Wednesday, December 24, 2008

we left them in the alehouse, we drank them clean away

This continues from yesterday's entry; if you haven't read it, I encourage scrolling down before reading the call-and-response noted here. But I felt the replies to that entry deserved to be answered at greater length.

Darien Mason said "Note that the people you mentioned are moving to other Victorian/Steampunk sims. I see that as a sign of Caledon's success. Our sensibilities are exported to other lands as they become part of a greater community. They may pay rent elsewhere, but we're sure to see them at another Caledon Ball."

Dr. Mason: I do see it as a mark of Caledon's success that people, having seen what Caledon is, realize they can share their own vision of times past with the world. Just as Caledon was built by watching Winterfell, so too, Steelhead's expansion, New Toulouse, New Babbage, the Land of Lincoln, the sims comprising Silent's Folly, depicting the Carolina low country of the 1860' many others...these are good, and valued, and precisely what historical devotees need to fight to retain.

And never let me gainsay those who have come in and embraced Caledon with their whole heart, fought to keep new traditions and old alive, those who fell in love with one sim or the land entire; I would even say, those who struggle to fit in, but come short on occasion; yearn to, and eventually learn--these gentles are just as valued as those who effortlessly synchronize with the culture as it exists.

I have to believe this, in a sense; I'm one of those. I struggle against modernisms, against more familiarity than is needed; I fret occasionally over my wardrobe, and the precise line between "quasi-Victorian Lolita dress" (which truly, in Victorian times, would be styles of clothing restricted to children alone) and ankle-revealing "slutwear" (to be fair, I actually have a folder in my modern clothing section called that; but I think I can be forgiven, as it used to be work togs).

But I still think there is a dividing line between someone who struggles to adapt to the culture, wishes to--and someone who makes little attempt, and seems not to notice the lack. And I see far, far too many of the latter these days.

Icterus Dagger said: "Although many of us have this ill conceived idea that all rules are for ill, one can't have an influx of people such as Caledon has had (along with its land holdings) and not have some mechanism for enforcing the underlying theme. When you are smaller, you can self regulate; when you are larger, you need help. Perhaps some of us became swamped and unable to handle the load?"

Mr. Dagger: Some did feel overwhelmed, I know that. Some sought to help where they could (the various sims on the grid that donated corners near their transport hubs, that soon became full to bursting with newcomer clothing options, housing options, in some cases, far and away beyond the bins in Victoria City). Others pulled back in complete frustration. This left the rest of us stranded midway between wanting to guide, and wanting to walk away in sheer incomprehension.

Perhaps the greatest number of us chose the wrong option--namely, "We'll just let them be, they'll figure things out sooner or later." They have failed, in many cases, to do this; they have foregone gentle nudges towards correct behavior; and, in a few cases, seem not to care in the slightest. I find myself baffled as to how to proceed, and left unsure that there is any workable solution at this point.

Mr. Dagger continues: "I have seen lapses in language and custom, in politness and tolerance such as I never expected to see, both in the group chat and in person."

And you know, that is the most frightening loss to me in all of this--it's bad enough in what is, essentially, private missives (even though Caledon group chat goes out to far, far more people than ever speak over its aetherwaves, it is essentially kept separate from "main" chat, as we walk through Caledon proper), but to meet these same blunt discourtesies when we are standing not a meter back from the avatar in is disquieting in the least.

To a certain extent I am inured to rudeness on the mainland; the first parcel of land I ever owned in Second Life, I ended up selling at a drastically reduced rate simply because I was excruciatingly tired of coming home to my next-parcel neighbor shooting me in the face. Bear traps, cages, griefers, sim bombs, purportedly adult males overweeningly proud of their exposed privates; I expect these things, these are--dare I say it--fairly routine events.

When I face similar events in Caledon, I find myself curiously unprepared. Were they just wanderers from the outside, that would be one thing, but that in some cases, our own citizens are exhibiting similar behavior...I admit, it does still retain the capacity to shock.

Rhianon Jameson said: "I think it's inevitable that as the number of sims grows, there will be some "drift" from the original theme. It's impossible to corral 800 residents the way one can with a few dozen."

Perhaps the real issue is that Caledon is like most other formed societies: members within them (the SCA springs unerringly to mind; whereas information on the various themes and behaviors expected can be found in many places, for the most part, newcomers are simply dropped into the culture at events and expected to sink or swim on their own merits) will advise, guide, and counsel, but in general, will stand back and let each individual choose their own best way to learn and respond.

