Anyone reading this blog knows that not only I but any number of my readers were childhood outcasts.
I spent vast portions of my early childhood walking in circles on a ledge that went around the playground. You know, after that vital moment when I’d need to escape a locked room by walking on a tight rope. And the very fact that I actually thought that told you why I was an outcast.
In a very traditional village where televisions were rare, and where most little girls playing at being grown women just like their mothers, and where most of their views of the world were created by mommy’s and neighbors’ gossip and (radio) soap operas, by six I had my had full of stories. Sure, most of them floated in soup of my not knowing geography and history, so that Robin Hood could totally pick up the Three Musketeers on his way to an adventure with the Lone Ranger, but you know, that didn’t matter. What mattered is that I had a head full of stories and ideas that didn’t fit.
Yes, probably — almost certainly — I moved weird. I know I was incredibly, unbelievably clumsy, more like a toddler than a six year old. Both the mind full of stories and the total lack of ability to perform normal physical actions, like walk a long time without falling were probably due to the fact that I’d spent most of my early childhood in bed (no wonder I being bored) because I got sick a lot and though we had antibiotics, the habits of the society were pre-antibiotic, meaning if you were sick you were sent to bed. Yes, partly because you needed all your strength to fight the illness, but also because when you were in bed it was easy to isolate you and remember you were sick and people shouldn’t get too close. (When we look down on, say, the ways that former centuries treated illness, we should remember that. Over time, they developed practices that allowed the most people to survive. If they seem truly weird to us, remember they lived in a different time where they had no way of telling if someone was infectious, or how infectious they were. In fact, they had no idea what caused illness. All they had was these practices that had worked in the past. Societies that learned them had enough people to go on. That’s it.)
Anyway, so I probably moved funny. I used words they’d never heard and talked of things they’d never even thought of. The miracle is not that most of them looked at me askance and wanted nothing to do with me. The miracle is that I always had one or two friends, even in a class of 12.
The other — and I have no explanation for it — is that I more or less invented Live Action Role Playing Games which made me incredibly popular from the second through the fourth grade. And yes, gentle readers, we even had LARP nazis (not me. Making up the story line has its privileges) since I read a lot of military fiction set in WWII, so some of our games were spy missions and prisoner camp escapes. Though the most popular were Robin Hood and the Three Musketeers. (Plus que ca change.)
For fifth grade I went not only to a vast school but one divided in forms, and I couldn’t get anyone to play my “let’s pretend” games. I think they accidentally put me in the “total lack of imagination” form. No seriously. It was that bad. Sure, it made the stories I was starting to write really impressive to the teachers but dear Lord, those were dreary two years. Partly because the female half of that form was ruled by two queen bees. The fact that I know their background and where they could aspire to go, and if I remembered their last names (I don’t) and looked them I’d probably find they were low level office drones or housewives only partly makes up for the fact they made my life a living hell. On second thought, those queen bees were probably responsible for the fact that I could not organize live action role playing games AND that I was ostracized and everything I said and did criticized, mocked and snitched on. (My favorite was when I was practicing French verbs and the arts and crafts teacher was told I was swearing at these two under my breath.
These girls were the antithesis of me — of us — in thought and behavior. They were only happy when the center of attention, and when dictating how everyone else should think and perceive things.
In retrospect, I was a very pretty little girl. This is neither here nor there, as I did absolutely nothing to achieve that result, and most of the time wore my brother’s hand me-downs not only because it saved money, but because if my mom put me in a pretty dress she had to then watch me like a hawk to make sure I didn’t get dirty. Sure, part of it was the lack of coordination, that had me spilling anything I ate or drunk and tripping over my own two feet. Part of it though was that I was used to doing what I wanted with no regard for what I was wearing. But the pictures show a rather pretty child with soulful dark eyes. (Mind you when stressed I had eczema all over my face and looked like a third-degree-burn victim, but by then eczema was moving off my face and to my arms, and also becoming less frequent. I guess being a tiny is very stressful.)
These two girls… One was conventionally pretty and blond, which in Portugal immediately makes you pretty. But her cohort had buck teeth and a face like a spiteful monkey. However one day I heard them (in a gathering of all the other girls in the form) laying down the law of who was the prettiest to who was the ugliest. I was the ugliest. And all the other girls agreed and acted accordingly.
