I was out at an event yesterday with a group I belong to, the local Mensa group. (Yes, yes, I am fucked up enough to belong to Mensa. Get over it.) I'm part of the leadership of the group, and we had our annual regional gathering. Some of the locals were there, but there were also a lot of out-of-towners. I ended up hanging out with a lot of the out-of-towners yesterday because of an incident that happened earlier Saturday afternoon, shortly after I arrived for the day, when I joined a group of 5 people at a table. My intention was to congratulate the one woman at the table who'd been recently elected to the ExComm and make sure she had directions to my apartment where the next meeting will be held. I was wearing my scarlet A t-shirt, and got questioned about what the A stood for. I was trying to explain the Out Campaign
when the incident described in the following email occurred. I eventually walked off without ever getting to accomplish my original intention, because the coversation devolved into an anti-science free-for-all.Jack,
Some time ago you asked me if I knew any reason why some members of the RG committee or others would not be comfortable working with you as chair. You expressed the desire to have this knowledge in order to improve your interactions with others. I still don’t know what might have specifically prompted their responses, but I can now speak for myself.
If you ever mock me in public again for expressing agreement with the scientific consensus on anything, that will be the end of our friendship.
What you did to me yesterday in the early afternoon was unacceptable behaviour from someone who wishes others to like them, and who claims to respect me. Someone asking questions about the meaning of the A on my t-shirt did not by any stretch of the imagination signal “open season” on me or my views. I have never attacked someone by using their t-shirt as a pretext for verbal warfare unless I was really already quite pissed. And I certainly don’t use the current topic of discussion as mere pretext for a false analogy in order to gang up on them with my friends. Comparing global warming to a religion is pure nonsense, and quite frankly, is the last desperate attempt of someone who cannot defend their own position. And then your friend across the table jumped in, and Roland, all to attack me without even giving me the courtesy of replying in more than superficial terms. If you want to discuss the science backing up anthropogenic global warming I would be happy to oblige, but beginning the conversation by mocking my position and comparing it to a religion is uncalled for and not a good way to begin. And frankly, it belies the claim that you respect me.
This incident is forgotten. I do not expect an apology. But I swear to you, if you ever treat me that way again, that’s it. There will be no third chances.
No matter where you go or what people you hang out with, you are going to encounter assholes who like stirring up the hornet's nest. Mensa is no exception. For all their native intelligence, they are just normal people. They have the same childhood influences as everyone else, and are crippled by the self-same anti-scientific nonsense permiating the rest of our culture. But these incidents cannot go unchallenged. I thought about it all day long and I seriously thought about confronting this guy in person, but I'm not good at that. I honestly should have done it just because
I'm not good at it. But I slept on it, and it still bugs the piss out of me. And waiting until Thursday when I'm likely to run into him next in another social gathering would be waiting too long, and far more awkward.
When you wear your shirt in public people are either not going to know what it is (as happened the first time I wore it), or they are going to use it as an excuse to attack you (or, if you're lucky, they will be one of us). But you do not have to tolerate it if you don't attack people in public for wearing crosses or veils or yarmulkes, or whatever. Confronting them on their unacceptable behaviour is the only way to teach them that it's unacceptable. The rest of the world are like toddlers: they need to be taught to share and play nice.