There is good and bad in this. Good, in that gentle subversion of the expected 'norm' (on the grid, that would be the mainland) is a good thing; bad, in that perhaps there should be more to things. Perhaps each new resident package needs to contain a list of things To Do (and Not To Do) in Caledon; or a general outline of the period. Reading notes. Something.

Miss Jameson once more: "I agree with Miss Orr that the brain drain is a potential problem. Although there are a great many residents, a much smaller fraction do a large share of the heavy lifting - interesting builds, social events, and so on."

I do agree, actually. I did not originally perceive that as part of the problem (I rather naïvely assumed that more land in Caledon simply meant more members of genteel society to fill that land). And I am still not entirely of the opinion that we're falling downhill, on fire, after having been dipped liberally in organic acid.

Still, it must be said that, while I agree with Dr. Mason's point on Caledonian departure to other themed sims being oddly supportive of continuation of the still must be affirmed that it is Caledonian departure. And, even with Winterfell Anodyne being once more, that odd mix of dark Victorian/Cthonic demi-history...the rest of Winterfell, by and large, is medieval in theme and like to remain so, retaining sims like Anodyne, Laudanum and Absinthe as 'buffer zones' between the "old" (Winterfell interior) and the "new" (Caledon and other Victorian or themed sims).

How best to fix this? That, I truly can't say. Because I have fought long and hard off the grid, in other societies entirely, to bring in more involvement when only a few shouldered the burden of many; and I failed drastically and completely. I no longer believe that individuals, left to their own devices, can recognize and alter their behavior--if they do not perceive it as wrong.

So...what, then? Try to install the Victorian sense of shame? I don't think that will work (at least long-term), either--as morbidly amusing, for a time, as it might be to 'socially shun' those who persist in uncouth expression. There simply may be no good solution, considering the high numbers of avatars involved.

Edward Pearse stated: The most disheartening thing for me though is the loss of "manners". I don't force people to use titles, though I use them myself, but it's the over familiarity that makes ISC read like a Desperate and Dateless IRC channel sometimes. People posting up that they're now single, or commentaries involving semi-naked men you have shackled in your dungeon should be kept to intimates, not plastered all over for the world to see.

My precise point, Edward. I think I was subconsciously aware of the deterioration of polite society at, sadly, the time I joined Caledon as a parcel owner (which means I, like Miss Jameson stated, may be considered part of the problem, as a new resident). But the night it was brought forcibly and irrevocably home for me was the night a "gentleman" (quotes intended) of Caledon took to task, in harsh and uncompromising language, both the reputation and the source of financing of a lady of his acquaintance--who had every reason, before that night, to expect to be treated as a lady by the majority of Caledon.

And since that night, there has been continual erosion, so much so that at this point it is no longer a shallow grade to the shore, but a sheer cliff drop-off we approach at speed.

Sir Edward continues: "An ex-Caledonian recently trumpeted her reasons for leaving Caledon. Her parting shot was that she was not now or ever a Victorian. My own thought was (after some unpolite ones about not wanting the door to hit her on the way out) was if you don't like Victoriana, then why on earth come and live in a steampunk community?"

This, perhaps, is my other goal, in bringing this to discussion's light: why move to a community one shares nothing in common with; in fact, perhaps actively dislikes in terms of dress, comportment, architectural design, et al; why would someone want to inflict that on themselves? Why would one want to live in a place where (even if we are, to some extent, all playing "dress-up") a certain social reserve is not only expected, but encouraged; where titles and peerage are respected; where we try to honor the history we make, as well as the history we pattern ourselves, our businesses, and our behavior upon, as best we can?

The motto of Caledon remains: Tolerans, Civilis, Innovus, Laganum. These are not just words to be dismissed. Caledon should inspire us to be more tolerant, of ourselves and each other; to be civil, even in uncivil times; to create, to imagine, to invent; to feast and to make merry.

What virtue does Caledon retain, that becomes, perhaps has become, Intolerant; Uncivil; Unimaginative? What is the value of continuing if we have lost all shreds of what has banded our dissimilar selves together, behind such diverse and lovely goals?

That, that, is what I do not want to see Caledon lose. And that, I very much fear, we are steadily progressing towards.

I am open to any suggestions, from friends and enemies alike--or, at least, to those that don't suggest we give in and become Real World: Caledon.


Christine McAllister Pearse said...

I too have been looking at how things have unravelled in Caledonian society and have discussed what, if anything, could be done to help turn things around. To date, the only thing that has come forth was to lead by example and perhaps hold events where a certain standard of behaviour was encouraged and genteely enforced.

