Baxil (baxil) wrote,

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On "weirdos" vs. "executives"

I mentioned in my previous post that I try to personally steer clear of the "executive freak" vs. "weirdo freak" distinction. I wanted to take a moment to expand on that, because this dovetails very neatly with something I said over in lupagreenwolf's journal recently.

Now, there are going to be (to borrow Eddie Izzard's coinage) "weirdoes" in every movement. The people who just make you stop and stare. The ones with no apparent sense of community responsibility and a narrow focus on something that manages to make no sense to anyone but them. The infamous ones, who make you inwardly wince when someone outside the group inevitably recognizes them and paints the entire group with that brush.

I'm sympathetic to the common arguments for weirdo exclusion. People passionate about a subculture understandably don't want their public face to be obnoxious and out of control; fringe ideas have enough trouble getting taken seriously that a full-on embrace of the weirdoes can poison the rest of the group's efforts.

But too often, splitting a group out into "executives" and "weirdoes" has ... well, exactly the advertised effect: it shatters the community. Self-righteous battles over who's "really" a $group_member and who isn't welcome there produce a lot of splinters, sharp edges, and cause people of good faith to tiptoe around the whole area lest they find themselves impaled. (I'm sure any Otherkin or pagan can name some immediate examples of the phenomenon here.)

The groups that have dealt with this most successfully have taken a big-tent, small-platform approach: Invite the weirdoes in, but don't let them set the agenda.

Because the truth is, you can't keep the weirdoes out -- but you can, in any of a variety of ways, drive away the executives that legitimize you. Being too exclusive will generate confrontation and drama that makes your most down-to-earth members run away. Being too extremist-driven will do the same.  Either drives the executives underground, and once they're there, they can't provide the good public faces that earn you quiet respect.

So it's been my experience that actually trying to make the "executive"/"weirdo" distinction is counterproductive. Let the executives and weirdoes sort themselves out. To the extent that anyone can tell them apart, anyway. ]B=8)


(The original comment I made, slightly edited for clarity:)

One thing that I've also appreciated about the pagan and Otherkin communities ...

I like the fact that there's a place for virtually everyone. It's very rare to find such a diversity of beliefs within a group ostensibly united by common spiritual ground. I like the "ask ten pagans the same question, get eleven different answers" aspect of it.

I like the fact that it's a disorganized and fractured social group. I like the fact that it's broad and labyrinthine enough for everyone to find their own tiny little niche, and yet still claim the broader label.

And you know something? I like going to conventions, meets, rituals, etc., and finding people who will talk at me for ten minutes about the personal significance of the tattoo of The Watchers (from the "Highlanders" series) that they're getting on their wrist; or people who will ramble about how happy they are being someone's pet; or any of a hundred other things that fall into TMI territory.

In other words, I like the things that make a lot of folks run away screaming.

Not necessarily for their own merits -- but because they're the best metric I've found for an atmosphere where people feel safe in opening up, which is comforting and too damn rare. And also because I'm always inspired by the vast and incomprehensible range of human experience; understanding the personal worlds of people who have a wildly different framework for reality than I do enriches me.

... Yes, I do know that this makes me a weirdo. ;-)
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