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Peer Review

I read the archives of the Kingdom list because to receive it in my inbox would make my eyes bleed.  One thing I notice is that there are always people who are resentful that they or their friends have not been recognized, or that someone(s) they feel are unworthy have been recognized.  I think this is universal - watch the Oscars, and see the same thing happening, y'know?

Awards that have value are always wanted - they are social recognition from the majority of the herd that one has Done Good[tm].  Who doesn't want that?  The flip side of this wanting is the resentment and the hurt, and the bitterness.  Some cry for reform, and for ways to make it easier, but most of those suggestions fail to take into account that no-one values something that is easy to attain. 

Truth.  We always want the thing that isn't easy to get, because getting it becomes an accomplishment, something that sets us ahead of the pack - whether it's a peerage, a person everyone wants to date, or an A in Torts ( silverstah, represent!), if we can get it when others can't, it's special and it makes us special.

I think this is such a universally ingrained trait that no matter what people try to do to neutralize competition, competition will always exist.  The resentment is simply a part of that competition - who doesn't dislike being told that other people are doing better?  Losing at Monopoly, reading the alumni newsletter and seeing the person you thought was such a loser is now a multimillionaire, seeing someone else get that award you want very, very badly...

Admit it - even if you're cool with the whole not getting an award thing, when some idiot who can't make a push-pin and eraser pig gets a Laurel for something, it stings (especially if it's something you're good at!).  Whether they deserve it or not, the social recognition has advanced that person.  I think a lot of the real deep bitterness one sees from some people is rooted in the perception of someone else getting the coveted prize that should have been yours (FYI, we don't have a limit on awards - someone else being elevated doesn't mean there's one less award available).  I understand this - I think it's a more harmful internalization than people realize, but I do understand it.  

However, to change the system and give the award to anyone who thinks they deserve it simply leaves a vacuum where another system of perceived superiority will slip in and take hold.  Such as - if you award peerages based solely on time served (which means, like many Government promotions, one simply needs to hang around long enough to qualify), then the peerages will more consciously rank themselves in levels of peer-ness.  This happens now - there are better peers and lesser peers (it's not spoken about, but it happens) - but it  would become much more pronounced.  No matter what you do, strata will emerge, and not everyone will be on top.

People scream about this, but it's a societal thing, and one you would have to suppress to Harrison Bergeron-like levels to stop.  I'm even going to be controversial here, and say that the people who resent it most vocally would not feel the same way about the system if they were on top.  It's not that there's anything ugly in their nature, it's because it's natural to dislike being at a lower social level.  Communism could be described as a giant snit by the Proletariat resentful of the higher social level of the Bourgeoisie.  The pervasiveness of social caste can be seen in how the Communist Regime immediately sorted itself into privileged and unprivileged classes, while pretending everyone was equal.  You can take away the names, but the attitudes remain.  Remove the "specialness" of one type of an award, and another will move in to take its place.

I don't think it's wrong in the least to aspire for the top level in anything - if you don't shoot for the top, you have no reason to push yourself to become better at your chosen thing.  But striving to be something is different from claiming you deserve something, and I think it is the expectation of the award as the only validation that makes some people so bitter.  If you are truly that level, then people know - and a medallion around your neck means nothing that your actions and works didn't already say much, much louder.

In my experience, the people who drape themselves in every award they have, mention their awards within seconds of speaking, and generally throw their "peer weight" around aren't the ones at the top  - they're the ones who can't get people to listen to them any other way.  You don't want to be that peer.

To be a peer, you have to be a peer - your words, deeds, and craft should be the best you can muster.  Time spent brooding about the award you don't (but should!) have is time wasted.  Time spent being what you feel a peer should be is never lost time, and is good practice for the day that award finally arrives.  Keeping that goal of what a peer should be in your mind, and telling people "I want to be good enough to be a peer someday" isn't pushy, or award-grubbing, it's your source of inspiration.

(ETA:  It just occurred to me that you can side-step the whole "I want X award" issue by simply saying "I want to be like so-and-so, who has X award".  It conveys the same desire, but couches it in more defensible terms - to say you want to be like the person you see as the epitome of that award emphasizes that it is the accomplishment, not the medallion, that motivates you.  Just a suggestion for those who are skittish about coming right out and saying it.)

