Councillors, Counselors and Consultants

img source: sylvielefrancois.com

Researched, Written and Edited by

Tim

In the editorial “Sires, Siress’, Mentors and Self” I wrote about connections between individuals and their closest “advisors”, the way in which individuals could be connected with groups and the relative merits of standing on their own feet. It’s an important aspect of being part of the modern living Vampyre culture and can provide a sense of stability and belonging.

In this editorial the point will be to look into methods of co-operation that could be used in the culture to promote communication and goals between organisations.

I guess that pretty much everyone is in the know about the various histories of attempts to form “Councils” and “Co-operatives” within the modern culture. From 1997 and the Long Black Veil events, which gave rise to the original, “The Black Veil”, code of vampyre ethics and common sense to the year 2000 and the formation of COVICA, a council of collected elders from different traditions, there have been subsequent attempts to create “councils”, “enclaves” and the like that, one by one, seem to have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another.

In fact, not so very long back a public post revealed that the leader of one organisation was stepping down for the purposes of concentrating on, and I quote, “…“dealing with the community as a whole, specifically the Leadership of the VC in order to change it.”

The obvious questions here must be, “What is meant by the term, “Leadership of the VC” and why does it need to be changed? Is it bad, broken or faulty? Are we talking about a “Council of Leaders”? A committee of Leaders? A Court of Leaders? And, perhaps more importantly, who are our new “Leaders” going to be? Who are the nominees? When will voting open and who’s got the “Golden Envelope” for the “Top Job”?

No matter how you cut it it’s going to be a hard sell, as my dear friend Lady CG pointed out to me once, “Getting Vampires to agree is like trying to herd cats” and with that image firmly in mind let’s see if we can divine some possible, workable, options.

Img. source: vector illustration

The “Council”

If it’s to be “Councillors” then we have a sitting Council, these can be formed in two ways, by popular election (and I don’t mean democracy as in vote preferences, I mean ONE person, ONE vote) which is the preferred manner of election. Naturally the majority vote carries the day but you will only get a representation of a population group and you won’t ever know whether that is the TOTAL population or simply a proportion of the population.

The best that could be arrived at is that this will end up as an indication of preference.

As a prime example of a functional establishment we read that, in the Gotham Halo, the following structure/s is, or are, in place and within this we can recognise a firmly established precedent for the use of “Royal title” in the word “Regent”:

Society Nocturnus Of Gotham (S.N.O.G)

“S.N.O.G. (Society Nocturnus Of Gotham)

It is a society consisting of various Houses/Clans/Groups initiated in 2000.”

 “Court of Lazarus

They are the Metropolitan Court of Gotham and sister Court to Society Nocturnus Of Gotham. They are a society consisting of various Houses/Clans/Groups initiated in 2002.”

Council Positions (Within Courts)

Note, these positions may vary in definition and/or responsibility between courts.

Regent (elected) Sheriff (elected) High Templar/Ronin Magistrate (elected) Treasurer (council elected)

Ambassador (appointed) Deputy (Sheriff – appointed) Seraphim Guild (appointed) Scribe/Keeper of the Scrolls (appointed)

The Order of The Black Marble, first established in 2002, is dedicated to maintaining peaceful relations (The Pax Vampyri) between all Courts, Communities, Orders and Societies.

The Black Trinity is a collection of three covenants by which The Order of the Black Marble is governed.

I.Recognize and respect all Vampire Courts, Communities, Orders and Societies.

II.Resolve rather than create conflict.

III.Revel in our shared heritage.

(reproduced by permission)

There is no doubt that there is a large influence of formality in this model, however, think on this, formality breeds respectful conversation, discussion and debate. From those two things come realistic and achievable goals.

 

The second way in which a Council can be formed is by bringing a body of individual groups together and having each one nominate a “Council Member” as a member organisation. This manner ensures that the interests of all the member groups are represented and each has an equal, one vote, at any decision making time. The one drawback here is that it needs to be decided how a deadlock will be broken if such a thing occurs. Do you maintain an uneven number of member groups, thereby making a deadlock very rare unless an organisation abstains from voting (hey, stranger things have happened at sea right?)

The only other way you could break deadlock is to have one person be the “conscience” of the Council and hold the power of the deciding vote (Oh, the possibilities for corruption…!)

Either way you look at it the “Council” concept is one that seems to represent a true equal representation of all member bodies while, at the same time, being open to individual manipulations and corruption.

Img. source: woman – the nest

The “Counselors”

A second method is to have “Counselors”, in a body that the majority of member bodies will pay attention to in the event of a decision of some description being needed. It’s a concept that has been in the forefront of everyone’s thinking for a long time and there have been, and still are, organisations that exist in which this method is used.

