The Other N-Word


There’s like a civil war going on with smart people, and there’s two sides...  There’s smart people, and there’s nerds…  and nerds have got to go.  Every time smart people try and have a good time, insecure-ass nerds fuck it up.  Can’t write a bildungsroman no more…  Great American Novel?  Great academic deconstruction!  Can’t go to a movie the first week it comes out…  Why?  ’Cause nerds are protesting that the actress is too thin!  I wish they’d let me join the football team, because I hate nerds!
                                                               —The 1585, paraphrasing Chris Rock

I. Introductions

So, a lot of you are already mad, and that was just the epigraph.  But calm down, because the fact is, I’m totally serious here — or, at least, as totally serious as I get about anything — and there’s still a long way to go.  I’ve written a lot of stuff about smart people over the past few months, but always as defined contra dumb people, and never — except for isolated potshots at “academics” — as defined contra other types of smart people.  But I feel that this has now become necessary, and so this essay is a bizarrely thorough examination of the situation of the “nerd” in contemporary society.  In the past, I've used this word casually, but I'll now attempt to explore the concept more fully.  In preparation for this, as some of you may already have noticed, the homepage has been redone to eliminate all instances of the term “nerd,” which formerly appeared twice.

What is a nerd?  As is the case with that other n-word, the term was invented by our oppressors (dumb people) to refer pejoratively to all smart people.  In some cases, the usage is more specific, referring only to those smart people whose smartness prevents them from having fun (one theory holds that “nerd” evolved from “knurd” — drunk spelled backwards — and originally referred to people who never partied, presumably because they were studying instead).  Also like that other n-word, it can be used ironically by insiders to refer to themselves and/or other insiders, as in the case of t-shirts reading “I Love Nerds,” a message doubly ironicized by the popular opinion that smart people are inherently physically unattractive to others, or sexually maladroit themselves, or even asexual (when in many cases nothing could be farther from the truth, as we’ll see in Section V).

I’m certainly not implying that the word nerd is as objectionable as that other n-word, or even that it is objectionable at all.  Indeed, throughout most of this essay, I use it as a term of endearment, and even self-apply it.  But I opened with the reference I did and the distinction I did because I feel that the concept demands examination.  This essay is not about the word itself — it’s not going to tell you to be careful how you use it, or propose rules about who can and can’t say it.  What it is going to do is encourage smart people — be they current nerds, former nerds, or those lucky smart people who were never considered nerds — to think about how the ideas behind it are affecting your lives and your place in society as smart people.

II. Rather be Dead than Cool: The Nerd’s Internalization of His Own Oppression

Kurt Cobain was my whole life when I was a kid.  When he came onto the scene, it was honestly as if angels with flaming swords had descended onto the nation’s high schools to drive out the jock bands and bring about our long-promised kingdom.  Rock was supposed to be the peculiar privilege of the angry dickhead, and Nirvana rocked harder than Guns ‘n’ Roses, leaving the angry dickheads with nothing.  But then Kurt Cobain blew his head off because he couldn’t accept the fact that he was popular.  He had the chance to redeem several successive generations of this nation’s youth, leading them away from all the things he and we despised about this world, but he gave up that chance because he had so much trouble reconciling the fact that people actually liked him — because being in a position of that much influence was so inherently un-nerdly — that he decided he couldn’t go on living.  The young people of this country might not be such a mess if he had been around for the past 13 years — but he wasn’t, because he would rather be dead than cool (“Stay Away,” Nevermind).

Kurt Cobain

And what are the young outcasts up to now?  Fucking emo — which has merged with straightedge, meaning that many emo kids are purposely declining to drink or have sex, in order to show their nerd pride.  Excuse us?  Bullies try to prevent you from having fun, so you “get back at” them by deliberately making yourself have even less fun?  That is exactly the same shit as a marginalized ethnic-minority member deciding not to go to college because it’s too “white.”  If you have it within yourself to get the fuck out of your shit situation, then you had best get the fuck out — and if one of your fellows tries to give you shit for it, fuck ’em; they’re not your friend.  These kids are embracing the role that they have been ghettoized into by the cool kids as if it were their own idea and they genuinely love being sad all the time and never having any fun.  While you’re at it, why don’t you just start addressing the captain of the lacrosse team as “massa?” 

Just how is this at all distinguishable from the Christian Right, where you’ll find a shitload of brainwashed young people who genuinely believe that their peers are only having sex because it's “the cool thing to do” and is “glamorized in the media?”  (Here we see how those who embrace nerddom out of misguided contrarian-liberal ideology are actually in much greater danger of being seduced by the right than we are.)  The simple fact is, some stuff is popular for a reason.  For fuck’s sake, this is like saying that people are only drinking water and sleeping because those things are in fashion at the moment.  Yes, we have seen movies and TV shows featuring characters who make a habit of drinking water and sleeping, but somehow we doubt the suggestion that we would otherwise never have been tempted to do those things ourselves.

