SAVA & the SA VC – A South African Success Story: An Open Letter To The South African Vampyre Community by Octarine Valur
2015 was a long and difficult year for many of us and I have again watched the SA VC’s activity dwindle over the past few months, from a continuously bubbling and bright pot of cheer into a dull gray stagnant cauldron. Honestly I can’t point fingers at anyone this year as I too have been very quiet since August, distracted by dayside matters requiring my full attention just to make ends meet and to survive. Life in South Africa today is easy – yes, as easy as treading water in an ocean, surrounded by hungry sharks.
There are some who have made a habit of lurking in the shadows, waiting to see if this year will be the year that the South African Vampyre Alliance (SAVA) and the community it spawned will breathe their last. Will it be 2015? Or 2016? Does the SA VC – and SAVA its core – still have any life left to it?
There are some – a very few who have for the past few years since 2015 waited with bated breath anticipating the thrill of seeing the SAVA or Octarine Valur fall from grace in the local Vampyre Community. Each year, so far, they have been disappointed. It’s not possible to build a community without stepping on some toes. It’s not possible to lead any group of people without making some enemies along the way. It’s not possible to make decisions without disappointing or offending someone.
As founder of South Africa’s VC and the SAVA, I find myself in that somewhat unenviable position today. I started building the local VC in 2010 – and after 5 years of tiresome, draining and sometimes rewarding hard work, there are today quite a few people in our community. I suppose it is inevitable that some of them would hate me, some of them would be indifferent, and some would think of me in a more favorable light – although I am quite indifferent to public opinion about my popularity. One cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs. On reflection, I am happy to know that at least I have met amazing people, dramatically expanded my own knowledge, and associated with some really solid members of the Vampyre Community, and even a very few friends.
Just reading through our histories as a community and community based organization from 2010 onward (how many VC participants in SA can say they have even done that much?) it is obvious we’ve been through a lot. We have been through ‘energy wars’ and occasional flare-ups with local Pagans who fought – unsuccessfully – to prevent Pagan Vampyres from being open about their nature – or even to be allowed to be welcomed in Pagan circles. Over the years, the SAVA has – like it or not – won acceptance and understanding of vampyric people among various community groups, most notably South Africa’s Pagan community. That in itself is no small thing. The SAVA has – together with notable Pagan groups and figures – taken on the matter of media misrepresentation of religious and subculture stereotypes in the press, judiciary and SAPS, and with a remarkable level of success too!
The SAVA – and the SA VC – have influenced and changed our local environment, and for the better.
Together, we in the SAVA – and with the SA VC – have defined our community, influenced the growth, development and even – by means of co-operation with international VC bodies – helped to maintain the security and integrity of our global subculture. In the course of the past few years, as a community we have reached unheard of heights for how we started out only 5 short years ago – a brand new, young, developing VC.
Some people in the VC may not like the SAVA, and well, we know some really don’t. Of course by now we know it’s easy for people to sit in their armchairs and criticize while not having lifted so much as a finger to even try to do better than those they criticize. They may not like ‘upstart’ Octarine Valur, who appeared on the international VC stage, and without a traditional pedigree or formal mentorship, and while rising up the ladder of VC politics has demonstrated her own way of doing things. They don’t have to like me. They don’t have to like US either, as a community. They should respect us however, because many of them have been around far longer than we have – and have achieved far less. They respect me and what I’ve achieved – some because we get on, some because we agree most of the time, and others because, well – because there can be respect, even between enemies – even those you’re not entirely sure of.
That said, 2016 is a new year, a fresh beginning. That’s the theory anyway, isn’t it? New broom sweeps clean? This is a year of change. Perhaps I should emphasize that 2016 is GOING TO BE a year of change!
This year, YOU as a SA VC participant – whether you are a Vampyre, Swan or Otherkin -will get to determine the course of the SA VC’s destiny. That’s right – no bullshit.
For 5 years I have run the show here in SA with autonomy – and I’m not going to mince words with you. Cards on the table time. Let’s talk turkey.
House Valur, the SAVA, Vampyre Academy, SA Vampyre News, the Culture Site, Real Vampire Forum – all have been run by me since 2010. I wished I had people contributing towards the running of those sites and projects – and yes, some have contributed articles – a long time ago, but the sad truth is that most of the time people have been quite happy to just sit back and ‘let Val do it’. After all, Val wouldn’t mind, since because Val did it, Val got to call the shots, do the planning and execution of various tasks, choose the wording, maintain control and take the credit. Even when Val wanted to let other people take on some of the responsibilities, share some of the workload, contribute time and effort to the running of the organization – and to give THEM the credit for their labors.
