Sunday, April 8, 2018

Critical Mass Part V



Introduction to Part V

We’re at the final installment of Critical Mass, a petition for the initiation of DIY space, or the NonPro concept in our Custom and Artist Resin show system in the US. Throughout this series we’ve covered a lot of ground to lend perspective to the problems at hand because these are systemic problems that affect every one of us. But that promises a lot, doesn’t it? If we fix the NonPro issue, we potentially fix many other problems, too. As such, the predicament of the NonPro is a collective problem. So whether we chose to admit it or not, the NonPro is far more relevant to many of our interests than we may realize.

That being the case, in this Part V we’ll explore the possible tidal wave of positives NonPro could wash over this community. They’re wide-ranging and will sink deep into the core of this activity, too—and that’s exactly what we want.

Potassium Iodide

So let’s imagine a future where DIY NonPro is an active part of our showing system so it and Open are happily coexisting. More and more creative types are taking up tool and brush, and finding meaningful success on their own terms. Being so, NonPros bloom, they congregate and so they innovate, and the positive feedback loop accelerates and strengthens. So what does this mean for the rest of us? A lot—and it’s all good! 

Because when we dampen the disenfranchisement of a potentially large portion of our community, that positivity spills over onto everything else. As such, the potential benefits of NonPro could:

  • Reinstate healthier priorities like camaraderie and community over competition, promoting a more inclusive environment. And when more people have those Cs higher up on their priority list that spells good things for the enjoyability and sustainability of all this.
  • Encourage creativity by giving the necessary space for DIYers to prosper. And who knows what they’re capable of when given this opportunity? In turn, this helps to boost the vitality of our show circuit, too.
  • Return many people to peers rather than opponents so everyone can calm down and start liking each other again. And when that happens, we seem more in the same boat and that inspires cohesion and cooperation, too.
  • Get potentially more people to understand what goes into making a quality model. This has a sevenfold effect. First, it helps more people understand the job of judging and, in doing so, helps to ease up on judge shaming. Second, it could cultivate a larger judging pool by training them in the studio. Third, when more people understand what quality actually means, this helps placings have more sense as things become less invisible. Fourth, knowing quality better and what’s involved, the issue of prices won’t be so touchy. Fifth, the more people who learn what goes into a quality piece, the more likely we can find consensus on such things like judging criteria and quality. Sixth, because more people have to grapple with the challenges in creativity, artist shaming could subside as well. And seventh, it could jumpstart the institution of Novice since more folks would better understand the challenges facing a beginner. 
  • Possibly lead to NonPro options for other creative outlets like tack making, dolls, and prop making if those folks so desire.
  • Create a more welcoming and hospitable environment for newcomers and beginners by decompressing the environment. This could also prompt Youth divisions, helping to further ensure our future.
  • Reduce the pressures with showing to perhaps make the experience better for showholders and judges.
  • Engage peer-based competition to help reduce intimidation, frustration, and discouragement, resulting in a potential arts boom.
  • Facilitate congregation so NonPros can share immediate feedback. A NonPro wants to know how another NonPro did the roan ticking? They just have to walk up and ask whereas, in contrast, Pros are usually busy in their studios. This also helps to build bonds and promote education.
  • Build a system based on inclusion and more meaningful fulfillment, drawing more people into the experience and keeping them to sustain our numbers.
  • Inspire participation in other ways like volunteering, show hosting, or judging because engaged people are more invested in their community.
  • Increase and deepen Open over time since Pros left to primarily compete against their peers, too.
  • Encourage more people to try their hand at the arts too by depressurizing them, adding a new dimension of interest for those interested. 
  • Even out the gambling aspect of showing by evening out the playing field. 
  • Improve and expand education since more people want to develop their skills. This can also help create a self-educating pool of judges and a more informed shower base.
  • Inspire mentoring programs and judge apprenticeships because NonPros will be looking for guidance. The greater the need, the lower the threshold.
  • Diminish the lurking resentment of “Big Name Artists” (BNA) because it gets harder to dehumanize someone when we know their challenges. (That term originated as a derogatory slur.)
  • Could jumpstart NonPro performance as the lessons learned from halter could inform its creation, too.
  • Ignite fun new spins to showing with its more casual attitude. For instance, this could lead to experimentation with show formats which may be instrumental for the evolution of this activity. 
  • Facilitate cohesion in our community by improving representation of more interests.
And know it or not, each of us has a strong vested interest in the creation of NonPro specific to our sphere of interest. Truly, many of us are tied to NonPro in important ways. For example:

  • Manufacturers: More DIYers means more OF sales since more people are creating customs.
  • Sculptors: More DIYers means more resin sales because more people are painting and so the demand for canvases increases. This also helps to mediate that notorious painting bottleneck that leaves people with shelves of unfinished resins. 
  • Painters: The demand for Pro paintjobs will remain with an active Pro division, and may actually get a boost since competition in the Open division could open up. And over time as our ranks expand and more people stick around with a more inclusive system, that could also spell more buyers of Pro paintjobs. There’s also opened opportunities through the sale of how-to books, class hosting, and how-to video subscriptions.
  • Showholders: It’s possible the number of NonPros is large and so could pack shows. Shelves of unfinished models could finally show up! 
  • Hobbyists: When the emotions of a large group depressurizes, everyone’s experience improves. NonPro could also provide a low-pressure artistic outlet which may be of interest to potential creatives. What’s more, the better the collective experience, the more people are drawn in and stay, potentially bolstering inclusion over time. 
  • Judges: NonPro creates peer-based competition allowing us to better serve showers. And in a depressurized atmosphere where more people are behind the studio door, being shamed is less likely. As such, we may also see an increase in the judging pool, easing up the pressure for long show days.
  • Community: NonPro can help bring camaraderie, community, and creativity back to the fore, bringing balance back to competition. It could also make education a stronger influence and when people are learning and exploring, the patience and respect they have for one another improves. It could also potentially increase volunteerism by compelling more people to become more invested in the activity. 
  • Our future: NonPro could increase the vitality of this activity, potentially improving its sustainability and stabilization.
Here’s the thing, too—NonPro won’t erase or diminish the Open division. There will always be an active and vibrant Open division for those who find satisfaction and thrill there—and that’s awesome! Really, NonPro can simply coexist. It also won’t kill competition—it’ll simply provide another option for it, another competitive conduit. In this sense then, it’s not a threat to the showing circuit, it’s an asset.

Healing

People can participate in a competitive activity both as a hobby and as a competitive sport. As such, the hobby aspect of this venue is a natural, expected byproduct just as much as the intense competitive interests. They’re two sides of the same coin.

