The Ecphorizer

Mensa Politics
Barry Leff

Issue #15 (November 1982)

The Ins and Outs of running Mensa

Certain new Mensa members have expressed confusion over the various factions within their local group. Thus a poll has been conducted to enable us to explain to these novices (as well as old members) just who's who in the typical local group.

The basic factions usual found are:

...Out enjoys being in and making a fuss and takes steps to keep In out...

the In group, the Out group (and proud of it), a faction of the In group that denies an In group exists, a faction of the Out group that wishes the In group didn't exist, and those who are either ignorant of the In/Out [quoteright]group phenomenon or who don't care. To simplify discussion, we shall refer to these groups as In, Out, In*, Out*, and Don't Care, respectively.

To start with, let's consider in historical perspective how these various factions usually evolve. The process typically begins when someone thinks it would be a nice idea to develop the local group. The basis for the In faction is founded among those who are the "movers and shakers," getting Mensa and all its various events off the ground. Whenever there are a set of movers and shakers and a set of those who just enjoy, a certain different status is acquired by those who donate time and energy. Status is the only reward for such efforts.

The Out group now arises because certain people see this In group as being cliquish and elitist (not in keeping with the spirit of an elitist group like Mensa?). Rather than attempt to join forces with a perceived elitist and snobbish crowd, an Out group comes into being that is able to feel elitist and snobbish by eschewing the In group mentality.

In* now develops as members who drifted into the In group learn of some of the underlying struggle and think the whole thing is silly, as they certainly didn't have any trouble getting involved with the "In" group and don't see what the whole brouhaha is about. Out* becomes that group too reserved to make an attempt to get involved with the Ins, yet is uncomfortable with being part of the outs, so they would just prefer that none of it existed. Don't Care is of course self-explanatory.

A typical train of events follows. Through an intensive political campaign, Out manages to get voted into local group office, perturbing In, who was enjoying the status quo. Out acts aggressively, makes changes, and upsets In, who decides out should get out and In should get back in so calm and tranquility can then reign once again. Of course, out enjoys being in and making a fuss and takes steps to keep In out while solidifying its position by recruiting Don't Cares to Outs. Meanwhile, In* and Out* sit around and watch all the various machinations with fascination, while Don't Care just enjoys the mainstream of what Mensa is all about without worrying about Machiavellian intrigue in the battle for an unpaid and underappreciated Mensa administration.You are no doubt wondering about the results of the poll mentioned at the beginning of this treatise. Using modern, statistically validated empirical forecasting techniques, a random panel of experts (or is it a panel of random experts?) has determined the following distribution for a typical local group, namely San Francisco Regional Mensa:

In                          78
Out                       53
In*                        67
Out*                     35
Don't Care    2,205
Total              2,438 

A tireless observer of the social scene, Barry Leff will report in a future issue some of his steamy doings in Bangkok.

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