Your goal should not be showcasing your nerd pride by never having sex, or fun, or engaging in social competition (and besides, this “nerdier than thou” shit is a social competition anyway — it’s just a stupid one that’s playing out on the side stage instead of on the main stage with the rest of the human race).  You do not give the finger to the captain of the lacrosse team by doing this, because this is exactly what he wants you to do.  Your goal should be to get stronger than him, funnier than him, hotter than him, better at the guitar or whatever it is you do than him, until he is the nerd and his girlfriend leaves him for you (assuming you are interested in his girlfriend, which you might not be).  You would not be playing his game by doing this, but only playing the game — because there is only one game, and you either win at it, or you lose.  Do not allow yourself to believe that by cutting off your dick and twirling your hair in the corner like a good little nerd, you are inventing a new game.  You are simply refusing to play, and that is worse than losing.

Please spare us the line about how you reject the “shallowness” of these things, because it is humanly impossible to “reject” fun as a matter of principle.  Going to a party once in a while does not mean that you don’t or can’t read books, and having sex certainly does not mean that you don’t read books, since the odds are that those books were written by some of the most sensual people in history — assuming that the books are any good.  If someone starts an argument with you based on the position that going to parties does mean that you don’t read books, beat him in the argument.  If someone starts a fight with you based on the position that you should not be at the party, beat him in the fight. 

Does this constitute giving oneself over to cruelty?  No.  It constitutes a reaction against cruelty — on the parts of both your oppressors in the present, and yourself in the future.  People say that the most obnoxious and exclusionary people are the cool kids in high school, but this is not true.  The most obnoxious and exclusionary people are nerds who never got over being nerds, once they have grown up and created some bullshit thing that they get to exclude others from, regardless of whether the people they exclude are former or current nerds themselves.  This is because they made no efforts to crush or escape their own nerdiness while there was still time, and so have allowed themselves to be trained to hunger for the ability to exclude above all things.  If you don’t believe me, try going to a fetish club sometime (“We are the freaks, and we accept everybody, because we are the complete opposite of the cool kids from high school… but you’re not allowed to talk to us, because you’re not wearing jade-green eyeshadow and we don’t like your shoes”).

And that’s what happens when things work out well for nerds who can’t let themselves get over being nerds.  What happens when things work out badly is Columbine.  And Virginia Tech.  And a bunch of other places.  And counting.  At this point, it is both accurate and necessary to say that “violence is a problem in the nerd community,” and for the same reason that violence is a problem within other minority communities:  there is way more pressure on oppressed peoples, both from without and within, to become stereotypes than there is pressure to confound those stereotypes — and doing the former is always easier than doing the latter, and brings with it more instant gratification and approval from those of your fellows who desire company in their misery.

But wait,” you may be asking, “how can you be talking about how violence in the nerd community is a problem that needs to be addressed, when a couple of paragraphs ago you were advocating punching people?”  Good question.  A few paragraphs ago, we were advocating punching people who punch you first, rather than allowing yourself to believe that, as a nerd, you don’t have the right to stand up for yourself, and are supposed to just give up, go home, put on shitty music, and cry.  Sure, the latter may sound more noble, but the problem is, the people who always react that way are the people who eventually flip their shit and shoot everybody.  It is simply not human nature to be able to take a world of shit from people day-in, day-out, and just laugh (or cry) it off.  Better to punch one person who has it coming now than to shoot 50 people who didn’t do anything later.

(And seriously, just so we’re clear:  No guns.  Ever.  Any asshole can pull a trigger.  If you want to improve both your situation and yourself, learn karate or some shit.  I’m not some hippie who is against violence even when it’s necessary, but I am against bullshit, and shooting people is bullshit and strictly for pussies.) 

III. How the Nerd Becomes a Nerdy Camel; and the Nerdy Camel, a Nerdy Lion.

What nerds must aspire to is not the rejection of pleasure, but rather the union of pleasure with intellectual and artistic superiority, as dreamt of by Wilde.  Sure, the dumb may oppose intelligence out of jealousy, or based on the fact that it conflicts with religion, but these bases are not how anti-intellectualism gains support.  The vast majority of support for anti-intellectualism stems from the belief that smart people cannot get laid — defeat that meme, and you defeat anti-intellectualism.  And it should not be a hard meme to defeat, since it is, after all, a lie — or, rather, several lies originating from disparate sources.  The idea that smart men can’t fight (and are therefore unmanly and sexually inadequate) is a lie of the redneck right; the idea that smart women are ugly used to be a lie of the sexist right, but is now equally a lie of the academic-feminist left, in the form of its logical equivalent (“hot women are stupid”). 

The fact is, the vast majority of the extremely intelligent women I have known have also been remarkably attractive.  This is a simple statement, but has become so hard for most people to comprehend that I'll say it again:  the vast majority of the extremely intelligent women I have known have also been remarkably attractive.  Pause now, and think about whether this has also been the case in your own experience.  If it has, then why do so many people believe that the exact opposite is true?

