Discover more from The Cat Was Never Found
The Gift of Being Freaky
How to Stand Alone Together
Social-Capoeira master Jay Rollins just posted a piece about Bohemians and generational trauma, with an emphasis on how the former’s rejection of the latter allows them to live more genuinely human lives. I highly recommend it, (and his stack, The Wonderland Rules, in general).
The post reminded me of something that's been on my mind having to do with groupthink. Often times we’ll speak of tribal NPCs only in terms of the threats they pose to our societies, or to the world at large. But there is also a pathos to their withered, hobbled structure of being that I think isn’t discussed enough. We can — and should — joke about them, because comedy helps keep us sane amid all the grotesquerie and carnage they enable or cause. But, even as they torment us, we can’t forget they’re still people under all that rubble. Most of them are victims of a spell cast long ago, and it’s always preferable to break spells instead of people.
This particular spell supercharges their otherwise natural fear of loneliness. They long to be a voice in a chorus, a face in the crowd, cosseted by the warm, cooing buzz of social approval. They’re so desperate to fit in that they’ll do and say almost anything, even when the physical and moral dangers turn extreme. That’s how you get the kind of normies who will gladly subject themselves to experimental therapies and sinister tech platforms, pushed forth by the most corrupt industries and agencies on Earth. For these bewitched people, even death becomes preferable to exile from the herd.
Being a lifelong misfit comes with advantages. In fact, I sometimes think that to be born incapable of joining hiveminds is a perhaps a gift from God. For one thing, it allows you to step outside of any conversation bubble and perceive it at the layer of social pressures, motivated reasoning and other hidden drivers. But, like most such gifts, the blade of freakishness is double-edged.
I remember the blade’s bite from my early adolescence, when most of us truly begin to self-socialize and split into preference groups. The bitter edge was sharpest in those moments when I was being ridiculed and spat upon by the cliques and gangs I saw shooting up all around me. “Freak” was my literal nickname back then (also “faggot”, “spaz” and “retard”; no one could accuse them of excess creativity). The reasons some kids are pushed to the outside vary widely. It could be as simple as a physical deformity or birth defect, or as complex as an oddball upbringing that altered the way you interact with others. In my case, I suspect it was mainly curiosity that killed the cat. To be excessively curious often translates into academic success, and, in the public schools I came up in, good grades alone were often enough to mark you as a target. I was also a stammerer (hence “spaz” and “retard”) and a natural squinter (“China boy” was another fave). For these reasons and more, reindeer games and Borg assimilation were placed strictly out of reach.
But even back in those lonely days, a part of me sensed I’d been dealt the better hand. I think that’s because I had a gift for reading faces. This would translate into my earliest artistic instincts, but it's also what tipped me off so early to a certain weakness in my antagonists. I could perceive a brittle tightness in their facial features, as they scrambled for position inside their little fiefdoms. Their eyes would sometimes dart around, like prey alert to predators, always on the lookout for hints of disapproval. Even when they laughed I could spot these little poker tells. It was as though some unseen force was subtly choking them, preventing any unbridled joy from leaking out. Without being aware of it, they were trying on their first set of inner chains. Looking back, it’s no wonder they hated me so much. It was akin to the hatred a real chain gang might feel if they watched some young stud in a Mercedes cruise by, getting a blowjob from the chick riding shotgun.
Amusingly, a couple of the kids who rolled with those early chain gangs would eventually be counted among some of my closest friends, in high school and beyond. They apparently found those chains chafed a bit too much, or didn’t quite fit. I believe most of us are granted a brief window with which to shed these invisible bonds, which slither in from the ethers of authority and animal instinct. We didn’t consciously know this window was open or have the language to describe it. But few outside of war torn nations and abject poverty will find it nailed completely shut from birth. I think you have to move fast, though; like domesticated beasts, humans quickly grow accustomed to their chains.
As for the advantages of being born a freak, there are two that I’m quite certain of, and one which I strongly surmise.
