January 22nd, 2008

me and my vulture

You keep using that word...

People seem a bit cranky right now, so I'll leave the controversial immigration thoughts for later and cheat with a nice calm, meme or two:  

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There's been some talk going around (like it does, every couple of years or so) about how the magic is gone, and the SCA isn't as "chivalrous" as it used to be.  That word is not the correct one for what people are trying to say - they mean it's not as courteous as it used to be.  Either way, they're wrong.  It's just that in the internet age, misinformation, stupidity and a little bit of mean-spiritedness suddenly goes a vast way in very little time.  What once took months to come to light can now be all over the Kingdom by bedtime.  Like modern news, we get to hear about it more, which conflates the incidents in our heads and makes it seem like things are terrible turrible wrong-like.

Two things:  

First, the longer you are in the SCA, the fewer and further between the "goose-bump" moments become.  If you are in the least bit active, congratulations!  You have now become part of the vast army of nut-and-bolt carriers who strive to create a place where the "goose-bumps" can happen for other people.  This is a worthy goal, and in the making, you may achieve more of that tingly-ness for yourself, with the added pride of a job well done.  This is the meat and potatoes of a volunteer society; sitting back and waiting for the magic to happen (and grumbling when it doesn't) just makes you bad-tempered and dead weight.

Second, things are no worse than they used to be, but thanks to the miracle of near light-speed communication, we have been given a wonderful opportunity to see what far-reaching effects the bone-headed actions of some can have on the morale of others.  We can see in ways we never did before what the autocrats and staff of an event feel at the end of the day, and how our individual actions contributed to or detracted from the event.  Instead of hiding behind a wall of "no-one said anything to me, so it's not my fault!", we can finally understand that we are part of a massive whole, and that each person makes that whole better or worse.

We cannot dictate the actions of others, we can only police ourselves.  The only way I can personally leave the SCA better than when I found it is to strive each day to be better than I think I can possibly manage - more courteous, more careful, more tidy.  Yes, it's more effort, but the payoff is huge.  And when we set a good example, more people are likely to follow.  The defeatist attitude of "good behaviour doesn't get you rewarded, it gets you crapped on" that pervades our modern lives has cleared the way for a philosophy of "every man for himself"; we want to move away from that in the SCA, not towards it.

"Playing nice" is cumulative - the more people do it, the more the people that don't behave will stick out like sore thumbs.  The more they stick out, the stronger the peer pressure to play nice.  Yes, there will always be jerks, but using that as an excuse to give up on playing nice entirely is like saying measles willl always exist, so there's no point in getting vaccinated for smallpox.  Being the very first person is hard, but someone has to take the lead.  Rise above petty temptations and behave the way your favourite peer would want you to.

Play nice.  Pass it on.

(This message brought to you by the Foundation for a Life With Well-Balanced Humours.)