I think I started something dangerous for these guys. I didn’t do it on purpose, but it happened all the same. While engaged in an innocent conversation, I inadvertently gave them a name.
And having a name is dangerous. It gives people who might want to hurt you something to grab. These guys aren’t doing anything nasty of course – I’d be surprised if they ever did anything truly bad – but they’re struggling against a system that gives them no choice but to live parasitically… either that or to step over, around, and through its rules.
A lawyer named Silverglate wrote a book a few years ago called Three Felonies A Day. I haven’t read it yet, but the title is true, and it will be certainly true for these young people.
So, I’d much prefer that they had no name at all.
But as I say, it happened innocently. We were at our regular lunch, talking about the choice to remain a cog in a perverted machine or to leave it, insulting the cogs who remain. As you might expect, I championed the idea of leaving, and to make my point I quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.
That hit them. Adam, normally the quiet one in the group, started murmuring, “The creatively maladjusted… the creatively maladjusted. Yes, that’s what we are… that’s exactly what we are.”
The rest of the group (we had five besides me) started nodding in agreement and saying things like, “Yeah, baby, TCM!”
I just barely dissuaded them from using “The TCM Brigade,” stressing that it sounded military and that lots of government agents spend their days looking for such things to jump on.
But there was no stopping “TCM.” Hopefully Fed computers will think they’re talking about Turner Classic Movies.
In any case, I’ve grown very happy with my local TCM crew. A big part is that it’s intoxicating to be around people who aren’t perma-complainers; who are, rather, people who get up and make the world better according to their own morals and their own vision.
Plus, these kids take me back to the 1970s, a time I very much miss. Being a nonconformist was not only common in those days; it was expected, at least for young people. If you wanted to be taken seriously, you had to have something that you were “into.” You had to choose something and not just follow Teacher’s rules.
More than that, we believed that whatever we were into should be done in new ways. Serving the status quo wasn’t just uncool; it was betrayal. So, regardless of the nonsense that came out of the ’70s (and there was plenty), please believe me that the air was a lot easier to breathe in those days. We believed in actual freedom and worked for progress with our own hands and our own minds.
But as I was reminiscing on that, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Adam, the quiet one. He obviously wanted to talk, so we scooted over to an adjacent table and let the others continue without us.
“I could use your advice,” he said, leaning in so he wouldn’t be overheard. I leaned in too, trying to imply confidentiality.
“Certainly,” I said. “I’ll do the best I can.”
I think he liked that I didn’t pretend to have every answer.
“Here’s the thing,” he went on. “My wife has a really good job, so I stay home with our son, but I want to work also.”
I nodded my understanding.
“Since I have to be home most of the time, I’ve been trading stocks. I do okay at it, but it just doesn’t interest me anymore. There’s no substance to it… it’s empty.”
“And you’re looking for something that matters to you and that you can do mostly at home, yes?”
“Yes,” he said, “exactly!”
I was ready to start going through my list of future-friendly technologies, but I decided to ask him a question instead.
“Is there something that always interested you but that you’ve never been able to do?”
Adam stopped and grew introspective. I waited.
“Yeah…” he said. “I was always interested in biology. I had a biology class in high school. The teacher wasn’t very good, but there were a few days when the class really excited me. I wanted to learn more, but I never had a chance.”
“Well then,” I said, “I have a great idea for you. You should get involved with biohacking.”
“What’s that?” He looked curious but cautious.
“It’s biology… unrestricted biology. There are awesome things going on right now and things that don’t require super-expensive labs and equipment. I have friends who can teach you to splice genes at your kitchen table.”
“Yeah, and that’s just a start. More or less everything having to do with DNA has become insanely cheap. The doors are wide open to almost anything you’d want to do.”
Adam’s eyes nearly rolled in their sockets, but then he reverted to his risk-averse stance.
“Is it safe?” he asked. “… and can I make money at it?”
“It’s as safe as you make it,” I answered.
He understood. This was a new field, and the responsibility for safety would be up to him, not some board of bureaucrats. That’s a stumbling block to some people, but Adam, innately cautious though he was, accepted it and even seemed to like it.
“And as for making money,” I continued, “why do you care?”
“What do you mean?” he asked. “We need money.”
“Of course you do, but first of all, there’s more to this than money – trading stocks feels empty to you after all – and second, your wife has a great job. You’re in a terrific position; if you don’t make a lot of money, you’ll still be okay.”
He nodded. And, I think, he let go of the need to show himself as a provider, at least a little.
Then I pulled out my laptop and hooked him up with a biohacker I know.