|Knighthood: Paperwork or Person?
I've watched an interesting phenomenon develop in Amtgard over the years. It's the forgone conclusion that a person with a Masterhood or other written qualifications for Knighthood is worthy and deserving of being a member of the Amtgard Chivalry.
Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself here. Lets back up a bit.
What is Knighthood anyway? Is it a white belt around someone's waist? Spurs or an unadorned chain? We certainly make a big fuss whenever an unbelt wears one of these items. But in my opinion, no, none of these items determines if a person is a knight or not.
A Knight encompases several things. Firstly, he or she should be both a leader and a teacher - someone who inspires and assists those around them, both newbie and veteran, to improve themselves to be better and greater. When I think of someone who I consider Knightly, I think of those people who seem larger than themselves, dedicated to who and what they believe in. Unfortunately, many members of the Amtgard Chivalry do not meet this picture.
I'm also a big believer in the Chivalric Ideal and Knightly Virtues. While a specific code of conduct never truly existed, several contemporary writers have distilled the essential ideals of the Knightly Virtues into a list of sorts. There are many versions out there, ranging from about three virtues to thirteen or more. My personal favorite version, written by Brian Price of the SCA, is located at http://www.chronique.com/Library/Chivalry/code.htm.
Now, no one person can embody all of these virtues perfectly and at all times, nor should they be expected to. However, people who continually strive to encompass those ideals make themselves better and more noble in bearing and action.
As I was saying, there is an interesting phenomenon in Amtgard these days where people with the paper qualfications are being considered worthy of Knighthood, even if that individual possesses little or none of the qualities listed above.
I am all for someone reaching a certain level of achievement before being considered for a belt. A standard must be maintained. However, I think it is more important that we look at the person subjectively, as an individual, and ask ourselves 'Is this person a Knight?' If they are not Knightly in bearing, attitude, and action, then they are not ready for Knighthood.
Masterhoods are exceptional achievements in their own rights, a fact that is often overlooked. However, being a Master and being a Knight is not the same thing. Being a great fighter, for example, does not make you a leader or someone that others can look up to and learn from. Same with service, arts and sciences, or officers (although it really should with officers, different subject, different day).
On that same note, I would rather see a person with nine orders of the owls who embodies the ideals of Knighthood get Knighted, than I would someone with nineteen owls who does not. Again, I do support a 'minimum' standard of achievement; while a newbie with two garber credits isn't necessarily ready, I think the focus should be on the person him or herself, not the amount of paperwork they have been given.
Ask yourself, how many Knights have you met that are truly Knightly, even in your own eyes? Ten percent? Twenty? It's the singularly most coveted award of our organization, yet over the years, wearing a white belt in and of itself has meant less and less during an individual's initial impression of you. As it were, "There are white belts, and there are Knights" is becoming a common mode of thought. I think a major portion of this issue is directly related to people getting Knighted purely based on paperwork, not on their strengths (or weaknesses) as an individual.
It's time that the Knights of Amtgard really started looking at what direction we as a group are going, and reevaluate how and when we decide that someone is ready to become belted. Masterhoods exist for a reason, to recognize someone with exceptional skill and dedication. It is a great achievement in its own right, but it does not in and of itself mean that a person should be a Knight. Similarly, we should be seeking out the unbelts in our groups that display the Knightly qualities that we hold dear, and consider elevating them to Knighthood, even if they are an order or two shy.
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