However, if we study other communities built around competition, we find they’re far more developed to better guarantee an inclusive and sustainable future for both sides of that coin. Truly, we find an inclusion-based structure that promotes versions of AO, Youth, and Novice since they recognize these participants assure a vital, sustainable future. As an off-shoot, they’re also strong on education through lessons, workshops, classes, training, printed materials, instructional videos, and teachers. Those communities that also factor in creativity tend to build their expos around education as well. In fact, many professionals there earn a large portion of their income through hosting and providing these things. In other words, the impetus is to get interested creatives involved in a hands-on aspect of the game and to keep them engaged in ways meaningful and accessible to them.

And all this is because these communities have a “more is merrier” perspective that results in growth, engagement, and stability. And because this is the priority, the community becomes self–sustaining as networks and foundations strengthen. Indeed, when a creative activity is based on its non–competitive priorities first we create a more stable base that supports the competitive aspects for the long-term. In other words, this bottom-heavy paradigm is more supportive of the activity as a whole. Instead, however, the creativity in this venue has a top-heavy paradigm…and it’s teetering. Space for the DIYer could help reinstate balance.

Indeed, the focus on intense competition has compromised the more supportive environment artists once had for the big learning curves, limited resources, or less intense interests. Yes—competition can improve quality, and it often does—but the truth is that was happening anyway. Intense competition isn’t entirely necessary to motivate a group of artists who are already high-intensity by nature. In this light then, perhaps we’ve put people’s personalities in competition which may explain another level of the lingering tension out there. It also potentially explains why a fixed definition of quality has been so elusive since people participating as a hobby tend to create work aligned to their inherent nature rather than to a set standard. It could be then that it’s not change that threatens this activity, it’s the status quo.

Conclusion to Critical Mass

It’s time to let go of our fear. Breath in, breath out—let it go. Stop fixating. Stop panicking. Stop knee-jerking. Stop jumping to conclusions. Stop fear mongering. Just…stop. Close our eyes, take a breath, relax. Everything will be alright when we work together for a common future built on positives and inclusion, and we can start the repairs by initiating space for the DIYer. Always remember The Five Cs: community, camaraderie, creativity, collecting, and competition. In that order. Right now we’ve put competition at the top and that may be causing some problems—but this is just a temporary hiccup and one we can fix. Indeed, this series isn’t intended to establish a New Order, but to seed ideas. To start dialogues and brainstorming. No one person has the answer! This is a collective issue and it’s best solved in that spirit. There are many other ways to tackle these issues and considering them all is smart. Along those lines, it’ll also take some exploration and experimentation, perhaps even implementing regional spins custom-fitted to a region’s specific quirks. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Because perhaps we’ve sacrificed too much to the God Of Competition and it seems many are tired of the spilled blood on that altar. Truly, some again want the fertile ground of fun, creativity, friendship, and less pressure and NonPro could certainly help that along. The truth is we could be approaching critical mass on this issue—time will tell.

So perhaps the question is this: are there people still out there with enough moxie to spearhead this concept? And perhaps they’ll come from some unlikely places. Because it would be a shame to stop fighting the battle right when Gandalf may show up. And things tend to be worse right before they get better, don’t they? The time wasn’t right twenty years ago, ten years ago, or even five years ago….but maybe we’re drawing closer to the right moment? Perhaps one last push, one Hail Mary is all that’s needed. We just need one match to start an explosion.

But understand the nature of your job. Don't look to NAMHSA—it’s not their job. It’s not a overarching governing body nor is it a spearhead for change. NAMHSA only puts on NAN—that’s it. And it’s already overtaxed and its volunteers are burned out. Don't blame showholders for not having NonPro either—people have to pack the classes to justify the resource allocation and that hasn’t been happening. You want NonPro? Approach your showholder and volunteer to spearhead it in your area. Find judges for it. Create the space. Develop the awards. Advocate, educate, and encourage. Practice activism. Don’t just demand change, be the change. Most of all, you need to show up and support NonPro. Represent! Create your pieces and pack NonPro to demonstrate proof of concept, to prove its viability. No show holder is going to host NonPro to crickets or even just a few. Get others interested involved and invested because the stronger the turnout, the more likely NonPro will stick. What’s more—quit with the imprinting, creative hierarchy, purity syndrome, and pigeon-holing. And stop the infighting. Make a decision, build it, and just go. Adapt as you go along. Nothing is written in stone. And you’re not going to please everyone so just please most and move forwards. Things will smooth and settle over time. Remember that bullying can come inside your ranks, too, so don’t get distracted by a few malcontents. Forge ahead on target. But all this depends on youno one else is going to do it for you. That’s your job. Quite literally, NonPro needs a grassroots movement, a strong, steady activism that will change hearts, minds, attitudes…and paradigms.

And don’t be afraid. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t be apathetic. And most of all, don’t fall prey to all those traps we’ve talked about. Stand up, chin out, and be proud to be a NonPro. This is your hobby, too, and you deserve your own identity and space. This isn’t an entitlement. This isn’t a privilege. This is your right so work for it and take care of it. And—sure—there will be hiccups along the way, but keep that baby in the bathwater. You can always morph as you go so there’s no need to be inflexible and rigid. It’s better to be adaptable, responsive, and fluid. You got this.

Chasing ribbons is fine and many enjoy it—it’s fun and thrilling! Many people love to show the work of others, too, and that’s fantastic. All this helps to keep the Open division so vital and diverse. But there’s more to the equation, isn’t there? We have this whole other segment of folks, too. We don’t have to sacrifice one for the other either—they can coexist. We want them to coexist to improve representation that will boost competition and the fun and cohesion that brings. Truly, if we want to support competition then, initiating NonPro is a natural choice.

To that end, think about learning more about our arts history. Discover where we came from to better plot our future. In many ways, perhaps we need to get back to our roots, back to the original magic that started this whole art thing in the first place. Indeed, looking back, our arts helped us to share our commonalities rather than amplify our differences, and we can get back to that reaffirming place again.

The choices we make now will determine our future. Can we continue to disenfranchise the DIYer? Does our competition just have to have one pathway? Do we have simultaneous options to competition? What are other possibilities? What other ideas do we have? Are there other ways to approach these issues? Do we need multiple approaches? These are curious things to ponder. Indeed, steps are already underway to tackle these issues. For example, Region X has a framework for a new kind of schooling show that offers DIYers an option. If you have any questions about Region X's schooling show, contact the committee at Schooling@regionxnation.com. The issue of disenfranchisement is also being addressed elsewhere—wonderful! For example, in that paper instead of NonPro and Pro, the terms here are “casual” and “avid,” very neutral terms that are also highly descriptive. Check it out! 