Just so you know I'm not speaking down from a lofty perch of perfect zen-like equanimity on the issue, I spent the eight or so months prior to my Laurel getting my mind into complete knots because I felt I was artistically at the level of a Laurel - why wasn't I being recognized?!  I was driving myself (and my close friends) crazy.  I hated the way I felt and thought, and I was killing myself over what I thought was a general dislike of me.  It was awful; I had to make myself let go.  I couldn't resent other people - I had no control over them, and what they thought of me.  All I could do was be the best I could at what I loved, and try to be a better person (this project is ongoing).  I honestly don't know how I managed it (not very helpful of me, I know), but by the time Bob sat me down on the sofa and flat-out lied to me that I wasn't getting my Laurel that weekend, so shouldn't be disappointed, I could truthfully say that the thought had never even crossed my mind.

I admit, I didn't get to that point easily, but I was happier at that point than I had been for ages.  Even if I hadn't been elevated that weekend (he is such a straight-faced liar when he needs to be!), I'd have been content.  

I'm comfortable with speaking about this because I've been there - I see the same thing happen to people who want an award badly (mostly for the validation, something I totally understand), and let it twist them up in knots they would not normally succumb to, and I want them to know they're not alone in their worries.  For those who have decided that we are all corrupt and evil, I cannot do anything.  For those who are afraid of being seen striving for an award, I can say that there is no shame in working to become better - it's a noble pursuit to inspire with your deeds and words, and you don't need to wait for an award to do it.  I also think that those who want an award just so they can lord it over other people are pretty thin on the ground - it's usually a combination of wanting validation and acceptance, and that very human desire to be special.

Because peerage is special - if it wasn't, people wouldn't get into heated discussions about it.

And it's okay to want it.  It's just not cool to expect it.



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Jul. 1st, 2008 01:49 pm (UTC)
You are SUCH a wise woman. And I'm so glad you got to this topic before I broke down and ranted about it! ;-) I wasn't nearly as nice...
Jul. 1st, 2008 01:51 pm (UTC)
Funny - I thought I was being pretty blunt. The statement about people on the bottom being resentful would have brought me a veritable hurricane of denial and attacks on the Merry Rose, which is why I don't post my thoughts there.

(no subject) - thatpotteryguy - Jul. 1st, 2008 03:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tudorlady - Jul. 2nd, 2008 12:04 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 1st, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Jul. 1st, 2008 02:47 pm (UTC)
Jul. 1st, 2008 01:54 pm (UTC)
As someone relatively new, I have some questions:

My understanding is that in order to be elevated to the peerage, the existing Peers are "polled" about that person's readiness. This (to me) sets up a system in which popularity can be a major factor. (Yes, I recognize that all social organiziations do have some form of the popularity contest. I'm not naive.)
But in your experience, has this ever led to someone who has done the work not getting recognized, and someone who hasn't really produced being elevated? (Please feel free to message me on lj privately, or ask for my email- I don't comment in an attempt to create gossip or flames.)
Also, I really appreciate your points about "Acting like a Peer". Has the "social pressure" ever elevated someone who consistently doesn't act like a peer? Do you often find that some Laurels, for example, are pushier about getting their apprentices elevated?

Sorry to occupy so much of your time. (Oh, under a recommendation from Kass, I checked out your website. I am very impressed/inspired by your work!!)

Jul. 1st, 2008 02:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you, and thank you. :)

Honestly, I have *never* seen a peer elevated who hadn't done *something* good enough to be considered - I've seen several who weren't at the level *I* would like, but that's why we poll - my opinion is tempered by others, and we reach a median level of acceptance/rejection. On the other hand, I've seen a fair number of people who thought they or their friends were ready, but in reality had a number of issues that needed to be worked. People are somewhat blind to their own and their friends' faults, and an independent assessment of their skills may come considerably short of their self-assessment. Most people who are destined to be peers someday get past this stage successfully. :)

Popularity really doesn't work as effectively as some people think it does - a person can be popular, and still be rejected if they aren't ready. It all comes back to that tempering factor of numbers (and the good sense of most peers - don't laugh, it's true - we don't want to elevate people who aren't ready, because it can be damaging to them).

After all that, even if everyone says yes, the Crown decides if they do or don't want to elevate, it's in their hands - even there, popularity doesn't count for nearly as much as people outside the orders think it does.

One thing I will say is that it *is* partly about who you know, but again, not in the way people think - if you know a lot of people, then a lot of people know you, and the order often feels more comfortable working with first hand knowledge of a candidate if possible. At the peer level, I would want at least 75% of the order to at least be familiar with your name, or else you're not really having an impact on a kingdom level.

