Do Better, Be Better

Originally published on May 1, 2019, but it remains 100% relevant today, especially as a peer.

Today’s morning thought:

It’s not enough to – want – to do better. Most people – want – to do better. I used to tell people I – wanted – to better. I would have an interaction, and then I would have an epiphany (or someone would shove one in my face hole).

I would apologize, even PROMISE to do better, and then within weeks even days, I’d be back to old behaviors. Old behaviors are easy. They’re comfortable. They’re painless and smooth

You have to BE better. You have to actually change your behavior.

And wow, that’s hard. It hurts, not just because you’re retraining your brain, but because as you do, you discover all the hurt and pain you’ve caused in the past to people who you either didn’t care about, didn’t know, or didn’t recognize.

Epiphanies mean nothing if you don’t act on them. Wanting is great as a motivator. You have to DO it.

#changenotapologies
#bemindful
#youhavetobebetter
#dothething

Evaluate Yourself

It’s important to realize that [people in the majority] benefit from several racist and sexist constructs of society by no direct action of your own. No one wants to blame you for the actions of others, or those of your ancestors. We just want things to get better for those who have been harmed by those same constructs.

White folks: if it’s not about you, then don’t sweat it. If someone says “white men are trash” and you know that you’re not a trash white man, it ain’t about you, let it go. If someone says “all white women clutch their pearls” but you know you don’t do that, it ain’t about you, let it go.

Our egos are literally the least important thing to be thinking about right now.

Being an ally doesn’t mean you’re perfect, but it DOES mean that when you screw up, you should be willing to listen to members of the affected minority that you’ve impacted and change your behavior to do better.

Being an ally specifically means that you’re going to work to learn from your mistakes and change how you act.

Being an ally DOES NOT MEAN saying “hey be nice to this other person who has done bad things to you and your people, because they’re a potential good ally and you don’t want to alienate them.”

That is not allyship. Allies don’t speak for other people. They support them in speaking for themselves.

This is an amalgamation of this post, this post, and this post.

Just Don’t.

Everyone’s Facebook wall (or blog or Insta or whatever) is their own to do with as they please. I’d never argue otherwise. But telling someone “if you don’t like it, leave” when an image gives them an actual panic attack is pretty unkind, and telling them that your fear & pain is more valid than theirs is shitty as fuck.

Manipulating someone else’s pain to try and assuage your own is even more shitty as fuck.

And justifying that by implying that it’s ok because they’re not your friend is the most shitty as fuck of all.

Nobody wins the Pain Olympics.

Always try to follow Wheaton’s Law.

No photo description available.

Make Sure They Have Enough

Originally posted December 23, 2019. I’m publishing it now, because whoa, relevant.

Louis CK turned out to be a burning trash dumpster of a person, but this sentiment still stands, and I tell my boys this all the time. You only worry about your neighbor’s bowl to make sure that they have enough.

Image may contain: 4 people, meme and text

As Jadwiga said on the original post, “Don’t discount a truth just because you don’t like the person saying it.”

(Offer not valid for Orson Scott Card & JK Rowling.)

With Great Power…

Originally published on September 15, 2020.

Today on Andreas’ Admonitions (one in a continuing series I wish I didn’t feel compelled to write):

Just because you’ve never gotten push-back on your troublesome opinions before doesn’t make them not troublesome. It just means that either people don’t feel safe around you, or other people are trying to curry favor with you because you hold influence and power in an activity that they value. It means you need to grow as an individual. Power doesn’t make you a good person.

What you do with that power reflects what kind of person you are.

In addition, the structure and boundaries of relationships between Peers and their dependents are wholly private and unofficial and have nothing to do with the rules of the SCA. Here’s what is governed by SCA rules: a person’s conduct in accordance with the SCA’s Core Values and Code of Conduct.

I’ve written before about how social media has changed the SCA both for the better and the worse. There are people I consider good friends that I never would have gotten to know without Facebook. There are also people who I have let go of because they showed us who they really are. It is my personal choice who I directly associate with; the SCA has no authority over that.

I do not believe that you can be a racist and be a good peer. I do not believe that you can be a homophobe “in real life” and leave your bigotry at the gate. I do not believe that 1000+ word screeds about how BLM is a group of communist terrorists, or refusing to recognize someone’s gender identity, or their marriage, are “closely held opinions”. Indeed, when they’re posted publicly on Facebook, it’s no different than broadcasting them over the radio, shouting them through a megaphone, or putting them up on a billboard. These are not simply speech.