Now, I know part of the reason they did this is because they were afraid to be the target next. And the reason I was the target and never one of the mass was that while not interested in being a queen bee, I also did not go along with this type of order. I asked why. I pointed out things that whoever laid down the law — other kids or teachers — didn’t want to hear.
This is why the only friends I had in the years from hell were outcasts as well: in that year, mostly kids with actual physical problems. But also kids who were brilliant and tiny and subjected to bullying. Odds. Cast offs. The puzzle pieces that wouldn’t fit in.
I suspect this is what caused my RE teacher (the year before I was kicked out for talking back to a QUITE different teacher) to tell me I was G-d led and that He clearly had plans for me. (In point of fact, yes, he told my 11 yo self I was on a mission from G-d. No, I still don’t believe me.) But I didn’t do it for charity or to be praiseworthy. I didn’t even do it to follow commands. I did it because these were my people: the nails that stuck out.
This habit persisted long after I’d left that ridiculous school and the two spiteful little girls behind. I was actually fairly popular in High School — for values of popular, other discounts do not apply, void where prohibited — at least if one takes in account that I was put in one of three forms for gifted misfits, so I was pretty much average. I still collected those who didn’t quite fit in, who did the unexpected, who, in fact, were the goats in the sheep flock of humanity.
I was very popular in college, mostly because I’d learned to dress well and had enough practice being on my feet not to trip every two feet. And frankly because I took too many classes, worked on the side, and generally was on the go the whole time, which I’ve found is the only way to keep me from being a neurotic loon.
I’d also learned to pass, which is an important skill for Odds to have, if they are careful not to let it fool them into thinking it’s the real them. Because then they’re miserable, and they don’t know why.
It taught me to pass politically — had to. Would never have finished college otherwise — which in turn taught me how to pass in the writing field, until, that is, things got crazy enough that the mean girls of the left required positive affirmations of allegiance. Because that would make me lose myself, and I knew were that ended.
But all along, I kept collecting the ones who didn’t quite fit in, because they are my people.
I didn’t have a name for them — for us — until one late night talk with Dave Freer. We used to talk late into the night a lot. Late into the night my time. Early morning his time. We stopped because the state of both our careers just depressed us and vehemently agreeing with each other we were burned out and screwed didn’t help anything, and made us more despondent.
Dave is a biologist. His doctorate is in marine biology, specializing in sharks, because he lived on a graduate student’s stipend and wanted to be able to eat the leftovers of dissections.
But as I know because older son’s undergraduate is in biology (and another in chemistry, because my kids cannot take one single undergraduate degree. Not sure why.) They study all sorts of different animals, particularly if they study animal organization, psychology and/or evolution (and all of them do, at some point.)
Dave Freer explained that in any social species, which great apes are (and we’re great apes. Oh, okay, pretty good apes, if you prefer) there are “goats.” These are animals that stick out from the bunch, that don’t quite fit. In healthy bands they’re allowed to persist, because they’re the ones who try out new things. Say, there is a drought. They’re the ones who try that weird foliage or that strange berry no one has ever eaten (or maybe seen, if conditions have changed) before.
Yes, the vast majority of them die shortly thereafter. In a lifetime of befriending the odd, the despised and the bullied, let me tell you that I’ve found many of these people are despised for a reason. And yes, sometimes I was taken advantage of. In one singular situation for over a quarter of a century. Also many of them are spectacularly unsuccessful and you figure out the reasons fairly soon, and it’s not being odd, it’s other stuff like baked-in laziness, or avoiding anything unpleasant until eventually they avoid anything uncomfortable, which includes learning or thinking. (In the case mentioned above, I can pretty much keep myself from failing completely by asking myself what he would do and doing the opposite.)
However, sometimes the gamble pays off. And sometimes the little kid who will not shut up or go along with the crowd is saying what the crowd needs to hear. This was codified in the story of the little boy who says the king is naked. Which I suspect is an incarnation of a very old story.
The goats are needed because the sheep are too social. I don’t know if it’s true they’ll follow their leader over a cliff, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Sheep ain’t too smart.
