Greetings, Midrealmers, both new and old!
The SCA is, by and large, a welcoming, friendly and inclusive organization. However, there is one subset of the SCA that I have seen regularly shunned, ignored and denigrated. To help address this inequity, I invited a member of that subset to pen a letter outlining their experiences and beliefs. That letter follows.
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
While this quote has been attributed to Abe Lincoln, Samuel Johnson, Mark Twain, Confucius, and countless others, my limited research indicates that we should credit “unknown.” While this statement is useful when applied to intellect, what if we paraphrase using emotional language: “Better to remain stoic and be though uncaring than to express and remove all doubt”? While imperfect, this phrase represents a reasonable starting point to discuss the challenges of being politically conservative in the SCA.
I should note that the greater challenge of being an open conservative is in regard to the eSCA, as opposed to active participation at events. Recently, the SCA published a “Statement of Core Values” for members and participants in all events and activities of the SCA. Ironically, the statement does not explicitly address the eSCA (unless one considers online discussions “events and activities”). At events, there is much to do that allows one to avoid spirited discussions of personal politics.
The SCA, in my opinion, is a structural meritocracy where the value is assigned to us as individuals who may eventually result in recognition by the Crown in the form of awards and the elevation to orders [of merit]. While baronial or AoA level awards and orders of merit emphasize what we do rather than how we do it, the Peerage Orders require intangible “peer-like qualities.” This adds a layer of the subjective to be considered alongside the objective measures of accomplishment. Meaning that at some point it is no longer enough to have “done the thing” well; rather, there is the need to impress the right people (i.e., those who have the ear of the Crown). However, those people certainly have personal opinions of the intangibles as various as their preference for scrambled eggs, ambient temperature or hue of lavender.
As a conservative thinker, the idea we can be objectively measured by what we do appeals to me. The challenge is applying one’s personal measurement of the intangibles to another individual without judgment of their personal politics. Even worse is to formulate opinion based on a caricature of said politics. Worst of all is to make assumptions without a discussion with the individual of how they came to their beliefs.
Overall, my experience is that liberal opinions are far more readily accepted than conservative opinions, especially in the eSCA. And since the eSCA is a reflection of social media in general, it contains the many of the same unsavory aspects, including (but not limited to) “cancel culture.” For those unfamiliar with the term, “cancel culture” is the radical idea that certain political opinions are not just wrong, but that individuals should not be allowed to express them and that those who do should be silenced, fired from their jobs and otherwise publicly shamed—effectively “cancelling” someone not because of what they have expressed, rather for what they think.
While we all hope that the SCA’s principles of chivalry, courtesy, and learning would preclude anyone from “cancelling” another because of their political views, there is a definite risk of expressing politics that clash with the majority, especially when you are walking upon the path to Peerage. For this reason, conservatives are more likely to keep their political opinions to themselves. Those few that are more expressive are often Peers already or are simply not interested in the active pursuit of Peerage.
In the end, every political persuasion wants what is best for society (not the SCA, in this case). Unfortunately, there is a perception by conservatives that having the “wrong” opinion (that is, counter to the majority liberal perspective) may be detrimental to their success in the SCA and would reduce their overall enjoyment in their chosen hobby. They are willing to risk silence, with all the accoutrements; and that is the greatest of their challenges.
I have no pithy epilogue for this topic, only to point out that it is perhaps telling that the author requested to remain anonymous.