FrontierwatchNews and Commentary for Antarctic Stations
Report an incident, forward a memo, or make an observation about the state of the station.
If you work in Antarctica, you are the eyes and ears of Frontierwatch. Anonymity assured.
Friday, July 30, 2004
Recently two South Pole workers were threatened with future exile. The charge? No one knows. After being fed the line by a manager that "there have been several complaints" about their "inappropriate and offensive" behavior, the following exchange was reported:
Worker: "I don't know what I did that was offensive to anyone. Tell me what I did so I won't do it again."
Manager: "That's not the issue here."
This peculiar justification of punishment for its own sake, presumably to maintain a no-nonsense environment, has been used by power-grubbing scoundrels since our great nation played host to mindless witch-hunters, and one can almost imagine a Salem dialogue identical in form if not in consequence:
Salem scoundrel: "You're a witch. My friends and I are going to burn you."
Worker pilgrim: "How am I a witch?"
Salem scoundrel: "That's not the issue here."
Of course, everyone makes an occasional poor judgment, even managers, and the incident would hardly be noteworthy were there not a trend of such incidents. For example, the line that "there have been several complaints" was once a solid tactic difficult to refute, but has with overworked usage become quite dubious.
Who are all these people complaining up the chain? I can think of perhaps half a dozen, no more. And if all those complaints are coming from those people, then is it not they who need to learn to adjust? Another popular theory is that the "several complaints" are actually complaints passed from one manager (or his significant other) to another and, as everyone knows, the complaint of a manager holds three or four times the weight of an average grunt's complaint. Thus by the time an employee hears of it, one high-powered complaint has reproduced into "several", much like the spawn of any small fish in a teensy-weensy pond. The most generous theory says that everyone is complaining about everyone else equally. In this case wouldn't an experienced manager just ignore all the bitching? Unfortunately, we are stuck only with these theories, as everyone knows it is managerially unfashionable to disclose the identity of a mole, and in this way threats of disciplinary action for vague reasons as illustrated above can continue to be wielded efficiently.
This leads us to another tactic that has proven quite effective in turning the once-mighty South Pole into merely a cultural annex of Denver. Though we all have heard that what happens on station ideally stays on station, the maxim has turned out in practice to be less a South Pole code that gives winter more comaradarie than a weapon to go after people for anything that somehow, in some way, might make it to Denver and thus bring down the proverbial hammer. What is apparently lost in translation is that one who busts someone for something that "might make it to Denver" is not acting as a Denver shield, but is actively bringing Denver to South Pole, changing the place in the process.
Recently someone sent a Pole-All email notifying everyone on station of a "No Cussing Contest" to take place on Saturday. The email contained a standard selection of filthy words that would be forbidden that Saturday, under penalty of a one dollar fine for each swear word uttered, the money from which would be used to fund a party after work that day. Using photos and cartoon-type talk-bubbles, the email had pictures of different crew members swearing and reminding each other to put a dollar in the kitty. Citing that if someone in Denver saw the email, he might get in trouble, the Station Manager wrote-up the woman who sent the email, and also wrote-up the woman who helped her with Photoshop.
In writing these women up, he attached to the documents the "No Cussing Contest" email in its entirety, all to be sent to HR in Denver, meaning this: in order not to get in trouble for an email that might offend Denver, the Station Manager is sending the email to Denver.
Got news from one of the stations? Send it to Big Dead Place. Do you witness interesting Antarctic activities that somehow just don't seem sensational enough for Newsweek or People magazine? Send them to Big Dead Place. Have you ever wondered why a hundred media events overshadow millions of daily events? Because you didn't yet write to Big Dead Place. You know things. We promise anonymity.
ArchivesMainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004
March 2004 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 April 2004 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 May 2004 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 June 2004 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 July 2004 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 August 2004 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 September 2004 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 October 2004 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 November 2004 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 December 2004 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 January 2005 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 February 2005 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 March 2005 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 May 2005 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 November 2006 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 December 2006 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004 January 2007 Mainbody 2002 thru Mainbody 2004