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@the_moviebob: What we have now isn't "meritocracy;" because the people in charge aren't there for their actual merits
@the_moviebob: Things should be run by whoever is best equipped to run them. Maybe that's closer to Technocracy, but it makes sense.
@GreyTheTick: It's perfectly possible to be both smart and insane.
@the_moviebob: at this point, I'd take that option. I am TIRED of being ruled by lesser minds rendered "superior" by incidence of birth.
--Moviebob, conversation on Twitter
Movies right now need more kid detectives. Give smart kids someone to root for.
Ho ho ho Nerd Rage! Isn't it hilarious? Those silly nerds, always getting so worked up over everything.
You know, it's true. There's lots of nerd rage to go around these days, it seems. We collectively seem to always be angry, but we're not exactly managing to control that side of ourselves quite as well as we perhaps should. We are, it seems, no Bruce Banner.
And boy, that rage sure does manifest itself in some rather destructive and awful ways, doesn't it? Like, how about the psychotically vehement attacks on women in geek communities of late? That's sure not the healthiest manifestation of rage I've ever seen. Or the continuous racism and homophobia within the culture? Or even the often insanely hostile battles within fandoms? I mean, take this analysis of the Sonic the Hedgehog fandom, for example. It sounds absurd--I mean, the character is a super fast hedgehog--but apparently that fandom is a giant roiling cosmic Lovecraftian space of madness and entropy. And you know what? It's not the only fandom to approach that level of awfulness:
"Fandoms by nature are usually pretty horrible. Get enough people together who like something and you’ll quickly find their personal opinions clashing violently. Have something that has been around long enough or had enough changes in it’s lifetime and you’ll find yourself with a fanbase divided and constantly at war with it’s self. Lord knows merely posting about any Final Fantasy is fuel for an instant flamewar."
Plenty of people have written about the toxicity withing the culture that gives rise to such expressions of fury. But, you know, I don't think we can just look at geek culture in isolation. it exists, after all, within a larger social system, so why not explore it within that system? Weirdly, this is already being done to some extent, but largely from a standpoint of feminist and race theory, looking at the white straight male nerd as a powerholder. To some extent, I think that sort of analysis is reasonable.
But in another sense, it misses a major point:
Nerds are an oppressed group in American society.
Now, let me be absolutely clear: none of what I'm going to say justifies the awful treatment that a vocal segment of our community has shown even people we should consider part of our own number. I do think it might help to explain it, however.
Consider the two quotes that I started this post with. They're both from Bob Chipman, Moviebob, one of the really great video game and movie analysts on the web right now, and a regular champion of progressive thought in geek culture. But man, that first exchange sounds more than a little frustrated. Blow-up-a-building frustrated. Check out that last line: "I am TIRED of being ruled by lesser minds rendered "superior" by incidence of birth." (emphasis mine) That "lesser minds" bit is particularly interesting, because it suggests where the frustration is coming from.
It's coming from the same place that the second quote is coming from: the feeling that "smart kids" have no one to root for, and no one to root for them.
Now, Moviebob isn't, in my estimation, the type to actually blow anything up, as enraged as his rhetoric is. In fact, he's pointed out before that just because he's bringing up what he considers a catastrophic system failure doesn't mean he's advocating the most extreme solution--or, to put it another way, the most final solution. I've noticed it myself--it's easy to assume that when I condemn an organization like the Catholic Church that I'm demanding stronger measures than, uh, widespread public outcry and police inquiry into criminal activity. Not totally crazy, right? Our rage and our rhetoric outstrips our actual political stance.
But Moviebob and I aren't the only geeks out there that feel shut out of society. Those psychos railing about men's rights and how straight white males are the most oppressed people? Yeah, those guys are a product of a priviledged society that's going through the heaving convulsions of progressive change, but let's be clear about one thing: they were never in the top rung within their group. In fact, they've probably been frequently ground into the dirt despite their privilege in other areas of life.
It's an inevitability, actually, in a culture that so vehemently despises the intellectual. I mean, my god, American culture in particular seems hell bent on reverting to the days when heretics were actually burned at the stake. All the natter about the liberal elite? The mockery of the ivory-tower intellectuals who are out of touch with "common sense" and folk wisdom? Bill O'Reilly basically echoing the rhetoric of fucking Insane Clown Posse?!
All of that is a sign of a culture that has so devalued intellectualism that a sizeable chunk of America is ready to get out the torches and pitchforks when someone so much as dares to suggest that maybe demonstrable scientific theories should be given precedence in a science class.
Oh, and what's more, this is all occurring against a backdrop of the absolute collapse of higher education. Collapse too dramatic, you say? Oh, I'm sorry, what would you call ballooning costs paired with a scarcity of work, and a culture that responds to outcry against this insane system by not just accepting the unjustified arrest, beating, and pepperspraying of students, but cheers these authoritarian actions along from the sidelines?
