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On Awards and Orders in the SCA... I had a lot of time to think, on… - Peter Westergaard

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September 8th, 2014

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01:29 pm
On Awards and Orders in the SCA... I had a lot of time to think, on the trip up to Lake Huron, about some of the items brought up during the Kingdom Moot. One in particular that leaves me thinking about how we regard our reward system, and how different people seem to struggle with and take great personal pain from that idea. I wonder if that pain comes from a fundamental difference of view in how reward structures work (or "should" work)... or from a deep difference in personality types and personal background.
A few thoughts I wanted to jot down, unpolished and inconclusive that they may be. I hope they provide some grist for your personal mill if you, like me, have been thinking about this topic after the moot.

First, it feels to me like there's a group of people who see Awards and Orders in the SCA a bit like the boy scout merit badge system. Do (action X) for a certain amount of time, and you deserve the reward. Like a hazy, soft, fuzzy economy of barter. I don't think that's accurate in any way at all. I think the SCA has a more romanticized view of nobility where the Crown dispenses Awards and Orders out of Gratitude, to a noble who is behaving nobly. Like a Royal Thank-You note. And let's be frank, nobody enjoys giving thank-you notes to people who seem rough, abrasive, or entitled. Who would? Why would the Crown be so fundamentally different in that regard?

Second, it makes me a little sad when I hear a question like "Why haven't I gotten (award X) yet?", or "Why hasn't (so and so) gotten (award X) yet?" and I realize that the question is technically WORDED as a question, but isn't actually a question. If it were a question, the asker might be expecting an answer in the form of an honest (and hopefully compassionate and gentle) feedback about some things that might help. Instead, I find all-too-often the question is actually a demand for action coded as a question. Instead of "why haven't I gotten (award X)", what's actually being asked is "I think I should have (award X) by now, so what's your problem?".

Thirdly, I have always felt and continue to feel that it's not best to be goal-focussed with awards in the SCA. But that doesn't mean it's bad to have ambition in the SCA. There is a fundamental difference to me, and it is hard to explain in an SCA context so I'll try expressing it in another context. It's generally rather creepy to spend a lot of effort pursuing a romantic relationship with someone, TRIPLY SO if one reacts to a cool reception with outrage and frustration. Investing further effort in earning that relationship is, honestly, a very poor idea. It would be FAR BETTER to invest effort in growing as a person and becoming the sort of amazing individual to whom people like your interest would likely be attracted. You may not end up with that ONE relationship, but it's likely your reward will be much richer. Just so with awards in the SCA. Chasing the award is not healthy. Investing in yourself, to become the sort of person that people respect and enjoy... this is a noble pursuit, and one very likely to bear far more fruit than just an award. This is what I mean when I say that chasing the cookie is not very healthy.

As a corollary to the above, someone mentioned on the weekend that one typically hears "don't chase the cookie" primarily from people who "already have the cookie". I would like to re-pose that thought from another angle. If you find that the people who have (a thing you want) predominantly have an outlook that is different from yours and from many other people who lack the thing you want... maybe it's worth checking in to see whether that outlook ITSELF is worth trying to change. Maybe the outlook has a large part to play in GETTING the thing you want. Behave like that sub-group of people who went before, whose paths you would like to follow. Is that poor advice?

Fourth and last, and I am hesistant to write this because it can so risk trivializing a feeling of "othering" or of institutional neglect from not having awards... the SCA is a fairy-tale, storybook, romanticized setting. Remember that. And if you can check in with your own motivation, your own storyline, and compare that to a Disney character, which character would it be? "I work so hard, and nobody notices it, and now I'm disillusioned and angry and turning bitter" ... that would probably be someone like Maleficent, right? Then know this... the SCA doesn't TEND to want to reward the Disney Villains, it wants to create a rarefied group of Disney Heroes. Your reactions might not fully be a personal choice, but they may nonetheless be part of what is affecting your reception. There are many "cookie-givers" in the SCA who would rather honestly embrace someone who did a small thing with love and nobility, than someone who did a much larger thing with a disruptive, entitled, or bitter attitude.
Lots of words there, probably little enough value. But I'd be delighted to pursue the thoughts further with anyone who calls me friend. Privately or here in the comments.

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Date:September 8th, 2014 07:33 pm (UTC)
I've thought a lot about these things in the last two weeks, myself. I'm not one to chase a cookie, for that way lays dragons.

Everyone says don't chase the cookie, you'll be rewarded faster. But that isn't always so. It seems, in fact, that the chasers get rewarded and it's the ones who haven't been chasing that are bitter because they followed the stated standard, but the way it is is the opposite.

I think the three grant orders are slightly different. If we're talking Service, from what I've seen, it's the quiet toiler who is elevated. If we're talking the Hammer, it's the "good winner", someone who stands out but isn't a jerk about it.

For A&S, the balance is difficult. You aren't supposed to _look_ like you want it. But you do have to do a certain amount of jumping up and down screaming "look at me". It can be likened to men's beauty products. Men aren't supposed to work to look good, but they are expected to be groomed and coiffed and stylish. All without caring or putting any effort into it. The only remedy I see for it is to write in as many A&S people as *I* think are worthy for the Crucible, because not everyone deserving is willing or able (or knows of the requirement to) promote themselves.

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