In 2004, eight South Pole winter-overs formed the South Pole Morale Committee. This was spawned in direct response to management’s style of micro-meddling in which people were being questioned or disciplined for their off-hours recreational activities, such as participating in drinking games, having barbecues, and being generally boisterous. That our well-loved scientist brethren were immune from discipline for their part in such activities only illustrated the political nature of the kibosh. Most managers, fearful for their posts, live by the motto “When in doubt, stamp it out”, which conflicts with the powerful impulse of South Pole winter-overs to run around naked with flaming toilet paper coming out of their asses.
These fine actions, we thought, should be rewarded rather than denounced, and their perpetrators praised rather than threatened with official disciplinary action and financial loss. After all, we ruminated, if Safety Contests were rewarded with monthly $20 gift certificate rewards to the station store, could not weekly $20 cash rewards compete in this closed market of behavioral influence? Why should the FEMC Manager and the Safety Coordinator have a monopoly on crude social payoffs?
Once we’d decided to form the committee, we were left to sort out the technical aspects. What follows are the methods we used during the winter of 2004, in case they might prove useful to anyone wanting to start their own Morale Committee in the future.
Each member gave $3 per week, which was kept in the custody of the DA in a jar in the galley. With our membership of eight people, that amounted to $24 raised each week. We awarded $20 each week, with surplus money kept for shortages or for future activities.
Along with the $20, each weekly recipient of the Committee award received a letter explaining that the Committee had chosen to reward them for their positive contributions to community morale.
Once the money and letter were together, we delivered them to the recipient’s room, slipping the envelope under the door. The only difficulty that arose was that we didn’t know where everyone lived. As serruptitiously as possible we dredged this info from their friends under the guise of returning a book or something. This deviance in turn leads to…
The Secret Society
Our first unanimous decision was that the Committee be a Secret Society. The reason being that, in a small and isolated society, unnecessary exposure might compromise us as individuals and bring us unwanted political attention. Therefore, we adopted ridiculous alternate identities for all committee activities: Chase Worthington, Johnny Silver, Ramona Frisk, Ocean Platt, Spanish Bowline, Chinese Button, BTR, and Bly Filthchopper. As members of a temporary Secret Society, our oath not to divulge Committee activities overruled our natural human instinct to blabber about it to everyone, just as I’m doing right now (with Committee approval).
The first rule we made was that all decisions made by the Committee be unanimous, with any single member having ultimate veto power. This is because we didn’t want individuals to be ensnared in the Committee’s compromises. For example, one time the Committee was about to award the money to X for various reasons, but one of the Committee members vetoed it because X had gotten in a shoving match with someone recently. The individual’s distaste for that action overruled the Committee’s willingness to overlook the action.
We didn’t want it to be a drag, so we had meetings whenever we felt like it, which turned out to be roughly every three weeks. At these meetings we drank beer and didn’t talk about anything in particular until someone would say, “Oh yeah, who’s going to get the cash this week?” and we’d argue about it for fifteen minutes or so until we came up with someone. A fly on the wall at our meetings would get the distinct impression that anyone too serious or orderly about Committee meetings, or in other words too purposeful and drunk with power, would swiftly get the boot. When we didn’t have meetings to decide on a recipient, we’d just discuss it in informally when we ran into each other at lunch or in the halls.
It might seem creepy that people would deliberately get together, judge others’ off-hours behavior, and then affix monetary consequences to that judgment. It is creepy, but managers do it every day, and thus they served as perfect models for implementing the South Pole Morale Committee.