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*Sigh*. I gotta get my ego out of trying to save the SCA from its own stupid...
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jducoeur
[Mostly musing to myself as a bit of journal-therapy, although conversation on the topic(s) is welcomed.]

This month's stupid is unusually epic: the Board has "clarified" that the NMS applies to *all SCA activities that collect a site fee*. Including practices -- if you collect $3 from people to pay for your fencing site, you are now required to add a $5 NMS fee for all non-members.

I'm ripshit angry about the sheer cowardice of calling this a "clarification". I'm sure that, when the NMS happened, we asked whether it applied to practices and were told no -- that was one of the things that calmed us down from the rage that swept the Barony at the time. But it's been pointed out that, in the modern bureaucratic SCA, where "if it's not written down, it doesn't exist" is essentially a religion, the Board will probably just ignore the point unless I can find written documentation. (If anybody *has* a clear statement about this, I'd love to have it. I suspect something exists, and there's a good chance it's somewhere in my files, but finding it in time to be relevant isn't terribly likely. However many files you think I have, double it, and probably double it again.)

ETA: Tibor found a clear and at least moderately official statement on the subject from the time -- see his first link, below.

That entirely aside, though, I'm just jaw-dropped at the sheer idiocy of the move. I can think of few ways to more grossly harm retention in the club. Yes, we might get a tiny number of people who will buy memberships as a result, and yes, Corporate might get a tiny inflow of revenue from it. But both effects will be dwarfed by the number of people who will simply be driven away from the SCA because it's too expensive to even come to practices any more. Even more, by the number of practices that will shut down because this effectively makes their sites unaffordable.

(No, this doesn't currently affect Carolingia, thank heavens -- we have no current practices that require a site fee. But we certainly have done so in the past, for several different activities, and being unable to do so is going to limit our options.)

If this was a rare occurrence, that would be one thing -- but at this point, almost every time I come into contact with the Society officialdom, it's because *some* level of the bureaucracy has done something so remarkably stupid and destructive that it sends me into a rage. I think it's at least quarterly; sometimes, it feels like it's monthly.

That kind of anger isn't healthy; indeed, it isn't even productive. It's not as if I'm going to win all those arguments; at this point, winning *any* of them is pretty rare. (The Order of Valiance is one of the few cases where I think there's a chance that sanity might prevail -- but even there, it's merely the third-best option we had for dealing with the situation.)

All of which means I've got to disconnect -- the only question is how much. At this point, I feel like I'm in an abusive relationship: I care so deeply about the SCA, and I am constantly feeling *hurt* by it. I don't especially want a "divorce": too many of my friends are in the club, and I still enjoy many of the activities, so I don't want to drop out entirely.

But I need to figure out how to stop caring about its long-term survival. Because at this point, I really think the club is doomed in the long run, unless something major changes at the top. When you have a Board of Directors sneaking in idiotically destructive moves, so quietly under the cover of night that even those of us who *read* the notes of the Board meetings didn't realize it was happening (indeed, the only reason it came out was that it was announced to the *exchequers* list in the EK), you're pretty much screwed.

So I need to learn how to just play, as a participant, as one of a number of activities, rather than having it occupy the central role in my life it's had for the past 30+ years. Have the SCA just be another fun game, like LARP or fandom, that I do but I'm not utterly invested in. That's surprisingly hard.

Really, I think I'm in the middle of the stages of grief here (definitely feels goddamn familiar), and trying to figure out how to move on to acceptance. I sometimes say that the only mercy in Jane's death was that neither she nor I suffered terribly long -- she was only actively dying for about two (unbelievably horrible) months. With the Society, it's more like watching a loved one with a terribly lingering and protracted terminal illness, with no closure...

ETA2: Corporate has now issued a secondary "clarification" that goes back to more or less the status quo ante, fixing the stupid.  So the immediate crisis is resolved, pretty much as I suspected it would be -- in the wake of a great deal of noise, they've quietly backed off.  Which just leaves us with the general problem that we shouldn't have these firestorm-inducing idiocies that *require* an outcry to fix.  And me with the specific problem, as stated above, of how to stop associating the SCA with these high-blood-pressure-inducing incidents...
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What's the Order of Valiance?

I find it frightening that the doom of the SCA seems so likely-- for me this *isn't* just one of many activities; it's pretty much my entire social circle and *only* activity, even if at the moment my membership has lapsed and I'm not having time for it. I've been cheerfully mentally planning out how, once my life settles down, I'd like to see what Youth stuff is around and either volunteering to help with the running of it or getting some started if it isn't there. (Really, the only reason I didn't try to become a Thrown Weapons Marshal years ago is that I'm too shy to go ask them to teach me.) And then they do Doom things and I wonder if I should bother, since half the reason I head for "get into running Youth stuff" is an attempt to keep the next generation involved, save the Society that way.

