Hanging Out With Idiots

In every company, club, or social group there are identifiable types. You’ll have seen them all your life. Or, if not, you can be sure they’ll have seen you…

  1. The politician. The treasurer who wants to be secretary, the secretary who wants to be president, and the president who wants to be hereditary emperor. You can do yourself a bit of good by furthering their ambitions and you can do yourself a world of good by shunning them completely.
  2. The clown. Whether the selected medium is ethnic slurs or dad jokes, the clown is playing it, and you, for laughs. Beware if they see you as a useful butt for these merry japes. Try to switch their sights to someone else.
  3. The sponge. Whether it is knowledge, work, or money, the sponge will absorb all you can provide. While you are pouring out your life blood for them you’ll be patted and stroked. When the flow stops you’ll be cast off and laughed at.
  4. The victim. The range of hurts that the victim will parade for your sympathy will stagger you. Beggars in Bangladesh have fared better than they, and you are always encouraged to help with tears and money.
  5. The expert. Now they might very well be an actual expert, and well worth listening too because of this. Equally, they may be windbags who gain a puffed pleasure telling you what to do…but whose advice is valueless. Try them out. Do as they say for a little while and see if things go better. If it is all shit, just ignore them ever after.
  6. The lemon. Just as there is a victim, there will always be a lemon. Sour, hard, and unsavoury. If you listen to them your milk of human kindness will curdle. And it is illegal to hit them with a shovel. A signal failure of the law, eh?

The best thing that the average person can do – faced with this daunting list of venomous predators – is pick a category and get in there first. If you are going to be closeted with idiots, do yourself a favour by being the biggest idiot in the closet. You may be treated to bad language and horrified looks, but at least they’ll give you elbow room. If you take off your clothes you’ll get quite a lot of personal space.


Am I A Clubman? – Part Five

The last question that you need to ask yourself is the first question you should ask. If you don’t know the answer you can call a friend. If you haven’t got any friends, you have your answer already.

Some people are born clubmen or clubwomen. They are loud, make friends easily, are unruffled, take hearty exercise, eat breakfast, produce bowel movements every day ( frequently at the same time…), and are kind to animals. They can stand for office, scrutiny, the flag, or any other thing that the club needs. They are extroverts. indefatigable, ineffable, and impossible to have anything to do with. You’re soaking in one now…

Other folks are born to be recluses – hermits – loners – individuals  – eccentrics – etc. They are generally distinguishable by the simplest senses – silent to the hearing, invisible to the eye, clammy to the touch, and slightly odorous. No-one has as yet tasted one, and no-one is about to start…

And there’s a lot of people in between. Most of us have aspects of each of these types within if we would only see and admit to them. And most of us can choose a club or organisation to suit our real personality. It might not be a fashionable or distinguished society we move in, but if we find genuine correspondence in a group – that is the one we should join. Here’s a few checkpoints for you when trying to match yourself to others:

a. DO I ENJOY LOUD NOISE? If yes, take up shooting. If no, take up reading. Read about shooting if need be.

b. Do I enjoy working with my hands? If yes, carpentry, model making, and any number of crafting clubs are ready for you. If no, run out on a field and hit a ball somewhere with something.

c. Do I enjoy thinking? Yes? Literary and intellectual clubs, political parties, business clubs call. No? Singing and drinking, eating and dancing are for you, and there are people who will help you do it.

d. Am I artistic? Yes? Go to the art store, spend a week’s wage, take the resultant small paper bag to an art society, and ask for help. No? Gardening’s for you – Nature will make what you cannot, and you can eat some of it.

e. Am I an opinionated smart-arse who wants to best everyone in argument? Yes? Become a member of a debating team or get your own secret identity as a troll on internet forums. No? Have you thought of joining a religious order? Or the Asian version…a religious suggestion?

f. Do I love sports? If the answer is yes, join a sports club. If the answer is no, get a competent surgeon to tear your cruciate ligament for you. The cost of the year’s membership to the sporting club or the operation will be about the same and the hospital is quieter than the club rooms.

The New Club – Part Four

Should one seek membership of new clubs and societies? Should one associate with like minds or preserve an independence? How many experiences and associations are enough and how many are too many?

Tough questions, and some treat of philosophy as much as they do of the Associations Act. You may never ask them of yourself, but if you do, you may be able to order your social experience a bit better. Try these ideas on for size:

a. Should you seek new clubs? Well, if you are comfortable seeking new experiences of any sort, the answer is probably yes. If you are replete, or so nervous of other people as to make any contact unbearable – no.