The misprision stems from the idea that anyone who ceases to be a victim ceases to be morally acceptable — the idea that, even if you do not rub your successes in the faces of others, the mere fact of your existence as a non-victim is hurtful and oppressive to those who have not yet escaped victimhood themselves.  But the end result of this reasoning is that no-one escapes victimhood, ever.  I've heard people argue that the concept of intelligence should be deconstructed out of existence.  I've heard people argue that all sports should be proscribed by law.  I've heard people argue, in required readings forced on students at the post-secondary level, that exercise is immoral based on the fact that gender differences are more apparent on in-shape bodies than they are on out-of-shape ones (hey, I went to college in the ’90s — you don’t even want to know about half the shit I had to read).

What academia has been aiming at for the past two decades or so is the idea that the special person — most specifically, the special boy — does not exist.  Take Stephen Dedalus, for example — the quintessential special boy of literature.  Any of you who studied Joyce in school within the last twenty years were probably taught to interpret Stephen ironically — that Stephen is revealed as a “joke” in Ulysses, and even that the point of Ulysses is to retroactively reveal A Portrait of the Artist to be a parody.


Stephen is not a joke.  Stephen grows up to be James Joyce, and this means, quite simply, that your ass is his.  Period.  Believe it or not, this was fairly obvious to people in the days before some assclown decided that “education” means “let’s make all the boys* feel like shit.”  And, for the sake of argument, even if it were true that Stephen is a “joke,” it would still be the case that he grows up to be James Joyce, and so the proper conclusion would not be that one should not aspire to be like him, but only that being like him is not the final stage.

    *(here, “boys” can be taken to mean both actual boys and any girls who are both intelligent and attractive.)

Oh, and although it sucks that we have to point this out, the preceding does not mean that we don’t take Molly Bloom seriously — Molly Bloom is obviously also awesome.  You were probably taught that either Stephen can be awesome, or Molly can, but this is bullshit, because awesomeness is not a zero-sum game.  Stephen and Molly can both be awesome, the same way Lord Byron and Madonna are both awesome.

Most famous picture ever of someone playing pocket pool

And the unkindest cut of all is that these opinions did not originate from the inferior and anti-intellectual right.  They originated from the intellectual left, and their source was suicidally misguided concern for the self-esteem of the hapless right-wing cretins of Dumbfuckistan.  And then we followed our own suicidal advice, while they watched and laughed.  If you don’t think that the intelligentsia of this nation is mired in an abusive relationship with the dumb fucks, look at it this way:  they lash out at us because they hate themselves for being useless, then we blame ourselves for always “nagging” them to stop being useless, make excuses for them, try to make ourselves as useless as they are so they won’t do it to us anymore, and then put ourselves into situations that allow them to do the same shit to us again. 

is what “abusive relationship” means.  “If we make ourselves into the losers that their insecurities demand we be,” our logic has gone, “then eventually they won’t hate us anymore.”

Do you want to know why the left is losing in this country?  It’s because we’ve senselessly burdened ourselves with a moral imperative to be losers.  And that’s what losers do.  They lose.  That’s why they’re called losers.

At this point, many of you are probably ready to bring up Gandhi, and non-violence, and the whole “eventually the evildoer will tire of evil” thing.  Only I’m not arguing with Gandhi.  I think non-violence is great.  But you know what non-violence means?  Non-violence means non-violence; it doesn’t mean non-anything.  We must never make the error of interpreting non-violence, passive resistance, satyagraha, etc., to mean that you can’t even say some shit.  See, this is our problem.  “Passive resistance” doesn’t mean no resistance — it means passive resistance, i.e., don’t go around fucking shit up physically.  So what’s the objection here?  Am I hitting anybody?  Am I shooting anybody?  No — I am sitting at a desk, writing some shit so that people can read it and then talk about it, so please stop saying that anyone who does anything besides hide under their bed and cry all day is “as bad as Hitler.”

Oh, and as for the part where I said it was okay to punch someone if they punch you first?  Check out this good shit:

“Non-violence does not admit of running away from danger…Between
  violence and cowardly flight I can only prefer violence to cowardice.”
                                           —Mohandas Gandhi

So, once and for all, stop failing to make distinctions between physical violence and strongly-worded speech, and stop failing to make distinctions between broad military action and personal self-defense.  Non-violence is how Dr. King and the Mahatma said you’re supposed to respond to institutionalized government oppression of your people or an occupying military power in your country — it doesn’t mean you can’t turn around and punch a bully if he sneaks up behind you in the hallway and dumps a bucket of piss on your head, for fuck’s sake!    

IV. Why You Can’t Even Take a Shit These Days without Someone Comparing You to Hitler

“Godwin’s Law,” distilled by attorney and author Mike Godwin in 1990, states that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one [the probability of a certain event].”  Truer words have seldom been spoken.  If you have ever defended a position to the effect that something is better than, truer than, or preferable to something else — especially online — then the odds are that you have been compared to Hitler by some dumbass. 

Since you are probably actually nothing at all like Hitler (especially if you’re still reading this, since people who actually are like Hitler are always incredibly stupid), you may have wondered why this keeps happening to you. 

