Wednesday, January 18, 2012
The Society for Creative Anachronism is on its last legs. A remarkable organization, its greatest strength has proved to be its greatest weakness.
I was a member of the SCA for about 20 years, then I drifted out of it some twelve years ago when my contributions were increasingly being ignored. Becoming marginalized in the remarkably inclusive SCA is really hard to do! I might have succeeded! More of that later.
Ostensibly a medieval re-enactment organization, in reality, it is a social club. There are many fascets on that jewel. It can take over your world. It is the reason why I have the words "Honour", "Chivalry","Noblesse Oblige", "Courtesty", "Generosity", "Courage" and "Faith" stenciled in letters 9 inches high around the top of the walls in my dining room. It has been described as so many things. Because it came out of the hippy dippy sixties, many members had the look and feel of aging hippies, but I always felt it was an organization made up of people who had been bullied in school when they were kids. This is important when you examine it. Its not like the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts are made up of people who "fit in". And like to do so.
It is top heavy in bureaucracy, most of it has no good reason for being. There is a reward system for doing good works, and virtually no punishment system. One way to get the uber reward was to create a new office for the ever expanding bureaucracy. (Yes, they played at bureaucracy as if it was a game!) and when more and more of the University age kids suddenly found themselves married with children, somebody noticed that kids were being left with the group while the parents went off to cake decorating class or whatever programming had been laid on. Often when a few people brought board games for the kids to play, suddenly they became the baby sitters. So somebody had the bright idea of making a "Minister for Children". Ben Schragger was one of those ministers. He abused his authority, along with several kids. Hence the lawsuit which will end the SCA.
So easy to "close the peppergate!" now that the damage is done, but I knew that once we had a person in charge of children, we would have a position which would attract a sexual predator like a moth is attracted to a candle flame. I note that all handbooks for the office of "Minister of Children" have been removed from the official SCA web site, (if they were ever there!), so perhaps this one guy broke all the rules. I hope so, for the SCA's sake. I also know that a great deal of thought and consideration (and compassion) has gone into making a safe environment for all, including and especially children. The fact remains however, that the SCA created a job description, they created a bureaucracy which makes them liable under the law for enforcing and maitaining standards for their little day cares and day care providers. And therefore, they will fall on this lawsuit, even though they knew nothing about it, and did nothing to deserve it. Though it took four years after the incidents with Mr. Schragger to make a requirement that background checks would be required.
There are dozens of lawyers involved now, and the chips may fall to one side of the log or the other. However, the time to halt the train wreck is long before you see the trains coming towards the broken bridge! I halted my share of trains. I personally pissed off a LOT of people when as an officer in those long ago days I demanded that people stop practicing medicine without a licence. (The study of herbalism is theoretical only nowadays, mostly due to my timely warnings that somebody will get hurt.)
Oh well, it is when you believe in something more than you believe in yourself is when you tread on enough toes to annoy people. I drifted out, not so much resigning in disgust as sort of fading away about the turn of the century. I got a life outside of the corporation.
Anyway, I knew this lawsuit was coming, though I certainly didn't think it was going to come through the Ministry of Children. I THOUGHT it was going to come through the cooks! I figured that some cook someplace would make up a shrimp cocktail laced with Salmonella. I know that there have been a hundred close calls...heck I once personally cooked a pig in a pit roast that was near raw in parts! That's not good! But we know, it takes six hundred close calls before one of them gets serious. So you pay attention to the close calls!
The SCA may well survive this lawsuit. If it does, it will become a much more chastened and somber organization. It will have lost a lot of its innocence and playfulness. The days when a drunken eighteen year old in a bunny fur bikini with teeth chattering, would have a cloak lent to her by an armed man, and be escorted back to her encampment in the expectation (and realization!) of perfect safety. Already by the turn of the century, there were the noise curfews at Pensic, the demands that fly screens surround the funnel cake makers, the creation of a "gasp" food court with Mundane food inspectors...gone are the days when you can dreamily request something from the local witch to quell the period pains, or swim naked in a swimming hole with hundreds of people of all ages and psychiatric conditions or leave your kids with "the group" while you don armour and go off to have fun.
And good riddance.
What will they keep? What will the new SCA look like?
Well, I hope they keep the honour, chivalry and courtesty. Perhaps become a little less inclusive. A little more thoughtful. A little less dependant upon university students and their highly political and emotional natures. But I fear not. What will happen is that the walls will be put up against the wrong people...the regulatory authorities and the police. The shrill lady in the back shouting "won't anybody think of the children" will prompt more and more bureaucracy, more and more bylaws and rules and curfews and lawsuits. The SCA risks becoming as marginalized as the "travelers" in the UK. Or maybe it won't. Either way, it is something to watch!
I think I might like the "new SCA".