Because we may be at a crossroads—which path will you take? It’s in your hands. If the enthusiasm just isn’t there—that’s fine, too. Perhaps the time just isn’t right still or maybe solutions can come in other and better forms. But if the enthusiasm is there, it may be a good time to start taking steps forwards. It’s certainly been an interesting twenty years and it’ll be exciting to see what the next twenty will bring! We’re definitely a resourceful bunch and with enough brains working a problem we’re sure to find workable solutions to any challenge. So thank you for reading this series and considering these ideas. We're all connected in this tightly-knit community—we’re all in this together! And that spells good things for our future whatever may come.

“When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something.”
~ Pema Chodron

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Kim Bjorgo, Lesli Kathman, and Kay Myers for their input for this series. Kim provided some valuable historic articles advocating for NonPro, written by herself, Stephani Robson, and Vickki Johnson. Likewise, Lesli provided some key ideas as well as the necessary perception shift that opened the door for NonPro inclusion. And Kay offered valuable insights from a NonPro perspective over morning coffee in the wee hours of the morning. Thank you, ladies! And thank you to all those who’ve chatted about these issues all these long years. Your voices are important and I’m sitting here fingers crossed, too!


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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Critical Mass Part IV



Introduction to Part IV

Hello again! This is Critical Mass, an appeal for the initiation of NonPro space in our showing system. In Part I, we looked at the factors that created the problem in the first place. In Part II, we learned how targeted manipulations work against the NonPro. In Part III, we went further to examine those systemic biases that also compromise the NonPro concept. In this Part IV then, we’re going to explore what a NonPro is and isn’t. This clarity helps us to see the issues with greater precision and that let’s us formulate better targeted strategies. Indeed, we’ll finally get to defining NonPro!

Containment

It’s understandable how NonPro was so impossible to launch if we look back at how previous interpretations tried to frame it. At the time, formality was a pretty big deal, largely in part because NAMHSA had just formed and people were all puffed up on rules, regulations, and structure. We prided ourselves that we were finally taking ourselves seriously and so that Sam The Eagle attitude swept onto everything else. It was also because that latent fear had already taken root, however, and so perhaps it was thought the only way to sell NonPro was through a net of governance. Predictably though, this very same net helped to kill the concept simply because it was too cumbersome.

But the real culprit was how to define a NonPro. For example, it seemed that too many wanted to “imprint” and “pigeon hole” it, or fell into that “purity syndrome” and “creative hierarchy” trap (discussed in Part III). Or people were panicked over getting a perfect definition that filtered out any possibility of deceiving the system no matter how impractical or convoluted. Or the definitions always seemed to insinuate that NonPro was the B-team, constantly being based on quality and totally missing the point. In the end, people just couldn’t agree and shrugged, letting it all drop with a thud. And so the concept died, crushed under its own weight.

But if we’re going to get anywhere with this again, we need a new vision that incorporates two critical concepts. First, there’s no perfect definition nor will there ever be. Just like with AO definitions, there will always be people who don’t quite fit. But we can still design something that catches most folks and be practical. Once we get the concept underway then, we can always tweak as we go, even on a per case basis. We don’t have to carve things into stone. In many ways actually, it’s better to start loose and tighten later. Second, we need a more accurate idea of what a NonPro actually is because clearly there was confusion in the past. And it really shouldn’t be that difficult because if other competitive activities can make distinctions so can we. Indeed, we cannot make the distinction needlessly complicated! It’s better to keep it on the loose side to scoop up more potentials.

So to lay the groundwork for a better understanding, let’s first look at the nature of a Pro for a baseline. A Pro is someone who makes models for a living—they do this 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Their resources—time, money, travel, focus—are devoted to making more and better models as well as to their business operations such as sales, promotion, and arts or business education. So while art may be their passion, it’s also their job and they treat it as one. For example, they’ve formulated sales policies and FAQs, and they often have fancy newsletters to keep collectors up to date on developments and sales. They have bookkeeping to keep track of business expenses, often have separate personal and business accounts, they pay their bills with the money they earn, they pay taxes on their earnings, have a tax or corporate number as a sole proprietorship or LLC, get a 1099 from Paypal on their earnings, have a business license, and even paid assistants. People pay money to buy their work or services though commissions, cart systems, payment plans, subscription clubs, or any number of financed options. Pros enter into business contracts and can do work for manufacturing companies or catalogues. More still, many Pros don’t show their own work since they don’t want to compete against their collectors. In short, this isn’t a hobby to them—it’s a profession. It’s what they do in order to make a living and how they make a living facilitates what they do. Being so, their focus is inordinately intense—absolutely fixated on creating the very best work they can crank out partly because it’s in their nature but also because their living depends on it. Indeed, they’ll sacrifice other aspects of their life to get the job done. One could say there’s a level fo obsessive compulsion here, which this art form does tend to attract though here we find it in the extreme. Put another way, these guys play Wimbledon. They’re the certified pastry chefs.

Now let’s look at a NonPro in comparison. A NonPro is pretty much the opposite of a Pro. They don’t create models for money, but mostly for the sheer joy of it, the personal satisfaction. They often have 9 to 5 jobs, are full time students, or are parents and so their time is a very limited resource. As such, they can only work on their art in short intervals sporadically over the week rather than the utterly focused, round-the-clock ability of a Pro. Their budgets are typically limited, too, which is partly the reason why they create their own models in the first place. Now they may sell or trade a few models here and there, but that’s to make room on their limited shelf space plus the sales tend to fund more model supplies or show fees. In other words, the money tends to go back into their hobby involvement not into paying business or living expenses. Really, sales are incidental rather than premeditated. Being so, they don’t have the sales situations Pros do or licenses, tax or corporate numbers, policies, contract work, taxation, bookkeeping, assistants, quarterly tax forms, 1099s, or other professional accouterments. What they do is a true hobby, a casual pastime done for fun, relaxation and enjoyment, not because they have to in order to make a living. And they like it that way—they have no desire to do this as anything more than that. The desire for the extreme intensity of the Pro just isn’t there either partly because that’s just their nature and partly because that’s not their motivation in the first place. And while some may be more competitive and intense than their peers, that’s to be expected in such a diverse group. Overall then, these guys just want to play tennis. They just want to bake cookies.

