This is supposed to be a blog about all things geek, and make no mistake, this article IS about geek culture. But more than that, it’s about American (or western, for those of you outside the US) culture, and at base, it’s about human culture. Geeks have always been outliers, that’s what makes us geeks. We’re not “mainstream” white bread, suburb living, my work is my life, type people. We have traditionally been more curious, more open to new ideas, (and ideals) just a little more Laissez-faire than the common man. This is both our biggest strength, and if not held to the pure concept, our biggest weakness.
Yes, you in the back corner, yeah I recognize you, we’ve disagreed before, say what you want to say… “how can it possibly be both?” you ask? See here’s the thing. We’ve slowly been heating the pot. We’re at a simmer right now, working up towards that boil that cooks the frog. Somehow back in the 70s or so (at least I remember Jerry Pournelle writing about it then) we started drifting off of the path that ALL IDEAS bear thinking about, and ALL IDEALS bear scrutiny. We started buying into an argument that only NEW ideas and ideals where worth thinking about, and that old ideas where automatically suspect, or flat out garbage. Well, that sounds not completely unreasonable at first glance, after all, we are the harbingers of the future, one can’t have the future, while clinging to the past can one? Ah, but here’s the trap in that: when you allow other people to dictate what is “new”, and you automatically discredit that which someone else identifies as “old”, you’ve entered the “Orwell Zone”. Oh it’s not obvious yet, in fact I’ve had many people loose their mellow at the very thought that I’m calling the state we’re in now the start of “1984”. Ah but here’s the thing, it’s really easy to identify the tiger trap when you’re at the bottom of a deep hole, with pungie sticks poking through your tender anatomy. The critical thing, the very vital but difficult thing, is to recognize the disturbance in the jungle floor before we step on the trigger, or at the very least to recognize the creak of branches about to break, while there’s still time to jump back… If you wait until you’re falling down that pit to say “hey, wait a minute, this is WRONG”, Gravity isn’t going to care, the pit isn’t going to care, and the sharpened stakes at the bottom sure as shit aren’t going to care. It’s too late, and those things are going to do what they’re going to do, whether you decide at that point that it’s gone too far or not.
Well boys and girls, I’m hearing creaking. No, I don’t believe that there’s some great “planned and thought out conspiracy”, no “cabal” that sits in some dark room hidden away from prying eyes planning their ascendency and the fall of western civilization, and the rise of totalitarianism once again. You see, that’s just not necessary. All that is needed, for that tiger trap to exist, is for power to centralize, and for that centralized power to become SURE that they know better than the unwashed masses (uh, in case you don’t realize it, that means US). Power has been centralizing since the 70s or early 80s. In the late 1800s power was centralized in the east, in the hands of the “robber barons”… BUT, and this is an all important but, there was THE WEST. The west acted as a pressure relief valve. A place where the centralized powers held no sway, Hell, Law and order held damn little sway, and the people that were living there were those that either fought on one side or the other of one of the biggest civil wars the world has ever seen, or had fled oppression of one form or another somewhere else in the world. These folks weren’t about to allow a central planning committee to tell them how to live their lives, and there were several out and out battles, over the very concept. A man that came out west to try to take over, to become the older and wiser head, that would show the way to the future