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12/19/2003 Archived Entry: "Important thoughts on nerds, society, artificiality, rebellion ..."

WERE YOU A NERD IN JR. HIGH OR HIGH SCHOOL? Or were you a freak or a geek or a stoner ... or any other sort of miserable (but smart) soul who just didn't fit in? I'll bet if you're a regular reader of this blog, you were. You were one of those "different drummer" sorts who was not only an outsider, but who was cruelly ostracized for it by your alleged peers.

This morning, LewRockwell.com linked to a February 2003 essay by Paul Graham, "Why Nerds Are Unpopular." It's very long -- far longer than you might imagine it would require to answer that question. I mean, "Nerds are dorks. They don't know how to dress, what to talk about, or how to play the game." There's your answer. End of discussion.

But if the terrible ache of being a 14-year-old social outsider has never quite left you ... or if you've got a child or a young friend in that position ... or if you care about systemic problems that damage countless good individuals (and damage society, itself) bookmark this thing and settle in for a weekend read. I don't know who Paul Graham is. Never heard of him. He seems to be a computer super-geek with specialties in Lisp and spam-prevention. His bio says he's the inventer of the Arc language. All of his other articles, including one titled "Being Popular," are tech-related. But the longer his "nerd" article goes on, the more profound, large-scale, social & societal problems he analyzes from his grown-up-geek perspective. This article is as cogent as any sociological study, yet it all arises from the very personal experience of having been an outsider.

As a former "art weirdo" (think Winona Ryder in "Beetlejuice," only a lot taller and not so gorgeous), I identified. But better, I also understood. Kudos Paul Graham, whoever you may be. May you help millions of smart, sensitive kids get through it and help millions of grownups change that unreal system that crushes so many spirits.

Posted by Claire @ 10:03 AM CST

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