Dble-Stndards-art - 4/3/15
"Double Standards Are Color-Blind" by Hector of the Black Height. Desiring a Peerage.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
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While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
Double Standards Are Color-Blind
by Hector of the Black Height
I’ve been thinking of the way our Society views Peers’ dependants and their aspirations, and it bugs me. There is a double or triple standard operating, and I would like to address it, even if I cannot fix it.
The colored belts worn by Peers’ dependants signify bonds between Peers and non-Peers. They also give interested observers visual clues as to a person’s interests (i.e. if I wear a red belt I’m a squire and must like to fight). They also send a message about a person’s aspirations.
A squire wants to be a Knight. That’s a common and accepted aspiration. Squires are applauded for that ambition; in some cases a Knight won’t consider squiring a person unless he or she says, "I want to be a Knight".
An apprentice may want to become a Laurel. That ambition isn’t stated at first, but after working hard on a craft for an extended period, in my experience our culture considers it acceptable for an apprentice to say, "Well, I don’t know if I’m good enough, but aw, shucks, if the Order wants me I guess it’d be all right…" Walking right up to a Laurel on day one and saying "I want to be a Laurel. Gimme a belt and teach me," is considered gauche and presumptuous.
Finally let me consider the dilemma facing the protégé. If a protégé says, "Gimme a belt and teach me. I want to become a Pelican," that’s considered overweening pride or arrogance. Pelicans all are humble and self-effacing, right? Wanting to be a master or mistress isn’t at all humble. So, you can take a yellow belt and be a dependant of a Pelican but if you say, "I want to be like HER!" which includes the nice medallion and fancy cloak, it won’t happen.
To sum up, squires are expected to shoot for the Peerage, apprentices can hope for elevation if they’re quiet about it and protégés must never want to be elevated because if they do it won’t happen.
Part of this strange set of standards has to do with our perception of the Orders. The Midrealm ceremony for the making of a Knight says, "A Knight must be proud." There is nothing humble about winning a tournament, standing over your fallen foe. Beating the other guy in face-to-face contest is how you achieve that Peerage. You can’t be a Knight if you don’t win a lot of fights.
Neither of the peaceful Orders refers to pride -- or lack thereof -- in their Midrealm ceremonies (hmmm, that might be worth addressing in a new Kingdom’s ceremonies…). Since there is a common conception that Pelicans are saintly, if not martyrs, we seem to have imposed an unrealistic sense of humility on the Order’s aspirants. It’s like we’re saying, "All the Pelicans are saints, but to be a saint you must deny your own saintliness, so shut up about yourself and you might make the grade."
As a general rule, double standards are bad. As I’ve stated elsewhere, Peers have achieved mastery in some facet of the Society’s operation. I believe the mechanisms of Peerage and the selection of Peers are more common than not across this Kingdom’s Orders. If the Peerages are co-equal in status and similar in role and function, why should an aspirant to one Order have to behave in a different manner than an aspirant to another?
I’ll be honest; I still bear a lot of old-fashioned Midrealm misconceptions about the Pelican. It’s hard to shake off one’s early conditioning in the Society, and I still catch myself thinking that real Pelicans show stigmata. I confess I have trouble dealing with someone (protégé or not) saying, "I’m good enough to be a Bird." Then again, I have trouble dealing with excessively prideful apprentices and squires, too. So what?
I think anyone can aspire to great honours. Such aspirations give you tangible goals to shoot for. As long as you balance aspiration with moderation, you’ll do two things. One, to be honest, is you’ll avoid ticking off the Peers who don’t really want to hear just how great you think you are. Second, and more important, if you don’t fixate on your own accomplishments you’ll be happier. If you are obsessed with awards and your race up the order of precedence, you’ve turned yourself into a ticket-puncher. Again I’ll quote my Yorkshire granny; "He who expects nothing is seldom disappointed." If you expect great honours and you don’t get them in the time-frame you expect, you’ve just stressed your hobby with an unfulfilled expectation.