The first has to do with incentives. I recall a discussion I had in the 90’s about “white privilege” (yes, dear Zoomers; that was already a thing back then). My interlocutor was running the standard program, ticking off all the ways in which her noble victim status demanded my unqualified concessions and remorse. In response, I told her that I’d only observed one inherent privilege of being white in my lifetime: because the cultural era I was raised in had so heavily and repetitively demonized the adoption of a white racial identity, it was generally easier for whites to develop unique identities of our own. In the course of such a process, both the inner and outer worlds were rendered with far more clarity than they would be for the average tribal captive.
In other words, the authorities and cultural gatekeepers had bullied me into perceiving humans at the individual’s depth of resolution. There were no shortcuts allowed for whites (at least, none that wouldn’t boot you from polite society). “Black is beautiful” and similar campaigns offered no counterparts for us. This gave whites — and, in particular, straight white men — a big head start on forging the best friendships, and in more quickly and accurately identifying foes. We needn’t fear the mob calling us race-traitors, either, or worry we weren’t doing enough for some abstract group called “our people.” There was something almost comical about it: by dynamiting all the culturally acceptable corridors to “White Pride” parades and the like, the postmodern SJWs had unwittingly handed straight white dudes the greatest advantage of all. Thanks, idiots!
I might say the same about being a freak. “My people” were the ones who I freely chose, and who freely chose me. I wouldn’t exactly call that a “privilege” mind you, as it usually came packaged with lots of lumps. But the principle remained; in trying to diminish and degrade you, your enemies accidentally hone your weaponry. It’s worth noting that the woman I was talking to was not one of these postmodern enemies, but a fellow freak. Thanks to that, there were no rebukes or recriminations in the wake of our conversation. In fact, it turned out I had changed her mind about the subject, to such a degree that she eventually agreed to become my beloved partner in the adventure of life. I think that’s because changing your mind about ideas also becomes much easier, when your pictures of people become freakishly high in resolution.
The other obvious advantage has to do with self-reliance. Outcasts learn early on how to rely on their own intuitions and thought experiments to model reality, including the reality of other minds. I’m unsure if this is a nature or nurture thing (likely some combination), but our immunity to social pressures seems to hypercharge both our creativity and autodidacticism too. We tend to learn new stuff faster, and mostly on our own. We also gain resistance to those nasty sociogenic viruses that sometimes burn through status-addicted groupminds like wildfires (insert COVID, transgender or Russia joke here).
Some of that resistance is instinctive; if it’s trendy, we typically want nothing to do with it. But I also think a large part is born from a distinct lack of temptation. Aside from a few brief memberships in "cool kids" clubs, I never really learned what it was like to be part of a pack. And even on those rare occasions when I was invited inside, I remained a secret outcast, merely learning to pantomime their rituals like Julie of the Wolves. So when it came to the joys of attaining social clout, I had little idea of what I was missing out on, and therefore didn’t obsess over accumulating or protecting it. This would have consequences for the future: there was no pack-porn or team nostalgia to yearn for, in the all dark nights of the soul to come. I was stuck with simply being me. But I think that counts as an advantage too; I’m the only thing I really can’t lose.
As I entered my teens, these freakish advantages started to leak out into everything I touched. In sports, for example, I gravitated towards varsity wrestling, where we were only a “team” in the sense that our singlets matched. In truth we were barely even associates. Each Friday I was required to internally defend the throne of my weight class, fending off perennial challengers who quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) hated my guts for always beating them. Some team, right?
It turned out I had natural talent for wrestling, developing my own unique style in parallel to the one being taught. I was the only kid in the league to close out a perfect season that year; not a single opponent made it the distance with this here freak, and very few even made it out of the first period. They gave me a plaque for it and everything (No clue what happened to that thing; probably would have sold it for weed, if it was worth a damn). Anyway, my coaches told me I was a prospect with championship potential, but that I needed to focus more on learning the fundamentals. That meant more practice drills, more dehydration rituals, more rolling around on a mat with sweaty guys and a ton of other shit I really didn’t want to do. I quit the team after that first (and only) season, which I imagine has passed into local legend by now.
