It may sound like I am stating the obvious when I say that the value of information is different to different people, and for different purposes. However, far from being a damning verdict upon society, I see this as a mark of just how special and wonderful the international HEMA community is and can be.
In many aspects of life, information may hold value, or it might be “consumed” idly without much further thought.
The daily news is a good example of something that people tend to be aware of, but perhaps do not value very much. Certainly, I find it difficult to put much value on most sources of news, because news can be twisted to achieve different personal agendas, and there are unfortunately few (relatively) unbiased sources of well-written and well-researched news. It is useful to be aware of what is happening in the world around us, and yet it is often a long and difficult process to verify everything you read to make sure it is not being misreported.
The work and knowledge of experts is perhaps valued more often by a larger number of people. Nonetheless, many people still don’t believe experts, and prefer to believe whatever nonsense they may have heard or have come up with themselves. Flat-earth theorists and anti-vaccine people come to mind, along with Michael Gove’s rather cringe-worthy statement in 2016, during the lead-up to the Brexit referendum, that “Britain has had enough of experts.”
Even among those people who are willing to listen to experts, the willingness to pay for knowledge and expertise is not always there.
I find that people are usually perfectly happy to listen to me talking about history and HEMA, or about running a business, or about any of the other technical skills and knowledge that I possess. However, the moment I suggestion that there might be a fee involved to receive that information, most people begin to drift away, unwilling to pay, even if that payment would provide exactly the knowledge or expertise required to solve a difficult or expensive problem.
Is it worth paying for information or expertise if it solves your problem? How much is it worth paying for information and expertise? In business, this can be quite a simple question: how much is the problem costing you? How much profit are you likely to gain by possessing the solution, the information, or the expertise? If a comparison of the numbers suggests that paying for the information or expertise is the sensible thing to do, then it is an easy decision to make. Unfortunately, most people are not involved in running a business, and so this is not necessarily a common way of thinking.
I run Fallen Rook Publishing, where we publish books about HEMA and history in general, and we struggle to sell our books to the general public – not particularly surprising, since HEMA is very niche, and our books are more expensive than most people are used to paying when they buy books on Amazon or even in physical bookstores.
And yet – and here we reach the core message of this article – in the HEMA community, I am constantly amazed and awestruck by just how much people value information and expertise. People buy the books from Fallen Rook Publishing, even if English is only their second or third language, and put forward good money (sometimes in large quantities) to access the information and expertise contained within these books.
In the HEMA community, we see so many events running every year, with instructors invited to travel the globe to share their knowledge and experience. People attending these events pay what can be quite large attendance fees (let alone all the other costs for travel, accommodation, food, and perhaps even beer!) so that they can gain access to the information and expertise of these instructors.
It is my experience that the HEMA community places a high value on information, and most members of the community are willing to pay for it. That can be as simple as paying attendance fees of a few pounds a week to attend regular classes, or £15 or £20 or so every several months to acquire a new book, all the way up to several hundreds of pounds to have an immersive learning experience at an event or for private tuition with an instructor of their choice. (By the way, I do offer residential courses, if you would like to come and train with me for a weekend!)
It is this willingness to pay for information, this recognition of the value of information, all across the HEMA community in every country I have visited (and in many that I have yet to visit!), that keeps me motivated to write articles and share my ideas and research with people, and why these articles keep appearing on my website week after week.
The HEMA community is very supportive of experts who wish to share their expertise, and long may this continue. Thank you to everyone who has read and shared my writing or videos, bought one of my books, or made some kind of donation or contribution to my work!
Keith Farrell teaches HEMA professionally, often at international events (why not hire me to teach at your event?), and has an interest in coaching instructors to become better teachers. I teach regularly at Liverpool HEMA, and help behind the scenes with running HEMA in Glasgow at the Vanguard Centre.