Only the human animal will spend its entire life—wasting it—on trying to change the minds of others, their sets of assumptions, their paradigms, how it shakes out and most importantly: the market over your personal agents of force. – Richard Nikoley, Free the Animal
The human mind, where not given full detail, tends to fill in the gaps with its own concepts, whether from a set of assumptions from similar past situations, ideology, paradigms of the time or emotional hang-ups. We long to understand our world, and sometimes when we fail to grasp truth, we seek control over reality through different routes.
Our culture tends to promote confessions of failure, labels exhibitionism as pathology, and readily ties authority with corruption, but what if this is in development of a guise to cover the cultivation of power of another type? That is, the control of narratives and ultimately, people’s thoughts and actions through a façade of “I don’t bite”. You can be a “soft” authority by appealing to a demographic that believes your narrative, even if it is one of victimhood. In fact, sharing failures, being passive, and holding a plot of injustice can get quite a bit of attention.
Tribalism is a natural in-group bias that causes us to value people with similar interests, culture and appearance to us more than those who have very different or even opposing interests and cultures. Like any bias, it is an obstacle to the truth and predisposes us to “groupthink”.
A niche is a specialized but profitable corner of a market. Although a tribe or tribes often exist in this pocket, they are often unconventional and resist conformity.
Using tribalism and niche markets I will explore the power of holding the narrative, and how marketing to a niche will ultimately take the edge off and make the founders disperse to another edge.
Understanding the Genius
People with conviction, especially while expressing unconventional ideas tend to be walking ad-hominems these days. A culture that values safety and inclusion rouses hesitation in detaching a person’s idea from the person who expresses it. This is probably a reaction bred out of fear saturation, especially in the form of narratives of female oppression; rape culture, work discrimination and the wage gap. Holding a disempowering narrative may predispose people to be easily emotionally triggered and go on the defensive.
This, in-turn, creates both a facade of “I don’t bite” in individuals who don’t want to set off the fearful by sharing what they really think, but also one where cries to an authority will lead to totalitarian-style censorship and further perpetuate fear.
This is occurring even in the worlds that are based in creativity and fun.
Many artists and writers of fiction, comic books and videogames are feeling the crunch of a culture that prioritizes inclusiveness and safety. The following video about Spider Woman’s ass poses two points: 1) That there is a tribe of people with a shared narrative that lead them to over-react and, 2) this tribe has little idea about the people occupying the original niche.
To be open-minded is to be uncomfortable doubtful and questioning of the self. Fear pushes us into states of attachment. Many of us hold on to our accomplishments, grades, degrees, etc. for dear life, and torture ourselves with dysfunctions in our “self-esteem” in comparison to others. Holding on to our narratives and milestones in a sea of doubt may even prevent us from realizing we float.
The genius that flows through human minds and hands is being misunderstood and treated as if it something that can bow to external power. Those producers of stories are seen to create culture as authorities themselves, yet, in reality, are often curious observers inspired by the realities of their time.
Insulting the Founders
I have been working in the natural health food market for almost ten years now. It has been curious bearing witness to a co-option of buzz words. Originally, the community was interested in health and was skeptical of what they were being told by government health pyramids, large companies invested in fertilizers and pesticides, and pharmaceutical companies. As the community grew it branched off into many sub-communities, including vegan, paleo, Weston A. Price, primal, and the low carb and keto tribes.
As many are concerned about human and environmental health, as it grew as a whole, companies started to appeal to them and their interests through green initiatives and catch words and phrases.
Is it…Primal, paleo, vegan, gluten-free, GMO-free, organic, free-range, pastured, grass-fed, etc?
And yes, some of these are descriptive and useful, but as these labels gain an authority of their own, the communities lose their skepticism. However, the original skeptical health-nuts realize organic isn’t always good for people and the planet, that primal and paleo are stupid as stand-alone labels (what, are these packaged wooly mammoth steaks?) or that low carb may be better as a short-term treatment than a long-term lifestyle because starch and sugar aren’t toxic in themselves.
The original niche, once grown to be more inclusive, often insults and alienates the original founders. Ironically, it often betrays its root causes as authority is transferred to the gimmick.
This has happened to the demographic that loved comic books as well as many of those who adore science fiction and fantasy stories. As markets move from the underground to popular nerd culture, characters become more contrived and stories attempt to bring inclusiveness, when it may have been the very edginess that brought the original followers in.
The edge is what we can perceive with our senses dropping off steeply into the unknown. It is the darkest recesses of the human mind. It is the boogey man, the tragedy, the supernatural as well as the superhuman.
The edge is neither inclusive nor exclusive. It is there for anyone who dares let-go of the footholds in the mind and see if they float.
The edge is a safe space for unconventional people and their ideas. What makes it safe is the freedom to express any notion, no matter how uncomfortable or how much it goes against groupthink. The safety is in its vastness, its endless potential and its lack of judgement, because ideas stand alone.
Where once religion stood in the path of scientists and inventors, now all sorts of newly created dogma has been marketed through niches, whether it is in the paleo tribe, nerd culture, or the skeptic community. It is made to take the edge off to appeal to a wider range of people. However, without the edge you no longer keep pushing the boundaries of what is known and what is unknown.
To those who fear tribalism and ideology more than the unknown, stay edgy my friends and see you at the Calgary Comic-con.
Hoping to meet the Honey Badgers, as they will be at the con taking a stand against censorship.