That’s not to say I grew up a loner. In high school, I would quickly find myself within a very large, interesting and vibrant social scene. Or, I should say, within several scenes, overlapping at nightclubs, bars, parties, apartments, attics, basements, job sites, record stores, concert halls, coffeehouses and more. Not everyone who traveled in those circles was an artist, but everyone was freaky in some way. To keep company with fellow misfits constitutes a more meticulous and intentional version of tribe-building than the traditional model of pack hierarchy. Since the central goal is exploration rather than defense or domination, you could liken a Bohemian circle to a pack of werewolves who spent most of our time as humans having fun in the woods. Our games weren’t like the ones we’d been barred from, and contained hardly any rules that couldn’t be bent or broken on a whim. For example, our unwritten constitution included no rules for language. Censorship was a foreign country; if anything, we shared too much. And while each of us explicitly loved and hated different things, those differences served as the basis for hilarious inside jokes, instead of the seething resentments that haunted the normies and chain gangs.
When the wolf pack was needed, we could summon that form on a moment’s notice, rendered suitably ferocious by abuses and traumas past. We proved in short order that we weren’t the kind of freaks you wanted to fuck with, and occasionally that lesson had to be taught with our fists. Once upon a time, yours truly was keen to deliver those kinds of lectures, the chip on my shoulder more like a four-by-four with a bunch of bloody nails driven through it. I recall one scrap in particular that appeared to eternally silence all critics. If I was called “freak” after that one, it must have been spoken behind my back, in hushed tones.
But like I said: most of the time we were human. Like Bowie, we sometimes even saw ourselves as more than human, a hubris which constantly lured us within range of disaster. Experiences were our most valuable currency, so we exposed our minds and bodies to everything short of gamma radiation. We became experimenters in a laboratory of drugs, sex, art, perception and alternate theories of reality. We also had shitloads of fun, and laughed in that genuinely joyful way that others couldn’t.
It’s worth noting that not all of us survived these experiments. There were casualties. Our hivemind detractors often point to those as proof of our inherent evolutionary weakness, the fatal flaw in our programming. Maybe that’s even a fair point. But then again, we’re all causalities on a long enough time scale. No one here gets out alive.
I mentioned there’s a third advantage to freakishness that I strongly believe exists. The reason I’m not at one-hundred percent is that I’ve never fought in a war before, spiritual or otherwise. In fact, it’s only in recent years that I’ve even begun to recognize the outlines of spiritual combat, which I’d argue is at least half the battle that faces us today, and the portion I’m best equipped to fight.
I don't know if I possess an innate ability to locate Bohemian spheres, like the one Jay described. They seem to coalesce in such unique and uncanny ways, via some hidden circuitry akin to magic. Regardless, that’s eventually where I always found myself, surrounded by exotic species who delighted in the variety and strangeness of our forms. Our tribe of lone werewolves served as the living counterpoint to the postmodern jingo of "diversity is strength” — the latest moronic credo of those hiveminds which seek to pilfer and co-opt all our freaky treasures.
What they can’t understand is that we were never searching for “strength” in the first place. We already had that in spades (and ironically it was those same hives whose malice helped us build it). Our version of diversity served the opposite ends, tempering our fearsome inner brawn with the kindness and introspection that’s needed to discover beauty and truth in the world. Those nuggets represent the freak’s most valuable gold, buried too deep for any hive or pack to steal. But it’s not our only treasure. It might not even be the one most valuable to the war effort. This advantage has to do with something I’ve observed about trends.
There’s a certain bizarre spell of social alchemy that I watched unfold, right before my very eyes. At age sixteen or thereabouts, I noticed that my freaky friends and I had not only become “cool kids” but “the coolest kids”. Without any intentional engineering on our part, we found we’d been elevated from despised misfits to ignored outsiders to sexy renegades to the tastemakers of our generation. Part of the reason was that the markets had finally caught up with us. Our various outré styles and musical tastes, once regarded as “all that weird shit” had suddenly seized the zeitgeist by the balls. And every hive seemed to take notice of this, all at once.
