After a four year hiatus exploring America by motorcycle, I had my arm twisted until I agreed to build another ship and see people I’d not seen in quite some time. I’d forgotten how much I’d missed people I’d not spoken to in those years. Arriving at Nationals, it felt really good to reconnect with old friends and meet new battlers who’s joined since I last attended. I was free to have a low pressure good time, since my ship was barely complete and I predicted multiple sinks in my future (I nailed the number exactly). I had many good conversations and felt optimistic about the week. After Nats, I saw that things had become even more polarized in MWC. Everywhere I looked I saw warning signs of issues. Lack of respect for fellow members. No quarter given for mistakes. A general feeling of mistrust. I felt the root cause of the problem was that communication had broken down to the point where MWC was less a club than a bunch of cliques pointing fingers at each other. I resolved to try to be part of the solution instead of adding to the problem. I called several people I’d had conflicts with in the past to address those past conflicts in person to reach a mutual understanding. I asked for help to reach out to others to start a dialogue and jump start friendly communication again. I also reached out to try to mediate between people who felt slighted by some event at Nats that they felt slighted by to foster understanding and remove the hard feelings. I felt I was actually doing some good. Now, I feel like the Little Dutch Boy. Sides: There are “sides” in warship combat. The Axis and Allied fleets exist so that there is a side to root for and a side to shoot with glee. This is not just a hobby of robot combat, it’s also a kind or role playing game where I can sink your barbarian ships while you attempt to put holes in the pride of the imperial fleet. When we are on the water, the other side is the enemy. When we are planning for the next battle, the other side is my enemy. When we are in the pits, anything in my tool box is yours if you need it. When we are at dinner, we drink beer and laugh. Some people have always had a difficult time separating the game from real life. They are interested in personal glory or glory for their side at the cost of anything else. I recall my rookie Nats having a vet try to have me removed from the next battle near the end of the week because my hull was hard from patching. He wasn’t trying to make sure I was having fun. He wasn’t interested in fostering new members. He just wanted to make sure my BB’s stayed off the water so I couldn’t gain any points with a ship that had proven to not be a cream puff. In the end, he was overridden by the CD (Bart) because winning isn’t the goal. Another example of the “Sides” issue: I was involved last year with trying to devise fair rules regarding rudders and bulkheads. Ultimately, those efforts failed due to finger pointing and outright accusations of favoritism towards one or another “side”. “You Axis” and “Those Allies” comments flooding my inbox. For shame. What is important? Some perceived advantage or the club? On the rudder issue, I worked with others to try to gather actual data (gasp) and found that my assumptions were dead wrong. It didn’t matter. Facts didn’t matter. The facts were obviously lies designed to favor a “Side”. This level of distrust isn’t viable. I was recently informed of an email titled something along the lines of “The Axis Problem”. I’ve not seen the email and I hope that such a thing never happened. However, if it did, the author should be ashamed of himself. Have enough respect for the club and for the rest of the members to address concerns constructively. Club vs. Cliques: When I joined MWC, there were many members who garnered respect. Bart Purvis, Fleugel, Don Cole, and Lars stand out as fair minded leaders who cared about MWC as a whole. Their stabilizing influence kept many of the hotheads and cliques in check. Most members were in it for the good of the club as a whole and not in it for their group to be in power. Over the years, many of those respected members who felt it was their duty to lead have fallen away. Some have stepped up to try to fill their shoes (Bob comes to mind) but the pendulum has steadily swung towards fractured groups centered around hotheads with their own personal agendas trying to use the club as a hammer against others who disagree with them. When there are groups who call themselves “Elite” and call others “Don’t Matters” who are allowed to drive the direction on an organization, the organization is doomed. I can proudly say that I’ve never been a member of an exclusive group. I’ve always tried to be inclusive in every organization I am involved with. Hell, I even support the member of my STAR chapter who bough a Harley. Having secret meeting to strategize how to hurt or eliminate other members of a club means the club is done. If a member is honestly a problem, address it respectfully and give everyone a chance to correct errors. If you just disagree with their positions, allow for the fact that you may be wrong. Respect your fellow members. Give them the benefit of the doubt. You Get Out What You Put In: Clubs are work. Hard work. As long as there are a sufficient number of members who are willing to bear the load out of duty to the club, it can survive. Bob is a good example of this. I’ve not always agreed with Bob on issues, but I have a lot of respect for Bob. He’s done more to grow this hobby than any single member I’m aware of. He’s worked for the CLUB. Unfortunately, most of the club has let him down by letting him shoulder the burden. The same goes for people like Lars, who spent years begging for help for TF144. Not to make this about me, but I’ve YET to get a "thank you" for the many months of research and money spent to correct the Japanese cruiser list. Some probably thought my revelation that the sole 3.5 unit Jap cruiser needed to be downgraded to 3.0 units was an Axis plot . The BOD has become a problem. They are unresponsive to member requests and attempting to use the rules as a hammer to stifle dissent. The issue isn’t even so much the structure of the BOD, its that some of the members of the BOD (not all) WANT to be on the BOD. They WANT to run the club. It’s their hobby. They have an agenda of directing the club instead of letting the members run the fun parts while they take care of administration. The BOD has been secretive and has the power to change any rule they like at any time. This was not the original intent, but this was emphasized to me by Tom Palmer when I spoke to him about some of my concerns. The BOD has become this way because the membership as a whole will not step up to help their club. They are willing to leave the running of the club to those who WANT to have power. That is the death knell of any organization. You get out of a club what you get into it and most of the members seem to be happy to let this club die from lack of effort. Gossip: It’s been brought to my attention recently that I said mean things either about or to Brian Kohler. That was a surprise to me. To my recollection, I’ve had nothing but constructive conversations with Brian and don’t recall even having serious disagreements on issues. However, someone is spreading that rumor. If that person is reading this, man up. Stop acting like a gossipy sorority girl. This is just an example of the rumor spreading that goes on. The reason people spread rumors is that they don’t respect the people they are speaking about. If you spread rumors, you are the problem. If you allow others to spread rumors, then you are the problem. If you want to save MWC, then it will take action to fix this culture, not just a personal promise to not do it anymore. Try to have at least a minimum level of respect for other club members. In closing, I’m not going to be a member this year. Some of that is due to personal change. Some of that is due to the BOD and their heavy handed and condescending treatment of the membership. The personal change will no longer be an issue in the near future and I hope that the members take their club back from the negativity before it’s too late so that something worth joining exists when I can again. Remember, this is not just playing with toy boats. People have thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars invested. Some people have no other outlets. This is worth saving. Make a stand and save it. Think of the club, not your petty desires or agendas. If you have been standing on the sidelines, step up and help shoulder the burden. If you have been and are burned out. Take a break and encourage others to help. Point out that its not nice to be a parasite. To those of you who are my friends, I hope to see you on or off the water again. You are the people I tolerate this for. For those who are acquaintances, I can disagree with you vociferously, it doesn’t mean I don’t respect your position. It just means I don’t agree with it. Disagreement doesn’t imply hate or distrust. It just implies you’re wrong. Ask my friends. I don’t pull punches with them either. Thanks, Professor Chaos.