|...And Justice For All
Justifying your behavior doesn't mean your behavior is just. I understand this far too well. As time goes on more of us (myself included) who justified our inappropriate behavior in the past are realizing this truth. We are witness to the parks destroyed, the relationships ruined, the newbies lost, the people hurt. It is a season of reaping, the seeds we planted have grown into a foul crop, high above ground where even we can no longer deny the produce.
Amtgard cannot expect to grow and exist with an outdated system. This is obvious. We have rule revisions, standardizations, nationwide co-operation, development of resources, and knowledge sharing. Equipment technology grows, arts reach heights not even imagined 10 years ago, and games continue to be re-evaluated and reworked for the better.
But alas Candide, everything is not best, in this best of all possible worlds. We wield high quality weapons while wearing intricate garb, playing in imaginative, balanced, enjoyable games. And yet we lack development in our treatment of those outside our circles and/or similarity.
When an awkward kid comes out to Amtgard, this may be the first place they've ever felt comfortable. Many of us were that awkward kid. I look around and see that there will always be awkward kids in Amtgard, but I see far too many former pariahs who have turned into piranhas. Groups that laud derision have become the example. It doesn't matter who extols a bad example, how respected they are, how highly they may think themselves to be, or how they justify their behavior. It is still a bad example.
We cannot continue to accept certain behaviors. We cannot afford the new boss to be the same as the old boss. This ends now. We cannot allow attitudes of supremacy free reign. We can no longer justify our demeaning behavior and treatment of others. Every time you dehumanize a fellow Amtgarder, you kill a piece of Amtgard. We must stand and decide here and now that this behavior will not be allowed, tolerated, or accepted. If we do not, then Amtgard will die, just as parks have died at the hands of "justified malignants."
Like an air balloon, if we do not let go the anchors of resentment, entitlement, and condoned disregard, we will never reach the heights we desire. I am no longer part of the problem, but now I want to be part of the solution.
For whatever reason, too many people accept the derision vomited upon them, but no person has a right to treat anyone else poorly. I don't care who started it. It's up to us to finish it. The next time you see someone at the park hurt someone else's feelings and laugh it off is an opportunity for you to improve Amtgard. Maybe you haven't innovated weapon technology, re-invented any wheels, or rewritten the rulebook. That does not mean you do not impact this game. Up until this point maybe you haven't flexed your muscle, but until you use it you'll never realize how strong you are. We must be responsible with our strength, 'lest monsters we become'.
We must all stand up for ourselves and for others, no matter what belt we may or may not wear around our waist. By each of our membership and participation we have an impact, and thus a responsibility to have a beneficial impact.
The next time someone disrespects someone intentionally in whichever form that may be, we must answer this opportunity: "That was uncalled for buddy, there's no justification for that kind of behavior." Come up with your own way of addressing derision that suits you that is also respectful of all involved. There is no reason to continue the cycle. When a child is running through the house and knocks over an expensive lamp, shattering it, we do not say, "You are a horrible child! Fuck you!" There are appropriate and inappropriate ways of addressing unacceptable behavior without demeaning others, and perhaps this is the most important behavior to address.
Of the Amtgarders I've met in 13 years, most of them believed what they were doing was right, and yet there are endless arguments and disagreements between us over approach and methodology. But some things are universally wrong, no matter how you justify yourself, and we should not address inappropriate behavior with inappropriate behavior. Beneath every Tough Guy is a vulnerable person with feelings, just as we all have feelings and vulnerabilities. Sometimes, when our feelings are hurt, we lash out at others, dispersing pain and creating a chain reaction much like a virus moving from cell to cell.
We see this all the time in animal rescues. When they are frightened or hurt, they often bite and lash out at their rescuers. This is not personal. It doesn't matter if the source of pain is a tangle of barbed wire around its leg - the animal is in pain, and knows only that it must defend itself. It has been observed by others that we are also animals. We have the same flight or fight response, and it has been noted between the same species of animal there are other responses. We see these other two actions in Amtgard: submission and posturing. In submission we do not stand up for ourselves, and we begin to resent ourselves and those that we have submitted to. In posturing, one can develop an inflated sense of self, and all behavior is justified.
The source of these behaviors begins with ourselves - with our insecurity, how we integrate the world around us, how we interpret our experiences. One example is head shots. We see that headshots happen accidentally all the time, and we all know someone who loses their shit every time they are hit in the head, intentional or not. If we can set aside our insecurity, if we choose not to take things personally, we can avoid knee jerk reactions like this. There is a cure for the virus, it begins with one single cell - and that's where you come in.
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