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There’s an awful lot of effort these days goes into not discriminating against people. For all sorts of things. A lot of these things are commonplace and well-known: the big nine, for example.

And this is all very fine and beautiful and one step closer to what Jesus apparently wanted, and to that mythical Utopia we’re all hoping will be in place for our children’s future (because it sure as hell isn’t happening in our lifetime – just try to blot out the fact that our parents hoped exactly the same)

But something I started thinking about the other day is that we have a lot of protections in place for those people whose IQ is, perhaps, lower than average – but remarkably few for those whose is higher.

(I’m not talking about savants here, or those amazing folks whose massively high intelligence is coupled up with other things like Aspergers or autism – there are labels for this, y’see, and those labels come out of the drawer marked “disabilities”, one of the big nine. And while the big nine definition of disability should strictly speaking cover heightened capacity as well as impaired capacity, well…it doesn’t seem to work that way in reality.)

No, I’m just talking about random smartarses like me: people who are a bit brighter than average and sometimes have a whole suite of social and emotional difficulties that go hand-in-hand with that 130+ score (I know high intelligence doesn’t always equal social/emotional issues, but it’s a common enough pairing). People who have an IQ of 80 get special dispensation and protection, especially in terms of the workplace and how they are treated socially: what about the people with an IQ of 180? Shouldn’t there be special dispensation and protection for them, too?

Let’s hold up a second (before the righteous indignation and screaming begins), and let’s remember what my username is, and also why I chose it. I make no secret of the fact that I’m smarter than average, and I know it. I’ve been tested and everything.

So hold on now: easy there, genius. What makes you so special? Are you better than everyone else? Do you think you’re superior? Do you think you should be sitting on a throne while the ordinary people swan about below, just waiting to be crushed under your supersmart heel? (Yes, even your heels are smart when you’re a genius.) Are you just waiting for the opportunity to tell the world how dense they are when compared to your magnificent brain?

Absolutely and emphatically not. And this is actually part of my point. I chose my username because it indicates the way smarter people often feel they have to function. Easy there, genius. Don’t let on. Keep yourself in check. Don’t admit how smart, how different you are, because this is precisely the reaction you’ll get. Play it down, baby, or risk being villified. Being smart and liking your own company is not cool.

(Yes, okay: sometimes, really really bright people are also a little bit evil. They buy an inactive volcano and convert it into a bijou mansion, complete with sharks (and lasers) while crowing loudly on pirate TV channels about how they’re going to run the world because they’re so much smarter than everyone else.)

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What? Stereotypes are there for a reason.

Then there’s the other sort of smart people, (this is me, by the way. Hello) who are often socially gauche, isolated, and introverted to the degree where they find functioning as part of normal society (and at the microcosm level, as part of a normal workplace team) a terrible burden. Because (and here’s the tiny violin moment, everyone) – being introverted is a shitty, awkward thing sometimes, especially in a culture which only really values extroverted, socially comfortable team players in a work environment.

OKay, so hypothetically speaking: there’s a guy in your workplace who has a low IQ. One day you are talking to him and you notice he is having trouble getting his point across. You tut loudly, and then say “What’s wrong with you? Are you stupid or something? Get to the point, idiot!”

You’d be an utter bastard, right? That’s just how that guy is. It’s how he lives. It’s not going to change. Treating him like that is not only completely socially unacceptable, it’s actually potentially illegal from a work point of view. You’ve employed a person, you haven’t employed an IQ score.

So now try this: there’s a guy in your workplace who is a genius introvert with social anxiety. One day you’re organising team socials, and you notice he seems uncomfortable and withdrawn when you tell him you’re all going to go down the pub every night after work and get drunk. He says he doesn’t want to go. You tut loudly and then say “What’s wrong with you? Are you some kind of loser or something? Man up and start to party!”

You’re still a bastard, right? That’s just how that guy is. It’s how he lives. It’s not going to change. Right?

Wrong. It starts in school and we see it everywhere in adult life: geek, nerd, poindexter, brainiac. Loser. Social moron. Nonconformist. Homebody. And it’s socially acceptable to make fun of someone who’d rather sit on his own and read after work so that his carefully constructed “normal” personality mask doesn’t implode. We can’t hold up a certificate from Mensa or our Myers-Briggs score and say “Defend me, legal services, for I am brighter than average and yet crumble in the face of social convention!”

Genius and introversion in the modern first world workplace: causing more health issues than the discovery of lard.

We’re hard workers: we’re often perfectionists and creative lateral thinkers. But we’re also nonconformists and mavericks. And that should be ok, but it’s not. The value of the focused, intelligent antisocial maverick is often overlooked in favour of people who like to use slogans like “there is no I in team.”

No, we may not play well with others. But lord, do we play well, in our own way.

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