I don't want to step on a piece I'm finishing for another venue on the Nerd Victimization and Grievance Industrial Complex, but I was struck by this comic from the Oatmeal. It's mostly a piece of hagiography about Nikola Tesla (indeed, a great man) that confirms again that most hagiography actually makes you feel worse about its subject, not better. But its subtext is yet another in the Oatmeal's series on how geeks are better than you. (The sub-subtext, of course, is that the guy who writes the Oatmeal is better than you.) Which is not to blame the Oatmeal dude specifically for this; there's this whole huge edifice of geek self-mythologizing. What I always wonder when I read this stuff is, don't you guys know that adults aren't supposed to talk about how great they are?
Now, I know what my frequent critics on these issues will say: but the context is a world where geeks and nerds are/have been oppressed. On the "are" front, I would say, no they're not. Not for the things that are self-consciously geeky, not the stuff that self-described nerds and geeks use to so self-define. The social awkwardness is totally independent of the cultural convictions that are used to define geekdom. And, indeed, derision and marginalization of socially awkward people are prevalent in the halls of geek culture, too. On the "have been" front, I would simply point out that reacting to a changing world is important to maintaining a worthwhile self-criticism; that oftentimes the worst bullies are those who have been bullied themselves, and thus can't imagine themselves in the other position; and finally, that even if you could go back and erase the stigma about comic books or whatever that was the focal point of bullying in the past, it wouldn't have removed the bullying. The bullying just would have taken a different form. Social aggression exists for reasons that are entirely separate from the proximate target of that aggression. Bullies and jerks will always find reasons.
Incidentally, the comic lionizes Tesla for choosing to forgo sex in order to remain mentally sharp, portraying it as a kind of heroism. I would argue that it's actually a pathology. And incidentally, sex>alternating current.
Update: I kid Nikola Tesla! I love Nikola Tesla. I'm just kidding about the sex. And, you know, most everything else. I'll link to the piece as soon as it's out. I want only for geeks to recognize and enjoy the fact that they've already won.
Update II: But do check out Alex Waller for a spirited and informed defense of Edison.