Requirements and Responsibilities

“On a Greyhound thirty miles beyond Jamestown
He saw the sun set on the Tennessee line
He looked at the young man who was riding beside him
He said I’m old kind of worn out inside
I worked my whole life in the steel mills of Gary
And my father before me I helped build this land
Now I’m seventy-seven and with God as my witness
I earned every dollar that passed through my hands
My family and friends are the best thing I’ve known
Through the eye of the needle I’ll carry them home”

Last Sunday I took part in the  first meeting of the committee that has been organized to review and update the official Baronial Policy of the Barony of Grey Niche. There are five of us that are going over the policy and updating it. When we are finished we will present the updated policy to the group at a business meeting and, hopefully, the group will vote to accept it. If not, the committee members will go back to work and incorporate any suggestions we get from the group. Sunday was the first chance we had to meet as a group and work on it, and quite frankly I was surprised by how much we achieved in the four short hours we worked on it that night.
I mention this because one of the subjects that we had to talk about for the longest that night was the difference between the requirements  for participation in the group, or for participation in the SCA itself and the responsibilities of participation. I’ve been thinking about it all week, and I’m still not exactly sure what caused the …..it wasn’t really an argument but a disagreement about the issue between myself and a very good friend. I think part of the disagreement may have been due to the fact that I used the wrong vocabularly when stating my feelings. I also have to admit to the fact that I truly enjoy a spirited debate. Hey, some folks like to strap on armor and get beat with rattan swords; so it’s not so unusual to admit to liking the verbal sparring of a good debate among intelligent people. This particual debate was, for me, particularly thought provoking, and I’m going to describe the basics of it here, because I would truly be interested in knowing what those of you that read this think about the matter.
At the most basic level, it was a difference of belief about the requirements of membership and participation in the SCA and the responsibility or duty, of those participating  in the SCA.  If you think about it, at the most basic level, there are very few requirements for participation in the SCA. To attend an event we require that people make an attempt at period clothing. Other than paying site fees and filling out a couple of lines of paperwork, that’s it.  . One is not even “required” to be a a member of the organization to participate in SCA events.
Now, as  one moves beyond the most basic level of participation (which I should define as showing up at events and watching the activities), the requirements for participation increase. If one wants to be a group officer one must be a paid member. If one wants to enter most A&S competitions one is required to not only produce the piece to be entered but also the doccumentation that goes with it, etc. etc. If one is a group officer there are the requirements of the office to deal with; attending meetings, filling reports, etc. etc.
Now, the disagreement started when I made the comment that I thought it should be a requirement for those participating in the SCA to be familiar with group policy. Unfortunately, I realize now, that was a really bad choice of wording. What I really meant was that I think it should be, and is,  the responsibility of those participating in SCA events, whether they are paid members or not, to at least be familiar with the policy of the local group. To be clear, I don’ t expect this of someone coming to their first event, or a relative newcomer. No, I was referring to somebody that has been participating for several months.  I expect it of someone that actually plans to stick around for a while.
I do not think it is wrong to expect somebody that is participating in an organization to be familiar with group policy. And that’s an important point; I said “familiar”. I don’t expect them to know it by heart, to have memorized it. I don’t expect them to be “rules lawyers” ( A particularly annoying kind of twerp that pops up in every kind of organization. No offense meant to real lawyers intended).  Frankly, I can not understand why anyone participating in an organization, any organization, not wanting to be familiar with the general policies of that organization.
Of course, in thinking about this over the last few days, I first had to figure out why I felt as I do. That’s simple, the SCA has given me so much; friendship, a sense of belonging, so very much, and it has asked so little of me. It is my responsibility, my duty, if you like, to be familar with the policies of the Society, and of the local group. It is, to my mind, the very least I can do. As one becomes involved at something more than the most basic level one’s responsibilities increase, just as one’s requirements.
In this case, I think the responsibility comes from the individual, not the organization. It should, anyway. So, the question then becomes, what are the responsibilities of people participating in the SCA? What should those responsibilities be? What should the requirements for participating in the SCA be? I would truly be interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions on the matter.
I apologize if none of this makes much sense.  I am still trying to figure out how I feel and think about the whole issue. I realize that I could have, should have, presented the subject in a clearer manner.

Cormac

One Response

  1. You’ve hit one of my favorite bones of contention. I pull my hair out over similar things regularly- not so much policy, but the people who just want to be spectators without any thoughts of contributing to their local group or even the wider infrastructure.

    It pisses me off.

    But… if we extend the opportunity to them to pay $25 bucks for what they view to be a weekend of entertainment, that’s what we’re going to get, sometimes. Spectators. Our laws allow for that- all they have to do is “attempt” garb. I don’t think the laws should change- most of us start out as spectators and then quickly integrate. Some don’t. We have to deal with those few to get the new members, though.

    As for your question… I’ll hit back on that later. Maybe here, maybe in my blog… I dunno. But I’ll get back to it, for sure.

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