This is originally from March 2017.
A friend of mine thought this was worthy of a blog so here goes.
The issue revolves around the idea of “s/he is only doing this for the cookie.”
A cookie is shorthand for an award. Normally, we are talking about the peerages, the highest awards, but it can mean any award.
Here are my thoughts on the matter.
Several related bits here. I take the phrase, “only in it for the cookie” to be somewhat downputting. So and so is only Kingdom Grand Poobah for the cookie. Well someone has to be Kingdom Grand Poobah and as long as she does a good enough job, should we really care why they want to do the job? From my experience, there is an awful lot of thanklessness in most of the jobs that might get you a cookie. Thank goodness someone has found a reason to want to do that job!
Second, everyone needs a motivation to do something. For some, the love of the art (or service, or whatever) is enough. For others, it is recognition. As a society, we have agreed that there is a system of cookies, each cookie has a name, each cookie has a criterion, and each cookie has a ceremony. If you aren’t supposed to want the cookies, why do we invest so much time in making them and awarding them?
Now I get that there is a level of humbleness that is expected and it is somewhat self-correcting. I chased one cookie. I felt I met the criteria as listed and months passed and I didn’t have my cookie yet. When I finally got that cookie, I didn’t feel proud or happy or honored; it was a stale, cold cookie that my pursuit had robbed me the joy of. The pursuit of the cookie needs to be tempered with humility. There needs to be a certain amount of “I want to do this thing for the love of the thing” but you can also want the cookie. You can want to be worthy of the cookie. In most of our mundane lives, how long are you willing to work for nothing (or no raises, vacation, whatever perk)? If you like/love your job, you will put up with some overlooking but most of us want the rewards that come from work.
I have seen some amount of “you can’t want to be a peer” Or “wanting to be a peer means you are not ready.” There are enough stories back and forth that who knows what is really true. If you want to be great painter, you can be. It takes dedication to the art but it also takes recognition from the outside. Otherwise, you are just a great painter in your own mind. And both parts need work. Same with peerage in my opinion. (edit: I have started to see and hear this is changing. It is more acceptable to want to be a peer)
Lastly, we do a bad job at distributing cookies and I do not have a solution to make it better. Multiple times in my short 5 years in the SCA I have had someone tell me, “I thought you already had that award.” That is both flattering and discouraging. Flattering in that they thought I was good enough to be at that level. Discouraging because those thoughts and word of my deeds obviously didn’t go far enough.
In the SCA, one small group controls the cookie jar. There is a larger group that has the power to advise that small group that they should give someone a cookie. In theory, anyone can advise the cookie keepers to award the cookie. But in practice, it is largely who you know. If you live in an active Barony with lots of peers (and especially royal peers), the cookies tend to flow. If you live in a small shire, with few to no peers, it is a long time between cookies. If you have a relationship with a peer, it can be hit or miss. Some peers advocate for their dependents; some don’t. There are often calls for people to put in award recommendations but if you look at the delta cookies as a function of time, it is largely who you know that results in cookies. As I said, I don’t have a solution (or at least one that is workable).
As Cookie Monster reminds us, cookies are a sometimes treat. Wanting a cookie shouldn’t be bad. Wanting ONLY cookies should be bad.
I later added the sometimes any given job in the SCA is reserved for only those who have a cookie. So wanting the cookie is not allowed and you are not allowed to the do the job that could prove you deserve the cookie because you don’t have a cookie. That is some catch that catch-22.