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The purpose of nerds

“They wanna see you do good, just never better than them.”
    ~ S.B.O.E. “Better Than Them” (2014)

You might as well by now admit,
In case you’re not too delicate,
You feel that you’re inadequate
And say that I am too.

Well, I can hardly argue it:
You may have brawn, I may have wit,
But does that matter? Not a bit,
For what you say is true.

Your body’s used; this earns you pay.
My brain gets used just that same way,
Yet for that purpose I must stay
Absorbed here on my own

Until I hear to my dismay
It’s condescension I convey,
Though all I’ve done is dream that, say,
My best ideas had flown,

I’d be a hero; modestly
A better world I’d cause to be
An outcome good for you and me
That’s never real, it seems.

What I create lasts fleetingly,
Or worse, gets used destructively,
And seldom is designed by me:
So much for my big dreams.

My purpose was, I thought, to train
Myself, and get to use my brain
In such a way mankind would gain,
But that’s not what worked out.

Instead, the agencies that reign
Encourage via grades, retain
Our ablest who don’t go insane,
Once they know it’s about

Long hours daily at the screen
And skipping every social scene
As we can hardly hope to glean
Fulfillment to our core.

That purpose for us can but mean
What those who’ve trained us have foreseen:
That we’d out-earn them — teacher, dean,
And parent all the more

Have faced this — earning first a wide
Resentment poorly held inside
Till most around us acted snide,
As if this was deserved,

But industry can well abide
An outcast wage slave it can guide
To live to work; what’s sure implied:
Its purpose has been served.

Although we’re not the 1 percent
Our purpose is your discontent
As, socially inept, we’ve lent
Ourselves to take that hit

In lieu of those elites, who’ve spent
Our efforts at their whim and bent
The purpose of our dreams, intent
That they’d instead be it.

   This is my angriest poem.
   It’s been written more than three years after I first posed the question
   Of how nerds like me, with our off-putting social status, came to be.
   I had the concept, from the start, that this wasn’t by chance
   But still I was shocked at what came, once I felt ready to take a crack
   At writing the answer.
   The more I captured, the more I was struck with a new question:
   How come I didn’t see all along that to almost anyone who turns a wrench
   Or stands up with few breaks all day for a living
   The prospect of someone else — even their own child —
   Getting somewhat better pay
   To sit in an air-conditioned room figuring out problems
   Would likely provoke bitter jealousy
   Thus drawing the ire away from those who made these arrangements
   And toward us, their representatives closer to — or even right at — home.
   So insidious they were
   That even we who’ve been used this way want to believe we’re well off.
   What came was rhyming
   As if it had been there waiting for me to express it.

    July 2017

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