So with a lock on a comparison between them, let’s look at what NonPro isn’t about because once we do, NonPro will make a lot more sense. So…
  • NonPro isn’t the B-team. They’re absolutely not the realm of second-rate work. Instead, the only difference between a Pro and NonPro are their different realities, affecting everything from time usage to resource allocation. So quality cannot be used as a defining criterion.
  • NonPro isn’t a nursery for new artists. They aren’t a glorified novices. That’s the realm of the Novice or Youth divisions (which should be instituted as well, but that’s another discussion). Granted, developing new skills plays a part in NonPro—but it does in Pro, too. And it may provide a safer zone for doing so, but that’s incidental. NonPro isn’t about targeting a developmental stage—it is developed. So a boom in the arts with NonPro is more a byproduct of the new space just like how resin boomed with its new space.
  • NonPros don’t have significant regional differences. Their core similarities remain consistent. And even if regional quirks did occur, they can be addressed with workarounds.
  • NonPro isn’t about age. That’s the domain of the Youth division. Instead, someone can remain in NonPro as long as they meet the criteria, just like a real AO, which can mean lifetime eligibility.
  • NonPro isn’t about ribbon greed but about creating an equitable playing field for its very different reality.
  • NonPros aren’t a minority. Instead, their numbers are potentially huge. Just look at the bulk of participants in NaMoPaiMo this year.
  • NonPro aren’t failed, second-rate showers who aren’t serious about showing. NonPros take their creativity very seriously, it’s very important to them. We all participate in model horse showing for our own reasons. There’s no such thing as a “real shower.” 
  • NonPro doesn’t deserve to be sidelined. Collecting may be important, but the real engine behind our social and economic systems is showing. We have to recognize that whatever is showable is what gets validated and prospers. Want to make your new doodad popular? Sponsor classes for it. Overnight others will start making doodads, too. So when we say NonPros should be happy creating their models on the sidelines what we’re really telling them is that they should be happy being marginalized and invisible. Yet their interests, arts, and motivations are no less deserving and their challenges and triumphs are no less fascinating. They’re artists, too! And they’re our fellows, colleagues, and friends.
  • NonPro won’t be best served by a graduation clause. In the beginning, it was thought that forcing people to graduate from NonPro was the way to go for fairness. Some people gave a time limit, or an age limit, and still some based it on the number of championships won, even the number of judges they won under, or other permutations of a disqualification clause. But this confuses NonPro with Novice or Youth. NonPro is neither. It’s the equivalent of AO in the real horse world meaning that as long as someone meets the criteria they can stay a NonPro no matter how good they get or how old they are. In fact, enforcing a graduation clause sends the wrong message by telling people that NonPro is about quality since someone “too good” has to be jettisoned. No wonder there was so much confusion—people had NonPro mixed up with Novice and Youth!
  • NonPros are not about the money. The whole paid thing was a big hang-up in the past. People just got ruffled at the thought of NonPros selling some work—but why? So what? It just funded their involvement. No big whoop. They didn’t make a living from it. And really, there’s nothing wrong with some wiggle room here because we're really targeting motivations, not incidentals. Indeed, when sales mostly fund their NonPro participation that's a very different scenario from a Pro. And—hey—everyone has limited shelf space. What are they supposed to do? Throw them out? Give them away? So a NonPro selling a couple of pieces a year to make room for more just isn’t a big deal. But if NonPros want to institute a yearly cap, maybe of two to three, so be it. That’s not necessarily a bad idea. But there’s no need to get worked up over this—the looser and easier we keep things, the better it’ll be for everyone in the long run.
  • NonPro doesn’t need a Big Brother bureaucracy. In the beginning, it was thought a policing agency or governing body was necessary to ensure kosher involvement. A certification program was brandied about, even with fees and affidavits. Some believed there needed to be a master list of eligible NonPros and some entity to maintain that database perhaps with showholders keeping track of all this. But after all was said and done, the result was really imposing. So it’s probably better that NonPro is served by fluidity, informality, and honor system self-policing just like we do elsewhere. And with a clear, easy definition of NonPro—which we’ll get to in a moment—everyone can be on the same page. Indeed, this community is small and insular, and people are vigilant, and the fact is most people are honorable. Plus, the resources just don’t exist for a bureaucracy so to demand one is to essentially kill the concept outright—which some expressly use for this purpose. It’s probably not a good idea to require fees or certification either as it’s an unnecessary burden for little gain. And if some issue came up, we can leave the decision to the showholder on a per case basis. Or maybe the NonPros can elect an impromptu representative at any given show to make a decision. Who knows. Let NonPros decide. But there’s no need to get fired up here because—yes—there will be bumpy parts as we get things ironed out. That’s inevitable. But it doesn’t invalidate the concept or discredit the effort. Be patient, forgiving, and kind, and trust that things will smooth out as we all get the hang of it just like all the other things we’ve initiated. Above all, we cannot let a few bad apples kill the entire idea and ruin it for everyone—we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater again. This insistence on inherent dishonesty conveniently stops the concept from even starting. So let’s not pander to our fear in knee-jerk reactions. We can deal with situations as they happen on a per case basis and learn from them. We got this.
  • NonPro won’t drain resources from other divisions, a fear mongering tactic. With planning it can co-exist just fine. And the fact is we can support more interests. There is room. Indeed, maybe all a show needs are some NonPro classes here and there which can increase or even become whole divisions later if warranted. Remember how modest the resin classes were when they first started and how quickly they grew? And when NonPros pay for they entry, they’re paying for their classes, right? And there’s no real worry here—there will always be an active, competitive Open division with plenty of room for those interests.
  • NonPro won’t diminish the value of a ribbon earned in other divisions or classes. A model winning a ribbon in the Arabian class doesn’t affect the value of a model winning its ribbon in the Sporthorse class, right? The value of a ribbon doesn’t transfer, does it? It applies only to that specific situation, yes? Well, the same applies between NonPro and Pro. The idea that NonPros will deceitfully play their ribbons off as Pro wins is just fearful thinking. Most people are honest and upstanding, and will be proud of their NonPro win. Being so, they’ll be on the lookout for anyone who tries to bend reality, too. Just because they have less intensity doesn’t mean they have less ethics.
Clearly, there’s been a lot of misconceptions about NonPro. People basically confuse it with Novice or Youth, or get way too hung up on regulation. But once we ratchet down the intensity—ironically—we come to a more workable solution. And that’s okay. We don’t need to be draconian or fretful over this. The truth is NonPro will become self-regulatory and even the rare party-pooper will be ferreted out in short order. The tremendous positive benefits of NonPro are well worth any “risk.” Honestly, if we got hung up on every possible cheating scenario someone could pull, we’d have no shows at all, would we? So if we’re willing to tolerate some risk with our shows, we can tolerate it with NonPro. Otherwise we’re just being arbitrary, aren’t we?

So how do we define a NonPro? Happily, it’s not that onerous if we flip things around. The thing is a NonPro is a lot of things, many of which are situationally variable, and each is a unique constellation of them. And who can make practical sense of all that? So the real breakthrough occurred when someone—Lesli Kathman, to be specific—thought to define NonPro by what they weren’t. In other words, rather than focus on what makes someone eligible instead focus on what makes them ineligible. Truly, that criteria is much more straightforward and consistent. In fact, this approach is so simplified that literally anyone can figure it out quickly and easily. 