The ubiquity of the reductio ad Hitlerum is explainable by the current dominance of a very few deeply flawed memes related to opinions and argumentation, three of the most problematic of which I am about to bust.  Though the dissemination of all three of the following concepts is actually helping Conservatives, all three stances have rapidly been gaining currency among Liberals, because at first glance, the ideas seem liberal.  But do not be fooled:  these are actually conservative memes, disguised as liberal ones.

    1.  The “all opinions are biased” meme:  Lately, the first thing Person A does when Person B disagrees with him is accuse Person B of “bias,” and this has been happening so much for so long that the average person now believes having an opinion at all to constitute “bias.”  But this is not the case.  If you begin the process of coming to your opinion with no bias against any possible conclusion, and use deductive reasoning to arrive at the best conclusion possible, then your position is not “biased.”  Yes, it is still possible for you to be wrong, but that is not the same thing as “bias.”  And if later generations of people accept the conclusion based on the sound deductive process you used (which is not the same thing as taking something on “faith,” because “faith” means that you have no evidence), then those people are also not “biased,” or failing to be “open-minded,” because the legwork has already been done.

    2.  The “blame the artist” meme:  The 1585 has received many rebukes and caveats from readers who, even though they understand what I mean and pretty much agree with it, still think the overall project is a bad idea, based not on its own lack of merit, but instead on the grounds that it “might be misinterpreted,” — i.e., “even if X is true, you should not say X, because someone might think you mean Y.”  Okay, true, but the problem with this is that it makes all utterance impossible, because a fucking crazy person can always think you mean something you don’t mean — that’s what crazy means.  The fuckwad who shot John Lennon thought that secret messages in The Catcher in the Rye told him to do it — but if your first instinct here is to blame J.D. Salinger, you’ve been watching too much cable news.  (Note that this does not mean that you can’t ever criticize any artist, because some artists actually are saying things that deserve criticism — e.g., criticizing certain rap lyrics for being sexist and homophobic is not based on the idea that someone will “misinterpret” them as being sexist and homophobic, because they actually are sexist and homophobic, and thus interpreting them as such is not misinterpretation.)

    3.  The “ideological opposition = desire to proscribe via legislation” meme:  The difference between fanatics and everybody else is that non-fanatics are perfectly capable of being “against” something without necessarily thinking that the thing should be illegal (e.g., “I choose to exercise, and therefore am against not exercising where I myself am concerned, and will also encourage others to exercise and may even make jokes about those who don’t, but nevertheless do not believe that people who don’t exercise should go to jail, and am in fact no closer to believing this than anyone else”).  But since only fanatics ever get on TV, because they’re more entertaining than non-fanatics, the average person is losing sight of the fact that this distinction is even possible.  For many, having an opinion at all is just “one step closer” to suddenly wanting to imprison or kill everyone who disagrees, and therefore it is best not to have opinions.  This is why people will scream “Free Speech” at you even if all you’ve done is say that someone is wrong.  (See those balloons dropping from the ceiling?  It’s because this is the one millionth time I’ve had to point out that telling someone you disagree with them does not violate their right to Free Speech.) 

And because 500 people are probably still at work on e-mails comparing me to Hitler, I will now go on to explain why this would be baseless.  If you want to send me e-mails about how you disagree with any number of things in this essay, then that would be fine, and I’ll give them all thoughtful responses, but I really feel like I should save everyone the trouble of simply telling me that I’m “the same as Hitler.”  So here goes, and I’ll do it step-by-step, just to make sure everything’s clear:

    1.  The reason that so many people reading this are so anxious to compare me to Hitler is because you have been conditioned to respond to anyone who ever says that anything is “better” than anything else by going “You’re the same as Hitler!”  But this is stupid.  For example, Martin Luther King said that not being a racist was “better” than being a racist, but did this make him a bad person?  No, it made him a good person, because he was right about the fact that not being a racist is better than being a racist.  (Dr. King also said “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality” — so much for the alleged superior liberality of not having opinions.)

    2.  The relevant part is not whether you say that X is better than Y; it is a) whether you are right, and b) what you do, or encourage others to do, about it.  I am conceding that is it possible to do bad things as a result of believing good things, e.g. John Brown, who was so opposed to slavery that he killed slaveholders and their families (even if you think that slaveholders deserved to die, you probably don't think that their children did) — but the “bad” part in this example is not the fact that John Brown forcefully said that slavery was wrong (because that was a good thing); it is the fact that he killed people (which is a bad thing), and I am not killing people or encouraging others to do so.

    3.  Furthermore, applying the reductio ad Hitlerum to all strongly-worded arguments that X is better than Y is logically self-negating, as follows:  if it were actually true that anyone who ever forcefully asserts that X is true is “the same as Hitler,” then that would mean that the people who opposed Hitler were “the same as Hitler,” because they forcefully asserted that X was true in cases where X equals “Hitler is bad and should be opposed,” which would mean that Hitler was no worse than the people who opposed him, which would mean that the givens of the initial argument vanish, because the givens of the initial argument were that Hitler was worse than the people who opposed him, and is therefore a viable comparison by which to prove that things are bad. 