We noticed too. It started when normies began to pop up at all our favorite hotspots in the woods, transformed almost overnight into “like, you know, individuals, man.” They started sporting earrings, nose rings, tattoos, hair dyes, the works. Suddenly everybody was in a band, or thinking about forming one, or was an “abstract” painter, or a “slam” poet, or a DJ, or a Deadhead, or a bisexual, or a drug-tripper, kicking open the doors of perception with her pristine new pair of Doc Martens.
“I like those boots, Claire…”
Amid the throngs of copycats and poseurs, you would sometimes even spot a more or less genuine article; some secret freak who’d been waiting for the smoke to clear before he made his play. I laughed pretty fucking hard when I learned that the captain of my high school’s football team had gotten himself a nipple ring. It was news like that which would eventually lead me to conclude a certain secret about “freaks” that had been hiding in plain sight all along. More on that in a moment.
The phenomenon itself was so goddamned fascinating. It was like watching an egregore violently screech into reverse gear, terrified it might lose its place in the Pareto distribution of social clout. Maybe that’s why when I encounter the adult versions of those old chain gangs, I mainly feel sad for them. Like Mr. T, I pity the fools. Their voices and desires aren’t their own, which means to some extent their minds and souls aren't either.
I suppose some jive turkey of the behavioral science or evo-bio bent would raise objections here. Perhaps they’d offer some tepid apologia for the denizens of our Boheemma Republics and Freakistans, allowing that we’re a sporadically useful mutation within an overwhelmingly superior social model. For them, what the freak sees as suffocating conformity and dehumanizing structure is actually just the latest adaptation on evolution’s ever-ascending efficiency slope.
Besides, to perceive ourselves and one another as mere social tools of genetic survival networks is obviously the best model, because that’s the most prevalent one found in nature. And how could anything natural ever be bad? Or anything bad ever be successful? Or anything successful ever be undesirable? Or anything desirable ever be unnatural? Or… uh…
Whoops, there goes that infinite recursion loop error again!
But when you think about it, their argument doesn’t even prevail on its own terms. A society’s freaks provide the clearest examples of “innovative adaptations” for the very evolutionary model they propose.
A freak was the one to draw the first picture, tell the first story, discover the first medicine, ford the first river, tame the first lion, weave the first banner, author the first creed. A freak wrote the song that helped you win your first lover’s heart, or forged an eternal bond with your friends, or kept you awake on that long drive through the darkness and rain.
Deep down, you know these assertions to be true. Even those readers who are currently screaming, “Prove it, fuckface!” know it. Perhaps they especially do.
Anyway, I think a “species” can be properly defined as the total set of qualities that differentiate one lifeform from all others. If so, what better example is there to demonstrate the uniqueness of Homo sapiens than the artists and alchemists of Bohemia, who appear at times to subvert even those traits we supposedly share with other social mammals? The ones who break the ironclad rules of heritable order? That might sound like a bit of the self-destructive “Homo superior” hubris I mentioned before. But I assure you it’s not.
Here is the secret that I think I stumbled upon, many years ago:
We are all freaks.
The human race is the freak of Nature. We are the naked apes who stand like trees, sing like birds, hunt like wolves, roam like buffalo, build like ants and bees. We fish creeks, rivers, lakes, oceans, putting all the mightiest sea monsters to shame. We climb higher than any mountain goat, just to see if we can. We literally soar through the air and shoot for the stars.
We decorate ourselves with the skins of those we eat. We also murder: like lions for dominance, like housecats for sport, like minks for pleasure. We torture the helpless, tell lies and weave illusions, hide in shadows to rob and rape unsuspecting passersby. We blow up statues, school buses, cafes, churches, town squares, cities, nations. We starve infants for power, kill them for profit, subject them to experiments for both. We hold daggers behind our backs, and quietly poison each other’s cups.
We also give gifts to friends and strangers. Sometimes the gift is spare change, or a cigarette, or some plastic trinket we bought online. Sometimes the gift is of our own lives. When we give this final gift, it’s as often in service to a cherished principle as it is to a fellow human being. We carry our wounded from battlefields, carry our dead to graves, hold the grief-stricken in our arms, pray for the strength to forgive those who’ve harmed us and them. The strength.
