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Response to Proposed IAC Banishment Change

Unto the Chairman of the IAC, and to the Board of Directors of the SCA, does
Master James of Rutland send greetings.

The proposed IAC Changes to Banishment were put online by our Kingdom
Seneschal, Master Thomas, (for which, thanks) with a request for comments.
Mine follow.

I am alarmed at the Council's proposals for changes to the banishment laws,
as presented in the IAC Chairman's letter to Kingdom Seneschals.  I do not
consider them in the Society's best interests;  they are bad enough in
themselves, but are also part of a much larger problem which needs to be

The larger problem is the governance of the regions (Kingdoms) of the
Society.  The kings have power, and these proposals will give them more, at
the expense of the corporation and of individuals.  And I do not like power
in any one person/couple's hands, much less those chosen by the present method.

As far as I am concerned, the Kings in the Society have grown from being
Lord of the Tourney and Autocrat of the Next Tourney into something
resembling an actual governor of their region of the Society.  This is
arguably not in the best interests of the Society, since the Seneschalate is
corporately responsible and the Kings seem not to be.  Seneschals are
governed by their Corporate officer.  If we had an Emperor to whom the
Crowns had to report and were responsible, I might believe otherwise.  As it
is, the Crowns are chosen by who was the better fighter, or in the case of
Atlantia all too often,  who can call "light" the most, and appear
responsible to no one.  No crown would choose a great officer so.  There is
no quality control.  There is no stability.  Simply by winning a tourney,
any person can change the regional bylaws of a nonprofit educational
organization.  It is time to realize how rediculous that situation is.  

I wish to summarize what I perceive as the salient points of the proposal,
list my fears, and then give Atlantia's example of why I fear such power in
a King's hands.  (For "King", insert Royals, Throne, whichever word operates
for you.) 

As I understand the proposals,
   1. Level 1 banishment powers, which the Kings already have, remain unchanged.
   2. The Level 2 banishments and the proposed new banishment will no longer
be open to automatic review or appeal from the Board.  In essence, the King
will be the highest authority in a banishment which can, in effect, remove
any Kingdom officeholders disagreeing with the King.
   3. The limit of royal banishments need not end as they have with the
banisher's reign, but will extend farther if so stated by the king.
   4. A banishment may follow a banished individual if he/she leaves the
Kingdom which banished him/her.

My fears in a nutshell:
   1. I do not like banishment without stated cause at anybody's whim, much
less the whim of those who won the position that empowers the banishment on
the strength of their arm rather than the strength of their mind.
   2. There is no higher authority to tell a King he's wrong, and they
are...regularly.  Plus it is a major step towards the decentralization of
the SCA into thirteen squabbling regions governed by-- at best-- benevolent
dictators.  And I don't think we'd be THAT lucky with the dictators we'd
get.  Furthermore, I fear decentralization as leaving no one with power to
enforce the rules that make everyone play the same game from region to
region.  There is little enough enforcement already and this would make it
that much less.
   3. Our current crop of kings in Atlantia try not to contradict previous
kings.  This does not bode well for any appeal of a banishment, nor are the
appeal safeguards mentioned in your letter mandatory.  I certainly can't see
our kings installing them.   (Nor am I happy about the way our courts of
inquiry are chosen;  I admit  frankly, any king who would NOT choose persons
who thought like himself would be either a saint or a fool; but there is no
guarantee of impartiality.  I mention this only as a side issue, but one
needing Atlantia-internal attention.)
   4. A king who banishes could send judgement after an individual, at best
trying to be binding on another kingdom, at worst sending a good person who
fell afoul of the King no recourse to play the game somewhere else.  Which
leads to:
   5. Banishment is envisioned as a punishment for cause;  I fear it being
used as a gag order with no recourse.  We might as well say that a King can
banish someone for witchcraft.

Now.  Atlantia's Nasty Example, from which I infer a Society-wide problem.  

The single person who has been our King the most often seems to be the worst
of the abusers of the Throne here.  I refer to
Duke-Duke-Duke-Duke-Sir-unSir-Sir Michael of Bedford.