    4.  Therefore, comparisons to Hitler are only viable in cases where a) the things being asserted are false, or b) violence is encouraged.  So, I will save you the trouble of comparing me to Hitler by keeping everything in the essay exactly the way it is, but adding “DON’T FUCKING KILL PEOPLE.”  Thus, I am not “the same as Hitler.”  That was easy.

    5.  If you still insist on writing me an e-mail where you compare me to Hitler, please refrain from arranging it in the fashion where you open with “there was ANOTHER person who…”, and then recap a bunch of vague stuff about what you think I said, and then close with “…and HIS name was HITLER!!”

…Because doing that is really, really stupid.  Thanks.

V. Sex Nerd!  Isn’t it Nice?

I have spoken much of fights, and of stealing girlfriends, and this may have led some readers to believe that this essay is intended exclusively for male nerds — but this is not the case.  We realize that it is even harder for female nerds.  We realize that female nerds have been conditioned to think “but my popularity is based solely on my attractiveness, which I cannot change” — but this is not the case either.  Just like playing the guitar, attractiveness is a skill that can be learned through diligent study — and the girls who were “popular” in high school never ended up studying it, because nothing ever prompted them to feel like they needed to.  Remember that people who go to the same high school have more-or-less all known one another since elementary school, and that who is or is not popular in high school is largely a holdover from this time — i.e., from the time before everyone’s bodies had developed.  So, the alleged “hottest” girls in high school are largely just coasting on having been the “prettiest” girls in 5th grade — and what the fuck is that based on?  It’s not like when you’re 11, you talk about other 11-year-olds having sweet bodies.  Being the “prettiest” in 5th grade just means having a decent face, shiny hair, and parents who put a lot of time and energy into dressing you.  In my high school, at least, there were several popular girls who were allegedly popular for being hot, but about whom I didn’t see what the big deal was, and lots of girls who weren’t popular but probably could have been models — I'd think “how come everyone isn’t trying to fuck that girl?”, but I never said anything, because I just assumed the problem was with me.  And I’m betting that, if you think back to your high school, you’ll find that the same thing was true. 

Remember, this is not an academic-feminist essay arguing that there is no such thing as being hot; there is definitely such a thing as being hot — all I’m saying is that who people say they think is hot is not always they same as who they really think is hot.   

The trick is to make them say it (and not, as the academic feminists would have you believe, to decide that it is stupid to care about being hot and give up).  Over the course of my career as a professional awesome person, I have come to know many chicks who are hot for a living — burlesque performers, alternative/fetish models, and the like — and they all say they were nerds in high school.  But now, being hot is their job.  So how did this happen?  Simple.  People who are not coasting on some bullshit thing actually have to try, and so the chicks who are motivated by not having been the “pretty” one in 5th grade are the only ones with the energy to study hotness — and the chicks who put effort into becoming hot by college, or by their 20s, are the ones who are the hottest at the end of the day, and who stay that way.  If you are in the neighborhood of 30 years old, trust me:  every cool kid from your high school looks like shit now.

The first step in hotness-as-discipline is to reverse the initial error that most people make.  Someone who is lamenting the fact that they are not considered hot is likely to open with “just because I don’t look exactly like all those people who XYZ…”  And this is the first step in the wrong direction.  Hotness is not about looking “the same” as “everybody else” — prettiness may be, but hotness is always an invention.  It is about being notable, not identical; an inventor, not a consumer (although it may still necessitate buying stuff — this is not one of those anti-consumerism essays; I meant “consumer” as a metaphor there).  Hotness is a journey into the forest to wrestle with the deity; prettiness is getting an “A” on your quiz in Sunday School.  And remember that this essay is not about some defeatist, “alternative” definition of attractiveness for losers — it is about the real definition of attractiveness; even if you watch those reality shows where chicks try to become models, the modeling people are always looking for the ones who look unique, and the cookie-cutter Maxim-type girls just get laughed out the door.  The idea that sexiness is about looking “the same” as XYZ is simply a myth, on all levels.

Think of it in terms of the “which one” rule.  If a guy says “hey, check out that girl in the black pants and powder-blue tank top,” the other guy will have to ask “which one?”  No-one should ever have to ask “which one?” about you:  no uniforms.  The black-pants/blue-tank thing is the female equivalent of guys who wear white ball caps and khaki shorts, and do you think those guys are hot?  (If you do, it’s probably just because they’re confidentit couldn’t possibly be about the white ball cap and khaki shorts.)

That being said, hotness is also not about weird for the sake of weird.  Weird-for-the-sake-of-weird can be a uniform too.  Sometimes, one unique element is all it takes to pass the “which one” test.  And the fact that I spoke against conformity certainly doesn’t mean that you should avoid patterning yourself on heroes — on the contrary, patterning yourself on a hero is the opposite of patterning yourself on the herd.  But a patterning is not a slavish imitation — you must ask “what would someone in this tradition be doing today?”, for you do not do homage to the Great by failing to break new ground. 

