Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do and Why

Ælflæd of Duckford

"Are you a good politician, or a bad politician?"

"Why, I'm not a politician at all - I'm Dorothea deGale, from Calontir."

The first month I joined the Society my mentor, Lady Sybilla von Drachenstor (now Lady Simonetta Ambrosini) told me the SCA was very political. I didn't know what that meant. I'd understood all she had said about the structure and the rules and the responsibilities of officers, but "politics" was truly not a concept I had. A little over six months later I was seneschal of the Principality of the Outlands and I began to understand, but I think I understood it in a different way from the self-professed "politicians" of the time.

"Politics" covers all interactions between and among people. The adjective "politic" means tactful and prudent. Those who take pride in their total non-involvement in politics are really bragging about having no knowledge of nor concern with the feelings of others, nor any hand or responsibility in the management of their groups. "I never get mixed up in politics" tends to mean "I don't do anything except sit in my own camp." Bragging about lack of service seems to be unique to this organization.

This dictionary definition is not the Outlands' working definition of politics. Let's take a couple of hypothetical lords: Lord Jamie works hard, holds firm to his beliefs, and gets things done. We like what he does. He gets a Pelican. Lord Kyle works hard, clings stubbornly to his beliefs and gets things done we wish he hadn't gotten done. That's politics. Review: You like what they do / you understand how they did it = dedicated servant. You don't like what they do / you can't figure out how they pulled it off = dirty politician. (If there is a Kyle or Jamie out there, forgive me; I'm unaware of any at this writing.)

There are many situations which require political skill. Preparing petitions for advancement to official shire status, or barony status (Unser Hafen's was wonderful - the work of Baron Dirik Reversen), or kingdom status (I was flattered when what took me one evening to draft and another to polish was held up as something that "had to have taken weeks." Thank you, thank you.) Sometimes good people are so hurt by circumstances that they consider leaving the Society. If someone is able to engineer a soothing and face-saving solution to the problem which makes everyone involved feel more noble in the process, a great service to the Society has been performed, and a supremely political act. Henry Kissinger had to start small sometime. When management is sloppy or botched, it's branded with the big "P" word. When attempts at management work out well, well ...

So if you want to be considered a politician, go out and botch some stuff up. If you want to be of great service to the Society, go out and be a really good politician.

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