We make many useful things. We also make things that serve no purpose apart from beauty. We propel ourselves blind and naked into the unknown. We invent language to describe that which we can’t directly see or touch, but the existence of which we do not doubt. We contemplate our dreams, and share them with other minds in whatever forms we can manage.
We can’t help but do these things and more. It’s in our nature.
Human freakishness is unmatched by any creature, past or present. Even the octopus is a normie by contrast. The distance between us and all other lifeforms isn’t close, though some of us like to pretend it is. Sometimes they pretend this for well-meaning reasons, in order to inspire kindness and responsibility as the Earth’s caretakers. Other times, it’s a lie told to diminish and degrade, making it easier for the liar to enslave us, or to convert us into products.
And maybe that’s the best contribution that lifelong freaks can offer, in this increasingly desperate war against evil we all find ourselves in. After all, to stand tall as an individual who’s open to different ideas without sacrificing the bonds of trust, good will and camaraderie required to work together might serve as the perfect model for our rebel soldiers to adopt.
Over the past several years, it has become abundantly clear that the strangest of bedfellows must be made to have any hope of winning. Structurally, I can think of worse templates than the Bohemian circle to emulate. In this model, our “diversity” really will be a strength, because we can joke about our differences in ways our increasingly brittle and dogmatic enemies can’t. As a certain friendly cat recently observed, it’s these kinds of jokes that tend to harden the bonds of trust into an impenetrable alloy that never rusts with age. True Bohemians can even disagree on a cosmic level without turning on each other. We instead relish such disagreements, which makes the quest for truth all the more interesting and fun.
From a strictly tactical standpoint, you don’t even need to be especially freaky to see how ragtag bands, motley crews and irregular troops gain instant advantages over cookie-cutter stormtroopers. Because we value creativity, we become unpredictable (and in some ways, incomprehensible) to our enemies. Wolverines, Fellowships and other guerilla bands consistently prove superior to totalitarians and their hypnotized orcs, even when the conflict is wildly asymmetrical.
And then there’s that third advantage I mentioned: because freaks inevitably become the coolest kids around, there comes a point when even your average stormtrooper won’t be able to resist our jokes and songs. Operating on the freak offensive, every encounter becomes an opportunity to not only sap enemy moral, but to gain converts without resorting to sermons or threats. It’s the seductive art of effortless self-possession, of being cool without trying, in the face of those uncool authorities and lackeys who tend to neuter and strangle everything they touch.
Psychopaths prefer the latter model, of course. But they are relatively scarce in number; the vast majority of people want to be freedom-fighters. Some of them just need a little more suppression fire than others to cross those lines. For that role, consider this freaky sonofabitch locked-and-loaded.
This is getting to be longer than I intended, so here’s one parting thought:
The Bohemians I’ve known represent more than just a bunch of iconoclasts hovering at the edges of culture. We were a rough model for how societies of free people can actually cooperate and thrive without carrot-stick coercion. That said, we were — and continue to be — pretty fucking far from perfect. For instance, lifelong freaks have an irritating habit of lending ourselves toward foolish causes. Some of these causes are patently evil, and plant the seeds for the trees we’ll eventually be hanged from. How many artists have actively supported bolshevism, communism, national socialism over the years? How many were among the first to be jailed or murdered by the same ideologies?
Maybe that’s related to some other dark patterns regularly we fall into. We have a tendency to develop self-destructive habits, and to lapse into bouts of solipsistic despair. Sometimes we’ll go full-on lemming as a result, which certainly isn’t a trait we’d value in our rebel warriors. Sacrifice is one thing, suicide another.
I’ve been thinking lately that avoidance of these traps is something that we can learn from the so-called “normies” of the world. A younger version of me would smugly dismiss what I took for their rote conventions and artificial standards. But I’ve since come to see these qualities for what they often are: discipline, diligence, respectfulness and a commitment to pursuing achievable goals. I think maybe the freakier among our ranks would do well to adopt some of these useful traits, if only to better assist with all the rebuilding efforts to come.
But until then, we are at war. And because our enemies are on the march and time is of the essence, I think we should use the gifts we already have, the best way we know how.
So let your freak flags fly, brothers and sisters!
Mine’s got a unicorn.
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