Though despite the SCA being my entire life, I'm not quite as *angry* about it as you are.

The Order of Valiance is the new Peerage being mooted for all the "other" martial activities. It's a lovely idea, save that it would have been better if it had happened instead of the Order of Defense. As it is, having three martial Peerages -- one for heavy list, one for fencing, and one for everything else -- makes no sense at all from a structural POV. But I think it's what's going to happen, and it's better than having all the other activities locked out.

As for the anger, much of it comes from a sense of, "You've broken my community!" I'm painfully aware of how things used to work, and while I recognize that change is natural and healthy, far too many of the changes are just plain *dumb* and counter-productive...

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I don't have anything to recommend except to commiserate. Been there, done that, mostly had to get a divorce - as much as I love the people, it wasn't being fun.

Re: Getting a 'divorce'

Yeah, sympathies. Probably the single biggest reason I've declined nomination to the Board is that I am *so* sure that the experience would be so wretched for everyone involved that it would drive me entirely out of the club...

Changes to the NMS policy

There have been a few requests by An Tir, Avacal and the East to exempt informal activities. Here in Avacal, we have three groups who charge for fight practices, curia, monthly taverns. Donations just didn't cover the costs. To collect NMS on those would not only piss off a lot of people and hurt recruitment, it will be an exchequer's nightmare especially given it has to be sent in within 10 days.

What is happening here - the quick announcement although we had an idea of it coming before the BOD meeting, no follow through and no direction on what to say to the general populace is really ticking me off. But I shouldn't be surprised. All I can do is be more open to those who work directly with me.

Sadly, not true. I know if at least one Carolingian practice that DOES collect a per-practice fee, to offset costs. :-(

It is my policy that as long as I am seneschal, we will avoid requiring fees for practices as much as humanly possible. First, because this is ridiculous, second, because we have the money, and third, I don't want to require work for the exchequers.

Thanks -- this is comforting to know, in amongst the occasional bursts of stupid...

I once walked away for six months just because there were things going on that annoyed me. I left because of the issue, I came back for the friends.

From the corporate treasurer

This just came via email:


The Non Member Surcharge of $5.00 (five dollars) shall be collected at every Society, Kingdom or Local group event where:
1. the event is advertised in either the Kingdom Newsletter or the Kingdom website and/or a local newsletter or local web site
2. where it is anticipated that the SCA's insurance will be covering the Kingdom or local group and its officers/agents
3. where a site fee (or suggested donation) is being charged for admittance.
Any participant who attends such an event who does not possess a valid membership card must be charged a $5.00 (five dollars) Non Member Surcharge (NMS) in addition to the site fee or suggested donation amount and that NMS shall be collected and submitted to the Kingdom Exchequer or their assigned deputy within 10 business days. The Kingdom Exchequer is responsible for submitting the NMS for both Kingdom and local group events by the end of the following month.

Limited exceptions to the NMS rule:

1. Demonstrations-- if the Kingdom or local group is hosting a demo at a school, a Renaissance Faire or some other gathering run by another organization (either for-profit or non-profit), the collection of NMS is not necessary; however, if the Kingdom or local group is either hosting or co-hosting the event and charging either a site fee or suggesting a donation, NMS shall be collected.

2. Regular Occurring Meetings: No NMS need be collected at a weekly, monthly, quarterly or semi-annual re-occurring event, i.e. not at an officers meeting, a local group fighter practice, or regularly scheduled local arts & science meetings. If there is an officers meeting (or any other meeting or practice) at a published event charging a site fee or a suggested donation, this meeting/practice (as part of another event) does not negate the need to collect NMS.

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And people wonder why Elric and I gafiated long ago....

And all of this micromanagement is one of the reasons why the two or three times I've contemplated coming back were short-circuited in short order (never mind the fact that a dozen surgeries have turned me into a fireplug who couldn't wear proper Tudor under any circumstances). At this point, I prefer savoring memories of what was to trying to machete my way through the morass of what is.

If I want this kind of soul-twisting idiocy, all I have to do is walk out of my front door on any given day of the week, and it's right there in the mundane world. I don't need it as a hobby.

Countess Tam



Edited at 2015-11-17 02:19 pm (UTC)

Well, it seems to me that, from what I've read in the above links and that email posted, that the language of the policy allows for certain folk to be exempt from NMS per local/kingdom financial policy. If they insist on pursuing this course of action, then it seems that it would be up to the local groups to write in some language that would exclude those attending practices and meetings and such from being subject to the NMS and be subject only to the normal site fee. Fight fire with fire, or in this case lunacy with lunacy. That will at least get them to MAYBE realize the stupidity of their action and get them to reconsider. MAYBE.