New clubs need not be new to the world – just to you. If you are courageous, select something that is entirely different from any thing you have done before. Nearly all societies have a novice or low-level entry that eases new members into the activity. Don’t despise this – even if it is simplistic, do it. What you’ll learn others have learned before you.

b. Should you seek clubs that do not seek you? Well, this is soggier ground.

Think in terms of an English gentleman’s club in the Victorian era. Many of them shut their doors to outsiders who were not of the upper classes. Many of them had racial, religious, and gender rules to keep out the masses. They wanted no-one who wanted them. Some of them are still going today upon the same basis…and some of them are going in Perth right now.

Apply yourself to joining them at your emotional peril. Whatever good you hope they might do you could be counteracted by the harm of refusal…or the horror of acceptance…

Should you seek clubs that have complicated rules, standards of dress, rites and rituals, and all the paraphernalia of secret societies? I recommend that you watch the ” Simpsons ” episode where Homer tries to join the secret society. Note that many of these societies do not accept applicants – they send out invitations. I’ll let you decide whether it is better to be a chosen person or not – that phrase has been used in a religious context before and you have no idea of some of things that we get chosen for…

c. Is there a club for everything? Unfortunately, yes. That’ll sound odd, but no matter what activity or interest the human mind or body can desire is catered for somewhere as a club. And I mean good and bad.

Use your personal common sense – don’t join a society dedicated to doing good hoping to be badass. Likewise don’t join a nexus of evil hoping to be a reforming angel. No-one will be  happy on either side.

d. How much of your life should you devote to club activities? This is a decision that should rest with you…it’s a danger signal if others keep trying to pressure you into doing more or less than you are comfortable with. Look at your life and apportion time to the club or clubs that would otherwise be wasted…but do not give away all your earning, learning, or family time to the organisations. You might expect a return in love and respect, but you’ll rarely get it.

e. How much money should you devote to a club?

Well, if you seem to have joined a club that deals with selling detergents to other franchisees, I suggest that you may have joined a scam. Drop everything that is in your hand, run for the door, and do not look back.

If it is a regular club, and there are annual dues, pay them if you can. If they rise so high as to be onerous, take this a sign from either Heaven or your bank manager that the club is not for you. If other club members seek to obtain money from you on a regular basis you can also take this as a sign.

Your hobby expenditure is your own business. If you can manage your affairs so that you have all you need without necessarily having all you desire, you are on the way to happiness. Recognise this and rein in your purse long before you need to sell your necessaries.

f. When should you leave a club?

When it has given you all it decently can, and you have given it all you decently can…when you’ve had as much innocent fun as is likely…and before ennui sets in…it is time to conclude your membership. Make friends and keep them. Make memories and keep them.

The Give And Take Of Club Life – Part Three

I was tossing up whether to subtitle this one ” Or How I Learned To Find The Worm In The Apple ” but I’ve promised myself to adopt a happier mien in the future. And worms are generally useful protein – look at how cheerful robins are.

Every club I’ve ever belonged to had good times and bad times. With luck, many more of the former than the latter. Social outings, camps, friendships, achievements…all to the good. Activities that could not be undertaken alone – theatrical performances, sporting contests, trips and adventures – all very much to the good.

The bad? Well, personalities that clashed. Occasional financial hurt. Anxious moments of varying intensity. But there was never any official discouragement from the societies themselves – and indeed all of them were conducted on a club level with an eye to harmony. It was just the human element.

Every club needs members to put in something. It might be money, attendance, teaching, physical work, administration, or enthusiasm. Some can do all of these – frequently all at the same time – and should be rewarded with authority, responsibility, and the gratitude of the general membership. Those who can put in less should still do so but recognise that their share of the success of the venture is proportionately smaller. They should also quietly acknowledge to themselves that they occupy a smaller place in the minds of others.

As far as demanding things from a club…well demanding anything is a precarious business. ” Demand and be damned. ” is a pretty hard statement to get over  – whether it comes from a club official or other members. You can’t have it your way all the time.

Gifts, on the other hand, are a wonderful thing. They come unbidden and unexpected, and certainly endear the organisation to the recipient. I’ve been in that position myself several times and am grateful for the regard of my friends. My studio is air-conditioned upon club  kindness and I will ever acknowledge that.