You see, while some people accused me of being a despot, a tyrant and a dictator, I really wanted people to run other SA VC blogs, websites, forums, Facebook groups, and SAVA internal structures. In fact on more than one occasion I encouraged people to start their own independent SA VC news service – to provide balanced and even opposing views to SA Vampyre News – which if you really look at it, is a ‘state-owned news agency’. I even encouraged talented local participants to draw news-style political cartoons, with guarantees that there would be no repercussions from my side even if I were the target of such cartoons. Nobody was interested enough to follow through. I certainly wasn’t going to create and run it myself pretending to be the opposing viewpoint!
For years we at SAVA worked to find people to manage various projects… and still, after five years, these are still on my shoulders alone. Oh, the internal politics still work, we still talk and debate and plan events and so on and so on… but when it comes to the running of the machinery, it’s all my baby. VC admin is a sideline. I don’t get paid for this. None of us do. The VC is a passion of mine, it always has been. This is a calling, to be sure. But if I meet all my dayside responsibilities AND all my nightside responsibilities every single day, I have no life to speak of. It’s been five years.
To give you an idea, it’s already the first of January, and I still haven’t even collated entries for the Vampyre History Project update for the 2015 timeline. I have 584 email items to work through in order to prepare the 2015 timeline, due by midnight yesterday. I’ve been trying to reassign the management of the Vampyre Academy for 3 years – with 3 who initially accepted the assignment bailing out soon afterward when the amount of work and knowledge or skills became apparent. The same can be said for projects such as SA Vampyre News, just as another example.
In the past year or two, SAVA members will recall the times I have posted requests for assistance with this or that… and it’s always the same few who answer – kudos to them – but even they, the same loyal few – cannot keep taking on these responsibilities. The rest must just enjoy the view as passengers. Harsh, but true.
You want the truth, people of the SA VC? The candid truth. One person – not even one Regent who has done all these things – a Vampyre Community doth make. One person cannot do it all – and even if they could – they certainly cannot keep it up for long. Something’s gotta give, folks. Right now, my ‘giveafuck‘ is about to blow. As a community, you’ve got to step up – and now is the time.
SAVA is probably the very only VC organization I know of that has its own Constitution, Post Profiles, Policies, Standard Operating Procedures and Duty Directives! The structure is there, the experience and the leadership is there. But we cannot do this alone. We all have lives offline, one or more jobs to attend to, studies, family time, kids to help with homework, cars to fix, bills to pay, downtime in hospital etc. We need to step up to the promises we make, to keep to our commitments. Otherwise SAVA and all that we have done since 2010, has been in vain – with very little being done by a very few – surrounded by loads of passive onlookers posting pretty pictures of vampires on Facebook – and all we’ve done is make a few very amusing web resources and organize a few cool vampire goth parties. Is that all it’s been? Is this what SAVA and our community adds up to? Or are we something more than that? Something more real?
Is Octarine Valur despotic? Am I a tyrant? Am I power hungry? Back in 2012 when two dissenting Magisters nearly destroyed the SAVA, I stepped in as Regent of the SAVA. Somebody had to do it. It was either that or watch all my community building efforts collapse before my eyes. I could have crowned myself Queen of the SA VC – like so many others have done in various other VC groups around the world – and there is NOTHING that could have prevented it, should that have been my desire. I chose the title of ‘Regent’ instead BECAUSE I didn’t want to be a monarch to the VC – because I didn’t take power for myself – I did it to preserve the SAVA. You see, I’m an idealist at heart. A liberal democratic socialist. I don’t want to hold onto power for its own sake – and certainly not indefinitely. Once upon a time, I used to have a life before the SAVA and the online VC. I’d like to have some of it back.
At SAVA we (and some no longer with us) have worked hard to build our culture, to make it unique to South Africa, to make it all special. All we’ve ever asked you for is your support and your interest. This is what I ask of you now, once more.
This is where YOU come in.
This is where YOU decide the future of Octarine Valur, the South African Vampyre Alliance, and this community.
Here is a link to a ten question survey – the outcome of which will determine the course of future events for our community.
The results will be displayed to all participants on completion for complete transparency, and the final results will be made public at a later date.