My friend Don Hobbs and I had many an interesting chat during our road trip to Chicago this weekend, one of the more notable being our complete disagreement upon membership system of the Baker Street Irregulars. This was not completely unexpected, as I've been disagreeing with conservative Irregulars on that subject for decades, and Don, having been a member of the B.S.I. for a full year now, has . . . to put it less than objectively . . . drank the Kool-aid.
And for those of you new to the blog who think I've got a grudge on for Elementary, well, let's say it pales in comparison to my feelings on the exclusive membership style of the B.S.I., a group I've been a member of for going on twenty-five years now.
The way the Baker Street Irregulars works is this: You don't get to come to their annual dinner without an invitation, and you don't get to be a member unless the head guy picks you, for whatever reason he considers valid, to be in the small group inducted every January. It's been called "a benevolent dictatorship," which has stuck more than any other description. Said dictator does a whole lot of work to run the organization, his only pay being the perks of the job, including getting to pick the members.
Since getting the B.S.I. shilling of membership is seen as an honor like a knighthood as much as anything, we use words like "invest" and "award" instead of "picking" when it comes to the process. And one of the arguments that frequently comes up against a more democratic process has always been "It's Michael/Tom/Julian's club, he can do what he wants," which isn't really an argument at all, just a concession that things are how they are. And one never knows if that comes from a "I got mine, you figure out how to get yours" apathy or a fear that the illusion of B.S.I. honors might fade if we looked at it closely enough to improve the system.
And the system needs improvement. Accidentally fart in the elevator with the club's benevolent dictator at the wrong moment and you might just never get the much-desired shilling of membership. I'm not saying that's how choices are currently made, but with the one-guy system, you do run such a risk. Anybody can make a bad impression with one person, and unless that one person is a true saint on Earth, silly little biases can get in the way. And have. Even if the current guy is the best chap in the world, in his declining years he could appoint a real bastard as his successor and suddenly America's premiere Sherlock Holmes society is only for white men with incomes in the 1%.
As a whole, Sherlockians are an inclusive, welcoming, generous breed, and I've never felt we were well represented by that exclusive dinner for the hand-picked few. Already in 2013 we've seen an uprising against "the elite devotee" and a lawsuit against the Doyle estate to free Sherlock from intellectual property shackles. Might this also be the year we see an upgrade in the outdated membership traditions of the B.S.I.?
I'm certainly not getting my hopes up, but these are amazing times, and Santa Sherlock has been very good to me so far.