Speak Out with
your Geek Out: Rambling Thoughts on Geeks, the Mystic
Tradition and the FDA
There is an aspect of being a geek that has always amazed me. If we have a Star Wars costume or Star Fleet uniform and get together with friends to discuss, sometimes excitedly, our shared interest, everyone else says, “Oh. Geeks.” Yet, if we have sports jerseys and paint our faces in team colors and get together with friends to discuss, sometimes excitedly, our shared interest, everyone else says, “Oh! Sports fans!
Years ago I had the same epiphany many others have had (at which point, admittedly, it’s not so much an epiphany as a realization): “Warriors and shamans!” If you’re familiar with this idea, skip the rest or move on. If you’re not, or if you’re really into this sort of thing, keep reading.
See, it works like this: For most of our history as a species, we’ve been gathered together in relatively stable groups of thirty or so individuals. In a group of this size there were a majority of folks who were content to wear war paint and matching hides and run around killing mammoths and waging war against the foreigners in the village three miles down the road, or to support and idolize these sorts of activities. And rightly so. These activities allowed our species to survive. But, also, in a group of this size there were one or two folks who were just, ah, different. These were the folks that are willing and able to go off a little ways and talk to spirits and gods.
I’m guessing here, but since I’m not a cultural anthropologist you can take this with one or more grains of salt, that these, ah, different folks were usually avoided if at all possible unless someone needed a favor from one or more higher powers. This isn’t terribly different than the occasional visit a “cool” person makes to a geek when they need help with their homework. Offerings may be involved, perhaps even some good natured flirting or ego gratification, but it’s all pragmatic and ultimately the geek is eventually banished back to their cave (or video games or books).
Anyway, that’s why I’m thinking that being a geek isn’t much different than being a Pleistocene shaman: you’re different, you’re on the fringe of mainstream society, but you have a use, if only for occasional advice or as a target at which the jocks, er, I mean, warriors, toss pebbles. Regardless, you march to your own drum and decorate your own cave as you see fit, no matter what the rest of the tribe thinks.
One may argue that shamans were feared and respected. One might also argue that geeks are invaluable sources of information. Maybe. I would suggest that since neither Captain Kirk nor the Great Moss Spirit have ever actually smote anyone in Their Righteous Wrath for picking on their devoted followers, that it’s simply not the case.
Let’s extend this a bit.
I spent most of my career in pharmaceutical R&D as a Quality Assurance professional. I was the guy that made sure research, manufacturing and testing processes complied with regulations from the US Food and Drug Administration. This is an invaluable function, as non-compliant data will not only result in invalid results, but also possibly result in sanctions by the feds.
So, QA professionals are the members of the tribe who are willing to go out and talk to the gods (i.e. the FDA) and come back and tell the rest of the tribe what the gods want. And then the pebble tossing starts. Trust me, the only time a QA professional gets invited to lunch with the other scientists is after you’ve gotten the feds off their case. After that, you need to get back to your own cave and leave everyone else the hell alone until next time.
Incidentally, when I meet other scientists and tell them I’m in Quality Assurance, nine times in ten the response is “Oh, a QA geek.” Yes, as we’re all aware, even among geeks there is a pecking order.
And incidentally to the incidental thing, being QA and a geek just compounds the situation. Being QA and a geek and a shaman? You do the math…
So there’s that. Maybe your particular area(s) of interest are not always useful outside of Trivial Pursuit or Scattergories, but nevertheless you are part of a proud an ancient heritage of being the folks on the outside. Revel in it, and be happy. The spirits, Spock, and Boba Fett smile upon you.