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Re: Response to Proposed IAC Banishment Change

Unto all who read these words, most especially my good friends James and
Daniel, greetings from Yaakov.

While I have neither the wisdom nor the experience that I should dare to
raise my voice to so esteemed a peer of the realm and fellow bard, still I
shall express my thoughts, begging the indulgence of my friends and this
worthy company.  For I have spent no small time of my life in recent years,
and no small piece of my fortune, in contesting these very issues which
Master James addresses.

>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.

As do mine.

>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.

There is, perhaps, some cause for alarm, but your cure is far worse than
your disease.  and, as I shall show below, proceeds from false premises.
While the events in Atlantia are perhaps closer in your mind and heart,
some of us fear the Board far worse than any royalty.  this shall I make
clear below.

>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.

Again, i do not disagree with this point so much as with your conclusion.

>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.)

And, as I have not the original words of the proposal, I shall trust your

>As I understand the proposals,
>   1. Level 1 banishment powers, which the Kings already have, remain
>   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.

While I agree as a general rule, I disagree in the case of the level 1
banishment.  I see no ill in allowing a king to banish someone from his/her
sight.  In particular, this works if we will permit (as I have always seen)
the gentle in question to attend the event "in disguise."  For the other
levels of banishment, I agree that process must provide a chance for the
accused to clear him/herself.

For myself, i would we moved more toward the manner of a genuine period
court of law.  I would see more period methods used to solve our internal
disputes.  And please, spare me the typical japes and jests of trial by
tourney and combat.  These had fallen into disuse well into our period (and
trial by ordeal was banned by no less a figure than the Pope in the 13th
century).  They had means of determining justice then and they may well
suit us now.  Further, such resolutions would well serve us by reminding us
of the nature of the game we play, and of distancing our true selves from
the dispute.   But I have written upon this matter elsewhere at length.

>   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.

On this I would speak at length.  For herein is the matter of great
contention over which many of us have fought long and hard.  in sooth,
James, I had not known you worshipped at the tired and anceint font of this
decrepit bogey-man.  I shall submit the following to you:

1) what proof is there that, without a central authority, the SCA would
splinter apart?

I shall offer many poroofs that it does not.  First, our history bespeaks
both the desire and the ability to work together when we chose.  The
Estrella Accords, the Estrella Treaty, The White Scarf Compact, the annual
Pennsic War.  What has the Board done to facilitate these?  Is it like some
Holy Spirit which hovers o'er these negotiations and bends mens minds and

Nay!  it is rather our own free spirits.  That we, desiring to play
together for the greater good, *do* come together.

I shall say further, the Board by its presence does more to hinder the
common work of the kingdoms and their desires to play together and thereby
causes much harm.  For by setting themselves to review all major decisions,
they paralize action.

2) There be many other cultures, science fcition fandom, mineral and gem
clubs, folk dance societies, etc., etc. which preserve a common culture
without the need of a central coordinating body.  Somehow, the science
fiction fans of the world manage to hold a convention every year, vote on
awards, and decide where to hold future cons.  Is our hubris so great that
we believe ourselves unique in the world?

3) Have the events of the last few years so quickly faded from your mind?
Two men, Provine and Seely, high-jacked the Board and took us on a ride
from Hell?  Did you *want* to fill out waivers *every* *blinkin'* *event*
and *every* *fight* *practice*? It is in *this* body of seven self-selected
individuals, over whom the Society at large has no hold, over whom it took
a *court* *order* to require them to obey their own by-laws, to *these* you
would entrust your hopes to defend us from tyranny?

Perhaps I am peculiar, but i do not love seven tyrants who rule from a
distance any more than I love one who rules at hand.

>   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.)

I agree this is a problem, as are the abuses that could follow.  But the
solution is not to await seven folk on horseback to rule with another iron
fist.  the solution is to draft better laws within our kingdom.

[other abuses delted]

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

This is a foolishness, and a great one.  I will not dispute the
difficulties in Atlantia.  But I have lived in the East and know it can be
otherwise.  Has it occured to you, friend James, that the world is not
Atlantia, nor Atlantia the world?  that the problems of Atlantia are best
dealt with in Atlantia by Atlantians?

