The Cake… Is A Pie
Before we carry on any further exploration of this brave old world, let us shake off our conceptual cobwebs and fire up our imaginations by indulging in a small thought experiment.
Imagine, if you would, a world identical to our own, except that people are divided along a different arbitrary line; whether they are fans of sports or Star Trek. For the purposes of this experiment, assume you are in the latter category. There is one question at the end; answer with care.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the human function of a Trekkie is to fix computers. Along with that prime directive, the good Trekkie provides general tech support and amusement to their Sportsfan counterparts. Trekkies are obedient, polite, shy, introverted, submissive, awkward, quiet, neat and methodical folk. The ideal Trekkie is a tall, skinny, pointy-eared, big-headed person who wears glasses and has tiny hands. Those who do not naturally fit this description are encouraged to overcome their disadvantage through use of surgery, diet, stilts, garments to mold the hands and torso into the desired dimensions and headsize-enhancing hats.
Each child is assigned at birth to be either a Trekkie or a Sportsfan based on certain minor physical attributes, eg hand size or ear shape. Toys for Trekkies prepare them for their future career repairing computers, with running, yelling and getting dirty being severely frowned upon. The Sportsfan child in contrast is given toys that emphasise physical activities, but has the freedom to explore any other interests, unless IT-related of course. This disparity in expectation continues into education. A lucky Trekkie may be allowed to study non-essential subjects such as business, politics, art, science, music, or philosophy, but it is implicitly understood that these are to be dropped once a real job as a computer repairperson is offered to them.
The grown Trekkie dreams of being partnered with a Sportsfan, who may provide them with a basement to live in and computers to repair. A Trekkie in a public space can expect comments such as “talk nerdy to me”, “upgrade my phone”, “nice ears”, or the ubiquitous “get back in the basement and fix my computer.”
“Geek” is an aspirational term describing Trekkies who are good at doing techy things, whereas “nerd” is a derogatory term describing Trekkies who enjoy doing techy things. Many Trekkies try to distance themselves from the “nerdy” label by proclaiming themselves Trekkers and demonising nerdiness in other Trekkies; the distinction goes largely unnoticed. There are Trekkies who actually don’t like Star Trek or sci-fi at all; however, if they speak out about it, they can expect to be ridiculed, threatened or ignored. The “angsty Trekkie with hairy ears burning their Starfleet uniform cos they can’t land a nice basement” is a stereotype used to mock and dismiss the very real concerns many Trekkies have with the way they are treated.
While there are certain advantages to Trekkie-Sportsfan relations, the true appeal has always been the watersports. Traditionally, Trekkies are expected to endure such activities as mere passengers while the Sportsfan rows the boat. What is known but not acknowledged is that watersports can be just as enjoyable for Trekkies as for Sportsfans. In truth, watersports may even be enjoyed alone, or by two Trekkies, or two Sportsfans, or any permutation thereof; yet such liberty would be damaging to the supremacy of the Trekkie-Sportsfan partnership with catastrophic consequences, not least of which would be the loss of free tech support, and is thus to be avoided.
Sadly, the dynamic of shared enjoyment is missing from most social discourse about watersports, which instead frames them as acts committed by Sportsfans upon reluctant Trekkies. Worse still are the pranks which aim to be no fun for the Trekkie while providing amusement for the Sportsfan. Pranks tend to also be water-based, often involving a Trekkie being sprayed by a water gun, getting hit by water balloons, having drinks tossed over them or spat at them, or even having their head dunked in a bucket. These experiences are so engrained in a Trekkie’s everyday experience that they are advised to carry an umbrella and wear waterproof clothes in public. Trekkies who do not undertake these basic precautions are considered to have been “asking for it”, as are those who publicly admit to enjoying watersports at all.
What lends a keen edge to prank culture is the reality that some people, usually Sportsfans but not always, will take pranks past the line of plausible deniability into actual torture. These people are known as Sportsplayers, and if given the opportunity they will waterboard both Trekkies and Sportsfans, with added threat of potential murder. Sportsplayers are considered so rare that most Sportsfans believe they’re never met one. This is statistically improbable, as one in four Trekkies will be waterboarded in their lifetime, as well as one in seven Sportsfans, and most likely by a Sportsplayer previously known to the victim. Yet the myth of the “lone Sportsplayer lurking in the locker room” persists. Sportsfans who suspect or are told about a Sportsplayer in their midst often do nothing about it, since making such an accusation is considered extremely “unsporting” and in some circles failure to be a “team player” is punished more harshly than waterboarding itself.
Since a Sportsplayer, whether a Sportsfan or a Trekkie, cannot be identified until they actually attack, the threat of waterboarding permeates all pranks, even seeping into the dynamics of watersports. The reality is that most Sportsplayers never get reported; of those reported, many never get punished; of those punished, many go on to torture again. Efforts to tackle waterboarding focus on forcing Trekkies to take personal responsibility for their vulnerability in the hope that a more vulnerable individual will be targeted instead; waterboarding itself is considered as magically inevitable as gravity.
Unsurprisingly, a societal order that perpetuates such everyday inequality carries that distortion into all other spheres. A rather illuminating cultural test records whether in a movie there are a) at least two Trekkies who b) talk to each other c) about anything other than Sportsfans. Half of all movies fail this test. Advertising is another example, with the idea of “nerd in the basement, geek on the street” used to sell anything from coffee to sports equipment. Via surely benign coincidence, when Trekkies do appear in the media they will still conform to the tall skinny bespectacled ideal, and somehow end up in or near water. Where jobs overlap, Trekkies are paid less than Sportsfans to do the same work, with their professional, social, moral and human worth questioned if they fail to also maintain the model Trekkie appearance.
Despite a theoretical acceptance of all people being equal, the representation of Trekkies at a political level remains abysmal worldwide. Trekkies who wish to work in politics must constantly field questions about their computer repair habits and have the size of their hands discussed in the assumption that their place is in the basement. In fact, Trekkies only earned the right to vote in the past century, and then only after a concerted decades-long campaign by Trekkies who risked violence and imprisonment for overstepping their traditional roles.
Now, imagine that Trekkies have been subjected to this treatment for thousands of years.
Imagine that Trekkies make up half the population of the Earth.
Imagine this is your life, the only life you’ll ever have, but instead of an absurd metaphor, this is absurd reality.
Imagine knowing this.
Imagine knowing this, and still your life remains absurd.
In what language is this piece written?