Any club that would lose me as a member

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.

This entry was posted in cliques, dphil, mind, occupation, organisations, past, person, research, society, time, understanding. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Any club that would lose me as a member

  1. Tez Burke says:

    Aaargh, the Mensans! Exposure to them is like being locked in a draughty church hall with nothing to read but the Daily Mail and nothing to listen to on the radio but Round Britain Quiz. For eternity.

  2. Brennig says:

    Professional bodies, academic organisations, trade associations; they’re all different flavours of beast to a sub to The Eye. Or NME. Or even MCN. I’ve binned my membership to the lot, even The Eye, because these days it’s all become too samey samey. Or perhaps that’s just my jaded palate talking. Do jaded palates talk?

  3. Owen says:

    I left the professional body two years ago for the profession I’m still in. Its only value to me was a monthly magazine which was consistently and inevitably behind American library bloggers. But I still took a while to convince myself that I could be professional without a professional body.

    Most of my peers had realised this a long time before and would say ‘CILIP doesn’t provide what I want’. They could never articulate what it was they did want, unfortunately for them and for CILIP.

  4. looby says:

    I’ve always wondered about these professional bodies so I took a look at the British Sociological Association’s site. It seems to mainly consist of access to journals I can already get through Metalib and notices about conferences that I already get from Janet (I mean Janet the dept. secretary, not the high-speed internet network, although the two do work quite closely together). So I think I’ll spend my 31 pounds a year on applied ethnographic studies down the pub.

    Could you give me some help with “ciceáil-mo-thóin”?

  5. sbalb says:

    I can’t be as biting as Tez about the Mensans: partly because my whole plan depends on acknowledging the continued cachet of organizations of which I’m no longer a member; but also because I’ve never actually attended a Mensa gathering.

    The same is true, in fact, for the IoP: I only joined as I was nearing the end of my DPhil, because it was still cheap and looked like dedication on the CV. I can’t say either has provided any obvious benefit, though.

    I imagine professional bodies are actually like any club: you have to commit a minimum amount of time, beyond which the returns from the commitment outweigh it. The membership fee provides more opportunities for return, but sets that minimum commitment higher: ironic if you’re at least one of cash- or time-poor.

    (looby: it’s cod-Gaelic for “kick-my-arse”: see also “póg mo thóin“.)

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