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Portland Syndrome
[02/12/2007] [Randall]

The Kingdom of Blackspire just voted in nearly enough numbers to impeach an king to allow a former officer guilty of felony theft to run for office again. Before I get your hopes up, this isn't an article bashing on Blackspire. The problem we're seeing isn't one unique to the Pacific Northwest. They just happened to be the most recent and egregious example of the tendency of Amtgarders to unite for all the wrong reasons. For a group that can't look at a single rule without coming away with four completely incompatible viewpoints, we seem to band together with alarming frequently whenever it comes time to do something well and truly stupid. And what is stupid, if not allowing a criminal to run for office? We're a club that will see friendships die over the debate on class sashes, but we'll forgive, time and time again, theft, assault, and abuse.

The problem, like most in Amtgard, stems from our essential nerdiness. Amtgard grew up priding itself on being somewhere where we could all be comfortable in our geekdom, but this has gone from being a blessing to a curse. Our members are often too emotionally stunted, and too afraid of rejection themselves, to see the distinction between forgiveness and common sense. Everybody wants acceptance, but it gets screwed up because the predators - and that's what people who steal from Amtgard are - aren't motivated by acceptance. Amtgard predators are interested in fooling you to get what they want.

Predators define themselves not in terms of forgiveness, acceptance, and common nerdity. Instead, they have self-esteem issues all their own, and those issues are dealt with not through the common experience of laughing around Clan campfires but through the aquisition of power. It doesn't matter that power in Amtgard is nothing more than getting to wear the shiny hat in a club full of boffer nerds, not any more than it mattered to bullies in elementary school that the people who gave them the right of way were the smallest. Power isn't the point; the power to abuse people and get away with it is. These excreciable people can't make it in the real world, and that's why they dedicate their energies and malfeasance to hurting us. They want power, and stealing from you and abusing your trust is a manifestation of that power. Pathologically abusing your trust to convince you to forgive them is yet another.

We are enablers, you and I, and we have a choice: we can take a stand, or we can be culpable in this mess.

Amtgarders fool themselves over the issues of forgiveness and trust by drawing a false distinction between forgiveness and forgetting. We lie to ourselves and say we will forgive predators for their wrongdoing but not forget, when in truth we are doing both. What will "not forgetting" get us? We will lie and say we will watch carefully when predators serve in office again and again. . . so we can do what? Punish them again when they steal from us again? If we did that, we'd be doing nothing more than what we did the first they we were abused. And that, in the grand scheme of things, was to do nothing but take it. We set the bar so low on redemption that a person can do nothing more than not abuse us for awhile and we'll let bygones be bygones.

In the real world, this is the pathology of domestic abuse.

Amtgard is terrified - absolutely terrified - of punishing our own. Criminal officers get elected by cowardly populaces and cannot bring themselves to strip belts from evil knights or call the cops when people steal. Years ago, a Prime Minister robbed my kingdom of hundred of dollars. If you haven't been paying attention, you'd think stripping the belt would have been an open and shut decision - but no. Too many people were too afraid that a stripped belt would put their own knighthood in jeopardy. That the belt got stripped in the end was a testament to a good monarch standing up against this idiotic syndrome - this Portland Syndrome, or whatever you want to call it - that convinces Amtgarders to let themselves be taken again and again, and to vote in overwhelming numbers to send a message to predators that we want nothing more than for them to do it again. When will enough be enough?

If this is 'The Dream', then wake me up. It's a dream only to those who want to prey on our good intentions. We see the park and we see hope. They see the park and they see dollar signs. This isn't a dream. It's a nightmare.

Raise the bar on redemption so that it requires honest work, not cynical patience. Demand real accountability from your officers so that our rulers are our best, not our bullies. And stop being a tool in the process of enabling the predators among us.

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