I’ve seen people in the Society with an awful lot to offer, who’ve burned themselves out by wanting a Peerage and punching their SCA tickets to get it. Take the fighter who does all the right things. He fights in Crown; he has spiffy armour; he takes a couple of men-at-arms who attend him at events; he gets his marshal’s warrant; he learns all the weapons forms so his authorization card is full; he takes charge (or at least he yells a lot) on the melee field; he does some arts and science things on the side and looks cultured, but not so much that he is perceived to be on the "arts track". Will this fighter become a Knight? Maybe, maybe not. That’s up to the Crown on the advice of the Order, and no ticket full of holes will ever change that. If the fighter is doing all these things because they’re fun and increase his ability to share fun with others, I think he has a far better chance of receiving a Peerage than the individual who grimly and deliberately punches his ticket for the sake of that white belt.
The infamous Lady Tudor Glitz comic series (compulsory reading if you’re married to a late period costumer, but very enjoyable nonetheless) includes one strip where Lady TG says, "My Laurel says she will teach me 274 embroidery stitches. I’m not crazy about learning 274 stitches, but I do want to be a Laurel." Is it any wonder the cartoon character, after at least a dozen published collections, has yet to receive her pretend Peerage? How many Lady TG attitudes have you met in the Society?
Ticket-punchers often compare themselves with their contemporaries. If So’n’So got a belt or a medallion, why didn’t I? This sort of thinking is SCA suicide, because now a hobby is a grief magnet. Some sad people get bent out of shape over the perceived injustice being done them. Some of these frustrated people may very well be on the right track towards Peerage; they’re just not as good as they think they are. In some cases, bitterness bumps a person right off the road to Peerage. The Orders can see who’s becoming obsessed with elevation. The obsessed aren’t approachable, and an unapproachable Peer does the Society no good. The bitter have lost the point, and they have no joy to share. They are self-inflicted casualties in their search for personal satisfaction.
Peerage is a wonderful thing. It is indeed a goal to aim for. Aiming for a goal is not clawing your way to the top over the broken bodies of your friends. First of all, your single-minded intensity to get to the top may scare the people who are there already. Second, once you get there, if you’ve left all your friends behind with bruises, who will you talk to? Third (and very finally), once you get your Peerage, you’ve got as much recognition in the Society as you can get. What happens next to you? Is that all there is? Was the goal worth the pain of the climb?
I remember vividly my own Peerage reality check; this is a true story. It was the last Sunday of Pennsic XXI. The night before I had been called forth in Pennsic Great Court and, before the Royalty of the Known World and many dear friends, I had been elevated to the Laurelate. The subsequent party had gone on late into the night. The next morning I wandered out of my tent, surveyed a campsite that looked like the middle of Henry V’s battlefield at Agincourt and announced: "I am Hector of the Black Height, Master of the Laurel and Peer of the Middle Kingdom. Camp, clean thyself!" There was a deafening silence, nothing happened and I set to work scrubbing the previous night’s dinner dishes. Reality reared its ugly head and, much as I hate washing cast iron pots, I am glad it did.
I think there is an answer to the double standard of the Peerages. I think anyone should be able to aspire to high estate within our Society. I think anyone should be able to state with pride her aspiration. I also think anyone with such an aspiration must be prepared to wait for recognition with patience, understanding that the secondary reward -- an honour which falls in the Crown’s gift -- may never come. The primary reward will always come, however. I believe the primary reward is the work you do, the art that possesses you or the thrill of the list field. Those gifts and the joy they bring are in each person’s domain. The bells and whistles of Peerage are nice, but they replace neither the joys of work and friends nor the reality of dirty pots and tents to take down.
Copyright 1996, 1998 Arthur McLean. 787 Coxwell Avenue. Toronto, Ontario M4C 3E1 Canada. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.