Sunday, December 15, 2013

Older Mensans Ought to Be Smarter than to Pick On A Millennial With Tats!

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"Michelle" - posing for the cover of Mensa Bulletin in Dec. 2004. Older fuddy-duddie Ms piled on in the wake.

I joined Mensa 20 years ago in order to try to find a forum and venue predicated on greater open-mindedness, and with people prepared to discuss issues based on evidence as opposed to emotion.  What I often found, in the course of sundry debates-exchanges, were people often no more informed than the "normals" or  the "98 percent".  Sure, they had the higher IQs (you only qualify if you place in the upper 2% of the population) but that alone doesn't ensure being able to use logic, or refraining from attacks on a fellow member's appearance.

One of the most bludgeoning wake up calls transpired after a Millennial, "Michelle", appeared on the cover of issue No. 480 back in 2004. Michelle (see image) evinced the non-conformist Millennial who is attractive but also opts for body piercings and tats.  The photo was intended to focus on Generations in Mensa, and how well they got along with each other. Well, not so much based on the flack that followed in droves of hateful, stupid and spiteful letters to the Bulletin. Many of these were published in the subsequent issue under the header 'About That Cover Photo'.  The lead in paragraph to the letters observed:

"Although the volume of letters complaining about the cover and our model, Michelle, still runs a distant second to those incensed over a small child kissing a puppy (February, 2004), what we lacked in quantity this time we made up for in vehemence and vitriol."

 Some examples:

"I suppose your cover girl picture of Michelle shocked many of us when we pulled out the Nov-Dec Mensa Bulletin from our mailboxes. But isn't that what you intended? Hey! For the first time in 25 years of membership I simply tore off and trashed the cover.....

It is sad when an otherwise pretty woman should have to mutilate herself in order to draw attention. 'Smart' or not it shows a self-demeaning personality who desperately needs psychiatric help.

Also, there are no 'generational differences! Past generations simply visited these people in freak shows!"  - C.B.Huesing  Ft. Wayne, IN

"What could have possibly gone through the heads of whoever put the picture of the mutilated trollop on the cover of Mensa Magazine No. 480?  Someone may think that garbage is attractive - but those rings are for controlling pigs, which she certainly is. And her other piercings may be cute to bikers and drug abusers as well as the completely ugly tattoos which will keep her out of the workplace.

It is incredible that Mensa would think this is acceptable in any way. It is barbaric and not conducive to recruiting people like my daughter who is 16 and trying to decide between Harvard, Davidson and Williams ...She would be repulsed if I showed her this magazine, so I will trash it immediately."

-T.R. Cook III, D.M.D., M.D.  (No location given)

"This is the ugliest cover I have ever seen on a Mensa Bulletin. Does this individual actually represent Mensa youth? Certainly, she and the cover are proof that there is no positive correlation between intelligence and judgment."  S.D. Higgins - Albuquerque, NM

"I am appalled by your cover selection for the Nov.-Dec Mensa Bulletin. By placing the photo of a misguided woman who has deliberately disfigured herself her face and body and having called it 'Generations in Mensa', you have invited disgust on my part. The ultimate offense was in your reference to this as 'body art'.

If you persist in this manner of publishing I will feel compelled to request that my membership in Mensa be severed." - 'Butch' Bialke, Park Rapids, MN

"The Mensa Bulletin has reached new levels of propriety and journalism. First, it was the article several issues ago about the slut Asia Carrera. She may be Mensan but a slut nonetheless.  Now, the current issue features a freak on the cover.

Who will be next? Osama bin Laden? At this rate you'll be up for a Pulitzer Prize for sure!"

- J.P. Robinson (No location given)

"With reference to the Mensa Bulletin of Nov-Dec, 2004, when did Mensa get taken over by Satan?

With reference to the cover, please refer to Leviticus 19:28 and to Revelation 21:8 and the term 'abominable' which tells us what is to become of those who do such things. There are the words of Jesus Christ as God who made everything and established all the commandments, statutes and judgments stated in the Bible (John 1:1-4 and Hebrews, 1)"  - Harold J. Farrell, Hastings, Neb.

