Clubs for Nerds
I joined an organization in The City for people concerned about public affairs, civic issues, arts and literature. It's pretty pretentious, but also pretty awesome.
I did this to reaffirm my committent to Awesome Part of the Country while I get to live here. Again, I am destined for cold climates or swamp climates (apparently these are not mutually exclusive?!), so I better take advantage of this while I can. It's a dynamic city full of overeducated yuppies with bourgie tastes and pampered palates--who also really, really care about this world and want to change it for the better by....putting on lectures. Educating the overeducated, preaching to the choir, and eating hors d'oeurves. But I'm not complaining. I like this.
I'm not as activist as I used to be, and I like this old fashioned model of civic virtue. It's like the Key Club or Rotary Club. You hang out and talk to people like you, donate money to people not like you, and listen to interesting things that you no longer listen to now that you're set on a very narrow career path. Hey, at least I'm honest. Grassroots activism, this isn't. But it's still an organization of people, so there's a social network if not a social movement. And I like that the organization is non-partisan. I got enough of that in law school, and I like to pick my own political, law-centered positions and orgs. This is old school--something for everyone.
It's an interesting experience. I got my membership card in the mail, and felt very weird. I am not a joiner. I am a loner. The last few times I tried to join something, they ended horrendously. In law school, I was co-chair of an ethnic organization only to be nearly impeached for not going to enough social events like karaoke night or bowling night (instead preferring to organize inter-org social justice events). That was a mess--if anything, that experience made me reject identity politics entirely and pushed me to the center on race-conscious issues. Then last year I tried to have a group of friends, only to have it end in the worst debacle in the history of international relations (ha ha, get it). Seriously--how do you go from a group of six to "and then there were three" to now, when it's de facto "and then there were two" and the last one standing turns out to be Favorite Russian Dude rather than French Dandy Dude? Nevermind the melodrama leading up to this final result--like I said, the Dean said drink up, and I just want to throw up.
At any rate, I have the jitters joining an organization again. Putnam says that we're all bowling alone, and that modern society is increasingly atomized and social networks are breaking down---but I find it amazing that so many people want to form communities and organize themselves into groups. The blogosphere is definitely such a network--I could map a blogtree of the people I know who know other bloggers that I also know. If that makes sense. It probably doesn't. Blogrolls are mini communities, bloggers have meetups all the time across the country, blogging transcends age, rank, and discipline. And this is just virtual networking. Nevermind the glut of organizations at school--the law school is overrun with orgs, and if that's not enough, the university has tons of organizations for undergrads and graduate students.
I disprefer school-oriented organizations for now, because I want the time I spend not writing or researching to be time I spend away from school. Hence joining the hipster equivalent of The Rotary Club or Elks Club. There's two divisions to the Nerd Club: one for old people, and one for young people. The young people organize their own events, and they're either very hip and cool or very public affairs oriented. I think more cities should have such clubs. I think Nerds should have other places of refuge other than school. The cool kids have the rest of the world--bars, clubs, game parks, etc. to do whatever frivolous things they do. We apparently need places to hang out to keep learning outside of school and places other than hallways, lockers, and water coolers to talk about serious issues. Nerds of the world, unite!
I am freaked out about joining an organization, but I think this might be good for me. At the very least, I'll learn something. And maybe it will be a good experience for once, to join the society of others and not be made more misanthropic because of it. That can definitely happen. We will see.