On the Rise

Being the fourth of May today (May the fourth be with you), I felt compelled to read a post by “monkey” contributing on the What about teh Menz blog.

It might seem strange at first, but I was immediately reminded of an old article on Salon.com about rich elites in the U.S. having a sense of persecution while they strangle and subdue the livelihoods of their entire nation.

The connection for me is in this idea of comparing geek culture to religion, except that there’s a more general principle at the heart of it. That is the idea of dominant groups feeling persecuted, and turning it onto those with relative disadvantage.

Now of course, things are never as simple as THIS LABEL makes you THAT. There are places in the world for example where being out as a christian can get you killed. We do well to always keep our minds open to nuance and context against any generalization. Dominance and disadvantage are always relative and almost always simultaneously at work within a group or individual albeit in different contexts. This is the nature of Kyriarchy. I will be using a broad brush to make my point, but I do realize there is nuance and variation. Please keep this in mind.

That being said, I often see a dynamic where the members of a dominant group identify themselves as underdogs apart from whatever reality might be. It seems to me that as geeks, we have long surpassed the aggressiveness and social brutality of any group we might have called “jocks” (whom we still feel inferior to in the privacy of our minds). In reality, we dominate the much of the online medium, now the dominant social arena, and steadily taking over pop culture.

Take the ignorant and moderately disinterested (though still very harmful) sexism of the jock, and make it active and aggressive. Now take that insecurity overcompensating with outward arrogance, give it a dozen red bulls and pinch of anonymity and you have the modern geek. Add a science degree and/or a self conflation with being “rational” and you’ve got a skeptic which is often a scarier monster; Another rant for another day. But either way, from the culture’s perspective, saying male, cis, and even white is usually redundant. There are geek girls (also cis and white), but they’re often not really in the club. We let them in with a token membership (so we can ogle at them of course).

Another aspect of the culture is that like all men, we like to define ourselves by what we are not. Almost universally we like to define ourselves as “not woman”, “not gay”, “not-trans”, etc. For the geek we add “not Star Trek/Wars”, “not DC/Marvel”, “not LARP”, “Not LoTR”, any manner of elitism we can scrounge up gets thrown in the mix.

Anyway you look at it, we seem to more and more reflective of the fearfully aggressive mob, desperately clinging to our fragile sense of identity. But what’s truly insidious about it is that we still sell the harmless, mild-mannered Clark Kent with Superman alter-ego when in reality we’re more like Billy Boy turned Dr. Horrible.

I think we easily forget by the end of the show Dr. Horrible is no hero, not even a grey one. And though neither of them prov to be very decent in the end, Dr. Horrible proves far more sinister and dangerous. He’s Captain Hammer add a chip on his shoulder and a potent mind. What’s makes him most dangerous is that he feels like an underdog, and we want to agree with him. After all, it’s OUR TURN to get the girl dammit!!

He seems to get a pass of sorts because we as a culture, like Dr. Horrible, value smarts and recognition more than goodness and perspective, and it’s beginning to show. For recognition we seek the holy trifecta of status, riches, and access to (conventionally attractive) women’s bodies. All others don’t seem to even warrant our attention except to exert our superiority over them. His are crocodile tears over his own loss, most obviously displayed by the fact that he doesn’t duck out of his villainous glory, the pursuit of which cost Penny’s life.

I think Dr. Horrible is a very astute reflection of geek culture, whether or not he was intended to be so. We’re an insecure and powerful mob. Even if merely socially rather than politically, this is not a good combo. We feel like heroic rebels, but act like The Empire. We are the new gatekeepers. We have become the bullies. We just haven’t figured it out yet.

Posted on May 4, 2012, in Science and Skepticism, Social. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. “We are the new gatekeepers.”

    Is that why entry level IT jobs are perennially non-existent?

    Oh, and there’s the favorite phrase of the geeks (borrowed, I think, from the mathematicians): Characterizing various of one’s accomplishments as “non-trivial.”

    • I don’t know, but locally here I think we realize that things have cooled off and we’re hanging on to what we have.

      When my group does hire, we seem to have a curious tendency to hire to exclusively men.

      I can’t say I’ve heard the non-trivial thing before. Is this a meme or something you’re seeing in resumes?

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