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Thoughts on the Fourth Peerage Proposal
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jducoeur
[Okay, time for me to craft an actual letter. Here is what I'm about to send.]

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.

Sincerely,
Justin du Coeur, OL, OP, etc
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You might be right; I will confess to being more skeptical about the Chivalry's ability to unite behind such an idea than you. Frankly, that skepticism is partly driven by the fact that I have not, to date, seen a single Knight publicly advocate this position in the course of this years-long discussion. But that's anecdotal, and I can't claim to know the internals of the Order, so it's speculation.

If there was any realistic chance of the Chivalry taking this route in a reasonable timeframe (and no, I don't think it's reasonable to ask folks to wait another ten years), then I would tend to agree that it was the best option. But I would have to see *some* public willingness among at least *some* of the Chivalry before I have much faith in the idea...

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Good thoughts. I like it. I have often wished that that OTC was for martial skill in general and then we wouldn't have the fragmentation at the kingdom level. At the moment it's only the OGR and Sag, but I'm sure the other activities, like equestrian or thrown weapons, would like to be recognized too.

And don't get me started on all those new awards...

Actually, it's already worse than that. The OTC, OGR and Sag are the only Order of High Merit for martial activities -- but there are also several Orders of Honor:

-- The Golden Mantle, for "Siege Weaponry, Scouting, and Thrown
Weaponry",

-- The Order of Artemis, for "prowess in combat archery on the field of battle", and of course

-- The Silver Rapier, for "martial skill upon the Rapier Field" (ie, a lower-level Golden Rapier).

No, most people don't even know that these exist. Which is kind of my point...

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I agree that, in an ideal world, the Chivalry would expand to recognize all martial arts. But I give it about the same amount of chance as a snowball in hell. So a fourth Peerage that recognizes all the other martial activities is probably the best we can do.

Here in Carolingia we DID get it right - we have a single Baronial order, the Perseus, that recognizes all the martial activities. I don't think we have recognized any equestrians (we don't have much equestrian activity here, in part because of the economic difficulties of doing things with horses in a place where real estate is expensive), but we have given the Perseus for heavy fighting, fencing, archery, and thrown weapons. The three founding members of the order were quite deliberately chosen as one archer, one fencer, and one fighter. Thrown weapons was not yet a popular thing in 1991.

Briefly, I definitely concur with the Arts/Service/Prowess model so that people are recognized for their actual field of achievement, but prefer even more the "Naked Patent" as an option, just as is done with Awards & Grants. Question gone in one swoop. The current proposal just begs for seige engineers, archers and the like to ask where's their 5th, 6th Peerage and so on.

Actually, I 100% agree with you there. But I've been pushing the Naked Peerage rope for 20 years now and gotten little traction (including as part of this question on the Census), so I tend not to spend too much effort on it nowadays...

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So, I write this with the caveat that I have some skin in this game, at least insomuch as I would rather like the ability for members of my community to be able to be recognized for their prowess in their chosen martial activity and PLQs. I am also, for the record, totally on board with other martial activities being able to be similarly recognized, because That Is The Right Thing To Do.

My only big issue with the Rapier Only Peerage - despite the fact that I think the name and regalia are mostly pretty neat and that people have clearly busted their asses working on this - is that as you say, it opens the door to a million Activity Specific Peerages in line with the tradition laid down by the Chivalry. That is clearly overall a bad result; despite the fact that I want everyone to be able to get a peerage for Their Thing, the Eleventy Million Peerages track is a bad idea for the SCA as a whole.

The Everything But Rattan Martial Peerage is better, in that it falls more in line with the SCA's Big Tent ideals, keeps things tidier, and in general is a much cleaner solution. However, I personally don't think it's the best solution because frankly, I think it will push the idea that All Peerages Are Equal, but Chivalry Are More Equal Than Others. (Which I mean, will continue to be the case as long as Crown is decided as it is, but that doesn't mean that other aspects of the SCA need to push that, right? Right.)

Clearly then, the answer is to open up the Chivalry to all martial activities. This makes them no longer the weird problem-causing outlier that they currently are, is inclusive, and keeps things tidy and organized. The fact of the matter remains, the Chiv don't want us in there. I also think that the idea of the Chiv willingly including a rapier fighter in their order on their own, even if the rules are changed to allow it, to be laughable. Without an impetus to change the tradition, I don't see it ever happening.

I worry though, that if this current initiative fails, that it will fail forever because I feel that there is a trend in the SCA of being willing to try something totally new, but if it fails then it is never touched again because hey, we tried it once and it didn't work.

So yeah. I'm torn in a number of directions here. I freely admit that I'm not unbiased, as much as I try to be, but urgh.

Sympathies. I entirely agree that opening up the Chivalry is the best answer (on several levels), but I'm too skeptical about the politics of it. I've refrained from pushing that line because the fact on the ground is that the Chivalry *are* more equal than others, because of the way the game is structured. As a class, they hold an enormous amount of power. So as a result, I don't see this actually happening unless the initiative comes from within the Chivalry themselves. And I don't think that's going to happen.

And I entirely sympathize with the "this is our one opportunity"; I can't say that I'm sure that you are incorrect. That's part of why I'm trying to be specific about the alternative that I believe is both better *and* achievable -- I think that's less likely to simply die in committee than going all the way to trying to open up the Chivalry. The Board knows that there is a lot of sentiment across the Society to do *something*, so I'm trying to steer them towards what seems to me the least-bad-and-realistic option...

I hear your pain.

I worry that making a rapier-only peerage will only reinforce the current issue, which is that under our current system it is what you do, not the dedication, decorum, and love of the Society with which you do it that makes you a Peer, despite the fact that being a Peer is almost entirely about that dedication, decorum, and love.

To me, that is making the problem worse, not better.

That said, I realize I speak from a place of privilege.

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I know that very idea was pitched at several members of the Chivalry and didn't get much (if any) traction. It's admittedly anecdotal, but the responses basically came down to, "Your combat is not rattan and no association with Chiv is allowable" and so on.

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Totally agreed -- I like that model quite a bit, actually -- just still skeptical about whether it is actually likely...

Also, while I despise the idea, the Chivalry already contain two equal sub-orders: Master and Knights. Why not Master/Knight/Defender?

I have always been of the opinion that this would be the way to go, with (an even more pie-in-the-sky notion) the title of Knight reserved for (any) Peers feal to the Society.

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