However, as you've pointed out, people who do not believe their behaviour to be wrong, offensive or grossly improper will ignore such gentle guidings. Such was proven to me yet again last night when I was shocked at some of the conversation on ISC and said so, in my manner. The offending parties laughed at my shock and carried on.

I am half tempted to contact these individuals in private and ask them why they are in Caledon if they want to act in such a common and base manner. Not that I expect everyone to sit around saying "Peas, prunes and prisms" either, but it is to the point that this ship has got to be turned around, and quickly.

For my own part, I will try to be a good example, even though I am starting to feel like an archaic dinosaur, or a crotchety old fusspot as I told Edward last night. Perhaps I will draw some of the people who insist on conducting themselves like some cheap floozie in a mainland Blingtard club and kindly give them an idea of what is expected. Of course, they might not listen, but I'm to the point where my motto is "Nothing ventured, nothing gained".

Anyhow Miss Orr, thank you for opening this discourse. It is long overdue and I'm sure there are many who are dismayed at the current society and yet are feeling helpless at turning the tide. Take care and Merry Christmas!

Icterus Dagger said...

I am curious about the Governor's thoughts on this. From a business stand point, having an influx of new citizens is a plus, but I can't help but thinking of it like some of the large universities here in the U.S. They put up with off campus slums and an atrocious first year drop-out rate, but oooh the money they make.

I respect Des, I really do. I bought into his "vision" of this diverse, yet unified pseudo-Victorian world.

Does the Guv read this blog, Miss Orr? Have any of us spoken to him personally about this issue. As I said, I am curious as to what he thinks and what he says.

Lady Christine, for all my cynicism, I agree with you. I try to lead by example and I think that's always a good course of action. Maybe we can hope it is enough.



Emilly Orr said...

Both of you make excellent points. If we lead not at all, then we are doing a disservice to Caledon at large, and individual citizenry as well.

I will admit, I am not always the best example; this is not purely a Caledonian journal, I am not purely a Caledonian. I am found in short skirts and exposed garters equally as often as I am found in full bustle skirts and high collars. And I have, more than once, said scandalous things in ISC chat.

But within Caledon, I do my best to behave. And even if flirting and outré behavior are conversational fodder in that moment, I like to think that rarely do I go beyond the pale.

When I can sit back and think, Lord Bardhaven's antics now seem quaint and tame...something is definitely wrong.

A further point to Mr. Dagger: I do not know if Des is a steady reader, he is so very busy. I do know--because Des has mentioned such--that the Princess (Desmond's Heir Apparent, so to speak) reads this journal, as well as others from Caledon.

That aside, however, I don't know if Des would get involved, in the social aspect of things. Not that he is, in any wise, dismissive of the value of created societies, but he mostly holds himself as the velvet hand and the administrator at large, not the guide to ethics and custom.

For more than one reason, I truly wish other concerns had allowed me to keep ISC chat open last night. It seems that I missed a great deal, and none of it good.

TotalLunar Eclipse said...

* me sighs and shakes his head *

I have a great respect for Caledon and Desmond. I admire his vision and all the hard work he has done to bring about this vision. He has helped me greatly and I am forever in his debt and although we do not do things in the same manner we share a dream of a place of comfort and peace and fun as SL to me is a place to forget the outside world and its sorrow.

This conversation has passed by my ears often it distresses me how by lack of simple self restraint could jeapordize all that you've worked hard to achieve. Perhaps my sister is correct, and the few that have still remained and want to maintain the dream Desmond began sets the standard for all those around. It is hard, and I commend everyone that is doing whatever they can to make sure Caledon remains the beautiful Victorian city she is.

Emilly Orr said...

What bothers me, what truly bothers me, is that I am far from a peer in Caledon. Most days, I rarely even qualify as a lady, in any regard.

Yet I see this, and I see this harming the land I fell in love with, even more than Steelhead. And I worry that we are losing what made Caledon great. I worry that more than the three I know have severed all ties and left, heartsick and dismayed. I worry about the silent voices, the members of Caledon that rarely add to the constant chatter in channel, that have been watching and shaking their heads.

Caledon's state chat is not a bawdy house. Caledon's chat is not the place to see how many rules of the Linden ToS one can break of an evening. Caledon's state chat is not a sex bed in the back room of an opium den. It is not a dive bar full of unhappy drunks screaming about infidelity.

It is not always urbane, and it is not always polite. But gentle scandal and coy suggestion are far, far from what we've seen happening the past two months.

It must stop. Or all that will be left in Caledon are the uncouth unconscious folk who don't understand now, and may not even understand later when we're gone. A Caledon without Victorians, a Caledon without steam-powered innovation...

...Well, they might as well move to the mainland at that point, because that's what it will be.