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The Scrooges of Amtgard
[12/24/2004] [Matthias]

Past topics and threads in the forums have dealt with "belt hunger", the getting of awards and which motivations in the pursuit of excellence are pure and which ones are impure, and why some of these impure motives deserve to be looked down upon and not be rewarded.

In this article I want to address the other side of the coin. The people who want to tear down instead of build up; the people who dislike seeing other people excel; the people who would rather see the worst in people rather than the best.

These are the people who will think a genuinely good fighter must be sluffing. These people despise someone who "takes charge" and regard him as a bully, egomaniac, or worse. These people see a fantastic artisan and think that the A&S judges who give them high marks are showing favoritism. These people are the type who will feel contempt for those who serve and help as suck-ups, brown-nosers, yes-men, gophers/"go-fors".

These people hate to see others succeed, and may feel some need to "keep them down" or "keep them in their place". They become stingy with the honors and accolades they bestow upon others, like the Scrooge of literature. In their zeal to find people who are "worthy", they fail to give credit where credit is due.

I'd be willing to bet that most of these "Scrooges" are veterans who have become comfortable in their position of prestige and accomplishment and may feel threatened by those with whom they would share that position. Others may be threatened by change itself, and merely project this fear on the up and coming "new blood". Whatever the reason, the Scrooge does not give adequate respect to the person who is doing well, not as much as he might respect his fellow veterans for doing the same thing. He maintains one standard for the "old blood" and one for the new.

In practical terms, this translates to fewer awards, the raising of expectations and standards for projects and services, and in general not giving the newer players the recognition they rightfully deserve. When a veteran fighter ends up ignoring hits from a new (and good) fighter because he thinks there's no way they should have hit (but the veteran would most likely have accepted the same hits from a fellow veteran), it is this same "Scrooge" syndrome at work.

What are the results of this attitude if it becomes pervasive? Contentment, security, and happiness for the Scrooges obviously (as all successful defense mechanisms do). Now, the Scrooges may not even know they are being intellectually dishonoest or biased ... but if they do, they still excuse it by saying it's really in the best interests of everyone (meaning them and theirs) to keep the game from being "ruined". When multiple Scrooges get together, this usually ends up as a clique.

But what is more important is the effects on the new players who are being mistreated. They may feel dissatisfaction, frustration, and eventually disillusionment. When they realize the deck is subtly or blatantly stacked against them, they will leave, or they will make alternative arrangements (such as going off and founding a separate group outside of the clique's sphere of influence). Barring secession, the most tragic result of all may happen: the new player just gives up and embraces mediocrity, because it's just not worth the trouble.

Some may say that their leaving would be more tragic, but I disagree -- the player who gives up and leaves Amtgard entirely has not let the situation crush his spirit; he has left in self-defense and will find some other place he can excel in. The one who stays and tolerates the bias lets the infection of complacency take hold. Maybe not entirely, but in this part of his life, it has. This is the tragedy of the whole situation.

It is not enough to encourage excellence in others. You must also be willing to give excellence its due when you find it. The more you tell someone, even indirectly, that they're not good enough, the more they will believe it.

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