Herewith is a message that I wrote on a local BBS in answer to a small
question from a member of the Dark Horde. I have elaborated it to some
degree, as it may be educational for our membership. It has been further
expanded from the initial writing, for the purposes of this article. Some of
the content applies pretty much exclusively to my Kingdom of residence, but
the balance of the article should apply universally in the SCA.
Perhaps a little more elaboration on the subject is in order: *sigh*
No "voting" per se, but it IS the right of the Peerage to advise the Crown
concerning those Peerages, or matters that affect those Peerages, as it is
the right of the landed Barons/esses to do the same relative to matters which
affect their Baronies, as it is the Dukes on any matter they damn well
please....BTW: the original purpose of the title of "Court" Baron and
Baroness was to give a qualified and valuble person acess to the Curia
Regis / Princeps who otherwise didn't have the rank or position to get into
such a thing. This Curia has fallen into disuse of late, and perhaps should
be revived...........this gives us a nice system of checks and balances, and
prevents an absolute incompetent from destroying the Game for all of us. Bear
in mind, also, that the SCA is set up, essentially, as a Constitutional
Monarchy, with Corpora/By-Laws being the Constitution. A King, or Queen
CANNOT violate Corpora/By-Laws with impunity.....but violation of Custom
tends to be more expensive in the long run, because it loses people's
respect, and thus erodes the violator's actual governing power.....read over
the Oath taken by the King at his Coronation.....and, also, the Seneshal can
wind up having the last word in that department, as can the Herald in
his/hers, as can the Marshall in his/hers, and so forth. Tyrants tend to find
out that they cannot accomplish jack-diddelly without the "advice AND
consent" of most of the Peers/Officers of the group. Do NOT EVER forget,
however, that in many things the KING'S WORD IS LAW, subject to Corpora and
the BoD, and, in certain instances, to Kingdom Law.
All of the above applies equally as well to Principalities, and Baronies.
As a sitting Baron, I can no more violate Corpora, or Kingdom Law, than the
Prince or King can, and to violate Customary Law.....well, that would put me
in more hot water than I'd care to think about, not with the Powers-that-be,
but with the People......and, as any Poly-Sci major will tell you, in ANY
system, political power ultimately derives from the consent of the governed.
If the populace doesn't like what's being done, they can choose to:
a) not participate (strike),
b) or leave altogether (emigrate),
c) or turn and bite those in power right where
it will do the most good (revolution).
Factionalisim in the SCA is simply a function of one of the above three,
as NO person in power can please everybody's personal interests. The point
that factionalisim becomes destructive is when the factions:
a) want power for the sake of power, or
b) put personal interests above those of the SCA as a whole.
Usually what happens in the above two situations is that the
factionalists find that the three responses of the populace happen REAL fast,
and they either throw the b******s out, or simply don't co-operate, and
organize yet another faction, and plot revolution........the beat goes on!
One thing that is IMPORTANT to remember is that SCA politics should NEVER
be "personal." If you can't remain mundane friends with your SCA political
opponent, then GET OUT of the game, because the Dream will quickly change
into a Nightmare! If you cannot deal chivalrously and honourably with your
opponent, then you have missed the whole point of the Society ..... if we can
bash our friends to powder on the fighting field, or skewer them, in the case
of Rapier, and then party all night with them afterwards, it is not
unreasonable to expect the same from the "political" side.
It is most emphatically NOT a question of "us" against "them," but rather "us" having a
family argument. Admittedly, as any uniformed police officer can tell you, a
family argument is one of the worst situations to be in, as it tends to get
bitter very quickly, BUT: as long as we remember that we ARE a family, of
sorts, then perhaps we can get past the bitterness and into the REALITY of
the definition of "politics," which is "the art of the possible." There is
always room for the other guy's opinions, and those opinions DO have value.
Perhaps when we listen to each other, rather than yelling at each other, we
can arrive at a synthesis of values and objectives, and thus advance to the
goal of "the greatest good for the greatest number." That last buzzphrase
should be the operative aim of ANY SCA politics.
If you can't play nice, and fair, and TAKE OFF THE POLITICS WITH THE GARB,
then please get the hell out of a game that is based on honor and chivalry, and
not on TV soap operas. You lack even the smallest clue as to why we are here.
