Nerdly

The Guardian runs a piece about the rash of current imported US TV series featuring the adventures and misfortunes of nerds. Bryan Fuller, the creator of Pushing Daisies feels, according to the article, that “…in America, we need heroes. There is a lot of powerlessness given our current administration.”

sellers.jpg

An inverted logic suggests, it seems, that an administration by the powerless would therefore be preferable. Peter Sellers, in Hal Ashby’s Being There (1979) plays Chance, a gardner whose blank simplicity is mistaken for elliptical wisdom. He ends up being President. Bush’s simplicity has intermittently elliptic qualities but it is clear his inscrutability is not an effect of wisdom.

Neither Bush nor Chance are nerds, however. Nerds know a lot about certain things and bring to their knowledge a great precision. Their characteristics may even be locatable on a continuum that features degrees of Asperger’s syndrome, wherein knowledge and interest are focused on unusually narrow topics, such as railway timetables or historical cricket scores.

Were one affected with just a hint of Asperger’s one might fail to detect it in others and think to oneself “My – if his grasp of the ways of humankind is as developed as his knowledge of petrol-driven lawnmowers then he’s the man to lead us out of the current shit!”

When leaders expatiate in abstractions the air grows thin and dangerous. With a nerd, however, you get two for one – they’ll get the trains running on time because they love trains plus they get agoraphobic in the presence of abstraction.

The pressure on the non-Asperger individual to aspergise is considerable – the consumer, for example, must resist the Argos catalogue of everyday life (see here) by acquiring expertise in matters of classification and specification. The more you know about mobile phones the less likely you are to get stiffed by those who would (virtually) mobilise you. The internalisation of such data brings the satisfactions of mastery and distinctiveness. Ballard felt that in the 21st century the most successful psychological type would be the psychopath – it may be that the backlash features the rise of the nerd.

05.05.2008