Ed: We were sent this glorious piece unsolicited and loved it. The author stresses that any resemblance to current affairs in the UK is purely coincidental…!
Some years ago I joined a club. (It doesn’t matter what kind of club it was because the following statements are more or less valid for all clubs.) I joined this club because it offered me the opportunity to perform certain activities and to pursue some of my interests. I understood that I had to pay a membership fee for this. After all, the club has to finance its facilities somehow.
Unfortunately, it took me a while to join the club because, for reasons I don’t understand, one club member vetoed my membership twice. Apparently, this member had the impression that I was too arrogant – which is, of course, not true.
With my signature on the membership form, I also had to accept the “statutes” of the club, and thus also some rules of conduct. Well, some “small print” is part of every contract. But this is, after all, merely a formality. And who really takes notice of that?
Everything went well: I could do all those things for which I had become a member and, in return, the club regularly got a certain amount of money from me.
Occasionally there were minor frictions between some club members. But the board was always able to sort these out. However, I have to say that I did not always agree with the decisions that were taken in these situations.
Over the years, the membership of the club grew, and the range of offers was also extended. I must admit that I did not particularly like some of the new members. The club’s board had decided that if there were disagreements, they had to be resolved now in a ‘democratic manner’. This meant that votes were held and the majority decided what should be done. In my opinion, this is not necessarily the best solution because it quite simply does not consider the question of what is good and right. I was also concerned that the new members, who had only been with the club for a few days, had the same right to vote as I did as a long-term member. My knowledge and experience were simply not properly appreciated and no one should tell me that this is just how democracy works.
After all, what is democracy? By definition, this is ruling based on the will of the people – and since I am of the people, democracy is ultimately what I want.
With the expansion of the club’s offers, the membership fees also increased. That didn’t suit me at all because I had no intention of using these new offers. I just wanted to continue doing what I had always done; so why should I have to pay for the offers that were only used by other members? That is simply not fair. For this reason, I held back part of the fees that were due.
When asked about this, the board gave me the following statement:
1. The membership fee has been proposed by the board in the members’ AGM after reviewing the financial situation of the club, and has been accepted and thus decided by the majority of those present.
2. Certain costs, such as the maintenance of the clubhouse, the maintenance of the outdoor facilities, etc are largely independent of the number of offers and their use by the members.
3. The club only provides facilities. Whether and to what extent these facilities are used are left to each member. For certain offers, the costs of which exceed the normal level, additional fees are charged and thus not all club members have to pay for these.
Finally, when the club had reached a certain size – both in terms of the number of members and offers – the statutes of the club were also revised, and they contained more rules of conduct, such as “Members must …”, “Every member has to …”, Members are not allowed to …”, etc. That absolutely got my goat. What right does this club have to impose rules of conduct and tell me what to do and how to behave? I am an individual, and I know quite well what is right and wrong. This is a clear restriction and violation of my freedoms, and I cannot and will not accept it. And it has nothing to do with democracy.
The board was not helpful when I confronted it with my view on these points. In order to function, the club must have rules that are in the interest of the majority of the members, I was told. And for me no exception can be made, even though I am a long-time member. What does the club think it is doing? Am I of no value at all?
Discussions about adjusting the rules and also the membership fee to levels acceptable to me went nowhere. This left me with only the possibility of cancelling my membership. Club, goodbye! Exit. Clexit. After all, I can live perfectly well without the club. That’s what I had done before I was a member. I have my freedom back and can do whatever I think is good and right and not what other people tell me to do. I also save a lot of money. When asked whether I could be persuaded to change my mind and stay in the club, I only said: “Clexit means Clexit.”
Before leaving, I asked my friends, who were also members of this club, what they thought of it. Two were in favour of remaining in the club, and one was more or less undecided. That settled the matter and I have cancelled the membership for all of us.
I have to admit that not everything went as smoothly and simply as I had imagined. When I went to the clubhouse to drink – as usual – one or three glasses of mineral water, I was not allowed in. “Only for members”, I was told. I have no objection to that because, after all, the members can do what they think is right. But why am I being excluded? I only just want to do what I’ve always done. And I am not a burden to any member. I was told that I just want to pick the cherries out of the offers, and that I can’t have my cake and eat it. After all, even in the time of membership, I did not take advantage of all the offers of the club. So why this enmity? I only want to do what is good and right for me. Can the club really stop me? Isn’t there such a thing as a habitual right?