The idea is that each member organisation can, by going through individual Counselors, or Representatives, approach other organisations, join together in projects, take part in round-table discussions and debates while under the watchful, NON-INTERFERING eye of a Counselor whose sole role is to facilitate the process so the best outcome between all involved parties can be reached.

As our esteemed friend Saint-John Hawke points out,
“Always have an independent person who possess the ability to be non-judgemental as well as being able to piece all sides of the puzzle to make the perfect picture. In other words, find people in each house that have observed what’s going on, not people in leadership, the average member and get their input. But these must be dedicated members, not whiners. And you might want to promote these people to a position of counselors.

In any house, the leadership is the A frame, but you will not have a stable house if your center beam isn’t strong.”

In response to the question, “Would you think these “counselors” would then be in a good position to form a “Community round table” of counselors to provide common guidance?” he opines,

“Yes, given that they would act according to the benefit of the organization, they may be outstanding advisors.”

The hardest part about being a “Counselor” in this situation is maintaining complete neutrality and complete impartiality. Again, the spectre of personal bias and the possibility for corruption is a factor that must be considered and would need to be controlled, rigidly, by the governing body of the Counselors.

Img. courtesy of Vampire Court of Dallas

Mike Burgess, the Leader of the Vampire Court of Dallas, kindly agreed to spend a few minutes with a couple of my questions, his replies were, as always, insightful and most welcomed;

RVL: What is the best path to gain a level of co-operation between different bodies within the modern culture?

MB: Personally I don’t think there is “best path” available although there are a good amount of ideas and potential within the community for cooperation and collaboration between organizations of all sizes and statures. Personally, the Dallas/Fort Worth court has benefitted highly from cross-promotional exercises and even social media projects with our neighboring organizations in Texas but really all of these actions start with an open mind, communication, and a freedom from the difficulties that ego can bring. No one wants to work with someone who will allow their ego to take over professionally, why would that be any different here? To add further to this point, the survey posted by several OVC forums asking for the “Largest Problem in the VC Currently” resulted in participants choosing Ego – by far – as their choice…by discarding a measure of ego…communication would grow, allowing for the flow of ideas and the realization to come about that each organization reflects and is best suited for their local area. Each person, like a diverse workplace, brings their own strength and points of view to the whole of our culture. Just because Organization A is larger or more well-known, does not mean that its model and functions will work in Area-B…and why should it? With each organization and locality being profoundly different, why not use those fundamental differences in local culture and goals as a strength rather than a weakness?

With the growth of social media as a primary communication tool between organizations, it has never been easier to reach out across boundaries and find not only common ground, but learn about our fellow organizations in a profound way. Once these conversations get flowing, anyone can quickly realize why cooperation is beneficial to all by leveraging these different paths to bring us all to the same end.

The second question I nagged him with, “Would this path best be served by having Councillors, Counsellors or Consultants available to each organization?”

MB: Personally, I think while having an officer or specialist within an organization will do wonders – if size permits – or some capable of performing these duties, without tackling the culture of the organization itself and having the belief within the organization that: “Our way isn’t the best for Area-B” or “We are better by embracing most paths – in so long as they don’t present a danger legally or ethically,” communication and the sharing of ideas will be hampered.  This is not an easy thing to do…many who like me, work cooperate leadership as well…we have seen numerous large firms spend millions of dollars on consultants to simply learn this seemingly simple point: diversity of ideas and people is the best way to progress forward. If the organization culture and leadership does not embrace this, then any member that volunteers to lead cooperative efforts will be profoundly hindered.

Img. source: quora.com

The “Consultants”

Which brings us to consultants… a concept that is very widely used in RL, is relied on by businesses, corporations and elective bodies the world over. Consultants are engaged to advise on matters related, in the main, to operational conduct and the achievement of aims and goals for an organisation, or group of organisations. The Consultant, much like a Counselor, needs to be impartial, neutral and confine their advice to operational matters. In this fashion a Consultant sits outside and apart from the ultimate decisions of their “client”. It’s also important to note that such consultants need have a broad knowledge base, an appreciable amount of experience “in the trenches” so to speak, and that they be non-partisan – that is, not be a member of any House, Temple, Group or other “vested interest” organisation. Conflict of interest is the most important thing to avoid here, in fact (and much as you might not like the term) the Ronin of the culture would, by very definition, make the best consultants.

 

Which is the most effective?

To begin comparing the three we must recognise that every situation, for every organisation, is different. No two groups operate, internally, in the same way entirely but the focus here is not on individual organisations, rather it is on collectives of organisations.

A “Council” will only ever be as effective as the number of bodies that inhabit it and its reach will only ever extend to those individual member parties. For a Council to declare that they “run the show” for everyone is the height of arrogance and will draw condemnation from all whom do not wish to be member groups. If such council tries to enforce their “edicts” beyond their own sphere they will, by the very nature of people, meet with stiff resistance and will most likely face the rise of opponent “Councils” each declaring themselves to be the “one true path”… kinda like religion in a way.