Nor are humans. Sure, we’re cock of the walk, top of the tree, etc. Maybe. But there’s the social ape thing. Where people would rather have a little girl with a face like a monkey tell them how pretty they should consider everyone in the class. Because otherwise they might be the target, and they really wanted to be part of the group.
Now, other than making my life miserable, Irene (yeah, I remember her first name) didn’t do too much evil in the world. The rest of the class seemed pretty happy, at least from the outside.
But when you put this on a national scale, it’s a terrible thing. We’ve seen exactly how horrible it is over things like the Cultural Revolution, or under Stalin, or for that matter under Hitler, or, in a smaller scale — it was a smaller time — the French revolution. Because people will do horrible or destructive things rather than buck the group under any circumstances.
Yes, the goats are often wrong, but they are also the only breaks humans have against really bad ideas. (And keep in mind a lot of odds have really bad ideas. A ton of them are socialist because they think it will force other people to like the/accept them/behave like they’re normal. That’s not the way that works, that’s not the way any of that works. But being a goat doesn’t mean you don’t long for the acceptance of the flock.) The few that actually dare grouse often don’t do it properly or clearly, or … but they are the only brake.
Instapundit has left twitter because the boss is sick and tired of the drive for unified leftist speak. Honestly, so am I.
On that same day I got a private message from a facebook “friend” whom I’d never talked to or even paid much attention to besides accepting her request.
She sent a meme some guy put up making fun of a transwoman. In this case, the “transwoman” is in some question, but that’s a long story.
The message said the person who sent it had unfriended this guy and that as I could see what a horrible person he was, if I were a decent human being I’d unfriend him too.
This didn’t work on me at 11 and it doesn’t work on me now. I researched what this person was talking about. The meme was basically accurate, even if stated in the most shocking terms possible, as memes usually are. It was who this person was and the article he/she/it wrote for the NYTimes that was a true shock. If I can stop being ill when I read it, I’ll write a post about it for PJM. (The link is not to the actual article.)
Here’s the thing: that private message was more chilling and horrifying than any meme, even if the meme really had been mean and about all transsexuals and not just crazy-talking-looks-like-bag-lady-guy-with-the-issues.
Sure the article inspires pity, but not in the way that should shield the writer from criticism. There’s such a thing as ‘intervention’ that consists of very blunt talk indeed.
However, transsexuals in general, even those who hurt the idea of transsexualism by being bog-out-there-insane and making it clear, have been decreed the
“prettiest girl in class” greatest victim group evah by the queen bees, and the queen bees will enforce this in any way.
This really has nothing to do with transsexuals. These people don’t give much of a hang over their victim groups. They’re now screaming at lesbians who refuse to sleep with “girls with penises” for instance.
They’re adult human beings. It can’t be that the difference between “treat them as if they are what they say they are” and “be sexually attracted to them” has evaded them. Anyone in possession of the ability for sexual attraction knows that this thing isn’t entirely under our control. (Like my writing, now I think about it.)
No, it’s that the whole victim category and the whisper campaigns against anyone, no matter who, who dissents from today’s narrative, are designed to do only one thing: give power to the queen bee (even male ones.) In fact, the narrative changing completely is a feature, not a bug, because it allows them to know who really is just following them because they love them/are afraid of them, as opposed to being fellow-travelers.
And they’re willing to destroy anyone that gets in their way, by destroying their reputation, ability to keep a job, standing in the world, family. ANYONE. By any means necessary. Including private emails to strangers, when the story in public would hold no water.
It didn’t impress me overly at 11. It impresses me even less now. We’re the outcasts (from the clone group) and we’re the wreckers (of the narrative) and the one thing we need to do is keep talking. And not fall for the would-be-intimidating and pushy attempts to make us fall in line.
Just by being who we are, it shows normal people the queen bees aren’t the only option, and frankly they often do look like spiteful monkeys.
More importantly, we cause people to re-examine what “everybody knows” which is sometimes needed to save the whole species from disaster.
If they were sure of the truth of what they proclaim, they wouldn’t be underhanded, spiteful and DESPERATE bullies.
In the end we win, they lose. Be not afraid.