So you read yesterday’s post. You can’t wait to become the very vocal majority dominating the little niche you’re interested in. But when you get there, you find another very large, very entrenched Orthodoxy already sitting on the throne you intended to occupy.
What is a would-be New Orthodox Pontiff to do?
You have the following options.
1. Revolution: Attack the Old Orthodoxy directly by rallying enough troops to your side to take the Old Orthodoxy head on. This is remarkably similar to becoming the Old Orthodoxy in the first place. It is the most straightforward (and most unimaginative) option, and is therefore well-suited for people who would have joined the Old Orthodoxy anyway but were marginalized for some reason.
This is the most iffy option because frankly, anyone entrenched enough to be the Old Orthodoxy has enough friends to stomp you into a bloody stain on the pavement, physically or socially. Never underestimate the power of a large group of people willing to trade independent thought for easy-to-remember slogans. No matter how nimble a bug you are, you will eventually be squashed if a million pairs of feet dedicate themselves to your doom. Or a million linked blogs.
Another problem with revolution is that all it guarantees is that if it succeeds, you will overthrow the Old Orthodoxy. You might find yourself ill-placed to take advantage of the power vacuum that results, or even if you grab the reins, you might only hold them for a moment. When the French Revolution occurred, the last thing the instigators wanted was to replace a King with an Emperor, but that’s exactly what happened.
Then again, there’s nothing more rousing than holding hands and singing “Do You Hear The People Sing”. Just remember that most of the characters in Les Miserables are singing the finale posthumously.
2. Subversion: Join the Old Orthodoxy, infect it, and then bend it to your will. This is another option that sounds really sexy from the theoretical perspective. Here you are, a small band of reformers, blazing with idealism and armed with a superior intellect compared to the moronic groupthink of the Old Orthodoxy, infiltrating the enemy ranks, infecting the group with your ideology, and then becoming its new head. Aww yea.
The trouble with this option is that the Old Orthodoxy is, well, so much bigger than you. It’s simple physics: for every little push you give the Old Orthodoxy, it will return the favor with a great big shove. Suddenly it’s years later and you find yourself dressed as the people you used to despise, parroting the same opinions you used to disagree with, squashing the tiny little independents you used to empathize with, and wearing khakis, sweater vests, and Bluetooth earpieces. Influence works both ways.
Also, if you spout even a slightly different interpretation of the Old Orthodoxy party line, and someone catches you doing it, you become a heretic and will be squashed like a bug (see #1). You can’t be too different when you’re working inside the System. Which means there’s not much difference between you and the System, so when you finally do take over, nobody will notice.
3. Satire: My favorite option. This is the choice where you sit on the sidelines, detached from the actual skirmish, and make fun of all the people who are so earnestly trying to make their mark, often through the use of metaphor, analogy, allegory, parable, or any other weaselly figure of speech you can use.
Of course this still betrays the fact that you actually care enough about the issue to write about it, but hopefully your sharp wit and breathtaking insight will obscure this.
The trouble with this option is that while you are ‘nobody’, the Old Orthodoxy will treat you like an insect: a persistent but ultimately inconsequential nuisance.
Another problem with this is that despite the relative safety of catcalling from the balcony, if you persist long enough to be of actual consequence, and should the Old Orthodoxy lack a sense of humor (or perspective), you will be squashed like a large bug (see #1). Mercilessly. People ignore flies but squash cockroaches.
Yet another problem with this option is that should you become so spectacularly successful that you cannot be squashed, after enough time passes your satire will lose its bite and pass from revolutionary doctrine to holy scripture, and your followers (a development you may have never wanted in the first place) will become the New Orthodoxy, mindlessly parroting lines from your work in the mistaken belief that quoting previously-independent thought is a substitute for actually thinking independently. This has taken place over and over again in history. Just look at Buddha, Jesus, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, and Monty Python.