There will always be some people who nominate their friends over and over again, but it doesn't have much effect, and can even hurt that person's chances. Remember what I said about levels of peer? Certain people's opinions can carry a lot of weight in certain areas, and they are pretty much also the people who will actually hold back on pushing their friends because they don't want bias to cloud their judgement. In fact, I sometimes feel guilty that I'm not giving my friends enough credit, because I am so anxious to avoid pushing them unfairly. :)

I think it evens out - and a lot of the "it's all who you know" comments are made because someone the commenter dislikes has been elevated, and there's a certain amount of anger colouring their assessment of that person's abilities. In reality, it's much less popularity contest (at least in our kingdom, which is the only one I have experienced), than it is a constant go-round of "are they ready yet? What have they done? What do you think? I don't know - what do YOU think?". :)
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Jul. 1st, 2008 02:00 pm (UTC)
kinda like saying "i'm just here for the fun, i don't care if i win' sure, your primary reason may be to have fun, but it's no fun if you get clubbed like a baby seal or become everyone's pin cushion every time you step out...that said, if you ahve the right mindset, it's just a way to force yourself to get better, as you said. it's ok to want to win, or want an award, as long as you don't let it turn you into a goober in the process (ie...don't be a dick)...

thoughts to ponder and argue...is the current social attitude of 'everyone is special' where schools are not allowing kids to be cut from sports teams, no one can actually FAIL, etc, feeding more into this situation?
Jul. 1st, 2008 02:19 pm (UTC)
I think the issue has always been there, but the current attitude in education is adding to the entitlement, yes.
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Jul. 1st, 2008 02:05 pm (UTC)
Cool read; I don't disagree. I do wonder where this reference comes from; "push-pin and eraser pig". Is that British, Laurel'ish, or just AoD'ish?
Jul. 1st, 2008 02:15 pm (UTC)
No, it's a cultural thing in America as well. If you take one of the bigger pink erasers (the ones that look like parallelograms from the side) you can add push pins to make legs and a head.

I think there are references to them in The Simpsons and I'm sure they're referenced in Life in Hell, but I remember them from my childhood, which makes them old.
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Jul. 1st, 2008 02:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jul. 1st, 2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
Just had to add my Thanks for writing this to the pot. ;)

Edited at 2008-07-01 02:08 pm (UTC)
Jul. 1st, 2008 02:12 pm (UTC)
I will admit, as a little ole AoA, that I don't always get the "well, they should have X award". If they should have it, why aren't you writing them up to get it? If you recognize something award worthy of a person, write to the Royals about them; talk to your local Baron/Baroness; get others to see what you see. You might even want to talk to someone you know that has the award you think someone deserves and see if they are willing to help you write up a good letter to the Royals...or you can do what I do and just write "Because they are so cool!"* but I don't think that really works most of the time.

If it's an individual thinking they are deserving of an award, maybe they should ask the people that have the award they want what their experience was like before getting X award.

* No, I don't write that poorly when attempting to get someone recognized but it's pretty close to that bad. ...at least to me it sounds that bad....
Jul. 1st, 2008 02:13 pm (UTC)
I'm going to mark this post as a memory in my LJ. Just in case I get to a point in the SCA that I think I "deserve" something. Thank you for the insight.
Jul. 1st, 2008 02:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you. And you're welcome. :)
Jul. 1st, 2008 02:20 pm (UTC)
Chiming in from another kingdom entirely...
"I hated the way I felt and thought, and I was killing myself over what I thought was a general dislike of me. It was awful; I had to make myself let go."

I stared down that abyss too (in my case it was the Pelican, since I have no talents other than herding cats). Pulled myself back from it by main force. When the peerage actually came, a couple of years later, I was totally not expecting it then, and I think it was much sweeter therefore.

I have also witnessed the peers who throw their peerdom around because nobody will pay attention to them any other way. I remember at least one member of my order who received her Pelican and then was clearly totally bewildered when the respect and influence she'd assumed came with the elevation weren't hers to command. Those things are *earned*, and being a peer only gives you a certain preconception with those who don't know you well (which can be good or bad).
Jul. 1st, 2008 02:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Chiming in from another kingdom entirely...
Abyss is right. I have been through some bad pain in my SCA career (almost always over incorrect assumptions about me that I could not correct), but that one was particularly unhealthy for me.

I think the people that get the most instant respect are the ones who have behaved like peers long before they were elevated - people know their opinion can be trusted.
Jul. 1st, 2008 02:32 pm (UTC)
*Here Here!*

Not being in the SCA, I can only add that your statement regarding this sort of stratification in all social groups is on-the-spot. Get more than three people in one place and someone ends up being the leader (somehow....).

