Authors Note: I wanted to make a note that this is an opinion based persuasive article. It’s not to be taken as a fact but as an opinion to be discussed and debated. However I do have a degree in History, Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and I’ve done my best to keep this concept in tune with my understanding of culture on both the macro and micro level. I
This is the first in a series of articles discussing Amtgard from a cultural perspective.
It’s hard to define the culture of Amtgard but Amtgard certainly has a culture onto itself. There are a few ways that we maintain our culture, the rulebook and the awards standard is one way, the Amtgwiki is another way, but I’d argue the main way we maintain our culture is through Cultural Pillars.
The Culture of One.
Before getting into my definition of Cultural Pillars it’s important to discuss how I’ve come to understand culture and how it is expressed. The definition of culture is commonly understood as “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group”, but how is that formed and how is it expressed?
Each person is made up of their own experiences and how a person interprets their experiences is what makes up their culture of one. When a person tries to explain a concept to another person and they come to a mutual acceptance it then becomes a culture of two and, if a third person is introduced, it becomes a culture of three and so on. Eventually as ideas are expressed, exchanged and accepted by more people it turns into the larger concept we understand as culture.
In this way I’m able to express what I mean when creating and maintaining a culture in small groups and organizations. Going forward it’s important that you understand this when I talk about the accumulation and transmission of culture.
What are Cultural Pillars?
What are Cultural Pillars? If you a familiar with the idea of Institutional Knowledge , the principal is similar. Cultural Pillars are people who are active, have a longer than average history in the organization, and are able to condense their experiences into sharable experiences to be digested by others in the organization.
In essence they just have more exposure to the culture of Amtgard so they are able to transmit more concepts and explain why things are they way they are. Not to say that is a defense of the way things are, they just have a better understanding of this. Tradition for the sake of tradition is not a good excuse for toxic traits.
What Do Cultural Pillars Do?
A Cultural Pillar is able to use their experience to influence how the culture of the organization is expressed and possibly influence the direction of the organization. More often than not their experiences are used as a guide. The newer generations in the organization can choose to go the direction a Cultural Pillar expresses, or not.
These are not usually overt actions done by the Cultural Pillar. It’s just an affect of them being active in the organization and sharing their opinion and experiences but they can take overt actions as well.
For example an overt action would be to run for Monarch and try and correct things they think are not going as they should. This isn’t a judgment, many people run for office for this reason, but their experiences will effect their reign and thus it is an over action aimed at expressing their cultural knowledge.
Why Are Cultural Pillars Important?
Cultural Pillars are important in Amtgard because outside of Amtgard’s rulebook and Awards Standards we have very little written experiences to draw from. In Amtgard we rely on people’s long term understanding of what a different award level means. This bar, refined by the culture of one’s group, is often expressed by Cultural Pillars in the organization.
In the same vain events can be maintained by Cultural Pillars. Here in the Pacific Northwest we have an event called Pacific War (Pac War), traditionally there are tournaments, a big war and jugging. Nothing is written down saying this, but that is what the event has become. This is maintained by the understanding of those people who have been around long enough to see it as a trend and to support that notion, i.e., the Cultural Pillars in our area are helping to maintain the Pacific War event culture.
Who Are Cultural Pillars?
Anyone can become a Cultural Pillar, it just takes time and social acknowledgment of your experiences. There are different levels of knowledge, based on experience and time. Typically the longer your in the game the more experiences you’ll have to share, but that is not always the case.
One might naturally think Knights when you think Cultural Pillars, but that is not always the case. Most knights are Cultural Pillars or at least were Cultural Pillars in their past. You can be a Knight and not be a Cultural Pillar and you can be Cultural Pillar and not be a knight.
That veteran at your park who travels to your daily park and maybe some campouts and KLEs may be a Cultural Pillar in their own right. They might not have done any offices or pushed any service or arts, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a Cultural Pillar
People like that have a lot to share too, they usually known the game well, they have seen a lot of park days, lots of games, they might have noticed trends with different groups of people. Maybe they can explain why ditching is important to maintain even if at the current time people only have the mind for battle games (a topic for another article).
While they might not be known as artisans or event runners, they probably know various level of awards, they will probably have an opinion on who runs what event best, what a good event looks like, what a bad event looks like.
This sort of cultural influence isn’t just seen in the awards and events but also in the governance of all the parks in kingdoms. Through Cultural Pillars we are able to maintain some sort of cohesiveness at the park, Kingdom and National level.
I hope you have a better understanding of what I mean by Cultural Pillar. We will continue to explore the idea in future articles. The next article in the series will be about Knights and their relation to being a Cultural Pillar. My perspective might surprise you!
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