This essay also appears in Vampires in Their Own Words.
Why do vampires in this country insist on forming “courts,” “covens,” and “houses” that take on the trappings of feudalism? If we were European, Asian, or Indian it might make more sense. Those countries have long histories of caste-based societies, complete with all of the problems associated with them.
But we’re Americans. Our nation was founded on the principle that all are equal in the eyes of our Creator and should be acknowledged as such by those around us. We waged a revolution to establish this philosophy as a fact and emerged victorious. Over the centuries, we have fought other battles, both military and civil, to expand the reaches of democracy so that all humans everywhere might enjoy the rights and responsibilities of this way of life. In some areas we have made tremendous strides. In others, the battle continues but we persevere, confident that our cause is just and that we will prevail.
Yet, in clubs and on the Internet, we revert to the very societal structure from which our countrymen struggled to free us. Is it a need for a sense of community? I don’t think so. There are plenty of people, vampire and non-vampire alike, who do not feel the need to be addressed as Elder or Lord or Mistress. There are egalitarian organizations everywhere that welcome all without the need to elevate an elite cadre over the masses. Surely those who seek a sense of belonging can have their needs met by one or more of these groups.
Why do we persist in subjecting ourselves to an artificial hierarchy? Why do we continually adopt false titles that have no basis in merit and serve no purpose except to offer a flimsy excuse for the bearer to put on airs and degrade others? Oh, I’ve heard all the standard lines about honoring those who serve our community and offering titles as a sign of respect.
Those excuses are simply not good enough. I know plenty of people who have worked long and hard over the years to better the community. They hold no titles and do not care for any. So recognizing achievement cannot be the underlying purpose of adopting a title. Are the titles hereditary? Of course not, because we abolished such counterfeit structures when we declared our independence. So, why do we do it?
Is it so that we can feel powerful? We have long felt ourselves to be outcasts, have felt the need to hide our true selves from the eyes of the world – is this irrational drive to adopt an even more discriminatory order a product of our need to feel special? Why do we need to justify our collective existence by establishing a system of recognition that oppresses others as we have felt ourselves to be oppressed? Where is our pride? How does subjugating each other equate to unity? How can bigotry and snobbery ever generate harmony among us?
How many times have we heard the call to “unite the vampire nation” under this council or that order? How many of those groups have fallen by the wayside or degenerated into harmful cults? If it is unity we seek, how can we ever achieve it by allowing our peers to subjugate and tyrannize us while we prattle on about how our so-called leaders bring honor to us by upholding the “old ways”? Honor is not a prize to be won or a gift to be given. It is something we know to be true about ourselves. No one can bestow it where it does not already exist and only we can take it from ourselves. There is no honor in assuming the façade of an outdated power structure. To say otherwise is to belittle and demean the warriors who have fought and bled and died to give us the freedom to choose for ourselves who is worthy of our respect and admiration. It is those brave soldiers who are truly noble. It is those who cherish their liberty, bought with the coin of sweat, blood, and tears, and use it to lift up all whom they meet who are the most honorable among us. Those who give selflessly and ask for nothing…it is they who display integrity.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
No pretentious title will ever hold the significance, contain the splendor, or bear the majesty of the philosophy that gave rise to those words. None ever could.