What good are geeks? Geek Pride Day 2013
Since 2006, May 25th has been Geek Pride Day. The date coincides with the release of the first Star Wars movie in 1977, Towel Day (celebrated in honor of Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy),and the Glorious Revolution of the 25th of May (Discworld).
It was begun in Spain, but thanks in part to the internet, is now international (or perhaps non-national is a better term).
It hasn’t quite crossed over into the mainstream consciousness, but you will find some sales in honor of it (or that should be in honor of it, even if they don’t say so). For example,
is giving 20% on orders that are $42 or more (another reference to Adams) with the code GEEKPRIDE. That’s just today, and since I know I have readers around the world, check to see if it works for you.
Amazon doesn’t seem to be trumpeting it, but high on the paid app bestseller list today are some of the
That includes The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man, usually each normally $6.99, right now $0.99 each.
I often refer to things as “geek-friendly” in this blog, and (yes, proudly) proclaim myself a geek.
What does it really mean to be a geek? Why should we be proud?
Well, the term “geek”, while it has older roots, once referred to circus sideshow performers who did strange things…like eating light bulbs or biting the heads off live chickens. They weren’t inherently different from other people (as was the case with some others in the sideshow): they had different skills. Sure, they were skills that most people wouldn’t want to have, but they had them.
That eventually extended into people who worked with computers. Again, back in the day, most people didn’t want to know how to do a spreadsheet…but they wanted somebody who could do it. That started to make geeks valuable: now, their unwanted skills actually contributed to a company’s success.
For me, a geek and a nerd are two different things, although you’ll hear a lot of debate about that. Geeks have unusual skills: nerds have unusual interests. You can be a “band nerd” and be totally into the marching band in high school…even if you don’t play an instrument, or don’t play it well. Not all of you will agree with that, I know.
Geek culture, though, has certainly gone beyond those with special skills, and I don’t think people really use it that way any more.
There are some things that I would say define geeks, and are reasons to be proud:
We are inclusive
It doesn’t matter if nobody else likes you. In fact, being looked down upon by the mainstream is more likely to get you into the geek inner circle. You can tell people who aren’t geeks, even though they may be into science fiction. If anybody uses the term “skiffy” (a derogative put down of “low grade” science fiction, being a deliberate mispronunciation of Forry Ackerman’s “sci fi” shortening), they aren’t being geeky. It doesn’t matter if other people think what you like is bad, or childish. We celebrate the underdog (and Underdog) and the dog who is so much of an outsider that they don’t even get invited to the fight in the first place.
Yes, we may catch ourselves sometimes condemning mainstream people…jocks and cheerleaders, and referring to people like that as “muggles”. When we do, though, we feel bad about it.
We may certainly have been picked on and excluded, and we don’t want to do that to other people.
We value ideas
We want to hear what you think…even if you think it’s ridiculous and silly. Yes, we’ll challenge it every way possible, and come up with new ways if we can. We love taking an idea and taking it apart. We’ll push it to the next level and the next, until it falls off. Just before it takes that ontological swan dive, though, it may have created something useful.
Not that we necessarily care about usefulness all the time. We may have these sorts of discussions about the most unimpactful things in the universe. We like ideas because they use the brain, not necessarily for the results they’ll produce. We aren’t exploiters of neurons…we just love to hear them fire, for whatever reason.
No question: thinking outside the box (and in it and around it and what really makes it a box in the first place and how do you define “outside”?) describes geeks. That combines inclusiveness and our love of ideas.
We can be obsessive
Look, a geek isn’t judging activity by what other people think. Let’s say that a geek decides to balance a quarter on a string. It might be three years later, but that geek has quarters balanced on strings, stacked on top of each in a numismatic pyramid, and the strings are tied to a solar-powered mech bot and a live dog called “Tissy” (short for TSSD or The Stainless Steel Dog).
Since we often weren’t allowed into the reindeer games, we made up our own. We “win” when we think we win…not when you think we win. That’s one reason we make up much more complicated rules for existing games: we like make things harder and harder. Geeks don’t like to win something easily: we want to be challenged.
As some things that geeks like have become mainstream (The Avengers, Star Trek), we haven’t abandoned them. We don’t say that just because everybody likes them, we don’t like them any more. We like everything, to some extent. Undeniably, we tend to want to look after and preserve and protect “unpop culture” that the mainstream just as soon would prefer to see disappear, but that doesn’t mean we reject football (although we do wonder what would happen if they played with their helmets on backwards or on Segways…you know, just curious). 😉
That is one of my favorite things about being a geek: a low threshold of entertainment.
So, yes, I am proud. I’m proud of being inclusive, about caring about the excluded, about loving ideas, and about going deeper into things that nobody else cares about.
I’m a proud geek.
Happy Geek Pride Day!
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.