Will this keep the herd from resenting you?  No.  But they will at last be resenting you for your greatness, and above all it is this that you must not fear.  Yes, white-hats will say you are weird for not looking like someone from The O.C., but should you heed the opinions of the herd, or only those of the Great?  The costume of a superhero may look odd to someone dressed normally, but one superhero does not make fun of another for not wearing the same costume as himself — just as the herd will mock all Poets for the act of poetry, but one Poet does not fault another for not writing in the same style as himself.  (Okay, fine, contemporary Poets talk shit about one another all the fucking time for this reason — but this is because 95% of them are nerds who never got over being nerds, which is the whole problem here, and besides, those aren’t the ones people will still know about in 100 years.)

You have been taught that someone who looks at you has power over you, but this too is a lie.  Meaning emanates outward from the objet d’art, just as, in a theater, it is the movie that has power over the audience, and not the other way around.  Those who interpret you only control you if you choose to project the idea that they do (as indeed, many opt to do).  You have been taught that sexual attractiveness is consubstantial with conformity and submission; with the simple fact of appearing willing — and this may be true of prettiness, but not of hotness, which is Art.  And Art is not willing; Art only wills.     

But have I now departed from the domain of the nerd?  Not at all.  One of the accepted definitions of nerd is someone who puts a lot of effort into obsessively studying some really specific thing, right?  And the original definition of cool involved not getting excited about things, i.e., not trying, right?  Well, there you have it.  The true hottest people are not the ones who lucked into unremarkable elementary-school prettiness — the true hottest people are the sex nerds.  Madonna did not have the face or body of a supermodel growing up, but she made herself the sexiest woman in the world by studying sexiness the same way a doctor studies medicine (will some university please give her an honorary doctorate, already?  She really should be Dr. Madonna).  In short, Madonna is a sex nerd, the same way a guy who speaks Klingon is a Star Trek nerd. 

Just take the following couplet from Alexander Pope:

“True ease in writing comes from art, not chance—
As those move easiest who have learnt to dance.”

…and replace the word “writing” with “hotness.”  The simple fact is, constructed, “I-am-trained-in-the-ancient-arts-of-hotness” hotness is way hotter than accidental, “Hi-remember-me-I’m-the-pretty-girl-from-5th-grade” prettiness.  Examples of the former include Dita von Teese, and examples of the latter include Jessica Simpson — and if you would rather fuck (or be, or be and fuck) Jessica Simpson than Dita von Teese, you’re probably not reading this essay.  In fact, if you would rather fuck Jessica Simpson than Dita von Teese, you probably don’t read much of anything.    

My right arm, you say? No problem. Where do I sign?
Dr. Madonna:  Art, Not Chance

Oh, and plus:  the chicks who studied hotness and everything?  Those are totally the ones who do anal.  The chicks who were popular in high school are still all like “Eww, that’s not normal.”  I also have it on the authority of several chicks that the guys who were popular in high school are terrible in bed as well.

VI. The Negative Consequences of Retreat into the Metaphor,
Please, Please Stop Dressing Up as Elves and Shit

All of the preceding is really just a simple combination of Nietzsche and Freud — if the people who become themselves, and thereby transform humanity, are those with the will to power, and those with the will to power are those who are motivated into it by formative experiences in their childhoods, then it is no great leap to draw correlations between nerds and the übermensch (once again, we remind all dipshits that the destruction involved in the coming of the übermensch is progressive self-destruction, from camel to lion and from lion to child, which is both liberal and positive, and that influence over others comes naturally as the result of having accomplished this, and that the process has nothing to do with deciding you are übermensch and forcing others to do anything).  But one must do so carefully, for two reasons (actually, it’s just one two-part reason):

    1.  We cannot allow this to become one of those stupid “nerds have superpowers” things, à la Star Wars, Harry Potter, and an infinite number of other retreat-from-reality templates.  This essay is about real life, not an excuse to fucking dress up as elves and rent a field in which to duel with fiberglass broadswords while singing songs from Monty Python movies.  That shit is the nerd equivalent of acting like Stepin Fetchit.

    2.  It must be remembered that, along the lines of the logical “all lions are cats, but not all cats are lions” template, what we argue is that all übermensch are nerds, but not all nerds are übermensch, i.e., the mere fact that everyone hates you does not mean that you are special, because it is entirely possible that everyone hates you because you are in fact a fucking loser (cf. activities delineated in #1).  This essay is a beginning, not an end — i.e., it is an exhortation to make something of yourself, not an excuse to lean back in your chair and feel justified by the mere virtue of having read it.  The concept of nerd can be an ironic term of endearment, but it is first and foremost an identity that must be rejected, crushed, and escaped from (once again, like the other n-word).  Those who are nerds in the positive sense run towards real life, and those who are nerds in the negative sense run away from it.