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Yes, actually, and I've contemplated your stuff once or twice. I don't *think* it's quite my speed (for a couple of different reasons), but I've been starting to dip my toe into other singing outlets, and may do more of that...

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There is someone in particular who, while they are only one person on the board... Let's just say I had reason recently due to applying for a different volunteer position/organization, to review all that I'd done as seneschal, and it reminded me how small-minded, destructive, and obsessed with finding ways to say "no" they truly were/are. If even only one other person on the board is also like that? Two? Three? Etc.

In hindsight, it's simple to see why we never got along, since my default is generally "yes unless you show me why not" and they appear to be decidedly "no unless you show me why not... or sometimes just because I can".

I agree that that's a problem (and believe I know who you're talking about). But the bigger problem is that the Board, and Corporate in general, is mostly composed of smart and reasonable people, and they *still* wind up making bad decisions.

I haven't studied this as closely as goldsquare, but as far as I can tell, the Board is at the center of a whole lot of institutional dysfunctions, including (off the top of my head):

-- The self-selecting nature of the Board, which, even with the best desire for diversity, selects for compatibility with the institutional groupthink.
-- The fact that a measure of fondness for (or at least good tolerance of) bureaucracy is a requirement for reaching the heights of the officer corps.
-- A general sense that the Corporation is crucial for the operation of the Society, which leads to people protecting the Corporation at the *expense* of the Society.
-- A fear of legal consequence that doesn't seem to be well-grounded in a proportional understanding of what is actually likely and serious.
-- A lack of *any* formal and organized mechanism for feedback from the membership. (The fact that the Census was so exceptional is depressing.)

Etc, etc. Since the *organization* is broken in a host of ways, it's almost irrelevant how good or bad the people filling the seats are: their ability to change the brokenness is fairly limited, short of a major revolution. (The cynical part of me still slightly regrets that the lawsuit didn't put the SCA, Inc out of business -- it would have hurt like hell for a year, but we would have had a rare chance to make root-and-branch improvements...)

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I was where you are, years ago. It was upsetting and disruptive; the SCA had been the center of my social life and discretionary time, and people were ruining it and didn't even understand the abuse they were dealing. I didn't think of it then as an abusive relationship (the abusee rarely sees that at the time), but I do now.

For what it's worth, here's what I did. (This will be an unstructured brain dump.)

I do still go to occasional events -- ones that I choose, and not out of perceived obligation. Yeah, I'm a Laurel and I don't go to most A&S events; deal with it. When at events I do the things that are fun for me, whether that's socializing with the people I came to see, playing board games, making music, or whatever. If I'm not having fun, I leave at the earliest opportunity.

I sing in the local choir (except during Christmas-music season, when I don't). I like singing, and this gives me weekly social contact with SCA friends. We sing at a few events a year (two free evens, Pennsic, and sometimes something else).

As a matter of personal policy I do not work at any event that charges the corporate tax. They don't get to declare me a freeloader and then profit from my work. (We have free events sometimes. That's different.)

I go to Pennsic because, well, Pennsic.

I have cultivated other activities with a mix of SCA and non-SCA people, like our occasional board-game days. I also have a social group that is (for all practical purposes) wholly distinct from the SCA. It's ok to have multiple sets of friends.

I spend more "me time" on solitary and introspective activities than I used to. You might think this is counter-productive when re-assessing one's relationship with a major social context, but that helped me identify and focus on the subset of the SCA stuff that was really important to me.

I spend more time online. While I don't do Facebook and don't really use "social media" for the social purposes for which it was designed, LiveJournal/Dreamwidth and Stack Exchange give me meaningful and different consistent interactions with real people. I have real online friends who've never been part of the SCA, as distinct from the days of the Rialto when almost all my online friends came from the SCA. There's a whole world out there of people interested in the things I'm interested in, and connecting with them has been huge for me.


Yeah, I'm drifting in similar directions, although likely with some differences.

I don't make as big a deal about the tithe because I'm pretty clear that I've lost that argument. I'm proud of Carolingia for the number of un-tithed events we hold (and the fact that the populace is good enough about giving reasonable donations that we don't tend to lose *too* much money that way), but even here there's a fair sense of resignation about that particular bit of stupid.

I'm spending a lot of solitary time, but too much of that is enforced right now. One of my big problems is that I've spent, at this point, roughly 40 months working by myself on Querki. That's psychically pretty hard, not having work as a social outlet. As a result, I've gotten even more active online than I used to be, largely in the technical forums (Gitter is a godsend), but it's not the same thing -- the real complication is figuring out how to have enough real-world social to keep me sane...

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