So what would make someone ineligible for NonPro? Easy—an artist is disqualified from NonPro if they’ve engaged in clearly professional activities like:
  1. Sculpting, or designing patterns or colorways for mass production (any manufacturer, any medium).
  2. Sculpting a limited edition release (resin or ceramic).
  3. Working as a guest artist or consultant for a manufacturer (any medium).
Ta-da—that’s it! How easy is that? And "clearly professional activities” leaves it open to per case tweaking. Because remember, we can amend as we go and even make per case adjustments. There’s no need to freak out or in-fight over this. Indeed, this criteria does a good job of siphoning Pros right out of the beaker leaving NonPros in a nutrient-rich solution. If a NonPro engages in any one of those criteria then, they’re automatically bumped into Pro. And because they’ve already engaged in one of those criteria, they can’t downgrade because what’s done is done, right? We can’t undo a resin edition or a Breyer colorway. That’s the beauty of this approach—it’s straightforward, easily applied, and adaptable. It basically takes care of itself. And whether we want to start qualification now or at some previous start date is something the NonPros can decide.

By the same token, too, this makes a Pro really obvious. In fact, we can even make a list of them with their criteria so clear and their numbers lower. Then showholders could use that list for kosher entry if they wish. But even so, with such easy criteria, people will be able to spot them in practice anyway. And once we all get the hang of this, it’ll largely take care of itself.

The Hose Down

So once someone is a NonPro, what could they expect? It would be great to really maximize their experience since they represent the majority of creatives—it’s just sheer numbers. So the happier this large segment of people, the more those NonPro benefits increase (which we’ll explore in Part V). So why not take this chance to crank up that dial? Then break the knob off!

Just as varied in scope as Pro, NonPros can create everything under the sun from repaints to customs to original sculptures. So when it comes to actual showing opportunities NonPro is about their input on the model. Understand this and it’s easier to see the sense of the potential NonPro perks. Don’t get in the way of their creativity—fuel it. Don’t stifle their opportunities—expand them. Don’t dictate how they can show—let them engage it on their own terms. So in that spirit, it would be great if NonPros could:
  • Paint or customize any OF and any artist resin they want (provided they honor reserved rights) and let them create their original sculptures. There should be no restrictions and all this can be separated in a classlist anyway. It’s their fun—let them have it.
  • Show their own models in NonPro and their Pro models in Pro at the same time.
  • Show their own models in Pro if they wish to dip their toes into that challenge periodically if they wish (and if the class schedule allows it). Why not? It happens in many real horse shows! And those worried about this—why? It’s happening right now. No big whoop. Isn’t Pro all about competition? And why worry about some sort of “unfair” imbalance of opportunity? After all these years of deprivation? And they do represent the majority of creatives so the more opportunities they have, the better all the benefits they generate and that’s good for all of us. And Pro showers have just as much opportunity to qualify and show in NonPro.
  • Expand into a full, standardized division over time, potentially on par with the Open division.
  • Have their own NonPro show circuit and perhaps even their own NonPro Nationals.
  • Have their own social settings like NonPro forums and social media outlets.
  • Get educational resources directed at their needs and interests.
Intravenous Infusion

There’s one critical thing we must understand when we institute NonPro: it needs time to develop. Probably a good three years. So if we just spontaneously offer NonPro, there’s probably going to be low attendance. Models take time to create and people need time to get used to an idea before they jump in. So we cannot allow these anemic numbers to dictate our dedication. We have to give it time to take off! So what may be a good tactic is to announce a NonPro opportunity two years in advance then use the interim to educate, advocate, and encourage. If we aren’t patient, persistent, supportive, and diligent, our negligence will kill it again and that would be an needless disaster for all of us.

In this sense, showholders could be the vanguard, the trailblazers who help carry the torch of change. But they need enthusiastic, committed, engaged support, a grassroots movement supporting their risk. They cannot meet with crickets! We’ll explore this further in Part V.

Conclusion to Part IV

NonPro isn't so improbable to implement or so impossible to define. Just looking at things from a slightly different perspective with an open mind is actually pretty easy. It also hints at the big numbers of potentials out there, doesn’t it? Think about how their ranks could pack shows and how that speaks to this venue’s sustainability. 


That being the case, in Part V then we’ll explore this cascade of positives NonPro could produce, and in ways that could change everything across the board for the better. Because we can do better than this. We’re so much better together than apart!

“Almost any event will put on a new face when received with cheerful acceptance.”


~Henry S. Haskins


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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Critical Mass Part III



Introduction to Part III

This is Critical Mass, a petition for the inauguration of NonPro space in our showing system. It seems the last twenty years have progressed to a point where this issue can no longer be ignored, that its time may finally have come. And isn’t that a wonderful thing? Adopting a new format promises new opportunities, expanding the excitement and diversity of our shows. Proactively attending to a systemic problem spells good things for all of us, too.

In Part I we analyzed the factors can created the disenfranchisement of the NonPro in the first place. In Part II, we got real with the issue of beta aggression and its byproduct, bullying, and how that negatively affects the NonPro cause. In this Part III then, we’re going to take stock of our collective attitudes about NonPro that have also worked to keep NonPro muffled.

Radiation Sickness

Beta aggression doesn’t just embolden bullying, it influences our attitudes, too. We’ve marched through the decades with such blinders on, haven’t we? So much infatuation with a ribbon or card, we blinded ourselves to the unintentional changes that were working against us. Or to put more fine a point on it—we shut down proactive change. Through our resistance, our apathy, our disdain, whatever the reason, we did a very good job of making sure a large segment of our community was muzzled. And now it’s come back to bite us as many warned it would.

In this, we need to admit something—our community has its own novel brand of discriminations which are strong, sweeping, systemic, and have the same false logic, fear mongering, and mistaken assumptions typical of prejudice. And yet we accept their truth as our reality or at least something to be begrudgingly tolerated. Why have they persisted for twenty five long years? It may simply be that many don’t recognize them for what they are, or perhaps “ribbon privilege” enables the rationalization “it doesn’t affect me.” But the truth is they affect everyone and in rather profound ways. And perhaps because these prejudices affect the NonPro most, we’re obligated to finally rethink them. Yet it behooves us to address them for our own sakes, too, since what’s good for NonPros will be good for all of us (something we’ll discuss in Part V). Time to get real with ourselves.

