Societies (Associations, Clubs, etc.)

«Alcoholism is not a disease, it’s a failing. You’ve turned it into a church. You worship the altar of self-pity. I come to these rooms for one reason, to remember what I don’t want to become … helpless, impotent, and weak.»
Donald Lydecker at an AA meeting in «Dark Angel»

I’m currently questioning the use of being a member of societies. I’ve never been a big fan of them. I never joined the default professional associations, societies, and organizations, and even declined an invitation to join a club. But I made a few exceptions, and after last weekend, I did question my decision to join those societies.

The general meeting last weekend was … like watching a car crash in slow motion, with spotlights highlighting the brutal parts, and applying an HDR filter.

I mean, this is a society whose main purpose is to bring intelligent people (IQ at or above the 98th percentile) together at the same table to allow them to discuss different positions. Different viewpoints. After all, if high-IQ is the criterium for membership, the usual “the other person is just stupid” excuse cannot be applied.

But a society is still a society. I think Scott Adams (the “Dilbert” guy) once wrote: “The Intelligence Quotient of any meeting can be determined by starting with 100 and subtracting 5 points for each participant.”

This is even true if it’s a so-called high-IQ society. And there were a lot of members during the meeting.

When decisions (including those affecting the charter) are reduced to “the positions on this issue are fixed, so discussions are useless”, well … then let’s just trash that table. And yeah, humans are still humans, intelligence and character are — at the very least — not positively related. There is still the same pettiness, the same self-righteousness, the same confirmation bias, and the same “if you don’t like it here then leave” attitude (actual comment in a chat, in a society that aims to bring people with different views to the same table).

And yeah, you can leave, or you can stay and try to improve the situation. Hell, you can even do a Lydecker approach (intro quotation), and yeah, that society is a biotope that shows you that no matter how socially awkward you are, or feel, … it could be much, much worse. But looking at the society in the harsh light of the day … nah. I rather resolve the cognitive dissonance between “bringing intelligent people together to discuss ideas” and “that membership meeting” by leaving that society. Even reminding myself of the quotation: “Every community has its downsides. Don’t leave it out of an emotional response.”.

Emotions play a role, but my brain asks me to leave as well.

And damn, I had some good times in that society. Some New Year’s events, and some interesting meetings. I did a couple of presentations, both for the European meetings and in a spin-off society. The later was the impetus to start writing a book (I think, it’s been a couple of years). And at least the second version isn’t bad (in my estimation).

But I also felt “alone in a crowd” more than I liked at these events, and if I don’t think a society has integrity … it’s time to leave.

And yeah, I guess I will not join any association, club, or society in the future. Frankly, I don’t see the use. There is a lot of overhead, a lot of grief, a lot of wasted hours (13 hours during the last weekend).

Frankly, I have better things to do.

After all, individuals matter, not societies.