Gossip, lies, slander, innuendo, anonymous letters and the like have no place in the
SCA, and those who indulge in such have no honor. Mundane slimeball political tactics
and thuggery are NOT "why we are here."
The Power Structure of any SCA chapter (Barony, Principality, Kingdom &c)
is very interesting, as it is much like any other Club. The three MOST
POWERFUL persons in any Branch do NOT include the Crowned heads, altho if
these Crowned Heads have a great deal of charisma / mana, then they must be
included in the equation....but if they are merely figureheads or throne-
warmers, then the following applies exclusively:
1) The Seneshal: legal agent of the group. Without the
approval of this Officer, the Group STOPS.
2) The Reeve: handles the money. Without the approval of
this Officer, NOTHING can be done.
3) The Chronicler: without publicity, who knows what's
going on? With carefully contrived ADVERSE PR, opinion
can be molded in the Group. With carefully written POSITIVE
PR, the same, only constructively.
It follows, therefore, that if a faction gets control of these three
Offices, then they have effective control over a Group. It is advised that NO
faction make that mistake.....yes, I said MISTAKE....because one of the long
term results of such a thing is stagnation of the Group....inbreeding of
ideas, and eventual shrinking of membership and dissolution of the group due to lack of interest
and too many people refusing to play anymore.
Oh, sure, in the short term there's a great deal that gets done, but in the
long term the "new blood" tends to get frozen out of effective participation,
and thus.....stagnation. At this point the Three Choices happen in the midst
of hate, personal vendettas, and much incredible unpleasantness.
This is where the Baron/ess, Prince/ess and/or King and Queen come in, as
do the superior Officers up the chain-of-command of the above three named
Power Figures. It is the RESPONSIBILITY of the Crowned Heads to be ABOVE as
much factionalisim as possible, within their sphere of influence, and to make
sure that no single faction is in control of a whole group. These Crowned
Heads should be VERY careful not to become the nucleus of a faction unto
themselves, however, as this tends to become less of leadership of the whole
group and more like masturbation. Without input from "outsiders," you tend to
get complacent....and the Group goes down the tubes. The Corporate / Kingdom / Principality
level Officers should be aware of who is who and what's what, to
help prevent a factional takeover.
A very common error on the part of Crowned Heads is to take their "throne
toadies" seriously. Throne toadies are usually ineffectual losers who
are attracted by the trappings of power, BUT...when they actually get their
hands on it, they inevitably screw things up to an awful mess. The more
independent minded curmudgeonly type, that doesn't "suck up," tends to be a
much better choice for Offices, as they have the capacity to make decisions
and act on them in an intelligent manner. They tend to be abrasive, but good,
hard workers who are VALUBLE to the group.
Another observation....in the SCA we have both kinds of "feudal"
relationships: the old feudal, based on personal honour, land tenure
(membership in a household or Barony), mutual interdependence, personal
loyalties, and a clear sense of "where you belong," AND we have the later
form, called "bastard feudalisim" by some writers, which is based almost
exclusively on "what's in it for me?" Usually those who organize their
political base on the second pattern find that as their people get what they
want, they tend to gravitate towards whoever else gives them what they want
next.....and they usually end up wanting what their initial Lord / Lady have,
and have no compunction about taking it away from them. This works in
reverse, too, as there are people who simply think in the second pattern as a
matter of course,and thus, while a Lord or Lady may think that their people
are basing on the first pattern, they are actually grounded in the second.
This can wind up to be a very dangerous situation indeed.
Those that base on the first, however, tend to be quite happy with what
they happen to get, and, while they may move away from as close an
affilliation with their initial Lord / Lady, the bonds always remain, tight and
darn near unbreakable ... on both sides.
It would behoove all to remember that this last is how the usual "Good Old Boys"
SCA networks usually operate, if they are healthy.
Which leads into a discussion on these bonds: NEVER forget that they work
both ways. If you are a Lord/Lady of a Household, or Baron/ess of a Barony,
or Prince/ess or King/Queen, then YOU have responsibilities to your people,
too! If you flagrantly disregard these responsibilities; if you regard your
people as just "nothings," "nobodies," "spodes," "plebes," and such, then you
will find that your people will ignore you....a LOT, or even work against
you. THIS IS THEIR RIGHT! If you violate the Feudal Contract, then don't
expect the other party(s) to fulfill it either. If you treat people like
dirt, then expect the favor to be returned.....with interest! People tend to
have LONG memories about such things in the SCA; feuds like this tend to last
a long time.
