Jesus and the Geeks
I recently came across this essay about the relationship between creators, hard core fans (geeks), normal people (MOPs), and opportunists (sociopaths — author’s terms in parentheses).
So I wanted to make a very brief analogy from the categories outlined in the essay. Basically:
Jesus = creative
Disciples = geeks
Normal people = MOPs
Pontius Pilate = sociopath
At this point I really do suggest you go back and read the original essay. You can do as you please, but it’s not long and it’s very interesting.
So aside from just making a marginally enlightening comparison between the world’s most successful religion and modern subcultures, what is the point of the analogy?
Well, because I want to extend it a bit by pointing out a few highlights from the story of Jesus. Namely, Jesus collected a few hard core fans, then he was betrayed by them and martyred by a sociopath who was threatened by his power. Then he was deified by the MOPs, and eventually his legacy was coopted by other sociopaths (i.e., the popes) to extract resources from the MOPs .
So the next question is whether this pattern shows up in other subcultures and organizations. I think the answer is yes, although the martyrdom doesn’t always come in the form of death. In some cases, creators are simply step aside or are pushed aside by skilled opportunists who are better at extracting power from the mob.
I am not an expert on popular culture, but a few examples come to mind of people who were eventually killed by their popularity (Kurt Cobain?) or who voluntarily withdrew from the limelight (Satoshi Nakamoto?).
Of course, these aren’t the only options.
Basically, the power and money that follow successful creators can be immense, and someone is going to step forward to direct that power. And really the only way to excel at exploiting the mob is to become a (or channel your inner) sociopath.
So, if you think you are a promising creator, what is your exit plan? Martyr or villain?
One other thing I would like to point out is the importance of geeks to this whole equation. Geeks are essential to the equation here. Neither creators nor sociopaths can really do what they want to do without the geeks serving as intermediaries. That’s why Jesus was betrayed by his geeks. The sociopaths couldn’t really 1) get to Jesus, or 2) take control of the mob, without them.
In some cases, one or more of the geeks are the sociopaths that eventually become the exploiters of the mob. Regardless of whether the geeks align with an external sociopath or try to take control themselves, timing is everything. If you act too soon, there will be no mob to exploit. Too late, and someone else will exploit it for you. Hence, Jesus’ advice to Judas:
“What you are going to do, do quickly.”