There are plenty of places that I am a competitive monster (usually they involve sporting activities), but I have found my *happy place* when it comes to reenactment. I push myself far harder than I think anyone else pushes me because a) I am a freak about history b) "the more I know, the less I know" c) I enjoy being able to help others with their research and getting to play mental 'tag' with folks on reenactment projects of all kinds. But ultimately, if no one else ever noticed that I did these things, I would still love doing them.

Yippee for happy places!
Jul. 1st, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
I totally agree with everything you've said (because I am a complete suckup and am trying to get you to write me in or something *wink*).

But here's a thought you made me have. You know these people who are trying to take the competition out of everything? The ones who are trying to make school sports non-competitive? The ones who got rid of the Honour Roll at my school because parents complained when their child wasn't on it?

Trying to remove competition from a group of human beings is like trying to remove our need to eat. We compete. We used to do it in order to stay alive. We still are driven to excell. Look at every person who has succeeded in her profession. Did she compete? You're damn right she did!

I don't want to live in a world without competition. I cannot be someone who just drifts along.

(I loved: "Communism could be described as a giant snit by the Proletariat resentful of the higher social level of the Bourgeoisie." Hee hee hee!)

For the record, I'm bloody sick of the whining about peerage. There are people I don't think are peers and never will be. I also think the whole idea of peerage is a bad thing because it does to most people what it did to you right before you were elevated. I don't think they should get rid of the whole system because boo boo booooo, it makes people feel inadequate. I think they should get rid of the system because it elevates those who don't deserve elevation.

If you're good at what you do, you'll be recognised. No one has to put a medallion around your neck or put a title in front of your name. Ultimately, you elevate yourself.
Jul. 1st, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC)
This issue seems more intense in the US, but I could be wrong - however, there's definitely a streak of "anyone can grow up and be president!" to the angst - people simply do not like being told that actually, more than half of the people in the SCA will never become peers for various reasons.

So reasons must be found. :)
(no subject) - kass_rants - Jul. 1st, 2008 03:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jul. 1st, 2008 02:48 pm (UTC)
"The only person I can compare myself to is ME"

Well said.
Jul. 1st, 2008 02:41 pm (UTC)
Preach it sista! *snap!*

A lot of the time too when someone thinks "So-and-so didn't deserve that!" it's because they didn't see the work that person did. We tend to think of people in terms of how they interact with us. If you're not a fighter, you don't notice the guy who is marshaling at -every- event. If you don't travel, you don't realize that the lady who helped at your local event did the same job and three other events recently.

Case in point; I have a friend who is a Pelican who is my epitome of what a Pelican should be, this guy busts his rump working constantly, he's always there and always smiling, and never above helping a new person. And yet, when he was elevated to the Pelican and I told an acquaintance excitedly about it the acquaintance said "Him? hmf. They'll give that award to anyone now I guess." Because he'd never seen this Pelican's work, which was admittedly very quiet and not very showy.

Sure there are people who get the accolade (whatever accolade you're talking about at the moment, Peerage or Baronial Award or bead-on-a-string) who didn't work as hard or do as well as a person who didn't get it. It happens. They got noticed, the other person didn't. My husband is a very serious archer, and every time someone gets our kingdom's archery award that didn't do as much as -he- did when he got it, he grouses. I tell him though "It's not the same award" Yeah, it conveys the same precedence, but it doesn't have the same meaning and weight that his award did. It doesn't change his worth that someone else was recognized.

I had a friend who received a peerage a while back who felt that he got it late, what I told him was that he should be proud of that. Because he did more, and no one could ever take that away from him. The journey is as important as the goal, if not more so.
Jul. 1st, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
I admit, I didn't get to that point easily, but I was happier at that point than I had been for ages.

I finally got there. It was discovering that I LOVED teaching. Having fun with it, getting people to think, to question was, and still is, one of my biggest joys.
Jul. 1st, 2008 03:35 pm (UTC)
"I couldn't resent other people - I had no control over them, and what they thought of me. All I could do was be the best I could at what I loved, and try to be a better person (this project is ongoing)."

Sing it, sista! I decided long ago that I'd just do what I love, and not let the enjoyment of it hinge on others. If I enjoy it, I do it- if I don't, I don't. I do tend to over commit myself on occation, but usually it's because there it the opportunity to do several things that I think are cool and I want to do them all.
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