It was Michael who did the last Level 2 banishment here.  The cause as
stated was not held sufficient by the Board.  The Board did uphold the
banishment due to SUBSEQUENT action... which was, in effect, defying the
banishment which the Board held to have insufficient cause in the first place.  
The banishee was a known and vocal enemy of Bedford.
Bedford marshalled his last Crown, and as far as my opinion goes, rhinohided
by proxy for one in his combined household against another known enemy, in
Crown finals.
The Person In His Combined Household, of course, upheld Michael's banishment
and says that the Board upheld it.  It seems a strange interpretation of the
phrase, "not upheld for stated cause."
And this proposal gives these people MORE power and nothing to check them.

One of the major things enabling people to deal with an idiot on the throne
is the fact that any reign lasts only six months, ditto its effects.  The
Council's proposals seek to end that limit.  Furthermore, they open a fine
set of potential problems with interkingdom relations.  Is King A able to
tell/suggest to King B and his people how to act in relation to Citizen C,
who is moving from one kingdom to another?  Does Citizen C need such an
albatross around his neck?  Maybe he does.  Just as likely he is a good
worker, like our last Level 2 banishment, with a big mouth that fell afoul
of a King who would have used any excuse against an enemy...For every King
that has been good in Atlantia (in my experience; I've only been in about
ten years), we have had as many and more (counting reigns) who acted like
the worst of the Plantagenets.  I will say, on the thrones' side, that good
use is never remembered the way that a flaming abuse is...but we have had
abuse.  And the proposed revisions to the banishments would give the thrones
effective gag powers, open to misuse.

Nor am I quiet in my mind that the winners of a tourney should even have
Level One banishment powers without stated cause.  Everybody else has to put
up with their personal enemies and be gracious about it; most REAL kings had
to, unless there was some issue of law involved--say treason.  And frankly,
"treason" has two connotations in the Society.  The first concerns an action
or actions that are not to the Society's-- or a region's-- good, or that
actively does harm.  The second appears to be disagreement with whoever is
on one's kingdom's  throne.  I cannot in conscience agree with that.  Gossip
credits Mistress Jaelle of Armida with the phrase, "if disagreeing with the
king is treason, vivat treason".  I heartily support modern freedom of
speech and believe that I'm not alone.  If a person's actions have harmed
the Society, banishment may be appropriate-- BUT that banishment should not
be any one person's view.  Perhaps the Throne WITH the Seneschal... and then
try like hell to see that the Seneschal is his/her own person and not the
King's shadow.

I would like to propose a little exercise in naming that should cut through
some of the rhetoric that a chunk of the Society seems trapped in.  Let us
call the Society-- a Nonprofit Educational Organization.  Better yet, let us
call it the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes.  (Remember the Flintstones?)
Its members put on buffalo hats and go to meetings.  Let us call a Kingdom--
a Region.  A King-- a Ceremonial Head of a Region of a Nonprofit Educational
Organization.  Better yet, call him a Grand Poobah, the Ceremonial Head of a
Region of the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes.

Now.  I think that becoming Poobah on the strength of winning an individual
contest of physical strength/skill does not give any assurance that the
Poobah so chosen can do his job.  Whether the job is defined as actual
control over the affairs of that Region of the Water Buffaloes, or defined
as a ceremonial position where the Poobah is a good actor with a voice that
can be heard by the whole meeting and whose job is to hand out honors to
deserving Buffaloes, I cannot see that a physical contest has anything to do
with the job description.  Nor need a Poobah be strong-- Poobahs have
champions and after all do not HAVE to fight their own battles.  It used to
be that there was one litmus test, which now has fallen by the wayside: that
Poobahs had to expend their own money, which was on the order of several
thousand dollars per term of office; this tended to limit the field of
would-be Poobahs to those who thought that the service to the Non.Ed.Org.
justified such personal sacrifice.  Now, of course, there are Poobah Travel
Funds, Hospitality Funds (which seem to free up funds to get the Poobah and
his guests drunk, and give presents to other Poobahs.  These presents used
to be given by various Buffaloes to a Poobah, when Poobahs had earned their
respect; now it seems that such presents have to be bought, which argues
that Poobahs have not earned any respect lately.)  There is now no obstacle
to anyone seeking to be a Poobah, for it involves privilege, power, and is
more and more paid for.