The first bias is the strident belief that “fairness” ensures quality and so upholds value, to the point where if something is perceived as “unfair,” people get quite riled whether or not it’s warranted. For example, we see it launched in attacks on judges, or against our peers when our fears, suspicions, and resentments pile up along with their prizes. But if we look at things more objectively, we see that for most cases there’s no real correlation between “fairness” and quality. Indeed, we have no consensual rulebook or fixed judging criteria. We can’t even consensually define LSQ. So a judge can literally use any criteria they wish, weighted any way they want. There’s also no confirmation whether they’re properly educated on that criteria either. Yet in this chaos, a ribbon is considered a factual statement of quality? The truth is the best we can say is that a placing represents someone’s random opinion at that moment given what’s on the table. That’s it. To attach a validation beyond that is to not fully understand the nature the situation and speaks to how skewed our prospects have become. To be sure, they’re now sustained by fear not reason, by self-interest not compassion, by cynicism not optimism—all the main ingredients of prejudice. Because most of the time, a model is bought or a ribbon is placed in accordance with someone’s honest assessment, but with criteria that may not match our own and in this ruleless system, isn’t required to. We all love a model for our own reasons. 

Similarly then, this bias works against the NonPro, being used to accuse them of simply wanting to stack the deck in their favor as if NonPro space would be intrinsically unfair to everyone else. But to assume their desire for their own setting is a means to simply scoop up armfuls of goodies is to misunderstand the problem. NonPros don’t want a nefarious advantage, something beyond what others have. They want equitable conditions matched against their peers just like professional showers have. But if we quickly assume that anything new to the status quo is simply a manipulation for an unfair advantage, how are we going to experiment, explore, and evolve into a more sensible showing paradigm? No wonder we’ve been stuck for so long! So it’s not to create an unfair situation, it’s to correct an unfair one. Yet this prejudice prevents folks from recognizing this, even to deny it caught up in the fear that fuels it. So rather than ensure fairness, all this prejudice does is promote suspicion, confusion, and exclusion, the very things we don’t need and which disadvantage NonPros even more.

This brings us to the second prejudice, the belief that people will engage in unethical behavior at the first opportunity. Truly, it always seems when things don’t go someone’s fickle way, they panic and call shenanigans without even considering how they may have misunderstood the situation or should consider it on a per case basis. We even see people getting frenzied over something they learned second hand, even third hand. Typically then, we see judges accused of unethical, biased behavior when placings don’t appear “right” to someone. But the truth is the judge is probably seeing things that are invisible to them and they’re just doing their job correctly. Why not just ask the judge? Or perhaps we’re seeing things invisible to them—we’re all still learning, remember. (Instead of freaking out then, that was a great moment to politely and discreetly have an educational moment.) What’s more, there are relatively few artists who consistently crank out the most accurate work and knowledgable judges tend to favor them for that reason. This isn’t an expression of unethical bias, but of doing their job properly, of making educated choices. And we can’t forget that many folks just aren’t aware of how judging actually works—it’s not as straightforward as it would seem. What sounds good on paper just doesn’t apply in practice! To automatically suspect others then is to literally interpret everyone as a potential enemy, and how is that conducive to consensus? Indeed, this knee-jerk assumption of unethical motivations—of guilty before proven innocent—helps to keep us divided. It creates an air of reckless disrespect and distrust, and a lack of civility as people become more shrill in their accusations and as more people are injured by them. It also makes us impatient with each other when a more tolerant response is the better reaction. It turns peers into opponents to be challenged, too, rather than potential friends to be embraced. And how fun is that? So when we automatically assume someone is up to shenanigans when not privy to the full facts is to fall prey this prejudice, and that helps no one, especially our own credibility. And—yes—there will be those few who are unethical and who will cheat, but they’re few and far between and usually ferreted out. The fact is, most people are honest and well-meaning so to fixate on the problematic few at the expense of everyone else is just overreacting. It’s time we relearn to trust each other again and even when a rare bad apple bobs up. Are we really incapable of rising above and moving on with our positives intact? Has our fear taken so much control that we’re simply incapable of thinking our way out of this? 

Even so, all this adds up to paint the NonPro with a particularly ugly brush. But NonPros aren’t some conspiratorial group. They don’t want to take advantage of anyone or the system. In fact, it can be argued that we’ve created a system that unethically takes advantage of them! If we assume that NonPros are unscrupulous in their motivations then, we’re simply being prejudicial. They’re no less trustworthy than anyone else. They’re our friends, too!

We come to the third prejudice which is particularly snippy: someone is just a wannabe if they’re not into high-stakes intense competition like the “real showers.” In other words, if they’re not utterly fixated on “perfect,” too, then they’re not worthwhile participants with invalid interests. They’re essentially losers. Because why bother? They’re not serious, are they? This prejudice usually burbles up in a number of sideways slams. For example, the idea that NonPros are the B-team because they’re just not “dedicated enough” to create the really excellent work is a common example. However, NonPro isn’t defined by quality because the truth is the work of many NonPros is brilliant! Another potshot is the idea that people who create their own pieces are somehow hokey or old-fashioned compared to those who buy the “real” work of Pros. For example, we hear this in the claim a region is particularly strong simply because a bunch of people there own Pro models, totally overlooking anyone who makes their own. Another veiled bash is the assertion that instead of “whining,” people should save up for one or two great models. This patronizing, out-of-touch response deliberately ignores four facts. One, financial limitations have a direct influence on our experience in this venue. Really, generally speaking, the less we can afford, the less likely we’ll find consistent success. Yet limited finances are unavoidable for many since this is a casual hobby with a fixed budget, meaning that their experience is essentially predetermined in the current system. Many people just cannot afford even a $500 model no matter the conditions. As such, this can drive someone to create their own models. As such, second, NonPros don’t want to compete with someone else’s work—they want to compete with their own, and on an equitable playing field with their peers. What’s more, none of this invalidates their participation, diminishes their value, or discredits their contribution to our community. Third, it doesn’t recognize that having one or two shots at success is very different from having many. Showing models with no rules, no consensus, no training, and no fixed criteria literally means it’s a form of gambling. What will the judge pin? Who knows. We can certainly hedge our bets with great work, but that’s no guarantee. Even the best piece ever created can do stellar under one judge but tank under the next. So even if we have a two amazing models, that’s still relatively low chances for success compared to someone who owns ten. And when someone can only afford to go to a few shows a year, chances are further reduced. Model horse showing is really about playing the odds and the odds certainly don’t stack up in most people’s favor. Fourth, it dismisses the concern in the first place, the validity of someone’s frustration with the status quo. Rather than considering their point then they’re simply labeled a “whiner” as if their reality had no merit when, in fact, it’s the canary in the coal mine. It’s essentially condescending victim blaming and it happens far too often in this venue. And it goes on and on. The fact is the NonPro is confronted on a daily basis by an undercurrent of disdain and indifference as if they were second rate citizens or “failed showers” despite being the majority of potentials.

