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Proximate Cause

Behavior like that described in this post is another reason why I abandoned the Mars Society.

I moved to Colorado in June 2004. I had been a board member in various positions in the Louisiana Mars Society until then, and was looking forward to getting involved with what to my eye was the “mother chapter” of the MS.

Of course, 2004 was a Presidential election year, and the Rocky Mountain Mars Society met at the University of Colorado — in Boulder. Meetings were peppered with out-of-context and unprompted snarking about Bush and Republicans in general from several members, and the rest ignored them in such a way that to me implied tacit agreement. As the election grew closer, this behavior became more pronounced. Everyone’s free to have their opinions, and I know better than to expect everyone to agree with mine (especially in “Berkeley in the Mountains”) — it was simply that it was annoying and out of place. The environment was reminiscent of what Judith at Kesher Talk describes in this passage, and that was what made it annoying and turned me off to further involvement in the local chapter:

“People just assume you’re a Democrat.” Boy do they.

Another thing they do which Kornblat doesn’t give an example of, but which we all have experienced: They always start political conversations. None of us do. We have learned that no one wants to argue issues on their merits, that the room gets very quiet and unfriendly, that people start screaming at you, or rant the most loopy beliefs and conspiracy theories. We just assume that is not a topic anyone can treat in a dispassionate manner.

But they always provoke political conversations. Well, not conversations, which would be enjoyable and enlightening. They make pronouncements. And look around the room to see if anyone not only doesn’t agree, but doesn’t agree enthusiastically. As a friend deep in the closet in the theater world put it, you can’t just sit quietly and wait for the topic to change. No, you are suspect if you do not vocally endorse the official opinion of the group. You thought you were in a project meeting or a coffee klatch or a dinner party, and all of a sudden it has turned into the Communist Youth League Self-Criticism Session.

And then, after they have assumed, because no one in the room has fangs or horns, that a political support group is what everyone wants (and they do, except for you) – if you express your difference of opinion, they are offended that you spoiled the intimate feeling in the room by being other than they assumed, based on their superficial reading of you. In other words, they brought up politics, but they are the only ones who get to play. If you join in, you are the one who soured the conversation by bringing up politics. Because they weren’t trying to start a political discussion, they just wanted to commiserate with friends. You party pooper.

Should I join a chapter whose meetings are conducted in that sort of environment? No thanks…I’ve got better things to do.

1 comment to Proximate Cause

  • Hey Mate,
    I understand the frustration with some chapters. In my experience I found my local one to be very scientific focused, obessed with tiny details and intent on raising $1 million to establish yet another ‘desert hab’. I Thought we could better achieve goals through more public outreach and working closer with other organisations but this approach feel on deaf ears. I get the impression that they are content being geeks and have no interest in educating the public.

    Try having a look at the site and see more about what we do and what we’re trying to achieve. We have expanded from the USA and now to Australia. Would appreciate your feedback.