Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Freak Revolution

It's a beautiful day here in northeastern Phoenix. The pre-dawn drizzle brought out a lovely rainbow for my morning walk. I've settled into my Autumn rut, and I'm loving it. The cooler temperatures make the air crisp and clean and put me in a baking mood. The only problem with my baking obsession is that I like to eat what I bake. A few days ago, I made an awesome banana pecan bread and a few days before that, I baked a chocolate poundcake. I ended up eating most of the poundcake by myself because Snow doesn't particularly like chocolate. If I keep eating at this rate, I'm going to be in trouble!

I just wrote a dear old friend a really long letter and I forgot to save. I decided to include a picture of some of my baking but in attempting to attach the photo, I clicked on the wrong button and I lost the letter. I was so angry that I stuffed two cookies in my mouth. I'm feeling better now. Here's part of my letter that I'd like to share with my blog readers:

"Dear Miss Delicia...

I read a really interesting article which I wanted to tell you about. It's a manifesto from a website called Freak Revolution. I will try to add the link (fingers crossed)...It's If you have a chance to read it, I recommend it. They have some provocative ideas.

Freak Revolution graphic courtesy of

Basically, the authors claim that freaks are the natural enemies of the status quo, which makes sense, right? If you're a freak, misfit, or outcast, you've probably been functioning on the fringes of society for a while anyway and the status quo has essentially failed you. The freak revolutionaries boldly claim, "The world will not be changed by those who fit in" and god knows the world needs changing.

They go on to explain in detail why they believe that the world functions under a common set of assumptions (a paradigm) which is based on controlling the actions of others. Those with power exert control over those without power, creating scenarios where abuses of power, rebellion and friction freely proliferate, making a fucked up world.

They propose that we switch from a control paradigm to a connecting paradigm. The freaks want us to connect with others and connect with ourselves (with our inner feelings). They want us to put the human back in humanity. I know this sounds all touch-feely, but it also makes some sense to me.

One way in which they propose we start shifting from a control paradigm to a connection paradigm is by diversifying our "monkeyspheres." Have you even heard of the term monkeysphere? I hadn't, but I have one and so do you. The idea of the monkeysphere is that human beings can only really connect with about 150 people. This number was arrived at by studies done on monkeys whose brain sizes directly affected the size of their social groups, hence the name monkeysphere. The size of the average human monkeysphere correlates with the size of the average human brain.

Pirate Monkey image courtesy of

The reason that the monkeysphere is important is because people inside our monkeyspheres matter to us in a way that people outside don't. If hundreds of people on the other side of the planet die, it's a sad news story because people outside of your monkeysphere are conceptualized as one-dimensional characters, but if someone within your monkeysphere dies you feel real grief (or joy) because you know this person and it becomes personal for you. The Freaks trace much of what's wrong with the world to the choices we make when we're able to detach ourselves from our humanity and therefore want us to make it all personal.

By diversifying our monkeyspheres, we cease to think of the world in terms of "us" and "them." I remember when I first moved out to Arizona, I felt a little out of place surrounded by the people who had always been the "them" in my world: Republicans. Sure, these people would say "hello" and "good morning" to me when I was out walking the dog, but I was still suspicious. I was sure that they were red-necked bigots, but I was wrong. I was the bigot, I was the one making assumptions. I didn't have a whole lot of Republicans in my monkeyspere, so I assumed they were all greedy and ethnocentric.

Over time I started getting to know my neighbors and before I knew it, they mattered to me. Some of my Republican friends were smart, some were generous and tolerant of other people's beliefs. I was diversifying my monkeysphere and I didn't even know it. It became impossible for me to think of my neighbors as simplistic stereotypes because I now had to relate to them as individuals. This was progress for sure, because I still disagree with much of Republican ideology. Expanding my monkeysphere has not only changed the way I see others, but also how they see me and people like me (left-coast/green party/vegetarian/punk rocker).

Still, I'm not sure that all the ideas the Freak revolutionaries propose would actually work. They suggest we opt out of all kinds of things like religion, politics, and public schools just to name a few. I'm not sure I'd want to pull Snow out of school so that she can bask in her freakiness, only to hate me a few years down the line when she can't get into the college she wants. Choosing to live like a freak is a very personal decision; I wouldn't want to make it for anyone but myself..."

My friend wrote back:

"Dear Alice...

As far as the monkeysphere idea, it is about right. The weirdos always make the changes. That was punk, eh? Misfits every one. And all the computer geeks. Unfortunately, the homogenized world with plastic surgery and identikit music (thanks Clear Channel and Live Nation, or are they finally one now?) makes sure freaks stand out even more. The world is a strange place. Alice, I was amazed how similar all the new houses in LA looked. Even the colours seemed 'approved'. Not one oddball amongst them.

Unfortunately, freaks in nature are usually killed off. Albino animals, etc. You know my cat I have, Pubert, was an oddball as a kitten. He once tried to sit up by pushing his paw off this lamp and he managed to balance and sit up, obviously like us. D____ saw this as well. The other kittens panicked when they saw him do it. They ran off and hid. Freaky. He only did it that once but it was such aberrant behaviour they instinctively felt it was wrong..."


Read more about the monkeysphere at


NM Illuminati said...

This is very similar to the philosophies espoused by the Chaotes.

Matt "Max" Van said...

Well, Of course Geza X was right about evolutionary leaps, but I'm not entirely sold that these folks have "the power".
More explicitly, some nice ideas, and I'm all for diversity, but I'm not certain if this is either the strategy or the platform to effect real change.
What is? Well, call me conservative, but I still don't see what's wrong with a kautsky- styled slow motion march to socialism.
I can understand skepticism about socialism; after all, we've all been told over and over again, in this country that it's a "failed" system, because the State Capitalism of the former Soviets "failed" (I don't quite believe that it did. I tend more to think it acheived goals it didn't understand) but I guess not everybody has a hotline to Scandinavia, like I do.
Regardless, you're completely correct that we have to do something to promote just a little bit more unity...

Anonymous said...

I don't know what she meant by "identikit music," but I've recently gotten the hang of using radio as a tool for checking out new music, and I have to say I'm positively overwhelmed by what the kids are doing today. Not all of it, of course, just lots and lots and lots of amazing music.