 

A body comprised of Counselors will likely find an easier time of it since they will not be attempting to enforce edicts but will, rather, be seeking to mediate and engage with a wide array of groups and individuals to foster co-operative efforts toward achieving goals.

Two examples of modern culture “Counseling” based bodies are Madame X’s Dark Nations and the Voices of the Vampire Community (VVC).

In the Dark Nations model there are a body of facilitators to which member organisations are assigned and the task of the facilitator is to engage, mediate and advise. That simple. Non-interference within a closed system.

Lady Sylvere Ap Leanan of the VVC summarises their operations thus;
“The VVC is the first and only organization that has ever accomplished that goal. We do it by focusing on being an informational network. We take pains to ensure that we do not act in any way, nor are we perceived to act in any way, as a governing body. We allow each group to deal with its own internal issues as it sees fit with no outside influence from us.

If a group requests it, members of the VVC are always happy to help in whatever capacity we can without betraying our pledge of non-interference. That’s why we are group exclusive to LEADERS of groups rather than open to anyone and everyone.

We can and do help each other by acting as an informal support network, which more or less boils down to “Whatcha need, bro? I got your back.”

Not that every member of the VVC gets along with all other members. We most certainly don’t. But there are enough of us that there’s always a support system if one is needed.

We also have the benefit of being the only group where members of groups that can’t stand each other can verbally go at each other until we resolve our issues. I have personally done so with people I formerly despised and now we get along fairly well.

So I would say that the VVC is the best path to take, especially since we’ve been doing it for over a decade. No other group can say that. Other groups have tried to imitate us and failed. Repeatedly.”

Img. source: LDS.org

As I mentioned earlier, impartiality and neutrality need be the cornerstones of either of these types of overseeing body, if we consider the “Consultants” option, utilising Ronin members of the culture, then we can see that this might well represent the most impartial method of looking at “the big picture”. Consultants who have no vested interest in decisions that are made by groups, either singly or collectively could represent a strength of mediation and engagement that would withstand any claims of bias or favouritism, elitism or exclusionary practices.

However, there’s always a ‘BUT’…

Many of the drawbacks that might be encountered with either of these three methods I have already mentioned, I’d like to summarise those here.

Taking the “Council” concept firstly;
1) Open to individual bias and corruption

2) Open to charges of exclusionary practices and “elitism”.

3) Has limited reach that extends only over member groups.

4) Any Council will be functional only in as much as individual organisations are willing to be part of “the program”.

The “Counselor” concept then;

  • Individual Counselor reputation and history may well mar efforts.
  • Counselors need to be overseen by a governing body and in this manner may not be able to act as truly independently as required under certain circumstances.
  • Counselor burn-out, individual Counselors may reach a point in proceedings (some of which may be half achieved) where they decide, “The hell with this shit…!” – Personal stress on Counselors must be taken into account.

The Consultant –

  • The “Consultant” runs the risk of, at the end of the day and after hours and hours of work, of being ignored and their recommendations discarded.
  • The Consultant needs to be able to demonstrate sufficient practical knowledge and situational experience to be taken seriously.
  • The Consultant may make mistakes and the information and recommendations they provide should be, in the first instance, backed up by solid factual evidences and, in the second place, be able to be easily verified by the organisation they work for. It’s a big job that can take weeks or months to complete.

“Hmmmm…”
img. source: worldartsme

 

In conclusion:

What is in the best interests of the concerned parties, or in the case of the modern living Vampyre culture, the entire culture?

Is it preferable to have a Council of, dare I say it, self-appointed leaders and elders who believe they are the best people to dictate the “right” way to do things and who may well decide to ostracise any who don’t agree or comply with their proclamations?

Is it preferable to have Counselors, mediators and the like who will try to bring about a peace between parties, or co-operation between parties that really, in essence have way too much “history” between them to achieve meaningful and lasting resolutions?

Can Consultants offer truly binding and meaningful solutions in organisations that they have not been a part of, which they are getting their first glimpse of and in which they have, in reality, no stake in whatever happens either way?

 

These are questions that have been asked over and over through the history of the modern Vampire culture but the biggest question now is, do we really need anything or are we doing just fine as we are? It’s in this last question that we realise, and consider, our own personal opinions of the “state of the nation”.

Copyright RVL and contributors, 2018

Grateful acknowledgement goes to Lady CG, Saint-John Hawke, Lady Sylvere Ap Leanan, Mike Burgess, Elder Kage Adamant-O’Mallie Asotus, Prince-Lord Shaolin Asura MacPhee and Lupa Gunnr MacPhee Lykaios

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