The fourth prejudice is the idea that NonPro space is about handing out a bunch of ribbons to a bunch of second-rates which will water down placings overall—even diminish the value of everyone’s models. How in the world will ribbons earned in a totally different space—the NonPro—affect that of Pro? This is literally like saying the price of bananas fixes the price of curry combs. Ribbons aren’t a kind of universal currency—people pay attention to where they come from and how they’re won, in fact, obsessively so. This is pure fear mongering! Can we please stop fixating on the value of our models and think about the value of our collective experience? Yes—the money we've invested in our collection is important, but our investment in our community experience is important, too. These things aren’t mutually exclusive, in fact, they’re synergistic. Think about it—the better our collective experience, the more people are attracted to our activity and so the value of our models goes up. And even so, what’s wrong with handing out more ribbons? Really—how is that bad? This idea of being a “ribbon miser” to ensure quality and value is a fallacy because it doesn’t work that way in the current system. We all know of the undeserving winner just as much as the shower discouraged by this covetous obsession. And with the gambling setting, value is all over the map. In the midst of all this, we really should be giving folks any encouragement possible. This whole “they get! they get! they get!” attitude misses so many points when we need a lot more community-minded thinking. Because the truth is the more ribbons we hand out, the more people are encouraged to continue and that actually boosts showing, value, and participation. There’s this, too: high quality has become so evenly distributed nowadays that the idea of handing out only a few titles becomes ever more problematic as more of these pieces are created every year. So the idea that we should be tightfisted in our prize-giving to shore up an artificial sense of value is contrived at best and arbitrary at worst. This isn’t to say we need to be flinging out ribbons like ticker tape, but we can certainly loosen our grip on the bag. Because what’s more important is that people get some form of positive feedback and encouraging vibe for all their effort whether Pro or NonPro. Besides, a good placing under a great judge will always retain its value.

The fifth prejudice is that everyone else will have to suffer in order for NonPros to prosper, as if one had to sacrifice for the other. Perhaps some believe their goodies will be sacrificed to allow some to be given out to NonPro? This doesn’t have to be the case with targeted entry fees and smart development. Because NonPros deserve a competitive space where they, too, can feel the benefit of their efforts just like the rest of us. Creating a positive feedback loop is never a bad thing. Really, NonPro is about setting up a space for them to compete against their peers rather than being thrown into the Pros who have all the advantages. So it’s about equality. We got proactive to get artist resins out of custom because we thought that was an inequitable comparison, right? Yet we don’t recognize this very same disparity between the motivations and limitations of Pro and NonPro? It’s as if we have a willful blindspot with our peers, that we’re loathe to even consider how they may be suffering under a system that benefits us but disadvantages them. Because we already have one group sacrificing for another, don’t we? The NonPro has been sacrificing for the rest of us for over twenty years, and it’s time the playing field was made more equitable. But as we all know with any body of power—it’s loathe to share it. We can do better. We need the neighborhood tennis court. It’ll keep more people incentivized to create and stick around so our ranks don’t continue to dwindle. The goal of NonPro then is really to encourage and support the larger segment of the community not to deprive anyone else of opportunity. Equal rights doesn’t work that way.

Yet it also cannot be ignored that in the gambling setting, it’s advantageous for showers to keep the game exclusive by limiting the number of entries in any given class and participants at any given show. That is to say keeping entry numbers suppressed—either by exclusion or discouragement—increases each person’s chances of getting a ribbon (or NAN card). And if we’re all about chasing ribbons nowadays, this is perceived as a benefit despite the systemic damage it does to our activity. Because let’s flip this equation over—let’s create a boom in the number of showers—now the chances for any given model to ribbon in any given class goes down. This highlights the fact that what we have today isn’t actual competition, it’s rigging the system! And nowhere else is the system more rigged than against the NonPro where whole swaths of interests are being methodically disenfranchised for no better reasons than misunderstanding and self-interest. But let’s reconsider this—let’s institute NonPro. Yes—we have more showers, a lot more showers. However, they’re popped into their own space. That actually leaves more room in Pro for models to ribbon and new space in NonPro for those models to ribbon. In short, NonPro actually increases someone’s chances of ribboning, something good across the board.

The sixth bias is the stubborn belief that NonPro simply cannot be defined and is therefore an exercise in futility. Even more, that unless we have an irrefutable definition that scoops up every extravagant exception, we need to dump the idea altogether. It’s always seemed so strange that the community could come together so quickly to form NAMHSA—accepting the risks and loopholes that could be later be closed—yet refuses to do this for the NonPro situation. It could be that the idea’s bad PR simply scared people away and suppressed activism. It’s also possible that as it was originally envisioned, its massive governing bureaucracy was simply too overwhelming for the perceived payback—actually a fair assessment. And NAN was a big, fancy show, a decided perk for active showers whereas NonPro was about “those people,” something incongruous with our growing intensity. So maybe it was just bad timing? The idea that NAN have NonPro space may also have riled intense showers because—to them—having the “B-team” get the same opportunities just rubbed them the wrong way. But it also could have been done on purpose. It cannot be denied that some people seemed to deliberately complicate matters as a means to shut the idea down, throwing out every possible exception and wild scenario as if just one pothole meant the entire truck had to go off the road. Indeed, we’ve been oddly spastic to throw the baby out with the bathwater with the whole NonPro concept. Yet we allowed so much leeway with NAN yet none with NonPro? So much uncertainty with NAN yet none with NonPro? So much risk with NAN yet none with NonPro? The fact of the matter is no definition is going to be perfect and there will be some who fall between the cracks. That’s true of AO rules as well. There will also always be someone who tries to game the system in their favor. That’s true of everything, including NAN. But neither of these scenarios preclude the necessity and viability of the concept. We have to start somewhere and we can figure it out as we go along, even on a per case basis. Let’s keep that baby in the bathtub because we can certainly change the water as needed.

The seventh prejudice is that NonPros are just a bunch of sour grapes, sore losers who only want to whine about how they aren’t winning as many ribbons as we are. What a great way to shut down dialogue, huh? So very effective in discrediting another person’s reality, isn’t it? There seems to be some people who are really attached to the current showing system and therefore feel threatened by the DIY idea. But they forget—perhaps in their knee-jerk panic—that there’ll always be a very active Open Halter division, always a place for Pros and professional showers*. But the problem here is that showing currently only caters to the Open division—heck—it is the Open division. But that doesn’t represent the bulk of potential participants, the NonPros, and so our traditional showing paradigm isn’t servicing a large part of our community. And they just want to play tennis! (There are also vast numbers who cannot afford to compete as a professional shower which warrants its own discussion). In contrast, horse associations take Amateur Owner (our version of NonPro) extremely seriously. They keenly recognize that AO stabilizes their activity into a sustainable long-term activity and viable economy and so seek to encourage them with inclusive, active involvement. In a sense, the AO (NonPro) is the middle class and we all know how fundamental that is to the vitality of a consumer-based economy. The bigger their numbers and the more they’re included then, the more robust and dynamic the system. And like the real showing world, we have our professional trainers (professional artists), professional owners (professional showers) and AOs (NonPro) so why not simply jump to this new paradigm? We already know it works—and really well! Here’s the thing—the Open-only division may have worked in the past, but it’s quite obviously obsolete and out-of-touch today. It’s time to move onto a better paradigm, a more sensical showing system that includes more of our community.