Unfortunately, I can no longer do what I could do as a club member simply and without formalities. At least, not so easily. For example, if I want to ride a bike, then I have to buy my own bike now or borrow one from somewhere every time. A good bike is not cheap, and for security reasons it should be stored in a theft-proof room, which I do not have. And if something gets damaged, then I have to bear the costs myself in full. When I rent a bike, a number of formalities have to be dealt with every time. A contract has to be signed, and for my own safety it is best to have insurance against damage and loss. At the hand-over and the return, the bicycle has to be checked for faults and damages. (In the club, that was the job of the equipment warden, and I had nothing to do with it.) And when I am a bit late returning the bike, then they try to accuse me of breach of contract and charge me extra.
Yesterday I received a letter from the club’s lawyer. The club is calling on me to pay the outstanding fees immediately, otherwise, legal action will be taken. That is blackmail. Nowhere do they mention that the money I have held back is only for the activities that I have not used.
Just how hostile the club is now is shown by the following example. If I want to go from my house, for example for shopping, to the city, then I usually take the shortcut that leads over the club’s land. But as a former member, I am no longer allowed to use this route. That is really petty and unbelievable. I am told that I would not let any and every stranger into my house or my garden, but that is surely something quite different. And after all, I’m no stranger to the club.
For what I want to do, there are certainly better things out there than membership of this club. After all, the majority of people live well without being members. However, I have to try to find out what these better things are, and whether they really exist. For some activities that I would like to take part in, I now have to drive quite a long distance to other cities and time does not always allow this. Was it a mistake to leave the club? I am refusing to accept that, because I don’t make mistakes. I am prepared to accept any argument – however small and improbable – that speaks against membership of this club. (If you know of one, please let me know. I’ll appreciate it.)
One of these arguments is that I can now save on the membership fee and use the money for other purposes. However, if I want to continue to carry out the activities that I had previously been able to perform as a club member, then, as I had to find out, this will be much more expensive and difficult than with the membership. (I had also expected that other clubs would accept me with open arms as a new member, but that is obviously not the case.)
But the fact is that I am no longer bound by the regulations of the club and have regained my freedom and sovereignty – and this is ultimately a value that is difficult or even impossible to express in money. However, I am disappointed that the club let me go so easily. That’s the thanks for everything I have done for it (admittedly, that wasn’t much).
* * * * * *
Since time began – well, since my school days – I regularly meet with my friends S McDugal, W Jones and NI O’Brien several times a week to play cards. We meet at my place, because I have the largest house and the best facilities. For some time now, however, S has been grumbling that he always has to come to my place, and that I never want to go to him or one of the other two friends. NI also agrees more and more with this opinion. This is, of course, nonsense. Because, as I said, I have the best amenities and I plan and organise everything. (S in particular doesn’t seem to appreciate how much work I’m taking off his shoulders).
My friends also accuse me of having terminated their membership of the club without their consent. This is, of course, absolute nonsense. In order to avoid chaos, there must be someone in every group who takes the lead and makes difficult decisions. I’m best suited for that because I know best what’s good and right for my friends. And because I am older, I have more rights.
However, I have to be careful that our group does not break apart. It would be a pity if such a long-standing friendship were to break up because of such petty reasons, wouldn’t it?
* * * * * *
Statement of the club:
E has informed the board of the club that he does not agree with the regulations and the level of the membership fee and, as a consequence, has cancelled his membership. That is, of course, his right.
Since E was a long-term and valued member, the club has submitted several alternative proposals to him, such as an associate membership, for example. However, it would only be possible to accept E as an associate member if E is willing to acknowledge and follow the club’s statutes and rules (with which the other club members are satisfied). However, E is apparently not willing to accept these terms and conditions, and the club cannot change its statutes and rules just to satisfy E.
We regret the departure of E and wish him all the best for the future.