But we must thank the sci-fi and RPG nerds, because it is in the act of contemplating them that we hit upon something extremely important.  What these people allow us to realize is that we as a culture — and smart people especially — subconsciously miss the concept of the dynamic figure with special powers who changes the world.  We aren’t allowed to believe that about people (least of all ourselves) in real life anymore, because Nazism ruined it — anyone who believes that they are a superior individual with special powers these days is just going to get compared to Hitler, regardless of whether they’re a bad person or a good person (see Section IV).  And this is why so many nerds — people with better than-average abilities in some capacity or other, and an outside-the-box way of looking at life — have taken to retreating into fantasy worlds where this metaphor is still allowed:  Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc.  If you channel your energy into dressing up as a fucking Jedi and going to conventions, people will call you a loser, but not a Nazi.  But if you drop the charade and try to be the real-life equivalent of a Jedi — an artist, or a philosophical or social leader — you will be rebuked for it. 

But this, as I’ve been arguing all along, is not only unfair, but counterproductive.  And as a show of good faith, I will now demonstrate this with an unfuckingbelievably nerdy analogy:

If someone were only ever made aware of the existence of the Dark Side of the Force, as practiced by Sith — perhaps because that’s the only Force-related stuff that ever gets reported on the news where they live, or the only kind that gets talked about in school — then this person would be under the impression that the entire Force itself was a bad thing and could only lead to trouble.  They would, in other words, be unaware that the Force could also be used for good, when this is in fact the normal way to use it, and the path taken by the majority of Force-adepts.  So, taking up the principle that “the Force should not be learned or practiced, ever” would be a well-intentioned but shitty idea, since a) the Sith will not listen to you, so your dictum will have zero effect on the number of Sith, and b) you will be fucking your society out of the only people who could have defeated the Sith, i.e. Light-Side Jedi, since they are good people who will listen if they grow up in a society where other good people all say that the Force is a bad thing.

Whether you want to look at it in terms of the Force in Star Wars, wizardry in Harry Potter, or the Mutant-X gene in the X-Men universe, the dynamic is always the same:  some individuals who have the power use it for good, and others for evil, but the power itself is neither good nor evil.  The rational conclusion is not that the power should not be used, but rather that it should be used for good.  (The most notable exception, of course, would be the Ring of Power in Lord of the Rings, which is wrong to use in all cases — but remember that there are also a number of other magic rings that are good, so this analogy only seems disruptive at first, because we are here dealing with a finite number of individual specific objects rather than a diffuse “power;” in actuality, however, the rings dynamic is no different from pointing out that there are certain Force-powers in Star Wars that can only be used by Dark Jedi — I am happy to concede this, and submit that the real-life distaff of these powers would be…  um…  making up statistics or deliberately quoting people out of context or something.  You know, the stuff Ann Coulter does.)   

Yes, every serial killer was transforming the pain of a shitty childhood into the belief that he was superhuman — but so was every great author.  We have thrown the baby out with the bathwater by demonizing all forms of exultant self-mythologizing, because throughout history, many good people have achieved positive things via the same process.  When we hear the music of Wagner today, we are all but incapable of associating it with anything but Nazism — but although, for example, the incomparably gorgeous overture from Tannhäuser was a favorite of Hitler’s, it was also a favorite of Oscar Wilde’s (yes, I know I'm making a habit of using the “Oscar Wilde Forcefield,” but just run with it this time, and I promise I’ll try to cut down).  We interpret its strains almost a priori as glorifying war, but it actually glorifies only transcendence, becoming, thanatos — i.e., it glorifies glory itself — and there are many permutations of this besides war.  The actual plot of the opera concerns a traveling poet who becomes a supreme artist via orgiastic communion with Venus — but, I suppose, even with this information we can still see why the modern left balks at the sensations it engenders, since contemporary academics are at least as opposed to hot girls and to the concept of talent as an objectively quantifiable power as they are to war.

"Please baby baby please baby baby please..."
In the Venusberg Tannhäuser,
by John Collier (1850-1934)

And it’s not even necessary to resort to opera in order to demonstrate this.  How many of you have been getting psyched up in your cars over the last few months whenever My Chemical Romance’s post-punk masterpiece “The Black Parade” comes on?  Well, doesn’t that song occupy the same emotional terrain, and doesn’t its narrative involve a “savior” figure, destined to crush some dark opposing threat, armed with the guidance of a traditional, all-encompassing father-concept?  Clearly, if that song had been around back in the day, Hitler would have been all over that shit — but that doesn’t make it a bad song, because good people like it too.  It’s just that good people imagine something good when they’re listening to it, instead of a bunch of crazy evil bullshit.  (Plus, sonically the song is an homage to Queen, which brings us back to the descent of this emotion through Wilde.) 

VII. Why Nerds Do Not Count as Girls

The problem with models of the oppression dialectic post-P.C. is that they’re all modeled on (the bad kind of) feminism.  In fact, the entirety of P.C. has really been an expanded feminism based on the presupposition that gay men, ethnic minorities, etc., count as girls, the various oppressors count as boys, and that the remedy for oppression involves convincing your oppressors to stop, rather than a) fucking making them stop, or better still b) becoming better than them at whatever it is they’re oppressing you with.  The P.C. mindset is often expanded even further, to the point where not only all oppressed people, but all good people count as girls.  I'm reminded of a method I encountered of delineating “lesbian space” within novels about families, whereby non-abusive fathers should be counted as female (once again:  college in the ’90s, folks).  Is it really so atypical for a man to not be evil that we need to transform the concept of gender into a metaphor whereby woman means good person and man means bad person?

