will be striving to create yet another damned separate peerage in the long run. And the missileers, and the equestrians, etc: when you put a gold ring in front of folks, they will eventually reach for it.
Frankly, I think it's madness. The result is fragmentation, just making the bloody system harder to understand, and making people *care* less and less. It will lead to less cohesion among the peers, and lessened respect for the whole bloody concept. It is already the case that relatively few members of the populace know what all the Kingdom-level awards are here (East), and most of them have simply given up on even trying; the prospect of the same thing gradually happening to the peerages saddens me immensely.
Which isn't to say that I'm opposed to all change -- I just think *this* change is the worst of all possible worlds. The *right* solution is to step back and recognize the *abstraction* of what the Chivalry is, the same way that the Laurel and Pelican work. We don't have a Peerage for Dance, a Peerage for Needlework and a Peerage for Cooking -- we have the Laurel. We don't have a Peerage for Kingdom Officers, a Peerage for Running Events, and a Peerage for Managing Money -- we have the Pelican. They recognize broad *concepts* rather than specific activities, and the result is a wonderful cross-pollination that strengthens all of those activities, instead of pigeonholing them.
A friend of mine once described the Peerages along these lines: the Laurel is given for *improving* the game; the Pelican is given for *running* the game; and the Chivalry is given for *playing* the game. I've always thought that that was a deep insight, and it ought to guide the right answer here.
Yes, there is room for a new peerage, but it shouldn't be for something nearly so limited as Rapier; instead, it should be a recognition of *Prowess*, as a general concept. I've often said that all peerages are ultimately given for leadership -- in this case, it should be an award for people who lead by inspiring others to greatness in their achievements. That should at least cover all of the martial arts of the Society. (Personally, I wouldn't limit it to the martial, but the lines between that and the Laurel begin to get subtle if you widen it further.)
Of course, we already have the right Order for recognizing this: the Chivalry. But I recognize that the politics of this are difficult, and I honestly think there is a snowball's chance in hell of the Chivalry uniting enough to make such a change.
So I find myself supporting a new peerage -- just not the current proposal. It would be much more sensible, and healthier for the Society in the long run, to craft a new peerage that is open to all of our martial endeavors (probably excepting armored tournament combat, since they already have one), and opening that Peerage with representatives from at least the Rapier and Archery communities, to set the right precedent. That would start us off on the right foot, and not build up trouble for later.
Justin du Coeur, OL, OP, etc