"How sad that a beautiful, intelligent  young woman feels it necessary to disfigure herself with those really bad illustrations on her skin. Even more sad is the appearance of her image on the cover of issue No. 480, the magazine for the members of American Mensa."- Trudy Loper

Well, after reading through all this flapdoodle, I was reminded of the old saying: "better to remain quiet and be suspected of being a fool, than to open one's mouth and confirm it".  Especially the character who claims to be an M.D. and calls Michelle a 'mutilated trollop' and the other nominal Mensan who cites an ancient book once used to stone women and homosexuals to death.

But Michelle got her say in the January issue (No. 481):

"I have to admit I was a bit surprised (perhaps naïve) and dismayed to hear that my appearance on the cover of the November/December issue of the Bulletin caused such an uproar. I was a bit puzzle by this reaction, particularly from a group that, by definition, is unusual. Mensans all at least two standard deviations above the mean, making us all patently unusual.

Human nature dictates that people form themselves into groups consisting of "us" and "them".  This division can be made along a multitude of lines: geography, religion, race, gender. I suspect many people are chafing inside at the self-imposed, yet uncomfortable, social prison that necessitates the denial of their true selves. It bothers me that intelligent people so easily fall into the grips of such an automatic, yet unfortunately common, social phenomenon.

TO those who object to my appearance: the only really important difference between us is that I got tired of pretending to be 'normal'. Now I simply wear my weirdness on the outside, and it has been quite liberating. It has also added the advantage of separating the 'cream of the crop' when dealing with people, or the less common but truly worthwhile effect of opening one's mind.

If my mere image can challenge assumptions and group boundaries, and just one person resists the temptation to fall into the grips of the human brain's unfortunate categorization process, then I have dropped my pebble in the pond. When one boundary becomes fuzzy, perhaps others will as well- such as those relating to gender, sexual orientation, culture or any other arbitrary human division that exists.

Those who reacted negatively- I implore you to take a moment to look inside yourself and ask why my image causes you such distress. Is it because your perception has been challenged? Is it because you can't reconcile the dichotomy of an intelligent person who is also different? This is not a criticism, it is in fact, a gift.  If you confront these feelings it may allow you to grow. I am a picture on a piece of paper to you, yet be assured that somewhere out here, that image correlates with a living, breathing human being.

If you took the time to know me, it might actually threaten your world view...yes- but what is life without challenge? Growth rarely occurs in the absence of conflict. I can't claim much importance, I am just one person in a sea of many. But what I represent - change- should give you a cause to look inward and determine why a mere image can fill you with such venom.

We are all different. Many of us have felt alienated and as if we don't quite belong anywhere. I have been blessed with the wonderful yet sometimes difficult inability to pretend to be anything aside from what I really am. Please respect that."


Quite a well written response. In regard to why such venom was displayed in reaction to Michelle's image, I am reminded of an experiment described by Dacher Keltner in his book, 'Born to Be Good'.    He was interested in exploring the arousal of what he called "gut morality" in an Ethics class. He surmised most people simply reacted at "gut" level before their neocortex could process actual moral transgression and distinguish it from idiosyncrasy - even foul idiosyncrasy.  To that end, he asked students to morally rate a scenario in which a man goes to purchase a chicken from the grocery each week, then has sexual relations with it.

After most of the class reacting emotionally and screaming "Pervert!" and condemning the act as most foul (not fowl), Keltner led them through the act again and more slowly, engaging their higher brain centers instead of the limbic ones.  By the end of the period they backed off, dismissed the guy's penchant for  store chickens as a foible and agreed no law or moral edict was violated so long as the practice was confined to his own domicile, preferably with the curtains drawn. Oh, ...and he should not invite any guests for chicken dinners!

I'd submit that the reaction to Michelle's tats and piercings equates to a similar gut reaction, and the assorted elder Mensans who fired back irate replies didn't let their gut -stoked neurons cool down first.  Had they waited a week or so and processed their thoughts more carefully, they'd likely have backed off ...Maybe. Who knows?

In the end, what the episode disclosed is that enormous divisions exist even inside Mensa, oh, and inside Intertel too,

Most of these we may never be able to surmount, as they relate to religious differences, political divisions, and economics ....but I hope to whatever higher order power may exist we get over the negative reaction to appearances....especially among the most intelligent citizens.

Else ...what the hell will we do when these guys below show up from Tau Ceti? If people can't handle Michellle's piercings and tats how are they going to handle communicating and interacting with ET?

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