On Ventrue Loyalty
Letter from Arthur Graves, Ventrue Elder and sometime Seneschal of Marseilles, to the Paris Board; dated 7th July, 2000.
I entreat you all, honored Kings, to forgive the length of my response. I urge that you will not judge the message by its envelope. If I understand Mr. Danton's rather prosaic soliloquy correctly, he has not only reminded us (and very rightly so) that discourtesy is bad form, but also that we should avoid disputation with one another. Finally, he exhorts us to adopt some manner of cooperative unity, and suggests that those among us who refuse to participate in his proposed 'congress' are not only behaving in an obstructionist manner but are guilty of disloyalty to our Clan.
Mr. Danton's appeal echoes one of the more popular themes of discourse in the salons of late: the question of loyalty. The theme spills over constantly, it seems, into private discussions and dialogues with what I must view as alarming regularity. If I had a franc for every Kindred who urged the members of his Clan to cooperate and unify under the banner of loyalty, I daresay that I would not require the mutual funds that my aides so vociferously recommend.
If I may be so bold, good colleagues, I would submit for your considerationas dialectic rather than a matter of policythat loyalty is both supremely attractive and nearly impossible.
Eventually, particularly among those who harbor political ambitions, all betray and are betrayed in either great or small affairs. This, I think, is not necessarily because of malice or deficiency, but because the trait of loyalty runs counter to one may be pleased to call "normal Ventrue (or Kindred) behavior."
"Into what danger would you lead me, Cassius?" asks Brutus, who is in fact an honorable man yet easily seduced by treason by an envious associate. I can still hear the late Prince of Prague's avowal of loyalty to his Seneschal, after it was revealed that this worthy was clearly guilty of the Amaranth. "I stand by my chosen right hand," said he, a few nights before the execution.
I have always suspected, dear colleagues, that a bank with 'Fidelity' in the title was going to lose my money. The mere assertion of loyalty is often enough to signal betrayal. One of the weaknesses of loyalty is that, unlike friendship, it requires constant outward demonstration or declaration, and so invites insincerity. It is also, by implication, unconditional, and suggests that come what may you will agree with those to whom you are loyal even when you know them to be wrong. All this practically guarantees treason.
This is not to suggest that any should be disloyal promiscuously, or without making an effort toward virtue. A reasonable definition of a virtuous Ventrue, in fact, might be one who knows the difference between noble and ignoble behavior, and strives for the former while succumbing to the latter.
Yet it seems to me that as noble a standard as loyalty sets, there is simply too much fear, self-doubt, opportunism, and ambition in our nature to insist on it blindly. Total constancy under all circumstances is neither natural nor realistic; even dogs bite the hands that feed them! Such is the paradox of our existence, the dichotomy between desire and reality: that is the hallmark of our nights.
So unachievable is the goal of total loyalty that it is often, I think, the betrayals that make our existences interesting. Without Judas, the life of Jesus might have been bland and unremarkable indeed. To be sure, there are Ventrue and even other Kindred who are famous for their loyalty, but they are often loyal to a fault, and thus a supposed virtue becomes pathetic, stupid, and sometimes criminal.
To my mind, the worst manifestations occur when institutions mandate it with phrases like "in the national interest." Polonius tells us that the highest loyalty is to oneself, but it helps to remember that Polonius was an idiot.
I have the honor to remain,
A. Graves, Esq.
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