Indeed, I would argue that the Board bears equal blame for the problems of
Atlantia.  For if we were free to act on our own, we might find some
solution to our diffculties.  instead, we are bound within this "common
framework" which *deliberately* shifts power and authority upward.  Even
Bedford need not feel responsible for his actions, for if they were truely
eveil, surely the Board would stop him?

>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.

Part of it depends on how "banishment" is interpreted.  On of the things
I've noticed about this kingdom is that the king and banishment are taken
*far* more seriously here than in the East.

I submit, good James, that the fault lies in Atlantia, and it is in
atlantia that it must be fixed.  Not by the Board, nor intercessors from
Heaven, but here.

[exercise in name changing to get around rhetoric delted]

>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."

Stuff and nonesense.  You have shown not one whit of proof that the Board
serves any useful purpose in promoting "the Dream."

>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.

And therefore do I so respond, for when a peer of your stature and wisdom
falls so deeply into error (as revealed below) even we common folk must
stand and make our voices heard.

>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.

By Heaven!  I have not fought through ill-feelings, personal threat, threat
to my fortune, and threat to my reputation to see the first few encouraging
signs of victory fall by the wayside because some stick-jock in Atlantia
gives kings a bad name.  Master James, I know you have not been ill for the
last two years, but perhaps your current feelings towards the crown have
obscured the lessons we have learned.  Do you truely think that what is
good for Meridies must be good for Drachenwald?  What is good for the West
is good for Atlantia?  For that is what central control means.  One patter
for all.  Worse, we have *seen* the damage this has caused.  Mandatory
membership, an increase in dues (still not decreased), a 'waiver' which
would have voided health coverage and needed to be signed at *every*
*practice*.  THIS is what central control nearly got us.  And the people
screamed beneath its yoke.

James, do you think that a seven headed monster is more wise than one? Is a
tyrant who need not live among those he oppresses so much better than one
who at least must worry somewhat for his reputation among us?  Nor do I
speak, as you do, of mere conjenctures and wishful fantasies of some
benevolent dictator who will save us from oppression.  We have SEEN wnat
the Board does when its power is unfettered.  Need I remind you what steps
it took to force the Board to obey its own by-laws?  Let alone to take
advice contrary to its wishes?

Have you ever tried to reason with the Board, James?  Have you ever had the
"pleasure" of a group organism, each part noble and meaning aught but good,
but somehow combining so as to paralize its best parts and commmon sense?
You speak of a king refusing to listen to contrary counsel.  Need I mind
you it took the threat of secession by Ansteora and Calontir to make the
Board heed the protests of the knowne world?  I was one of those threatened
by a Board member with banishment for daring to press our rights and speak
freely.  One of the Board's creatures attempted to intimidate me by threat
of a law suit for daring to print derogatory statements of fact and
opinion.  And these are those whom you would trust to maintain our freedom?

I do not speak ill of those who sit on the Board, but I cannot subscribe to
James' wishful thinking that seven men on horseback will ride in and save
Atlantia from evil.  While they may indivdually wish to do well, I fear the
current structure of the Board and its central authority acts to the
detriment of the goals of the SCA and to the "Dream."  But of this I have
written at length elsewhere, and others have spoken more eloquently than I.

I thank you my friends, for enduring this overlengthy response.  Indeed, I
should hope and pray that we all remain friends, though we speak bluntly
and plainly to each other.  For this issue speaks to the heart.  And we
would do well to remember that we are all here for our mutual companionship
and exchange of ideas.  Nor should anyone think, even for amoment, that I
hold my friend Master James in any less esteem or friendship than before,
nor do I intend him any insult.  If my language seems over strong, it is
merely that I speak on matters dear to my heart, and of experience
purchased painfully.

In Service,
Mar Yaakov HaMizrachi

Harold Feld
Yaakov HaMizrachi

"Do not ask 'Why are these days not as good as the days of old?' This
question is not prompted by wisdom." -Eccl.