Let me explain. It will take a while, but it will eventually come around to the political stuff that is the main theme of my blog. Patience again, dear reader.
If you do much browsing among a large collection of bookmarked sites, as I do, you naturally see an awful lot of writing from mid-October to early January that relates to “the holidays”. It gets pretty old, and gets especially lame when you read those blogs where people like to post about their personal lives. (There are a few such blogs that can be entertaining, but they’re a small minority.)
Some time in January, it lightens up and you think: “Finally, we can get back to business!” but soon Valentine’s Day approaches, and all those sites feel obliged to say SOMETHING about it, and all their commenters….
I hope you’ve noticed that I’m not like that. I’ve learned to love holidays, but not by observing them: by NOT observing them.
For a long time I lived alone, on the other side of a continent from my family. “Holidays” were simply days off. Once in a while, a friend would invite me to something holiday-related, but it was only once in a while, and easy to decline if I wasn’t in the mood.
A holiday was simply a day that the rest of the world was occupied with something irrelevant to me, and I could do as I damn pleased: catch up on chores, attend to my hobbies, whatever.
I also found out that the holidays are a good time to
find out who your friends are — NOT because they give you presents or do anything holiday-related: quite the opposite. It’s when they don’t take the excuse of “the holidays” to flake on you.
Do I need to explain this? Ok, “the holidays” provide some people with an easy excuse not to do anything worthwhile. One can always say:
“I need to shop for the little monsters.”
“I need to put up decorations.”
“I need to go buy a turkey and prepare it.”
People who feel obliged to actually do such things every year have no day off at all, just a lot of extra work, but that’s not what I’m addressing here. It’s the fact that, whether one actually does that stuff or not, it’s easy to SAY that one is doing it to get out of something else. If you really need help with something, like your car breaks down, or you’re in the hospital (as I once was on Christmas Day), this is when you find out who your friends are.
But it doesn’t take a sudden disaster like car trouble or illness. What if you just want to keep moving on a project that you’re all ostensibly committed to — something that
everyone knew long ago would be a lot of work and would take a lot of time? If it all grinds to a halt for two months because of “the holidays”, you know where you stand.
This can surprise some people. The fired-up, newly converted activist who thinks he’s going to organize a massive action for February and starts calling meetings in December will soon find out just how fired-up other people are.
There’s a seasonal calendar that applies to most “optional” activities:
From some time in November thru early January, and from whenever school lets out in June to early September are patches of low activity for many things. Event calendars can get pretty short during these periods, and attendance is often pared down to a small hard core. It seems that most people want to cram all their activism into six or seven months of the year.
This can really break a movement’s momentum sometimes.
A campus can be very active, and then everyone goes home for the summer. There can be lots of actions before elections in early November, and when it’s time to follow through with more direct action, unrelated to elections, it’s “the holidays” suddenly. The small core that stay active can begin to resent the summer soldiers.
This is all pretty obvious to some of my readers, who have experience trying to organize things. So what’s my point? Just a few things:
(1) Noobs need to be aware of the seasonal cycle so they don’t get surprised, and some of my readers might be noobs.
(2) The active seasons tend to have lots of activities aimed at similar interests, conflicting with each other. If you plan something during this time, get the details settled and start advertising well ahead, so others don’t schedule their things on the same day. In a way, this crowding of the active season has a mitigating effect. Fewer people show up during the off-season, but there’s less for them to show up to.
(3) You’ll know that something is really happening when people show up for something in December, or people attend planning meetings in the summer for events in the fall. This means they’re really interested. It might actually be a good test for the level of interest to ask people to such meetings and see what happens.
(4) When you’re a standing organization with meetings throughout the year, and you notice that your usually small attendance varies little with the season, you are an élite core. Maybe it’s time to start behaving like one. See my earlier post, “When is There a There There?”
There’s also a weekly cycle through most of the year, that I’ve observed through email. Some people do all their computer work at the office, and disappear from Friday to Monday. With others, it’s the opposite: They use the weekends to catch up on their email and other communication. I’ve never gone so far as to make codes in my address book for who follows which pattern most, but you get the idea. People who get surprised at such patterns will stress themselves out over their own powerlessness.
I am, of course, a contrary cuss. That’s why I’m writing my Holiday Post now.