Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A hand-picked Sherlockian society

Let's be a bit controversial today.

If you pay attention to the political world at all, you might have heard a bit about the current administration and its party attempting to get as many young ideologues into judge roles as possible while they have the power. Nothing to do with Sherlockiana, though we do have a few judges within our ranks. But that sort of move does shine a certain light on a practice within our own hobby that's been cheerily going on since the last century.

The last head of America's main Sherlockian group retired from the role this year, after a term of over twenty-five years. And in that very lengthy term, he was the final judge of just who got to be a member of that august society. At eight or ten new members a year, that means the current membership roster of the group was largely chosen by that single individual. Well over two hundred members, at the very least.

We all have friends within those two hundred plus folks, and we do know a lot of nice sorts there, as we do in the Sherlockian population as a whole. So it's easy to ignore that gatekeeping bottleneck aspect of the society, and, heck, it's been nearly thirty years since it was used to keep women out, so we're all fine, aren't we?

Unless you're that one fellow who had an untrue rumor whispered into the ear of the guy in charge, and you suddenly aren't getting an invitation. Or maybe that single individual doesn't like the color purple, and you just love wearing purple. Keeping out an entire demographic is a fairly obvious-to-all sort of thing people notice. Nit-picking a single individual out of ever joining can be easily hidden among the "so many deserving that not everyone can get in."

John Bennett Shaw used to proudly tell of getting two people black-balled from the BSI as "one was a son of a bitch and one was a Nazi," or something like that. Many a Midwesterner of the Baby Boomer generation remembers the Nazi, and Shaw, as ever, might well have been justified in telling the head guy of that time about his concerns. How bad a son of a bitch the other guy was, it's hard to say, as a son of a bitch or two still made it into the group in olden times. As with marriage, some people behave differently before and after the ring is on their finger. (And if anyone wants to point at this writer with regard to that statement, feel free.)

The point is, the membership mechanism of America's main Sherlockian society could probably use a little daylight and a little more democratic process at some point. The "benevolent dictatorship" thing is all well and good until someone not so benevolent sneaks in, perhaps cozying up to some aged and feeble predecessor to get the nod before letting their full agenda to be know.  And if one can pack the membership with hand-picked members for twenty-five years, maybe that agenda doesn't even have to be a secret. Pull in enough secret Nazis over that period, and you've got a club that can go full Nazi eventually.

We live in a time when people are starting to look closely at what our future will hold, and how we can deal with changes that will come whether we like them or not. Is it a time for looking clearly and directly at some of the old things of Sherlockiana as well?

Just a thought.

1 comment:

  1. A baby step towards a healthier organization might be divorcing membership from investiture. That golden inner circle still has issues that need to be addressed, but it is objectively ridiculous that people cannot freely join what is the de facto United States Sherlock Holmes fan club. And then perhaps if those members could become elected officers, and maybe those officers are eventually tapped into the inner circle (investiture), and then you have people in the inner circle who perhaps aren't so invested in the old ideas about how things should be done. Just one thought.