They are an action.

And when someone who espouses these beliefs repeatedly is called on it by people who are no longer willing to be cowed or tone-policed, that’s not doxing; that’s simply consequences. Words mean things. Doxing has a specific definition.

Reporting bad behavior with supporting screenshots is not doxing.

The SCA is a private organization, and as such is not only allowed to decide who may participate but is required to adhere to certain standards. The membership cannot ignore the fact that the SCA Inc is a US Not For Profit organization, subject to modern laws and regulations that also govern conduct.

If the SCA stands for Chivalry, Honor, and Integrity, then it must stand for Inclusion, Equity and Diversity, and it cannot stand for Prejudice, Exclusivity, and Homogeneity.

We all need to examine our internal biases. We all need to apologize for the harms we have done. We all need to strive to do better. We all need to lift each other up.

Write to the Board in support of our progress, be kind, and be safe.

See you next time, on Andreas’ Admonitions! 😕😕😕

Do Better, Be Better

Originally published August 21, 2020.

This letter took me a LONG time to write. I even did research! Unfortunately, I can’t point you at the “Revolution for the Dream” FB group, because it’s become private, hidden, invite only. The person behind it, who was Queen of Trimaris, wrote this letter found here: https://www.facebook. com/notes/ogier-larmurier/letter-to-the-bod/163344672055105/ (take the space out between the dot and the com, because I’m not linking to it. This post was written before their letter, but it demonstrates the lack of personal accountability and inability to see their own privilege that I talk about all the time.

Another day, another letter to the BoD…

——————

To the Board of Directors,

My name is Drew Nicholson. In the SCA, I am known as Andreas Blacwode. I live in the MidRealm, and I have been an SCA member for over 30 years.

I know that you have been receiving a lot of letters about the recent changes made in collaboration with the Corporate DEI Officer, Jessica Van Hattem, (who, by the way, is doing an amazing job, along with John Fulton and Lis Schraer) and that many of the letters are being sent by members of the SCA who are unhappy with this direction of the SCA towards inclusion, equity, and diversity.

My letter today is written to urge you to continue to support the DEI Office, and indeed, to expand its scope and mandate. But even more so, I am writing today to urge the Board of Directors, specifically, to hold the line, and to continue to expel those who have consistently and continually shown that they are unable to abide by the SCA Statement of Core Values. Rather than name specific individuals, I am going to talk about two specific concepts that I want to focus on as recommendations to the Board to consider in all deliberations:

1. The recognition of Speech Acts
2. Separating Rank from Sanctionable Actions

All SCA participants are called to conduct themselves in accordance with the SCA’s Statement of Core Values[1]. These values do not place one set of political views over another, nor do they require someone to give up their personal opinions on anything. What they do establish is a Code of Conduct – IE, all SCA participants are expected to act in certain ways.

1. Speech Acts

I submit to the Board that having a personally held belief is not the same thing as making that belief known – especially on social media, where statements can be shared, in their entirety, with hundreds or thousands of people.

As an obvious example, there is a difference between thinking “I don’t believe that trans women are women,” and posting it on Facebook. While I disagree with the former, it’s a personally held belief that, when not acted on, is mostly harmless. However, when the statement “I don’t believe that trans women are women” is posted on a FB account that is obviously associated with the SCA and/or an SCA participant, it violates many, if not all of the SCA’s Core Values – because once posted on Facebook, or spoken aloud at an event, for that matter, it is no longer a just a personally held belief. It is a Speech Act[2] – a statement that does not just reflect a meaning or opinion; but one that is designed to get things done.

There is an implied action in statements such as:

“I don’t believe that trans women are women [and I won’t treat them the way they think they should be].”
“I don’t believe that gay marriage is valid [and I refuse to recognize that relationship].”
“The biggest problem for black people is black-on-black crime [therefore I am going to treat black people like criminals].”

When statements like this are made public, and they have the names of senior, highly-ranked & respected SCA Peers and Royal Peers attached, they have an influence in two ways. First, we regard SCA Peers and Royal Peers as exemplars, and if an exemplar acts this way, it suggests to non-peers that they should emulate that behavior. Secondly, these statements have a Chilling Effect[3] on participation; they make the SCA unwelcoming to people who do not fit the mold of what appears to be desired. These kinds of statements actively drive potential new SCA participants away.

Once posted or spoken, these statements are no longer just personally held beliefs. Facebook is not a secret diary, or a private letter to family.

