Weirding Diary: 5

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series Weirding Diary

In the South Lake Union part of Seattle, where Amazon has its campus, there is a “community banana stand” where anyone can grab a banana for free. Each time I walk by, I read the sign as a philosophical suggestion for the Weirding. When the going gets weird, the weird go pro, but normies go bananas.

But there’s a deeper lesson in the banana stand.

Most people (including me) who grab a banana are not exactly needy, so to the extent “community” suggests a representative sample of Seattle, including the poor and homeless, the banana stand is in the wrong place. It’s a perk for tech-workers, and the service class surrounding it, with a bit of communitarian lipstick.

As elite hypocrisies go, this one is pretty benign, and I’m happy to participate in it. But why do we even need it? Why narrativize free bananas as a “community” perk.

I think the answer lies in the is-ought fallacy operating among elites to counter-program a self-awareness of their own mediocrity: “These free bananas, which we share out of noblesse oblige, demonstrate our exceptional nature!”

This is an elite rationalization, but the urge to deny rather than embrace a sense of mediocrity is a human universal. In fact, I would define normie as “somebody with an urge to deny their mediocrity.”

Mediocrity denial is using exceptional environments to “prove” your exceptional nature to yourself. It leads to bad theories of weird worlds.

The mediocrity-embracing solution, which is a necessary condition to go pro weird, is to resist the urge to ideologically narrativize bananas. Grab a free banana when you can, pay for your banana when you must.

Weirding and mediocrity are entangled in my head. I haven’t entirely sorted out how, but one dimension is certainly the is-ought fallacy in identity formation.

Series Navigation<< Weirding Diary: 4Weirding Diary: 6 >>

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter

Comments

  1. Yin-yang again. The normie – as a idolization of mediocrity – is the black spot in the white of the normalcy field. Homer Simpson and Family Guy comes to mind.
    Just like the field of the exceptionally rich and powerful can be said to be dominated by the stereotypical “tycoon figure”, who must adhere to a huge set of standards to qualify as banner carrier of the free and independent

    • Loranna Thanes says

      You are not the only person I know that you are in my thoughts and you are up for a few hours

  2. Just taking a crack at weirding == mediocrity: If weirding is the breaking, bending, and transforming of a world (normalcy field), and a world is among other things a framework to evaluate status hierarchy (an infinite game that provides context for finite games), then accepting/disregarding your place in the status hierarchies of the dying world (embracing mediocrity) is a necessary component of going pro weird (aka “worlding” / defining a new world to replace the old world).

    • “status heirarchy” is wrong here: excellent vs mediocre is a measure of how optimised you are to the rules of a world (losers and sociopaths both opt out of playing by the rules, sociopaths change the rules for their benefit). You cant change the rules of a world that you are overly optimized for without hurting yourself.

  3. Tammy Troup says

    The entanglement of weirding/mediocrity reminds me of art school. When some artists reached the limits of their natural talent, they embraced the weirdness, others lowered their ambition (Pam Beasley effect), and others learned how to become discipline and moved past natural talent. When this last group let their talent curl into weird, it was far more brilliant than those who simply stopped at mediocre/weird.