It’s a strange, chaotic world out there. It’s incomprehensibly huge and also so tiny it’s like your own personal cell. It’s miraculously beautiful and suicidally ugly. It’s both claustrophobically overcrowded and desolately lonely.
There are a lot of people – in this case I’ll use that nebulous “us” – who use weirdness, humor, and insanity as a means of coping. Perhaps lunacy allows some to achieve a sort of homeostasis, an equilibrium with the ubiquitious dynamics and pressures of modern living.
Over at the PD Forums we had a debacle yesterday. One of our newer members, Daruko, had a sort of “internet breakdown” when confronted by some opposition. It was both funny and hard to watch. The guy in question is a 25-year old father of two, who is “in dire need of some sillyness in his life.”
Somebody asked Tim Leary what to do after they had Turned On. He said, “Find the others.” And then they show up at our door.
It’s funny, you know? Over at PD, a lot of people are sick of the “old memes”. That is, our weird Discordian subculture has these memes like Fnord and the number 23. And they have their uses. But using the memes does not a Free Thinker make.
The Subgenii have this word “Bobbie”, which (as I understand it) refers to people who try to be a Subgenius by conforming to how all the other Subgenii act. Irony! The PD crowd has the same sort of vibe towards these “old memes” – that they are useful for identifying each other in a crowd, and useful for leading others to our memeplex, but they AREN’T useful for internal communication. Thinking that the number 23 is specifically important to Discordia, and that Discordians should feel a certain way about it is akin to bible thumping. Or eating the menu instead of ordering food from it.
Saying Fnord does not make you a free thinker.
Occasionally people show up at the PD forums and they see that there’s a lot of venom towards these “old memes”, these in-jokes from the 1960s. Andthe community holds a lot of hostility towards people that hold these memes dogmatically. This attitude, this atmopshere, leads some to believe PD is a sort of “Discordian frathouse”, where we reject any idea or any person that the Group doesn’t agree with. In essence they are missing the point entirely.
As it says on the PrincipiaDiscordia.com front page: “We know about your Pineal glands, we’ve heard about all KINDS of numbers; We’re more interested in your ideas now.”
So there’s a weird sort of rebel against the system archetype (common amongst freaks and free thinkers) that we see with some degree of regularity on the forum.
On one level, this is good because it forces the members to constantly reevaluate what they DO think is true.
On another level it’s boring and repetative, because it’s like having the same conversation 12+/- times a year. Yesterday’s freakout was an echo of this. There is a predictable downward spiral which takes place as soon as somebody starts arguing with The Entire Group. (this can happen in any social system) An individual can’t pick a fight with a hivemind and “win”. In fact, trying to “win” when arguing with anybody’s beliefs is usually a deluded lost cause. In the heat of the moment, all tangled up in emotion, Daruko called us all Elitist Snobs. He accused people of eating the menu. And then he got his ass torn to shreds, verbally. The freakout escalated. 5 posts were made a minute. It was very exciting, in the way that it’s exciting to watch a car accident. But also hilarious.
I want to clarify that the guy got what was coming to him. He got buried, but he dug the hole himself.
So one thing led to another and Mourning Star and I ended up on the phone with Daruko. Three freaks, about the same age, with similar ideological backgrounds, talking like human beings. And he’s not a bad guy. A bit confused perhaps, but that’s what he was here for. He was just looking for some good conversation and ended up in some sort of ideological warfare. And he got lost. And he got hurt. And it underscored his lonliness.
Mourning Star and I had a similar message, though he approached it through a different avenue. There are jerks out there, and they’re going to hit you, and you have to be prepared to stand up for yourself. There is no crying in Discordia. Human beings are violent, self-conflicted primates. So are you. Get used to it.
I tried to impress on him that our little forum isn’t about all the freaks getting along. We’re not (for the most part) a support group. We’re all about understanding ourselves and mastering our environment. And part of that is understanding how to navigate a social network. There are people out there who will disagree with you, and hate you, and shit on your hot plate, and you have to be ready for that before you even open your mouth. I think Daruko made a lot of mistakes in his approach, but I feel for his plight.
Maybe right now you’re thinking, “Who cares, Cramulus? Why is it my business? The world is tough and you’ve gotta come at it head first or you get what you deserve.”
East Coast Hustle once said something to a newbie to the effect of, “It’s better for you to find solace here than to find solace in a clock tower with a rifle.”
And as that notion spins in my head, it resonates with something St Mae told me. That as Discordians – Discordians who have reached an equilibrium with the insane world we live in – some of us, at times, feel we have a duty to other freaks. We want to help, because there are sad, lonely people out there who have no support network.
There are freaks who have nowhere to go, and no one to talk to. We are some of the only people in the world who know how it feels. (And some of us have figured out how to master it.)
And they show up at the front steps of PD, and they say, “Hey guys! Finally, some people like me! I’m one of you guys! Fnord!” And then the fur bristles. And then there’s a weird social dance that takes place. And sometimes they stay, and sometimes they go. Sometimes they rap, and sometimes they fight. It’s the nature of the machine. Our ecology is fierce at times, and the tastiest fruits are there for those willing to navigate through the brambles.
I want to clarify: I’m not making it my crusade to help out every lonely freak. And I’m not saying people have to be nice and fluffly to each other – fuck, if anything, PD is about human nature, and that human nature includes beating our chests and throwing shit at each other. I’m not faulting ANYONE for how they acted during the Freakout of April 08. Fuck, real communication can’t take place in a zone where everyone’s too polite to say what they really mean. This isn’t fucking Disney World, and I’m nobody’s fucking guidance councelor.
I want everyone (well, everyone who read this far) to take a moment to think about the Freaks out there.
We know what it’s like to be in their shoes, lost and lonely in a strange, chaotic world. It blows that we have to bury so many of them. It blows that it’s often necessary. And it double-blows that at the end of the day, many of them think that they were battling ignorant GroupThink and not a collection of individuals. A monster, and not a tribe.
The one piece of advice I’d like to give to the heads at PD is to retain your individuality and personal sense of free thinking, especially when in the heat of these downward-spiral threads of self-destruction. DON’T be a venemous head on the hydra just because others are. If you actually want to communicate a message to the person, do it sanely. Ameliorate, educate, and illuminate – but it won’t work if you have a mouth full of venom. If you want to tear them apart, do it, but don’t let that be the default reaction to any newcomer who doesn’t get it (yet).
And that’s about as preachy as you’ll hear me get (usually).
Again, I’m not trying to suggest we all become nice guys and spend time hugging and holding hands and dancing around a rainbow. It’s funny as hell when The Collection of Individuals decides to really eviscerate someone and the target plays the part nicely. I can throw a verbal punch with the best of them too, so fuck you. But at PD we’re big on second chances. When the emotions calm down, I hope we can help those who came looking for help. And riff with the hep cats. And beat up those who came looking for a fight.
Those are my tangled and complex thoughts on this whole mess.