America has become a state that despises knowledge, despises those who seek knowledge, and despises those who openly display knowledge.
And you absolutely cannot leave this fact out when you talk about Nerd Rage and the horrifying maelstrom of sociopathic rage that is modern Geek culture. Because we are exactly as our society made us. We're just expressing our horrifying maelstrom of sociopathic rage in a way that isn't accepted, because instead of wrecking global economies, decimating the environment, and marching cheerfully to war, we're directing our poison inward at our own community and expressing our rage and helplessness the only way we know how: by lashing out at each other over what fucking Final Fantasy Game is better.
Or, for those of us who have been particularly poisoned by the ingrained structures of hate in society, we lash out in far, far more destructive ways, at women, at queers, at people of color, and so on.
Oh, and sure, some of the people I'm talking about here are shut out of society because they've just decided that being maladjusted is who they are, by god, and if you won't accept them, well, it's YOUR FAULT, YOU HATER! These people suck, no argument, and I'm not sure what we can do as a culture besides take a stand and say that we aren't going to tolerate their idiocy.
But these problems aren't going to magically go away if we expel the absolute creeps, because, well, for one thing... where will they go? Join the NRA? Start a militia? This occurred to me as I read a recent Pervocracy article about fixing the broken steps in our social groups. Don't get me wrong, I think Cliff is totally right here--we need to actively refuse to accept vile, inhumane behavior, and if that means expelling someone from our social spheres, well, that's what it means. But the creeps have to go somewhere, and as we've already started to see, when people who are already being ostracized by society are further pushed to the margins? I really do fear that one day soon the geek community is going to be utterly shattered because someone on the edge of reason is going to snap and actually outright murder one of the big, important voices for equality within the movement. How long till someone takes the threats against someone like Anita Sarkeesian and decides they need to become reality?
I feel like an absolute heel putting it that way, because A. it seems sensationalistic and B. I don't have a good solution to this problem. I don't like even talking about these things because, well, I cry uncontrollably when I read about books getting destroyed, for goodness sake. The actual human suffering I'm invoking here is enough to make me go practically catatonic if I ponder it too hard.
And I really do hate bringing up what I think is a very real, very weighty problem when I don't have an easy answer. What I might suggest is that we need to find a solution here that takes into account the second problem with just focusing on the worst manifestations of this behavior:
It doesn't address the anti-intellectualism that is fanning the flames of nerd rage.
I think if we're going to fix this we need to fix a whole lot of other things in society, as well. A short list, off the top of my head, might include:
- Government funded undergraduate education. If we value education, we should, as a society, be bloody well paying for it.
- An immediate halt on the treatment of geeks and the intelligent as curiosities. So, no more snide dismissive references to nerd rage, no more Big Bang Theory bullshit, and so on.
- A kind of self-imposed open door policy--we've got to stop lording our knowledge over newcomers. That just makes people--especially the people who are already scared of smart things--even more likely to dismiss the things we love.
- Pro-intellectual messages within the community. We really, really need to stop the infighting between lib art geeks and science geeks.
- More public education campaigns. We're doing a lot to reach people on the borderline with pro-intellectual messages. We're not doing enough to reach beyond those realms. I probably sound like a broken record by now, but hey, it's important stuff.
- The active recruitment of children living in the bermuda triangle intersection of race, class, gender and sexuality, &c. We're losing kids because they aren't getting support from the school system, they don't have access to pro-intellectual summer programs, and they're not a part of net cultures. This needs to be fixed, for the good of everyone. The anti-intellectualism in some strands of urban culture is deeply troubling.
Basically what I want to see is a broad coalition of the intelligent and educated, reaching outside of geek culture to the assaulted university system, and reaching beyond that to the members of society most at risk for becoming anti-intellectuals and perpetuating this dumb system.
And I do have hope for that. I mean, I've personally been dealing with quite a few issues of my own, partly stemming from the problems I'm describing here, but every so often I get a reminder of why Geek culture is so important and so worth saving. Whether it's someone commenting that an old article of mine really touched them, or the opportunity to geek out with an old friend over the clever thematic structures in Cowboy Bebop, or someone that I've only ever met online letting me know that he might be leaving our geeky online community, but he wants to keep in touch with me. Those are the types of bonds that make the frustrations of living in a society that doesn't think that we're valuable, well, worthwhile.
Because we can remind each other that we ARE valuable.
And that's a whole lot more constructive than rage.
You know what? Screw the rest of this article, that title is GOLD! You can follow me on Google+ at gplus.to/SamKeeper or on Twitter @SamFateKeeper. As always, you can e-mail me at KeeperofManyNames@gmail.com. If you liked this piece please share it on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Reddit, Equestria Daily, Xanga, MySpace, or whathaveyou, and leave some thoughts in the comments below.