Geek Conformity

Have you ever heard of Jason Everman?

Probably not. Well, not unless you’re a big fan of the band Nirvana and their lore. See, Everman was their guitarist in an early version, even before Dave Grohl joined on drums.

He left the band. He also played with Soundgarden for a while before leaving them too.

Then he joined the Army, first as a Ranger, and then as a member of the Special Forces.

Wow.

“I don’t miss it,” Everman says of the rock and roll scene he’s left behind. He makes it clear that there’s no bad blood. “I thought it was really kind and really gracious of Nirvana or at least their management to extend that invitation,” Everman says. He’s appreciative, not bitter, he’s just moved on.

“Now, in a lot of ways it means nothing. I’m not saying that as a negative, I’m just so far removed from it.” Everman says of Nirvana’s hall of fame honor. “Getting into that world again for a little bit tonight… this isn’t my universe anymore.”

As someone who used to be way into the music scene and still misses it immensely, coming across this article some weeks ago was confusing at first, and then inspiring.

You left what would become two of the biggest rock groups of their time to join the Army?

And then you read more of his story and his unique personality and it all makes sense.

“I kind of look at three critical events in my life, things that we’re big enough they changed the way I live,” Everman says. “The first one was punk rock as a teenager.”

The second was leaving punk rock when he felt constrained by its rules: the haircuts, the clothes, the proscribed political stances, the iron-clad law of only three chords per song.

“As an adolescent you’re kind of operating under the guise of thinking for yourself but you’re not really. Punk rock was incredibly conformist.” But straining for punk’s promise of radical individualism, and then breaking away when you realized that promise had been betrayed by the scene’s strict rules for practicing the right kind of individualism was “a necessary step to truly thinking for yourself,” Everman says.

He learned from his time in the punk scene: “I’m going to make decisions based more on what I want to do and less what I think other people expect of me or want me to do. So, punk rock was a necessary step. That was what set the conditions for me going into the military initially.”

Look, we’re all different. We all don’t have the cojones to leave our comfortable, pampered life to go fight in foreign lands. I sure didn’t, though often I wish I did. I thought about it. I thought about it a lot. I wanted to drop out of law school and go fight in Iraq, because why not?

But his comments–“strict rules for practicing the right kind of individualism”–perfectly encapsulate the contempt I feel for a lot of so-called scenes involving “free thinkers.”

The world of geekery, for lack of a better world, is filled with this sort of thing. The mainstream requires ideological lockstep along nearly every facet of thought.

Don’t try to tell me it’s not political. I refuse to believe that all the people shut out by gatekeepers or fired from this or that position on this or that TV show or comic book or whatever coincidentally have diametrically opposed political views than their bosses and, despite never having any history of anything, suddenly develop a penchant for “harassment” and get axed because of it . . . while actual hateful bigots and those engaged in even more unsavory proclivities maintain their positions of power despite often having no discernible talent for anything.

I mean, that’s just happenstance, obviously.

All of these movements and fandoms, especially the mainstream “acceptable” ones, have these strictly enforced rules Everman alludes to. Hell, the music scene in Boston and New York was like that to a high degree. Shut up, smile, and nod if you want to play in this town again.

“At that point in time, in the world I was in, going into the military was probably the most uncool thing you could ever do. As soon as I raised my right hand and took that oath of enlistment whatever cool creds I had were fucking gone,” Everman says.

It’s only reading this that I can understand where my impulse to want to join the military came from. It came from the same place. It would have not only been a personal challenge, a calling to some greater duty–because let’s face it: men have precious few opportunities to test ourselves in this sanitized word–but also as a big “Eff you!” to everyone and everything that has become so conformist, so lockstep, so safe.

Yeah, the military is conformist and lockstep. But at least your brothers have your back, life or death, and you theres. I don’t think you can say the same about any kind of scene or fandom.

7 comments

  1. I suspect you and I have this mindset in common.

    When you write:
    “Yeah, the military is conformist and lockstep. But at least [reason]… I don’t think you can say the same about [other groups]”

    My response is:
    It’s HONEST. These facts are laid out and accepted on each side. The deal is made by two parties with full disclosure and equal footing for agreeing to the partnership. That’s refreshing, and there’s too little of it out there these days.

    I don’t believe an average user is even capable of “agreeing” to the Terms of Service on a typical cell phone app. The power imbalance is too great (teams of lawyers and capital vs. a lack of critical thinking education in public schools and no money or power.) Before we know it, we’ll be signing (clicking!) away our souls and our freedom for the chance to play another endless runner game WITH ADS…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes great point! The military isn’t lying to you about their requirement to conform. In a battle, you listen to orders and respond NOW, or people die. In the world of fandom . . . not so much. And the putative morality police lie about everything! That’s the worse part.

      Like

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