|A Treatise on the Promotion of Knightly Orders Within the Amtgard Peerage
Recent discussions of knighthood, the system of awarding it, and the inherent problems in that system have come up recently. There are many views on what knighthood should be, and it is quite clear that no finite definition is likely to appear. The variety of interpretations also makes it clear that not any one is valid, but a large number of them are. It reminds me of my studies in history and how history is all about interpretation. You can have the same facts and get two or more interpretations, neither being more valid than the other. The result is also not hostility or anger towards the other person's views, but further discussion on what is most valid and a constant search which combines the efforts of all schools of thought. In this, knighthood is similar and the qualities associated with knighthood are debated endlessly. Those who have been involved in the recent discussions have all expressed very interesting ideals of what it should be.
Sir Randall and Sir Medryn have both given good examples of what they expect of other knights, and Squire Evil Randy brought up the idea of how accountability should come from within the peerage rather than from an outside system. As well, Duke Squire Kansuke (aka, Spearweasel) presented the idea of knightly orders to serve as a system to promote knightly codes of chivalry and honour. These four and others have presented ideas that combined could serve to elevate the diminishing value of knighthood and do so in a way that does not require changes to the rules, punishment of "bad knights," or a complete definition of knighthood itself. By using social tools already present within the Amtgard community, knights can uphold the prestige of their peerage by organizing into knightly orders and promoting their own interpretation of knighthood. The potential success for this system hinges on several key factors, namely the implementation. The effectiveness of the system depends on social tools that are already used, and the lack of official change means different interpretations can exist and no one is bound by anything other than their own honour.
First, implementing this system would simply require the creation of households whose membership would be exclusively knights. While this appears to be going down that road of elitism and cliques, we are already far down this road and as some have said it's not such a bad thing (like Medryn's comments on how knighthood should be about elitism...in a good way). So, households that are only knights and using Randy's system (explaining the upholding of standards of chiefs in the Navy) they police each other, and even other knights in general, on the idea that they are promoting a certain aspect of knighthood that they believe should apply to all who wear a white belt. This would also leave it up to them how they police themselves. It can just be a private chat, a group meeting, or something that goes before the Circle of Knights. The point is that the open-ended system of knightly orders would allow them to create a code of what they think is most important and promote, which is what they would already do as individuals. It would also depend entirely on the peerage deciding how it wants to be viewed. The promotion of knightly qualities by the orders would allow for the various interpretations of knighthood already present in the game, but bring each of them to the foreground for the rest of the Amtgard community. Not all good knights agree on what knighthood is, so rather than forcing those who are pinnacles to conform to a narrow view, this allows them to choose various interpretations that are all equally valid, the validity of each will depend on the reputation each order acquires.
The effectiveness of this system depends entirely on the social aspects of the game. It is not about making knighthood harder to achieve, as there are already lots of concern about how some people find the recognition system broken. It is also not about creating a mandatory code for all knights. The fact that this would be voluntary would mean people could choose the code they believe in and with to promote, or start their own order with other like-minded knights to promote their views, or remain as individual as a knight as they would like. This is all about expressing their own interpretation and beliefs while keeping it all voluntary. As orders promote their code through actions and words, they will gain reputation, and people will have opinions on what knighthood is all about.
I would like to quickly discuss the possibility of good orders and bad orders. This could be a concern, but I will show how it's not, and it will make the point of the orders and the social dynamics even clearer. An order of what we'd call "good knights" would promote the aspects and code they believe in. Through their actions, these ideals would become associated with the order, and upcoming knights would possibly seek admittance or at least learn something from them just by their public presence. A group of "bad knights" could obscure or tarnish the ideals of knighthood, but you will never see a group like this that is taken seriously. The reason why is that knighthood is not about whether you are good or bad. It's about whether you are knightly. There are many interpretations, but to actively promote non-knightly qualities would be to blacklist themselves. More likely, you would see knightly orders that have an obscure code that is not truly associated with the idea of knighthood, and thus be a collection of knights who want to be a part of an order but don't want to actually promote anything.
It would be the public face of these groups that appear to the community and we would see two things: promotions of various interpretations of knighthood, and groups who just want to be a part of an order. The key is that the groups must remain true to their codes and continue to police themselves or they will all degenerate into the latter type of group. The difference would be easy to recognize and since what they represent would be explicit and personal, it will group the knights with good reputations together to stand as a pinnacle, and the knights who are not pinnacles will either receive their bad reputations or if they are simply average or uninvolved will remain in the background as they are now.
I think the most important aspect of this idea is the lack of official change required. This would come entirely from the hearts of the knights involved, and be a collection of like-minded individuals much like a company or household. However, the purpose of knightly orders would be to promote the highest ideals of the game and its exclusive membership would give credit and influence within the peerage. The system does not need to be entered into the Rules of Play or the various corporas. Nobody needs to even agree that these need to exist. This itself would promote the idea that knights should just "do this." The idea is that knightly orders would be a recognizable expression of a group of knights saying. "We promote and support this ideal of knighthood," and nothing more than what is already done. That is all that is really needed. All the traits of knighthood are extremely qualitative, so no quantitative system is going to fix it. The most important changes will be done socially and this system would give knights a more public and organized tool to get their message out about what they consider the pinnacle of Amtgard idealism.
To sum this all up, knights already do this. Once knighted, they are seen as a representation of knighthood, and through action and word they begin to express a representation of what they think membership in the peerage is all about. However, the Amtgard community is so large, with so many differing views, that it is hard to get the message out about what one thinks knighthood represents. The organization of knightly orders would give a unified voice to knights across a kingdom or even across all of Amtgard. No interpretation is perfect and many are equally valid, differing as much as depending on the type of knighthood or the individual knights. Amtgard already has a quantitative system within the Rules of Play which, in the eyes of some, has failed to uphold the quality of knighthood. Additional quantitative requirements will not solve the problem. With the wide variety of interpretations, it is also unlikely that qualitative requirements will ever receive a concrete definition, nor would this be any easier to enforce through official rulebook and corpora addendum. Also, social aspects of Amtgard generally overrule most others. For a group such as the peerage of knighthood, this type of influence is the most important.
While writing this, I noticed comments by Man-at-Arms Lurker and Squire Casca that mention how we need to think to the future and how these interpretations of knighthood are passed on, and that radical change is probably a bad idea. This is true in that a radical change in the rules of knighthood will result in chaos and likely a bad split between several factions. On the same note, new members of Amtgard need to be presented with a view that is not, "There are some good knights and some bad knights," which tells them, whether you are good or bad, you can become a knight. Knightly orders could present interpretations of Amtgard on a much larger level than individuals, and these would be passed on to the next generation. There will still be disagreements in which knights are good or bad, and the degeneration of a knightly order as a result of entropy would suck. "Entropy is a bitch," is what Spearweasel admitted in regards to that being pointed out about his system. However, in my interpretation, it is the fight against entropy and mediocrity that is a characteristic of knighthood.
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