Being a geek is okay. I hope I didn’t mislead anyone into thinking that not being a geek was “wrong”, though. I also get the feeling that some folks might have taken the wrong meaning from my tireless advocacy for nerds. I don’t want to turn people into nerds. I don’t want people to “catch teh dork”. That’s not my intent. I just want to hopefully turn folks on to the stuff I like.
But there is a valid point in the arguments of the abstract antagonist from yesterday’s post. If you like something too much, it can be a very, very bad thing. We tend to call this “addiction”, in the lighthearted meaning of the word, but it’s a smokescreen for people who do have real problems with the things they love. And while I personally love the idea that the advances in communications technology over the last thirty years have made it trivially easy to connect with like-minded people, I despair of the fact that what we’re building with this technology aren’t communities, but enclaves.
There’s a subtle, yet incredibly glaring distinction between the two. Both are groups of people united for a common purpose of advocacy of a particular idea, amusement, or course of action. Both are designed to provide support and comfort to their members. Both, ideally, offer that support unconditionally. But where they differ is in their priorities. A community puts its members first. An enclave puts its idea first.
A community has the freedom within its ideology to help its members grow and develop. The community may seek out new members now and again, and always welcomes anyone who’d join. If a member of a community is found to be acting in an unhealthy manner, the community has the responsibility to help that person overcome their problems by guiding them. More to the point, the community may even be proactive about it. Sure, they may frame it in the dressings of their particular sphere of interest, but a true community will band together when one of its own is in trouble.
An enclave, on the other hand, is insular and restrictive. The members are expected to behave in a certain way, to accomplish certain things, to follow these instructions without deviation. Anyone who doesn’t conform is summarily ejected, as “no true member of the group would ever act that way”. Anyone who isn’t a member is an enemy. The enclave doesn’t change. It doesn’t adapt. It is binding, and it is permanent. All of these mean that eventually, as more and more of its members “betray” the group, the enclave decays and stagnates.
I’m sure some of you can see a few uncomfortable parallels here.