When you write something on social media, that is no different than saying it in a large group of people or putting it up on a billboard for all to see.

Doing this is an action, and the actions detailed above absolutely violate the SCA Statement of Core Values.

2. Separating Rank from Sanctionable Actions

We all have unconscious, or implicit, biases. We learn them from our families, from our communities, and from the societies in which we live. They tend to favor our own in-groups – people like us — although not always. These implicit biases become part of our perspectives, and manifest in both our verbal and non-verbal communications. They influence us even when we are unaware of them.[4]

I submit to the Board that these biases do not manifest just about race, or gender identity, or economic class; nor are they only formed when we are children. They also manifest in adults, and about other things, such as rank in the SCA. As I said above, the SCA teaches us to respect peers and people with coronets, which means many SCAdians develop favorable unconscious biases about them. This can lead us to make excuses for Knights, Pelicans, Laurels, Masters of Defense, and Royal Peers when they do something wrong. This is a version of something called the Halo Effect[5], wherein people who think highly of an individual in one way are likely to think of them highly in several other ways – i.e., if we think someone is a good fighter, we may also think they’re chivalrous, or charismatic.

The only way to challenge and change unconscious bias is with introspection and reflection, but it is difficult and takes time. In addition to that, I recommend that the Board of Directors seek to minimize unconscious bias by using more immediately applicable techniques. One method could be for the names and ranks of the offenders to be anonymized as much as possible when the BoD deliberates on the results of the investigation.

Consider: are certain actions acceptable from someone who has been in the SCA for two months or two years? Why, then, would they be acceptable from a Viscount or a Knight or a Landed Baroness?

Anonymization is used in corporations around the globe that want to reduce unconscious bias in hiring. There are applications that remove candidate names and photos to enable hiring managers to focus on skills and experience, such as Blendoor.com, or Ubias.io, a Google Chrome extension that removes faces and names from LinkedIn profiles. While there may not be specific automation or technologies that could do this for the SCA Board of Directors, the results of investigations could still be anonymized manually for the purposes of reporting to the BoD, and then vote before the names and ranks of the people being investigated are revealed. Even if you do not choose to do that, I sincerely hope that the Directors will think about unconscious bias and how it might be affecting their deliberations.

Why Does this Matter?

This matters because there is a Facebook group, called “Revolution for the Dream”, administered by a Royal Peer who reigned with someone who was sanctioned by the Board of Directors recently for poor conduct. Many of the participants of that group are Peers or Royal Peers who are unhappy with the steps the SCA has taken. They have forgotten what it is like to be young and unsure of themselves and they have forgotten how it feels to be excluded. They are mounting a concerted effort to roll back the progress that the SCA has made in the areas of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. They want to force the BoD to reverse or end the sanctions that have been implemented against some of their more problematic friends. They are unable to discern their own unconscious biases. And I believe that they think that your joint experience with them means that you will unconsciously favor them.

Why? Because the Board of Directors is made up of seven people, with one additional Director-Elect. Of those eight people, four are royal peers. Six hold a bestowed peerage. Four are double peers. Only one member of the current Board holds neither a royal nor bestowed peerage. You have all worked hard for the accolades with which you have been recognized. The average SCAdian feels that the BoD is in very rarified territory – but the people in this “Revolution” group do not understand or do not care. I urge you to recognize this, and I urge you to make a conscious decision to represent all of the SCA – especially those who are of minority populations – in your deliberations regarding the deeds that other, more popular and powerful SCAdians have committed, to make the SCA less welcoming, less diverse, and less equitable.

  • I stand in favor of the proposed revisions to the Introduction to the Governing Documents.
  • I stand in support of the Corporate Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and its mission.
  • I stand in appreciation for the work the Board of Directors has done to make the SCA a more welcoming place.

In service and in song, I am,

Magister Andreas Blacwode

Companion of the Order of the Pelican
Baron of the Court of William & Isolde
Participant of the SCA for Thirty Years.
MKA Drew Nicholson, Member #73128
______________________________

[1] https://www.sca.org/sca-code-of-conduct-core-values/
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speech_act
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilling_effect
[4] For more on Unconscious Bias, see https://www.americanbar.org/…/unconscious-bias-implicit-bi…/
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_effect

cc:
John Fulton, President, SCA, Inc.
Lis Shraer, VP for Operations, SCA, Inc.
Jessica Van Hattem, Corporate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, SCA, Inc.