The Household is the place to begin with the job of preventing or
minimizing factionalisim. I offer the solution that I discovered in my own
House as one means of doing so:
"Any member of the Confederation of Locksley Households
is free to act as they see fit in SCA politics. The
Confederation will NOT back you, as a group."
"Any member of the Confederation may hold any Office in
the SCA, from King/Queen on down, or even sit the BoD,
but they will do it in their private persona and NOT as
a member of the Confederation."
This helps to prevent someone from using the House as a power-base,
unless they can convince each and every member thereof of the validity and
goodness of their position.....and if they can do THAT with my bunch of
independent minded cusses, then they MUST HAVE SOMETHING!
Beware of setting your group up for eventual failure, however. Three
common mistakes are:
1) A limited outlook
If all your group does is fight, or Arts, or SF/Fantasy discussions
or single-culture stuff, &c, then you will limit your interest to
the "new blood"....and stagnate and die.
Solution: Encourage EVERYTHING!
2) Too much charisma/mana and too much Power residing in the Leader.
The "Fuhrer-Prinzip" (Leader Principle) didn't work for Nazi
Germany, or Stalinist Russia, and it sure as Hades won't work
in the SCA! If the Leader is incapacitated, or loses interest,
or faces a Palace Revolution, then the Group falls apart!
Solution: Have a Chain-of-Authority, and use it! Delegate Power as
much as possible...give your subordinates as much personal
responsibility as possible, and LET THEM MAKE THEIR OWN
MISTAKES! They will learn very quickly, or die.
3) Don't believe your own Publicity!
A VERY large Household gave a lot of PR time to the idea that they
were NOT part of the "chivalry" of the Kingdom, and were the
"enemy." When, in the fullness of time, their members wound up
getting knighted, or other Peerages, the contradictions inherent
in the situation tore the group apart, and the leaving of their
Leader, who had set himself up with number 2 above, also, darn near
destroyed the Group.
Solution: Keep your sense of perspective, and humor. This is, after
all, a game of "let's pretend."
I hope that this provides a bit of an insight into the subject...it grew
a bit from the initial BBS message, but.....such things happen, I guess!
One last thing: NEVER make a promise that you can't keep, NEVER
make a threat, NEVER EVER lie about someone else, and NEVER EVER
bring SCA politics and feuds into the mundane world. These will make you
permanent, implacable enemies.....and remember what Yasser Arafat said: "Choose your
friends carefully. Your enemies will choose you."
Thank you, Ioseph, for presenting that series on politics in the SCA. In a
similar vein I present "Bases of Social Power", taken from notes and text of
a Psychological Social Psychology class I had a year ago. Ref: Social
Psychology, John C. Brigham, FSU, 1986, Little, Brown, & company.
I have annotated and commented in the indented paragraphs like this
This power consists of six types:
coercive, legitimate, reward, expert, referent, and informational.
Coercive power involves the ability to force another person to change his or
her behavior by threats and punishments. . . Although coercive power is
widely used, it is often ineffective, especially when utilized against groups
(Falbo, 1977). When a group is threatened with coercion, the threat may
actually bring the group closer together (Tedeschi, 1974). . . coercive power
may be effective in causing compliance, but it is not likely to lead to
identification or to private acceptance; the low-power person is likely to
attribute his behavior to the (necessary) surveillance rather than to the
worth of the behavior.
I have NEVER known coercive power to work well, in the context of
the SCA.....people tend to tell you to sit on a stick if you try
to use this on them....or just leave the group entirely...and the
degree of resentment/anger that the use of this provokes makes it
something to very seldom use. The ABILITY to use it is what makes
it powerful. The NON-USE of it, save in extreme circumstance, is
what marks the true Leader/Statesmen from the mass of time-servers.
Law Enforcement people are taught this early on, at least around
here. They have the ultimate sanction (power of Life/Death) but
are taught to use verbal (non-violent) or non-lethal means FIRST.
Legitimate power is derived from a role or position (warranted officer,
household head, pointy hat, etc). Those who have it do not have to justify
their actions to those who do not (officially, anyway).
