I’ve been accused of having too many groups of “my people.” Science fiction writers for instance. My people, bless their hearts, most of them are more damaged than I am. Or science fiction fans in general. My people are full of the awesome strange. Or people who like to read. My people will short food to buy a new book. Or Americans. My people, bless us every one, fractious and fighting, a loud and tumultuous family, embracing liberty with all it means. Or my family, that small number of people in a small portion of Portugal, at whom I can go and say “well, right or wrong” (and often politically daft) “they’re mine.” There’s a turn of the head, a way of putting your hands in your pockets, a sort of lumber to the walk, but most of all there’s a turn of mind: to a man and to the last woman, we are thoughtful, a bit depressive, a good number of us are bookish, and most of us are artistic in some way, even those who express it as engineers, which Heinlein assured me is an art.
And it’s this last one that brings me to “my people” today. My other people. That vast extended family of Odds around the world.
You know who you are. You’re the ones who never quite fit in. Sometimes you were mysteries to your own parents, which is why so many of us suffer from cuckoo’s egg syndrome (though in my parents’ case they are both of us, just tried very hard to hide it and pretend they weren’t.)
It always amuses me to hear classifications of humanity into alphas and betas and…. It’s not that I don’t see the justice of it. I’ve been a long time in the world, and I’ve seen groups of people in action. In fact watching other people is a survival mechanism. Most groups do stack that way. Most women/most men are attracted/mate that way.
But there is more to it than that. There is us. We’re the ones who don’t fit in.
A talk with Dave Freer long ago confirmed our existence as a biological creature. It seems individuals like us exist in every social species. We’re outliers. We’re not the pathetic bottom-of-the-heap trying to survive; we’re the ones who don’t seem to recognize social rules the power to bind us, not like other people. We obey some, we ignore some, we go our own way.
In ape bands, we’re often cast out. I imagine in primitive human groups too. And the smart ones of those survived. In case one wonders where that band of roaming brigands that became the Romans came from.
“We” is not covalent with high IQ though I’ve never met one of us who was really LOW IQ. We tend to assume we are all high IQ because those are the ones that become vocal and (in the present day) even valued by normal for some achievement. Also because it flatters us and we’re human enough.
Some of us do their best to fit in, to the point of what amounts to psychic self-mutilation. For those who manage it, you’re likely to find us playing all roles from alpha to zeta. I think it’s part of the reason normal people distrust us and dislike us. We’re protean, and they don’t know how we do that.
Some of us – me – can swim in and out of the normal world and even pretend for a while, but don’t find much reward in pretending all the time, in fitting in, in living by their rules.
There are many names for us. These days they try to put us all in the autistic spectrum, except we’re not. Or at least, the things they keep saying ARE autism, like the inability to create new things, or the lack of social skill aren’t right in my case and in many other cases.
The best way to find us is in elementary. Other kids instinctively know that we’re different which in their minds is “wrong”. They are in touch enough with their instincts (something we don’t seem to be good at, btw) that they want to “kill the stranger.” Most of us were bullied, ostracized or hated in the playground, no matter how we learned to deal with it later.
But even now you can find us. We tend to be the people who now and then forget there ARE rules to social interaction. I don’t mean manners. We do those well enough. I mean, aping what everyone is admiring/talking about. Wearing whatever anyone else wears/thinks is hot. Those of us who are into fashion are likely to be so unique in dress style that it’s a good thing eccentricity isn’t a crime. But most of the time, even those, just bother with things that cover the essentials, because there are so many other things to do.
Perhaps we are a submerged set of genes from some race that mated with/melded with homo sap. Maybe some of those genes surface now and then and make us just Odd enough.
Or perhaps we are simply those outliers, like all great apes have.
I’d guess there’s more of us in America, and can even offer some explanation. It was hard and a long way away for immigration. Those who came were uncertainly attached to the group. Also a lot of us feel like strangers in the place where we were born and seem to have deep rooted in us the idea there is a homeland for us, somewhere, if we only look.
. Our kind has always been cast out or left, shaking the dust from our sandals, shrugging our shoulders at the crazy rules of normal, as we go looking for another better place, or as we seek to build one. Perhaps that’s why so many of us are interested in space exploration
And you see, here’s the thing, we know each other. Usually on sight. Sometimes on reading.
Dr. Matt Taylor is one of us. He might be of whatever political opinion, and I’m sure some of his ideas would make me cringe. But he’s one of us. “My people, whatever they are, they are mine.”
His bullying over a shirt – a signaling only important to normal – was a wound to those of us who got bullied over inexplicably strange things in school. You know, wearing the wrong dress or writing with the wrong pen, or what we read, or the fact we didn’t watch the same shows everyone watched or had no interest in their social supremacy games.
We’ve always known each other. As adults, we’ve shrugged our shoulders and gone elsewhere.
But now we’ve got the net. We can find each other. And we’re learning to hit back at bullies.
Bullies and normal have gotten away with pushing us around because most of the time we couldn’t be bothered and because most of the time there’s only one of us anywhere near.
It’s time we woke up. Normal society needs us. Whatever else we are, geeks, odds, eccentrics, we’re the ones who try new things. Without us, the stultifying pressure of social conformity would mean that they were still in caves. Or maybe still in trees.
They need us. Yeah, we’re strange, and we dress us funny. Yeah, we have obsessions you don’t get, and ideas you don’t understand. Yeah, a good number of us are crackpot and even the normal ones have patches of crackpottery. Yes, yes, a lot of us are emotionally walking wounded by growing up “strange.”
Doesn’t matter. They need us more than we need them. From now on, when one of us is touched, the rest of us will rise up and say “You and whose fashion-police army.”
Thanks to the net, we’re no longer alone. We’ll never be a group, though we can form loose groups. But we now know there are others like us. Odd isn’t evil or broken or non-functional. It can be. But mostly it’s just different. And needed by any functioning human population.
Leave us alone to enjoy our weird. We don’t play by your social game rules.
But we ask nothing from you, except the chance to be. And in return, you might get the stars.