[*It’s another prejudice to think that professional showers are “do nothings” who just buy a model and plunk it on a table as if they didn’t put any real work into earning their ribbon. The truth is it takes work and study to develop the finessed Eye to spot the great work—it’s not something we’re just born with. And just because it a more “invisible” skill doesn’t make it any less authentic or valid.]

Because here’s the thing—NonPros don’t mind getting beaten, they just want to be beaten their peers. Indeed, who wants to get blasted by something not even aligned to our same interests? Would we show an OF against an artist resin? Then why would we show an intense motivation against a casual one? A set of advantages against a set of disadvantages? And just because one is casual doesn’t mean it’s less worthy. It’s simply different. There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to play tennis! I mean, I love to play D&D, but I just want to play the game not immerse myself obsessively in every tiny detail, lore, book, and rule. Or I just want to bake cookies not become a pastry chef. We have to start recognizing how different intensity levels determine outcomes and start respecting them. Participation is always more important than obsessing over the “best of the best” at the expense of whole groups of people, especially when we’re talking about a casual pastime. Indeed, if people aren’t having fun in their hobby, they’re going to find another one and there are plenty of options out there to fit any horse-crazy heart. Then what are we losing? We’re all diminished the moment someone leaves in discouragement or chooses not to pick up a paintbrush. And—no—this doesn’t make them any less dedicated or worthwhile. It means we’ve failed to provide a setting that makes sense to them.

Showing used to be about positives: incentives and exploration. But for most people in its current state it’s based on negatives: discouragement and entrenchment. And while a large part of our community are creatives or potentials, our system is designed specifically to demoralize creativity if not of the most intense fixation. In response, NonPro would offer a reinstatement of that incentivized setting for people to again explore their creativity without worrying about whether the outcome will be competitive enough to justify their time and emotional investment. With NonPro, we recreate that encouraging setting for the majority while leaving the high intensity for those who want it. It’s a win win.

Because there’s nothing wrong with competition—it’s a good thing. It's an impetus to improve and innovate and it provides a challenge to intense interests. But competition is only healthy under two conditions—that it’s peer-based and that it’s kept in balance with camaraderie, community, and fun. Instead, however, we’ve allowed competition to become the top priority at the expense of these balancing factors, resulting in a widespread unhappy sentiment. And we see this clearly with the plight of the NonPro since being forced to compete with Pros doesn't actually cultivate artistic drive—it destroys it. Strong competition only improves art and inspires participation when people compete within a context that makes sense to them, when it’s with peers. Being thrown to the wolves is hardly an incentive, is it? So initiating NonPro means two things here. First, the majority of creatives finally get equitable peer competition while the intense interests get to compete with their peers. And when the Pros are competing with Pros, that intense interest amplifies even more. A plus for that kind of focus, isn’t it? Second, this new playing field depressurizes the whole setting, reducing stress, suspicion, and anxiety so people can remember fun, camaraderie and community again, reforming bonds and respecting each other once more.

[It’s also been suggested that NonPros could focus on photoshowing as their outlet. However, this overlooks the fact that photography introduces its own exclusionary limitations. Equipment costs and technical know-how can be an exclusionary burden all its own, for example. And we want things to be more accessible, right?]

Because we have to wonder if AO is so popular in horse showing—demanded even—why hasn’t it been so with us? We’re supposed to be emulating real horse showing yet we’re failing on a fundamental level here. It’s these darned prejudices that give NonPro a bad image and make it seem like an unwieldy, unpleasant beast better left untouched. And maybe that’s also deliberate? Because if shows are a limited resource why would we want to share it with people who aren’t really serious? If we’re all about the best of the best, why would we want losers to have an equal shot at that prestige? If ribbons are a statement of value, why should second-rate quality be equally validated? And if NAN is a tough, qualifying show, why would we water it down by allowing hackneyed showers a shot at a cookie, too? Good grief! Is it any surprise that so many NonPros are demoralized, having being browbeaten with all this for so long? And it’s definitely prevented them from action and advocacy to boot. Truly, if any group has suffered overt discrimination in our genre—and so unjustifiably—it would be the NonPro.

Altogether then, it’s time we address our prejudices because their discriminatory influences are causing harm to this community, to our peers, and to our future. Tradition is nice, the status quo is comforting, and our expectations may be predictable, but we should never be married to them. Just because we’ve done something a certain way for awhile doesn’t mean that way remains relevant as everything else changes. Species, ecosystems, societies, culture, and technology evolves—and our venue is no different. Truly, if history shows us anything it’s that hanging onto an obsolete paradigm is only destructive. At some point it’s going to break and then where will we be? Isn’t it better to proactively reshape and adapt it as we go? A thing either evolves or goes extinct so which will it be? We’ve made big evolutionary jumps before and we can do it again…and again…and again. As often as we need. It’s important to realize that the last five years, ten years, twenty years are still just a snapshot of the whole scope of a bigger picture, including what’s to come. So what seems like the way it’s always been done isn’t necessarily the case—it’s just what we’re doing now. And a tremendous amount has changed in a very short time so it’s worth remembering that we’re more flexible and adaptable than we may think we are. So why not do so with better purpose in mind? We have a lot of wiggle room for everyone but only if we’re willing to rethink what we’re doing and why.

Conclusion to Part III

Confronting our community’s weaknesses won’t be comfortable, but it is necessary. In a very real sense, we have to address our foibles that continue to plague us not because they’re incidental, but because they’re symptomatic of core problems. But that’s good, right? The sooner we resolve them, the sooner all our days get better.

And we should remember that most paradigm shifts come with it conflict. Ugliness. Weirdness. Uncertainty. But they need to happen anyway. And after the tantrums, people adjust. After the confusion, people figure it out. After the chaos, things settle down. And there may be a step back, but we’ll eventually take two steps forwards. Give it time and it’ll take root. We need to shed our old skin and learn to feel comfortable in the new skin. We’ve done this before! This is often how change happens in human society and our community is no different. So the time is coming when those who want change will simply have to ignore the bullies and prejudices and just do their idea. Damn the torpedoes. Build something solid, plan ahead well, and wait for people to decide whether the change is more appealing than their fear—because chances are it will be. People just need time to adjust.

In Part III then we’ll explore the specifics of a NonPro category so we’ll have clarity in defining them. And it just takes a little shift in perception to do it!

“See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.”

~ Ralph Marston

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