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Courtesy: An Immigrant's Perspective


Vniuerso populo Rose Iucunde, Dominus humilis Ambrosius Caliensis,

Unto the patronage of the Merry Rose, doth the humble Lord Ambrosius
Caliensis send Greetings.

	At the risk of arousing the rancour of the populace of my new
home, I feel nonetheless obligated to offer an 'immigrant's' or
'foreigner's' commentary upon the recent thread concerning chivalry,
courtesy, and, in general, That Which Is Right, in the context of the

	My Societal 'birthplace' and home until a couple of years ago
was Atenveldt, specifically the Barony of Tir Ysgithr. I feel
fortunate to have been introduced to the Society in a kingdom/barony
where courtesy is exceptionally prized, and am apprenticed to the
particular Laurel to whom I am because, among other things, he
likewise prizes chivalry and courtesy, formal and informal, in a
particularly keen fashion.

	I had of course expected to feel some considerable changes
when I came here. I knew that few other kingdoms were as deeply
arts-oriented as the one from which I came, and, being a Early
Musician and linguist (Mediaeval Latin), this disappointed me
considerably, but I was prepared to make the best of it. (Also, it
would be well for one thus to bear in mind that I am addressing
matters from the perspective of a Gentle and non-fighter; but the
sentiments should be, I believe, transferable.) What I was not
prepared for was the utter cultural shock from the basic roots of what
I expect from the Society.

	When I go to an SCA event, there is a certain experience that
I seek. I am not, in the majority of cases, finding it here. If I
wanted to find common mundane attitudes and topics of conversation,
there is no reason for me to spend many weekends and large portions of
a paltry income to find it; all I need to do is step out onto the
streets of Washington. There is a certain atmosphere at an event where
I come from; I don't think anyone who was raised here and has never
been to, say, an Atenveldtan investiture, would be able to understand
this. This atmosphere comes from, among other things, a more deeply-
rooted seating of the ideals of the Society, and a more serious
attitude towards the re-creational (as opposed to recreational) aspect
of our game. Meaningful ceremony was prized (yes, that makes things
pompous; but court life in period WAS pompous, so no apology is
offered), and courtesy and respect were held as the cornerstones of
what we do. This major lack is primarily due to the wanting of a lot
of little but important things which contribute to that atmosphere:
kneeling in the presence of Their Majesties, and bowing whenever
anyone with metal on his or her head passes by (which is a little
easier in Atenveldt, since anyone below a court baron is prohibited
from wearing even an ornamented circlet), and even half-bowing or
nodding respectfully to those whom you pass, royalty or not; being
introduced and addressed by my Societal and NOT my mundane name when
at an event; seeing people make a reasonable attempt to keep mundane
conversation at a minimum; and many other things which I must admit I
took for granted back 'home', but find little of her
	What I found when I came here (and here in particular is where
I am walking close to the border of incurring a great deal of enmity)
was a very distinct and disturbing 'costume-party' mentality, and a
pervasive lack of interest in the idealistic pursuit of the
re-creational and hence chivalric aspects of the Society, which, by
definition, is an integral part and purpose thereof. There is here, if
what I have seen is evidence enough (and by 'here' is meant
specifically Northern Atlantia; I have never been to a Southern event
because of cost and travel time, so cannot speak for the situation
there), a considerable faltering in the Dream. I have mentioned this
to many people, and the response that I have gotten has ranged from
occasional agreement and commiseration to crass apathy and very rude
comments like 'well, I'm sorry, but this isn't California.'

	I do not mean by this missive to indulge in self-righteous
snobbery or nostalgia; any human institution has its difficulties, and
no place is immune to an 'idealistic shift,' to put it politely (and
to be fair, not even Atenveldt, from what I heard upon my recent
visit; it has its own problems, and similarly insidious hints of what
I see here in Atlantia). I do not subscribe to a swamp-stirring
mentality, so I will offer suggestions for the remedy of the perceived

	Firstly and foremostly, each and every one of us needs to ask
himself, 'for what does the Society stand?' and 'why am I here?' If
the answer to the first question is nebulous, and the answer to the
second is primarily 'to dress up and party' or 'to flirt', then there
is a very great problem. Each of us needs to answer these things for
himself, and then proceed thence. I was attracted to the Society by
the prospect of having a useful, somewhat practical outlet for my
abilities in language and early music, which I would not have
otherwise in the mundane world. I was also attracted by the prospect
of an entire group who took seriously and applied the mediaeval ideals
of chivalry and courtesy, and the sense of honour intimately attached
thereto; these things are very important to me mundanely as well as
Societally. I see cursed little of them in my day-to-day experiences,
and like to have the opportunity for a weekend, or even a day, to see
that they are not truly dead.

	When these things have been sorted out for oneself, then the
most obvious thing to do is put them into practice. And then, most
importantly of all,

				TO TEACH!!!

The general consensus of the many people to whom I have spoken upon
the subject has been that the Old Guard is tired, and, consequently,
the newcomers are not being taught about the Society and for what we
stand. I feel that if one truly think upon this for a minute, a lot
will become clear and be explained. What is happening in the Society
right now in this vein is a microcosm of what is happening in the
mundane world as well; but this is a gripe all to itself, and I shall
not go into it here. Let it suffice to be said that, as we have nearly
lost a generation mundanely, we are in grave danger of the same thing
happening Societally as well.

	How does one teach? Primarily, by the oldest and most
effective method of all: PER EXEMPLVM (by ensample). When the Crown
walks by and one bows, pretty soon others will start to notice, wonder
if perhaps they should not be doing the same thing, and then start
doing it. Pretty soon, people will come up and ask, 'what exactly
should one do in this type of situation?'; it is then up to those who
know to fill them in. This responsibility to teach is as much on our
shoulders as the responsibility to That Which Is Right itself. Bearing
neither of these is easy; I for one struggle with them at every event.

	Now that my homily is finished, I must offer again my
_mitigatio_. Once again, I speak only in general terms: I have of
course seen some really exceptional and noteworthy behaviour, and
commend it highly. I have deliberately refused to mention names or
specific instances (beyond the earlier unattributed quotation), _vt
dicam eque, neque ad pudorem nec laudem_ (that I may speak fairly,
neither for shame nor praise). What I have said here I mean only to be
the observations, hopefully well-received, of an 'outsider', and a
resonance of the call by others within this kingdom that something
must be done to improve the present general situation. I most
certainly do not mean to imply any ethical or conductual superiority
by this. We all slip from time to time; myself included, and more
frequently than I would wish at that. I believe (in a rare display of
optimism) that things can improve, but it will take the help of each
and every one of us.

	Let any criticisms or invective be directed at me, and me
alone, for these words are mine, and mine alone. Pray do not trouble
my Master if you have any dispute with what has been said herein, for
he has no part in this missive, for it has not his _imprimatur_, and
he will see it only at the same time as you all.

Satis dixi. ('Nuff said.)

In servitia Societati, Regno, Magistroque meo,

Dominus Ambrosius Caliensis

apud Molendinum Roxburiense, .xiij. die Iulij, Anno Societatis .xxxj.


Brian Cardell
a.k.a. Dominus Ambrosius Caliensis
School of Library and Information Science,
The Catholic Vniuersity of America,
VVashington, D.C.

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