Much of the actual power in the SCA derives from one or another
form of hero-worship (referent power.) Thus, a Marshal who is
not a Peer has a difficult time doing his job when it comes to
the Belts.....or a simple Knight as Marshall has a difficult
time with a Duke, and even a King...or a BoD.....with no respect
finds that governing is much like pushing water uphill with a fork.
Reward power is giving positive reinforcement such as money, praise, or
prestige. Reward power can easily lead to compliance, but it may not lead to
private acceptance. If the reward is removed, the new behavior may disappear.
. . individuals may attribute their behavior to the reward rather than to any
benefits of the behavior itself (overjustification effect) (interesting side
effect of the merit-badge syndrome, eh?)
And therefore more power is given to the Peerage Circle when they
can advise that a candidate be given a lower-prestige award rather
than the Peerage....we have a SERIOUS merit-badge mentality in some
quarters, here..."first give them their Barony Arts award, then the
Principality Arts award, then the Kingdom Arts Award, and then, maybe,
if they haven't given up in disgust, the Laurel....."
This enables some Peers to go on feeling suPEERior...or something.
Expert power is possessing important knowledge (and the capacity to apply it)
that others do not have. Chiurgeons, marshals, master (not necessarily
Master) craftsmen, etc. can be assumed to have expert power (although some
may also have legitimate power).
But merely holding the office does not an expert make. And vice-versa.
Referent power is the one I believe is most important. Power derived from the
degree to which one is admired and liked is called referent power. People
want to identify with others whom they consider admirable and likeable.
Hence, people have referent power over those who wish to identify with them
(cultive personality). . . Unlike reward or coercive power, referent power
does not require surveillance to be effective since the motivation to
identify with the model is not dependent on external rewards or punishments.
But BEWARE of the person that can fake hero-worship, or believes
it is hero-worship (admiration of an Ideal) on his part, but who
really is only after rewards......people like this DO exist.
The "functional sociopath" is an AMAZING, and very scary, critter.
It is rather amusing to watch those who THINK they have Referent
power with people, when actually all they hold is coercive/reward.
This makes for some VERY interesting situations, as a person with
referent power can command real loyalty....while the coercive/reward
Informational power is an individual possessing information that others do
not. The eyewitness to an arguement can influence others who did not hear or
even know about the arguement. Informational power is limited to the
situation for which the information is relevant.
This is one of the sources of Rumor. An individual wants to seem/be
powerful, so he embroiders information....or sets out to collect it..
or sets up a situation to create it.....and then becomes one of Those
Who Know. In his/her mind, they become a source of Referent Power!
The more you can base your own position on MORE THAN ONE OR TWO of
the above, the more secure you will be. For example, a Duke of large
charisma winning the Crown.....he winds up holding by all six quite
nicely. HOWEVER, given the same situation with a Duke that is not
respected.....HOO BOY! The lack of adequate referent power would make
his reign a living Hell for him and the populace!
Ioseph suggests that our kings are constitutional rather than absolute
monarchs. I disagree. In my view, SCA kings are neither constitutional nor
absolute monarchs. They are feudal monarchs. That may be less true in the
West than in the East or Middle, but I think it is fundamentally true
Why do I say that? While it is true that our kings have some formal
restraints on what they can do (corpora and mundane law), the main constraint
is that, as Ioseph points out, people who disagree with the king will walk--
or ignore him. That is the essential feudal constraint. The defining
characteristic of a feudal order, in my view, is that the combined armies of
the barons are much larger than the army of the king. Generalizing that, a
feudal order is one where the relevant resources are controlled at the local
level, with the result that the king is some combination of coalition leader
and charismatic leader (i.e., inspiring local people with his vision of what
the organization should be doing). I think that describes our kings.
A constitutional monarch is limited in his authority over the government, but
the government he is king over typically has a lot of centralized power over
its society. Queen Elizabeth II has very limited power over her army, but her
army has essentially all of the heavy weapons in Britain. An analogous
situation for the SCA would be if most of us were employees of our kingdoms
(as in a Renaissance fair), but the kingdom was run by some complicated
system involving king, great officers, etc., where the king himself had
severely limited power. That is not (fortunately) what the SCA is like.
Almost all of the important resources (mostly human, but also physical)
belong to and are controlled by the local membership.