Peddler of Bombast, Man of Parts.
Ka is a wheel.
Haec officia officialis honesti.
Merda aspera est, eho.

Words are Hard

Originally published June 4, 2020.

At work, I’m a manager, and a portfolio lead. I do my job with words.

In my personal coaching & mentoring efforts, I do my job with words.

In the SCA, I’m a clerk, an advisor, an administrator, a mentor, and a leader. I do my job with words.

And words are so very very hard.

I messed up today, and I’m sorry. I’m not going to call the person I offended out, because that’s putting more work on them. They know who they are, and I hope they see this.

I will delete -every- comment that gets made here, because I’m not looking for absolution or encouragement from all of my friends. I know you’re supporting me. This post isn’t about me. It’s about recognition of mistakes, and trying to do better. Please respect this.

The point of this post is to say this:

Words are hard. Be careful with them. Think about how what you’re saying affects the people you’re saying them to.

I read what I’ve written above, and I already know that I’m not saying it right. It doesn’t matter. I’m sorry, and I’ll try to do better.

Being a Leader Means Saying You’re Sorry

Originally published on Facebook June 20, 2019.

So, what’s the most important attribute of leadership? What’s the most important skill to learn as a leader?

I think it’s the ability to apologize. When you’re a leader of people, and you make a mistake, or mess up, or snap back at someone needlessly, if you want to have any chance of recovering your relationship with the people you lead, you absolutely must be able to offer a genuine, meaningful apology.

It’s not enough to feel bad. It’s not enough to vow, privately, to be or do better. You need to make them know it and feel it in their hearts.

To me, if you can’t do this, you’re not actually leading people — you’re simply telling them what to do.

You Can’t Run From the Things You’ve Done

Originally published April 18, 2019.

So I have a fair number of SCA friends who have two Facebook profiles. They do it for a variety of reasons: their job, their desire to keep groups of friends separated, their family doesn’t care for the SCA, and far be it from me to ever tell someone that they’re doing the SCA or Facebook wrong — you do you boo.

But there are some people who keep separate profiles because they say that “Bob Smith” is a different person from “Robert the Smith”. And, again, if that’s what you want, go for it, but I don’t, personally, think that it works. And it has to do with a fundamental belief and a fundamental part of my SCA philosophy.

People are who they show you they are.

There is no SCA life vs Real life, there’s just Life, and you are accountable for your choices.

The vast majority of my friends are in the SCA. I barely dated outside the SCA. I met my first wife in the SCA, and I met my second wife through an SCA friend. I go to something like 20-26 SCA events a year. I used to schedule my vacation time around the SCA. Heck, when I was in college, I’d quit my summer jobs in July because I knew I was going to go to Pennsic. For almost all of us, the SCA is a permanent, intertwined part of our lives. People like to say that it’s “just a hobby” but it’s really not. It’s our social universe. It’s our place to be. It’s our chosen family. And we are who we show people we are.

So if you’re a good person in the world of computers and electric stoves and carbon fiber, you’re likely to be a good person in the world of spears, vikings, madrigals. If you’re a shitty person in the world of banks and cars and televisions, you’re likely to be a shitty person in the world of catapults and pavilions and scrolls. And if you need to change the way people look at you, it’s probably going to take decades of work and disappointment. Ask me how I know.

In the end, you can’t run from the things you’ve done by creating a new Facebook profile for yourself. In the end, the truth comes out.

People are who they show you they are. And Life is just Life.

Respect vs Courtesy

Originally posted January 5, 2019.

I posted this on LinkedIn, but I think it has relevance here to, in the SCA and non-corporate life.

Respect vs Courtesy

I frequently see people say that we should always treat other people with Respect and at the same time, I frequently see people say that Respect is earned. It seems to me that this is because people are using the word “respect” in two different ways, and in one of those ways, we really should be using the word Courtesy instead.

Courtesy is something granted anyone I meet. It’s being polite. It’s being kind. It’s doing things like learning preferred pronouns and using them, or working to pronounce a name properly. Speaking to someone disrespectfully is really speaking to them with dis-courteousness.

Respect is earned. It’s the product of a relationship. It’s not that I don’t respect you, I just don’t know you yet. So as I get to know you, I will (hopefully) begin to respect you. That means that I will share things with you that I don’t share with people I don’t know.

If I had to put them on a kind of a timeline of a relationship, a positive one would go something like this:

Courtesy —> Respect —> Trust