I decided to cancel my membership of the Institute of Physics. I’m no longer working in the industry or academia generally, so the organisation wasn’t really offering me anything any more. The monthly journal was interesting enough but ended up skimmed rather than read, certainly compared to the way I devour the LRB or Private Eye. The conferences and local groups of course didn’t really interest me any more, nor did the outreach or education news. And the membership fee was just high enough to make me think that CV points—the only advantage left that I could see, as you have to be recommended by your peers to get full membership—were as good as ticked off by being an ex-member.
There was no real reason for the IoP to adapt to me—a decidedly ex-physicist, if still a committed anti-positivistic scientist—and no reason for me to remain, so we parted company very amicably. The reply from Membership even said that, if I ever thought about rejoining, they’d be glad if I got in touch. Which I’m sure they say to everyone, but it’s better than a ciceáil-mo-thóin.
I’ve been in this position before. Like most of my Oxbridge generation, I had lovingly pushy parents: mine made me take the Mensa test. For a good few years I was a Young Mensan, until I finally realised that there wasn’t much point. There were lots of people who were active in the organisation, who got a lot and contributed just as much, and for whom for whatever reason a group of people who were good at mathematics, certain sorts of logical puzzles and lateral thinking were an intellectual lifeline. Well, I ended up joining DougSoc at university, so I can sort of see where they were coming from, but as a twelve-year-old all I wanted was computers, long walks and lots of pie.
Anyway, in the end, I realised that ex-membership had the same level of cachet as membership: more, in fact, as I realised that one day not only could I use it to demonstrate how I’m terribly-bright-but-get-bored-easily, but I could also use the same story to demonstrate my canny thrift. And my quondam IoP membership offers me the same opportunities. Now all I have to do is work out how to cancel my membership of “people who happen to receive IoP careers emails.” The only thing that quitting that particular exclusive society will provide me with is relief.