It is perhaps the place here to object to the accretion of privileges to
this tourney prize.  I object, as I am sure others do, to monies contributed
to my Region from MY event fees going up, MY labor at events, et cetera,
going to one #$%& of a free lunch for someone like le Bedford who wouldn't
even sit his own courts.  And I as an individual normally refuse to be a
guest of an event, say, where I have been asked to teach dance.  This is
because I do not believe in being a burden on a group for doing what my rank
in the NonEdOrg calls for.  Not so our noble local Poobahs, who (according
to gossip) when our Twelfth Night was held in a hotel, required two separate
paid hotel rooms for two nights... out of the EVENT budget, which will not
show at the Kingdom level.  The rest of the population, if they wanted to
come, had to pay for a room or arrange lodging.  I can actually see
arranging for free lodging.  But that lodging can jolly well be crash space.
I have given up my own bed for Poobahs before, including our Current Poobah;
I am prepared to do that and encourage others to do so;  but paid lodgings
are squandering of corporate resources.  (All right, I'm a mundane
accountant who looks over travel accounts.  Call it expertise.)

Incidentally, paid lodging and etc. are a Form 1099 income to the Poobah..
so saith the IRS official I've talked to.. I DO hope Atlantia's Exchequer is
keeping track of paid perks...

When a person wins a contest and becomes Poobah, at least in my Region, he
has the power to elevate Buffaloes to honor; granted, he has to ask people's
opinions in many cases, but is not constrained to follow them;  he may
change the bylaws of the Region, again after asking opinion and publishing
intent, but again does not have to take advice given.  As a matter of fact,
so long as he observes the forms, he can do just about anything he wishes.
Atlantia's Poobahs of the last three or four years have been aggressively
trying to increase the power of the Poobahs;  the current Poobah is on
record (well, it was supposed to be a private conversation, but then the
last banishment was based on what was supposed to be a private conversation.
Obviously, there are no private conversations in this Region.)  as saying
that he would not do anything what would decrease the power of the Poobahs.
Clearly this is not government with the welfare of the Non.Ed.Org. or
individual Buffaloes in mind.

As for the real, corporate governance of THIS Nonprofit Educational
Organization, the Board will get these recommendations from the Council.
Read this, Poobahs appointing for the most part ex-Poobahs to advance the
Poobah point of view.  That no Poobah would appoint a person NOT in consance
with his views goes without saying.  (That is perhaps the best reason for me
to say it now, and publicly.)  There is very little representation in the
American sense when the representatives all represent one party at the
expense of other views.  The Poobah Party is not everyone in the Regions.
Many of us would dearly love to see the Poobahs bound to some sort of
legislated, responsible conduct.  And that cannot happen if each Region is
free to go its own way.  

I sincerely fear that if this trend continues, the SCA will become in fact
thirteen (or more) separate, squabbling little entities with nobody to
maintain the regulations that keep us  in nonprofit-educational status.
Nobody will be able to maintain the rules that keep things (at least in
theory) the same from region to region, and there will be nobody to keep any
little tin Poobahs from acting like the Last of the Plantagenets.  Our wars
are supposed to be all in the name of chivalry, and I do not think they
would remain so.  Already the current crop of bards in the South of Atlantia
sing more about Atlantia than about the Dream.  This worries me.  It's a
very small step from "we're good" to "they're bad."

Therefore I am writing this letter, not only (as requested) back to the
Chairman of the IAC, but also as an open letter to the Board and on-line to
the population of Atlantia, to urge consideration of the IAC
recommendations--and the larger problem.  

I urge the Board NOT to implement the changes as recommended, but rather to
make changes in the other direction--limiting the power of the regions and
the ceremonial heads, and putting more power in the central authority.  I
would far rather have seven masters far off and a unified organization
therewith, than the "God and my right" mentality that I see at home.  That
is one of the things, like the Black Death, that we are better off without.
I would far rather see a more powerful Curia and Seneschalate-- corporately
responsible officials who are chosen for ability to administer and govern
well-- than our current experts in bashing heads.

And I would sincerely desire to see NOBODY have the power to limit anyone's
participation without valid, stated cause.  The one desirable thing in the
proposal letter was the sentence, "it is...desirable to open this process to
the light of day by requiring public statement for the reasons of a
banishment."  I would very much like to see that applied to Level One.  

My thanks for wading through this.  In service, 
Master James of Rutland,
James L. Dronenburg
3536 Cemetery Circle
Knoxville, MD  21758

Home Phone:  (301) 934-6515

using Master Daniel's E-mail

Daniel D. Weil