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Why Militant Geek?

an editorial

Recently my friends and I were sitting around the dinner table in the school cafeteria and we were talking, of course, about Star Wars. One person--let's call him Obi-Wan--was telling us how after he had run up and down the hall screaming "One month to Episode One!" and writing the same thing on people's message boards he caught some girl writing "loser" on his white board. "Yeah," he told her, "it's too bad that some people are so bitter that they have to tear down anyone who actually enjoys themselves and gets exciting about something." "Asshole," the girl muttered, and walked off.

Yeah. Losers. Why don't you tell us we're "dorks," we postulated, or "geeks." We don't care. For that matter, why don't you tell us our leisure activities aren't limited to sitting around getting drunk. Or that our hobbies, let alone our "work," are vastly more fulfilling and that our friends are more sincere. That would really hurt.

See, when people call geeks losers, they don't really mean "losers." Because geeks aren't losers. They're generally smarter, more original, or both, than your average khaki-wearing slob. They get the good jobs. They get the good sex. They get the geek kids they can play vector racing and watch Blade Runner with.

So it's really just jealousy. But nevertheless, geeks often seem to be on the defensive. We can often be arrogant, superior, and take pains to separate ourselves. There are two reasons for this:

a) we are different; we're outsiders; that's what makes us geeks. And...

b) middle school.

All dorks go through a period where, despite the large number of successful and happy geeks in the public eye, they are so repressed that they have a hard time believing in our divine superiority. In other words, they lack the faith and hope that keeps geeks going through the hard times. This period is called puberty.

It's a formative time for any youngster, of course, but being a geek means you probably have no social skills, an innocent happiness and curiosity, and very little self-consciousness. We're romantics, for god's sake. We're very trusting. This makes us a walking target for anyone else working through their particular chemical imbalances.

Geeks' parents, being probably geeks themselves, were unable to pass these interpersonal relationships onto their kids, and they don't feel the need to impose the artificial "performance" aspect onto their kids that parents of the a-list crowd do. Then there's the rarely-spoken-of issue in geek culture of those other parents. The ones that weren't merely misguided or honest but bad, plain and simple. But ultimately, these are matters of degree; geeks are geeks, and can't help acting the way they do; even dorks with the best parents can turn out bad due to circumstances that parents can do nothing about.

We get picked on, beaten on, humiliated, demoralized, and thoroughly repressed. If you've been there, you know what I'm talking about: the insults, the physical threats and oftentimes actions, the constant demoralizing string of putdowns and harassment. It gets to the point where just making yourself go to school is a struggle. You're afraid of and subsequently avoid social contact at all costs. Meanwhile, the other kids are having the best years of their lives. It's all downhill from here, right? In the words of Bongo, "You mean it gets worse?!"

A geek can do one of three things in this situation: go completely anti-social, move beyond it and evolve, or turn to the dark side. These result in the traditional, the uber, and the repressed geek, respectively.

The first geek, the traditional geek, is the one we're all used to: a poet/musician/artist, weird dresser, "egghead," and an outcast. The images of this geek are everywhere--George McFly, Brian Krakow, Betty Finn, etc. Generally harmless except when it's taken too far.

The second geek is one who is able to retain an enormous sense of self-worth, usually through some outside activity, and isn't dependant on the judgements of others for his or her happiness. This allows the ubergeek to walk among the A-listers without being one of them; his or her inner confidence and general happiness magnetically draws others and lets them fully deploy their talents. An ubergeek has a good chance of growing up to rule the world.

Dorks are smart; what they are lacking, we are told, is "emotional intelligence." But this can be learned, too. There are some geeks who study the popular kids, imitate them, and, by hook or crook, infiltrate their group. If done early enough, the geek will be, for all intents and purposes, a "popular kid," yet still a geek inside, subject to all the geek emotions, thoughts, and impulses. They've just learned to repress them: think Winona Ryder in Heathers pre-Christian Slater. These geeks, who are smart and social--dark side geeks--often grow up to rule the world too. This is not a good thing, however. Prominent repressed geeks include Bill Gates, MTV executives, and Pat Robertson.

The first case explains geek egotism and superiority. They're natural defense mechanisms against a society that has treated us as second-class citizens. Many seemingly self-confident geeks have paper-thin egos that need to be constantly boosted or risk complete collapse. The last two cases show why geeks need to be protected in their development. The existence of those rare few ubergeeks prove that dorks can be happy without making others unhappy; repressed geeks show the alternative. Push our brains down, and you never know how they're going to pop back up. But give us room to breathe, and we make things better for everyone. We are the cream of the crop, after all; that's why we're so different.

The wonderful thing about being a geek is that it's not all downhill from middle and high school. We're eternally young, playful and happy in the best of circumstances; even when geeks mask it with bitterness and cynicism, they're still romantics underneath. With the popular kids, the jocks and cheerleaders, after high school they have nothing. Trust me. A lot of assholes from back home will die in car crashes when you're in college. Why? Because they're fucking stupid, that's why.

There's a lot of very successful, happy geeks out there. In the coming months, Militant Geek hopes to show you some of them, as well as why you are what you are and why that's so damn cool. Geeks are good people. Ultimately, we win.

So take heart. It's hard to look beyond the present, but there's still a lot of living left to do. Be different, please. Don't let them make you like them. That is the dark path. And once you start down it...