Check out the title of Seth Godin’s new book, which he narrates on audio. Godin is the thinking man’s business guru, discovering trends and making predictions. In WE ARE ALL WEIRD the thesis is that the great cultural war of the 21st Century is not whether you’re conservative or liberal, but rather whether you’re a sheep or an albatross. That is to say, whether you fight for the status quo or for the unique choice of individuals. For decades the mass media has boxed people into groups that they can control and market products and ideas to. “Mass markets” still control how people think, what they buy, how they live. You are urged to conform or be silently ostracized by your peers, who view you as “weird.” Times, though, they be a-changin’, and these days of the mass market is soon coming to an end. Soon, the guilt you are supposed to feel for not conforming to the group will forever slip away. There are already many more choices, and those who respect people making different choices will find greater success in the future. Bravo, I say. It’s about time. I have always most respected those people who think for themselves. After all, there is a long list from Galileo onward of people who were considered weird (and even imprisoned by the lemmings of the status quo) yet ended up changing the world. Coco Chanel, by refusing to conform, changed fashion forever. Stravinsky wrote The Rite of Spring, and changed music forever. Weird kids at school may be bullied and laughed at, but it is by sadly pathetic and unimaginative cowards who only get away with being cruel out of collective ignorance. Their days are numbered. Speaking of marketing, when I tried to pitch my new novel to mass market publishers, I was told that it didn’t fit any specific mold or genre. It was cross genre and offbeat—phrases that advertising departments frown upon, even as they green light the next vampire novel or serial killer slasher book. Yet can you guess the ending of a formulaic genre McNovel? Of course you can. That’s what makes it mass market: dumbed down to a cliché plot, its popularity (profit) is the sole criterion of its value. So are we all weird? No, obviously not yet. Most people still watch a lot of TV, believe what they hear and see there, and vote the party line. But even TV is not what it once was. More weirdness is coming. And big companies like McDonalds and Coca-Cola are having to spend a lot more money these days on advertising to maintain the delusion that they have anything at all to do with love and happiness (and not epidemics of diabetes and obesity.) Even Exxon/Mobil, in the face of overwhelming evidence for global warming, is having to revamp its public image (read Private Empire by Steve Coll.) They no longer deny, deny, deny as they once did in the Bush era (or the cigarette companies did prior.) To end on an weird note, here’s my suggestion for The Food Network (or rather The Food Porn Network): Instead of having a bald pastry chef requiring contestants to add ingredients like horseradish to desserts on Sweet Genius, how about a show called The Soup Nazi in which standup comics tell jokes and insult you while you prepare your entries in The Concentration Camp (ie. Kitchen stadium), in the style of Nadia G, who is truly weird (and fun.) …So the countdown timer is running, can you finish slicing those onions without a tear of laughter as Jerry Seinfeld wonders aloud if you’re having a really bad hair day?
“Mr. Nazi, what’s with this frog in my soup?”
“Looks like he’s eating the fly.”
“That’s good, but why is he wearing a hair net?”
“Mr. Nazi, this soup is spoiled.”
“Who told you?”
“A little swallow.”