The first body of writing I produced covering public issues was written for a publication I edited and produced myself: a newsletter for the Montana Mensa group called “Mensatana”. I’ve just been looking them over, and after doing a much more ambitious Montana Green Bulletin (e-mailed weekly) for some 8 years, I only knew that this earlier set of writings had a similar purpose. I did not then own a personal computer. Nor did I use one at the library or other venue. So, this was all literal “cut and paste” with scissors and correcting fluid, and a typewriter which did store and edit text, but little else, nor was it connectable to a modem or other computer.
I recently got my good scanner working again for the first time since about 2006, when I somehow lost the OCR driver disk, and wasn’t doing much scanning anyway, so I didn’t worry about it. The first things I scanned were some of the best of these Mensatana articles (note the word “satan” in there – which probably didn’t help me to popularize Mensa at all!) I’ll be adding them here, and posting them on Facebook. I think I have two FB friends with a background in Mensa, so they should especially enjoy this.
Paul Stephens – Nagasaki Day, August 8, 2016
“Mensa itself holds no opinions…. ” (c. 1986)
One of our members wrote me a short note which began with these words, and it seems appropriate that we should discuss this fundamental principle of the Mensa organisation. In another Mensa publication, it was reported that a 9-year-old had made the comment that this principle is itself an opinion, and so Mensa really does have opinions! Or, at least principles, which are not so very different from opinions.
This reminds me of the philosophical statement: “There are no absolutes,” and that this itself is an absolute. It’s something like Russell’s Paradox of the barber. “No man shaves himself. The barber shaves every man. Who, then, shaves the barber?” These kinds of statements are now handled well by the logic which Russell himself developed, with set theory and the like (although I am certainly no expert in this area, myself). As for Mensa holding no opinions, several observations may be made.
First, Mensa holds no opinions because it is not a thinking, cognitive being! It is a formal membership organization. It is, specifically and abstractly, a table around which we sit and talk. Surely the founders of Mensa did not intend that no Mensan should have opinions, or that no ideas should be discussed (although it isn’t entirely clear that certain American Mensa officers believe this, today!) The whole point of Mensa is that its members certainly have opinions, and discuss and debate them in every imaginable fashion. Here in Montana Mensa, 1 can assert with some confidence that the exchange of Ideas is not a priority, or the reason why most people have joined Mensa, and this is unfortunate for Mensa, for the recalcitrant members, and for those of us who did join for that very purpose.
Apparently, my correspondent believes that I state my own opinions too forcefully, blatantly, or arrogantly. If this is the case, I apologize to her and everyone. I am a feeling, passionate person who has very few other outlets for his passions. I would rather read a book than go to a party or scour the bars for potential romantic entanglements. No doubt this represents some sort of social impairment on my part, but it also leaves me the time and talent to successfully edit Mensatana and correspond with a wide variety of people on an even wider variety of issues. I am also politically active in the peace movement, spiritually active In Unitarian-Universalism, and aesthetically active in my writing, music, and most other arts.
In one sense, nearly everything I do (or anyone else does) is based on OPINIONS – otherwise known as Beliefs, Values, Prejudices, or whatever. It now seems to me that many Mensans may have a confused or improper view of “Mensa itself holds no opinions. . . .” It almost seems as though these people think that no one should have any opinions, or that having opinions is somehow an indication of prejudice and thus incompatible with having high intelligence!
The reason why “Mensa Itself has no opinions . . .” is fairly obvious to me. Mensa has no opinions because if it did, it might alienate those present or potential members who have some different opinions. The point with Mensa (and probably the main reason I belong to it, since many of my opinions are demonstrably unpopular) is that NO ONE SHOULD BE EXCLUDED BECAUSE OF his or her opinions. And that seems to be particularly difficult for many Mensans to understand and live by. The self-righteousness of the highly-intelligent is legendary. Once one has these astronomical test scores, no lesser mortal will ever stand in one’s way. Here is the scientific proof! We are smarter than other people! Show your scores, or keep your mouth shut!
To whatever extent such character malformation exists, we do have a problem. But it won’t be resolved by hinting that no one should too strongly express his or her opinions, believe me.