Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Dark Side

In a discussion I have been having with a dear friend of mine, to answer a question or rather a comment he made about a comment I made on why I don't enjoy the SCA that much any more this was my reply.  I had spoken about the fact that I seem to spend more time avoiding the SCA and many people in it than enjoying events for what they were.

It's not the closest Scadians that make it unpleasant but rather the general message that gets spread around through the social media's comment sections etc.... Read the comments on facebook and you see that often one of the things that gets said is "I wish we could banish all modern things" and then the argument goes on from there. Usually citing cameras and photography as one of the big no nos. Well I have a big issue with this particular pet peeve because this is also my hobby and my time away from home with friends. I like to have photos of the events to remember them by but, now, every time I pull out my camera I wonder who I will be offending. If I have conversations with my friends about modern day things I wonder the same thing. I've been doing a lot of thinking about this over the last few years, especially now that we are a part of the 501st, and I have something to compare to.

The level of "Spoils my dream" statements have gone through the roof in the last few years and I get fed up of this. Whose dream are we talking about? I don't run around complaining about the people who push for correct 14th C or complain about the fact that some of these people who whinge also smoke, drink coke, wear glasses...etc... we live in the modern world and some things will just be a part of this. It's called the Society for CREATIVE ANACHRONISM for a reason. There are plenty of far more accurate and period re-enactment groups out there to satisfy people's needs. If the SCA doesn't fit these needs then why not branch out instead of complaining or worse trying to conform the group to the individual.  Except the issue is when people do branch out, join other medieval groups they get shit on for doing so because their time is not longer 100% given to the SCA. Personally I think being a part of more than one costume / re-enactment group is healthy. It gives you multiple perspectives and more options to learn, see things from a different point of view, but other people don't seem to get this and they bitch about this as well.  Really right now there's no pleasing people.

The SCA was never a "dream" for me it was a place I met great people and relaxed while wearing a costume. Somewhere along the line it stopped being a costume and became a little bit more which was nice but now I no longer feel as comfortable in the SCA as I once did.  I feel marginalized because mainly this is a weekend hobby for me and mostly what I want to do is relax and spend time with my friends that I don't get to see all that often in a setting that is often gorgeous. Instead, now, I find myself having to defend my point of view, or trying to tip toe around people who get insulted because I talk about my normal life with friends I have not seen in ages, or because I brought out my camera. It's become a lot of work to try and fit in which is a little ironic since it used to be the place were misfits and outsiders were welcome.
If I hear the sentences "because it's not period", or "it's spoiling my dream" one more time I think I will just explode.

I also find that lately I am surrounded by certain people who bring out the absolute worst in me because their behaviour, lack of manners, the tendency to make everything about themselves and go overboard on the one-upmanship just pisses me off. I find myself looking at who will be attending events to see if I actually want to be in the same space or not. I realise this is my problem and not theirs but the root cause is friction brought on primarily by the reasons stated above. I don't play SCA to win. It's not a game with a score card to tick off how many awards you have or how much your pointy hat weighs. I'm not part of the in crowd or the out crowd but I have a circle of close friends and the option to gain new ones. There is no level up power button, no hacks no cheat codes, there is participation and fun. Lately it's felt like fucking highschool all over again. It's become mean and judgey and I'm in there too, which I hate, because on a normal day I don't give a rat's ass about any of this shit and I certainly don't want to be "that" mean, stuck up bitch who only talks to certain people. Some people, however, seem bring out that side of me even if it's not always visible. I know how I'm feeling and I don't like it. We joke about the dark side but this is really it, the SCA definitely does have a dark side and right now it's pretty rampant.

Of course the other side of this coin is people complaining about the fact that standards have gone up and that this is unfair. That they don't have the ability or the money to dress the best like the rest. I have to scratch my head at this. It's not hard to get a period look and feel inexpensively. So this jealousy is poisoning so many things we do. Instead of being happy for those who have the abilities and the wherewithal to create gorgeous, seriously accurate garb, scrolls, armour etc... we have people whining about how unfair it all is that they can't keep up. Since when did we as a group become so concerned with keeping up with the joneses? For me it's not what you wear or how blingy your garb is it's how you act, how you treat other people and the respect you give to those around you no matter what. Somewhere along the line looks, awards and possessions became more important than thoughts, actions or deeds. Instead of whining about how unfair it all is that you don't have X why not ask someone to help you? People will surprise you by how much they want to share and most people I know in the SCA LOVE to help where they can me included. ( though I often need reminding because my brain if full of holes and I forget)

It used to be the various facets of the SCA worked together and the various factions could at least get by without being so openly mean to each other but this has changed a lot mostly thanks to the openness of social media. The expectations have risen and so have the standards which I find perfectly okay as long as the extremists don't ram their version down my throat. This is all make believe and it's not really relevant to the everyday real world. A king/queen/peer in the SCA has no royal / peer significance in the day to day world. The abuse of power when one is in a position of power is ridiculous. There's a certain level of meanness that has risen over time, especially when one starts holding an office or getting more involved. Also the converse is true, as a peer I'm not infallible, and I don't know everything about everything. I don't always want to work at an event and if I don't have my scribal stuff with me this is not the end of the universe. I've spent my fair share of events tucked away doing scroll work or kitchen work, or cleaning or something and while I enjoy doing that at times sometimes I don't want to. I don't bring my kit when I want to just do other things. It's not a crime and it doesn't make me a lazy laurel but I have heard just those words pointed at me. There is no check list of what anyone SHOULD do at events instead why not just pitch in and ask if you can help rather than bitching about the stuff that's not getting done. The "I'm on holiday so I don't have to work" line is probably about the most selfish thing I've ever heard at an event. Dude...we're ALL on holiday.

For me, ever since I joined the SCA, it is mostly about being with similar people in a culture that was more open and friendly, the learning of unique skills and the extras were icing on the cake. Now these have become the requirement and the simple there to have fun part has been marginalized. Mostly I feel as though I no longer have a place in this club and going to events is stressful. Far too many people spend far too much time focusing on getting awards, being important ( whatever that means) and amassing power. ( all perceived) I can't tell you how many times I've heard people wish they were "important" or had award X, or get insulted when person Y isn't made a peer or doesn't award X. It's ridiculous. None of these things make a person important anyway.

I think the people who desire to immerse themselves in the absolute medieval are to be lauded but not when they try to enforce this on others who are not necessarily interested in this aspect of the SCA. Some people have a very clear idea of their SCA persona and that's great but others don't and nor should they have to. There is no rule that says you must have a perfectly honed persona at all. And then within these factions is the snobbery about what type of persona you are. Because persona is not like persona. You see that in the people who try for something different ( east Indian, Japanese, Middle eastern) They are also marginalized because what they do is not conforming to the medieval "norm". See...Highschool.

So essentially I've had enough because mostly when I go to events or read through the SCA facebook groups and forums it's like being drawn and quartered by all the various people who want the SCA to go their way. I think when that happens it's good to step back and get some perspective, some breathing room and maybe do the smaller side of thing to enjoy the hobby. It's not about awards or the shiny it's about the people and the fun. I wish more people would remember this including myself.

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tales from the dark side...