Can There Be A VC Without Laws?

(Originally posted March 17, 2011) In the past I have engaged in a few debates about community rules and guidelines and so forth. Mostly these have devolved into rants, arguments and personal attacks, with people making accusations back and forth about “role-playing” and “life styling” and what is or isn’t good for the real Vampi(y)re community and its delicately balanced public image. Many good points are made on both sides, and some prompted me to dwell on the problem: can the VC continue to exist and grow and prosper without rules?

Central to such debates are House laws or community guidelines – chiefly the Black veil, which has over the years devolved into several versions, with some groups adopting one, and others another – and nobody agreeing completely on the worth or significance of any of them. Many have criticized the Veil and do not hold to it as a community law. Nevertheless, it remains the most widely known community guideline in the VC.
One of the things that has changed over the years, is the community itself. Some argue that the Veil is outdated and doesn’t fit the modern VC. The glass coffin is shattered, as they point out – and we can’t go back into the shadows again. Much of the Veil is about secrecy, hence their criticism – but again I have to point out relevance – in many places in the world, being out as a vamp is riskier than in others.
Some have used the Black Veil to show that community rules are intrinsic to role playing groups of the 1980’s and 90’s, pointing out how it originated in a V:tm environment. Others have pointed out that there are elements in most versions that are well suited to the VC at the time it was written and filled with common sense about various aspects of our community.
Those who criticize the Black Veil would probably rip the Totum Lex Vampyrica or TLV – the house law of my group, to shreds. It is  tailored for groups in a more conservative environment where keeping the Secret is a emphasized.
Some insist we don’t need rules as a community, that we as individuals have enough common sense to know what to do or not to do. They say we should simply adhere to the general laws of our country or state and we will somehow be “just fine”. Sadly I have to disagree.
While many of us may be smart enough to cope without such laws, there are many out there who are prone to rash and even patently stupid acts that pose a risk to the rest of us in their area.
I’m talking about those who hurt their Donors, or people who indulge in crime and draw attention, rightly or wrongly – to the VC. If you keep track of such items in the news, you will have noticed a drastic increase in such reports over the past 3 years alone. Such acts cause unfavorable attention to be focused on the broader community – and also bring with it factors such as “satanic panic” and so forth – along with the active proliferation of misconceptions and the application of dogmatic assumptions about real Vampi(y)res.
Also, the general rules of society are geared towards the general population – who don’t have our needs and who in many cases view our needs, acts and existence as threatening – and in some parts of the world – as a crime. This necessitates that in some places at least, Vampi(y)res behave in a certain way as to avoid these legal entanglements – requiring guidelines or internal community laws. In some places, while authorities may be aware of the existence of real Vampi(y)res in general, they won’t know about the existence and whereabouts of actual groups in their local VC.
Most groups I know of seem to have their own set of rules: do’s, don’t’s, code of ethics, code of conduct etc. Most clubs and groups do in general. Mostly these law sets are tailored to suit their circumstances and beliefs and based on how favorable their society is.
Some feel that from these individual House laws it should be possible to construct a broad spectrum community guideline or law set that can suit the whole community within a state or country, or even possibly the whole VC – and I think they’re right. I think it is possible, but is it workable? Maybe.
From these existing law sets, it is possible to pick elements to suit a larger amalgam of groups, so that they might make sense to the broader community as well. The only question is who will do it, and who will support it – and who will enforce it? Some say the leaders of Houses and groups should enforce it. Others, a Council or something of that sort. As is so often pointed out, there is no recognized leadership in the VC. We appear to be a school of fish, without a leader, without a system of government, listening to the loudest voice at the time, darting this way and that.
There exists within the VC only the simplest form of government, in that Houses, and other groups have their own recognized leaders and some of these leaders belong to other groups together in open debate and occasional agreement etc, etc. But still, that is as far as it goes.
Yes, there are more arguments about Vampi(y)res as leaders than I care to relate, but suffice to say as a friend of mine says – “it’s easier to herd cats than to get vampires to agree on anything”. According to some, arrogance seems to be a vamp characteristic, and who knows? Perhaps they’re right. Most vamps I know are fierce individualists and that may be our downfall as a community.
Often it is members of the community who live in places where they have the freedom to be open about who they are and what they believe, who can afford to criticize internal community law sets or codes of conduct as “role playing fantasy” and as “detrimental to the image of the VC”. They seem to forget that they are not the only vamps in the world and how lucky they are to enjoy such freedoms.
It seems to me that saying we don’t need laws or guidelines takes us back to the days before the OVC, when new groups were forming online and vamps were looking for a community to belong to. And it also seems that the adage “be careful what you wish for…” applies – because we seem to be getting it.
A community needs infrastructure and regulation, or it ceases to function. Suddenly some of us are afraid of being part of the machine we were looking for when we were alone and solitaries, seeking others in the night. Suddenly we risk losing our illusion of uniqueness, our illusion of independence and of becoming small wheels in another big machine that increasingly begins to resemble the real world we would rather escape from. Is that it? Is that why we wanted to be part of the VC to begin with Is that why we choose to mend our own little fences keeping us apart?
In my view, the assertion that we don’t need community rules or guidelines technically invalidates the need for an actual community. Then we might as well scrap the idea of a VC and go back to being tiny isolated groups or solitaries without any guidelines or rules and without a community – because communities exist on commonalities and order, even if it is liberal and informal. And order doesn’t come without rules. Or without a price.
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