As alluded to a moment ago, the problem with the “figure the oppressors as male and the oppressed as female, then apply feminism” approach to oppression dialectics is that it mandates the mindset that defeating oppression can only ever involve asking the oppressor to refrain from oppressing, as a favor.  Since men are physically stronger, and control the government and the means of production, etc., feminism (thus far in history) has essentially meant appealing to the consciences of men, and convincing them not to behave in certain ways — i.e., social force on the part of the oppressed is not an option, and therefore the threat of force is meaningless.

Plus, interpreting women as being authorized to speak on behalf of all oppressed groups doesn’t always work out perfectly.  Much of the stuff you read in college about gay dudes, for example, was written not by actual gay dudes, but instead by butt-ugly straight women.  And in recent years, many gay dudes have decided that they don’t particularly like being spoken for by butt-ugly straight women and want them to shut the fuck up.  (I'm reminded of the 1585 inbox after I posted the 300 essay, which contained a) e-mails from straight academics, telling me that the essay was offensive to gays, and b) e-mails from actual gay dudes, telling me that it was fucking hilarious.)

And now, after the right-wing assaults on intelligence of the past decade, our culture is verging on the conclusion that smart people count as girls too — is not intellectualism routinely dispensed with on FOX News via the implication that it is unmasculine? — and this would be a disastrous metaphor to embrace.  The reason that the gender dynamic makes a terrible template for the interpretation of the oppression of smart people is that dumb people are not actually capable of dominating us.  Rather, we are supposed to be dominating them, and our oppression by them is not the result of their declining to do us favors, but rather the naïveté we have exhibited in our collective decision to do them too many favors.  To undo this oppression, we need not ask a favor of them — only threaten to rescind all of ours.

Think about it:  all you have been trained to do for your entire life as a smart person is hold back, lest you hurt someone’s feelings.  In all the arguments you have ever had with dumb people, it would have been possible for you to humiliate them to so great an extent that they ran off and committed suicide.  And yet, we are the ones who are always committing suicide, because we have been so nice to stupid people for so long that now both they and we are under the impression that we make our way in the world by their grace, rather than the other way around.

And because of this, they are at this moment poised on the cusp of ceasing to realize that we are actually smarter than them.  Don’t believe us?  Here is a page that a friend has been good enough to construct, about how Creationists now think that “if” evolution were true, there would be a bunch of ducks with crocodile heads running around, and that we are stupid for not realizing this. 

Oh, and have I mentioned recently that many of these people would kill us if they thought they could get away with it?  If you don’t believe us, go over to Yahoo Answers, and ask the good common folk of the Heartland what they think should be done about Liberals, gays, and “evolutionists.”  Then, after reading the responses, remind yourself that these are the people whose feelings you are so concerned about.

VIII. Conclusions

And should you be concerned with their feelings?  Yes, to the same extent you should be concerned with everyone else’s feelings.  But you must also be concerned with the feelings of the people their beliefs are hurting and will continue to hurt for as long as those beliefs exist.  Believe it or not, The 1585 is concerned with being nice.  In fact, I think being nice is the most important thing in the world — except for being right.  This is because being right — and not in the trivial sense of being right about what won Best Picture or how many home runs someone had in a certain year, but in the sense of what is or is not true — always alleviates suffering in the long run.  When smart people first began saying that there were no such things as witches, it hurt the feelings of people who believed in witches — but prevented incalculable cruelty and suffering in the future.

And if smart people don’t do this stuff, then guess what?  It’s not getting done.  As smart people, we cannot allow ourselves to remain neutral, or to be convinced that our advantages are unfair ones by those who would demand we relinquish them.  It is an exceedingly terrible idea, both for ourselves and for the world, to allow ourselves to become so ashamed that we abandon our abilities and the responsibilities that come with them.  Anyone who’s seen Superman II knows how that shit plays out:  three vinyl-clad supervillains will show up and start pointlessly fucking with famous monuments and putting their feet up on things.  Is that what you want to happen?  I didn’t think so.

I do not close with a reference to the Man of Steel facetiously, but rather because I am both comforted and inspired by the story behind the creation of the character.  In the late 1930s, two comic-book fans named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster — who were both Jewish and nerds — invented a character called Superman… but he was initially a villain, a mad doctor with mind-control powers, bent on world domination, inspired by the Nazi menace in Europe and their insane misinterpretations of Nietzsche (hence the name Superman).  Siegel and Shuster were, at first, of the same mind as most people today — that any character with “powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men” could only make sense if he were evil.  And then a thought struck them — one of those ideas that’s so simple that you never stop being amazed at how brilliant it was:  what if he were a good guy?  What if there were a character who could do all this stuff that normal people can’t do, but he, like, helped people, by fighting for Truth and Justice, instead of brainwashing everyone…?  Let’s take back all this “Superman” stuff, and show them what a real Superman is.    

You our nerds.  Peace.

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