What’s A Club? – Part Two

I consulted several dictionaries after I wrote the title to get a precise definition. Very frustrating. Apparently the people who write them are not able to agree on anything.

A club is either an association dedicated to a particular interest or activity or a heavy stick used as a weapon. As a further qualification, the people who form a club have to meet regularly and take part in shared activity. This seems to narrow the thing down a little but suggests that the only real examples are Canadian lacrosse teams or seal hunters. Not social activities for the squeamish.

Most of the list shown on the last column fit into this pattern, though the Uncle John’s Radio Club was probably just a commercial rip – as I was 5 at the time I was susceptible. Not entirely sure about the Australian Dental Association either, as it seemed to have a lot more of the trade pressure group about it than jolly dinners and picnic outings. I avoided their meetings assiduously. I wasn’t sorry about that – dentists en mass could be difficult to take – I think it was the smell of oil of cloves and the discussions about expensive cars.

The organisations which I founded – the WA Naval Wargames Society and the 42RHRA – were a lot more fun for a longer period of time. The first one eventually petered out when we discovered that we never actually finished any of the games that we started…there is more mathematics than strategy involved. The 42RHRA still goes on very well indeed, though the centre of activity shifted long ago to the eastern states  – this was not a bad thing as there are a lot more opportunities for re-enactment and show activities there than here in the West. When it shifted it gained a much better organiser and commanding officer than ever I was, and as he is a serving forces officer, the business is done with much better aplomb.

The firearms club was an extremely efficient and official thing – as befits the serious nature of the subject. It needed police permissions, legal reins, and extremely dedicated club members to succeed…and succeed it certainly has over decades. I belonged for somewhat over a decade and learned all I wanted to know about historic firearms. I have been able to reject 96% of all Hollywood movies based upon what I learned from practical experience. That alone has caused me to stop watching murder mysteries and violent shows – a distinct gain.

The model making and collecting has endured with my latest club membership. The columns you read here on HAW that dealt with The Little World* were the direct result of an ever-bigger interest in ever-smaller subjects. The joyful thing, as well, is that these sorts of clubs and activities do not need official permission, public space, or vast spending. And you can make your own Little World free of criticism from others. ( Of course you can make your own Big World that way too, but it takes more courage.)

It would seem that the social meaning from the dictionaries rather triumphs over the blunt cudgel idea – at least so far in the clubs I’ve frequented. There have been a few people in some of them that would have benefited from the stick, but that’s the advantage of moving onwards in a pleasant manner – if you go at the right time there are no ambulance sirens in the night or court appearances in the morning.

* Now shifted to its own blog:

Which Club Do I Belong To? Part One

Canadian Club.

And a number of other ones, too, I hasten to add. The CC, however doesn’t impose the sort of rules and restrictions that the other ones seem to. The only things that are forbidden after attending a Canadian Club meeting are driving the motor car, dancing on the dining room table, and firing off a hilarious but sternly worded email to the management. Extended club meetings may result in a certain queasiness and sensitivity to light and sound next morning, but this is probably just due to the air conditioning…

I’m drawn to this analysis of club life after making a list of organisations to which I have belonged in the past  –  ones that were voluntary, took a small club fee, or could be considered social in some respect. You may have been a member yourself at one time or  other:

a. Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts of Canada

b. Uncle John’s Radio Club

c. Wasatka Staff – Mount Pleasant , Utah

d. WA UDSS, Perth

e. WA Model Boat Club

f. Dental Association Of Australia

g. WA Naval Wargames Society

h. WA Muzzle Loading Club

i. 42RHRA

j. Grey Company

k. WA Model Collector’s Club

My current situation, as of right now-typing this post, is that all but the last two have fallen away into history. They have been laid aside with fond memories and in a few precious cases, have enabled me to make friends and acquaintances that remain with me to this day. Some have also led me to regrets…

It’s also caused me to analyse the nature of clubs and club or society membership. Of course this is a deeper topic than ever I could embrace, and has been done better elsewhere, but as you are already this far down the page, you might as well keep on reading. Either that, or get up and start to do the darned housework again.

The questions that arose immediately were:

a. What were these clubs? What, indeed, is a club?

b. Why did I join or found these clubs?

c. What did I give to the clubs? What did I get from them?

d. Why did I quit the clubs? Was it a good decision?

e. What clubs should I join in the future?

If you can find any echo in these thoughts – if your life seems to have clubs, societies, and organisations  as well, past and present – please read the next few columns. They may help you to have a better time. Or a good time. Or just a time…