But that’s just putting the problem out on the table. What can you actually do about it? What are you actually offering?
I didn’t expect to be writing this particular post. Today is a post about love, after all, and in most cases that should at least be positive, right? However, while attending a lecture today, I had the somewhat surreal experience of watching geeks turn into hipsters.
The Difference is Like This
John Scalzi, the science fiction writer, wrote about it in his essay “Who Gets to Be a Geek?” far more eloquently than I could. But the gist of it is: both geeks and hipsters love something, whether it be the environment, a certain kind of music, rare books, artisan coffee, whatever – pick your poison.
When a hipster sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “Oh, crap, now the wrong people like the thing I love.” When a geek sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “ZOMG YOU LOVE WHAT I LOVE COME WITH ME AND LET US LOVE IT TOGETHER.” – John Scalzi
That’s what I saw happen today. During the lecture, the panel of experts waxed rhapsodic on a performance form they love. Out of respect for them (and the fact that I’m about to say not-so-nice-things) I will leave them anonymous. But in the beginning of the lecture, they were quite welcoming. “If you enjoy this art,” they explained, “really feel it in your heart, that’s enough. You don’t need fancy equipment, expensive costumes, you don’t even need ‘official’ recognition from established organizations. Just follow your passion and go with what you love.”
It was a beautiful expression of geekdom. But then, towards the end of the lecture, the tone changed. “How dare just anyone try and claim this?” they said. Words like “cultural appropriation” and “privilege” were bandied about – as if the white men who started the movement somehow didn’t have that in spades. Concern for the “loss of history” was expressed, while at the same time ignoring the actual roots of the art form itself.
Again, I’m trying not to get too specific, because I would like to preserve the anonymity…but it was as if the Beatles were talking about Rock and Roll and insisted on ignoring the roots of the blues and also insisting that no one but a Briton had any right to play it. And when asked why, it was for fear that the British contribution to the genre might be lost or ignored.
It was sad. As I left the lecture, to continue the metaphor, the talk had been so infuriating that I wanted to get rid of all my Beatles albums.
What Is To Be Done?
Which brings us back to the initial question posed by my friend Ali, who also attended and was disenchanted by the lecture (for different reasons, as it turns out, but she can write her own damn blog). When she found out I was going to write about it, she decided to challenge me to do more than just point out the problem. We all deal with geeks and hipsters in our lives, in some way, so the problem is nothing new. She challenged me to offer something more than just pointing out the problem in some typically Aquarian, air-sign kind of way (not that I have any idea what that means, but when you hang out with artsy types, such is their language).
I’ll accept the challenge, reluctantly, since I usually try not to offer pat solutions to problems. I don’t trust them, since the world is not black and white, but rather a wide and colorful spectrum.
The answer is: remember. Whatever it is you love, take an unflinching look at where the roots actually lie – even if they are in places you don’t like, populated by people who are other than you. Be real about your history of what you love, so that your enthusiasm can be genuine.
Like loving any individual, if you simply ignore or deny their shortcomings, it is a fragile kind of affection, vulnerable to the inevitable assault of reality. However, if you are able to accept even those parts that you are uncomfortable with, you have a love that is grounded in a bedrock of reality. That not only makes it more durable, it also gives you the security you need to share it with others, without the fear that by the sharing you are somehow losing something. Learn the real history of your passion, and like all knowledge, it will give you the power to love it that much more.
Geek on, my friends. Geek on.