Talkin’ about a rebellion

“Seeing everybody makes me realise rock ‘n’ roll has become respectable. What a bummer.”
– Ray Davies, on accepting the Kinks’ induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame

It occurred to me while thinking about that which I value in life – a long story, and please don’t ask me to explain it at this point – that a great deal of what I consider the most important, most historic, or most significant things in the world, beyond that which is immediately personal, has to do with the concept of rebellion. The American Revolution. Rock ‘n’ roll. The quest for equal rights, and civil rights. The Apollo Project. Science fiction, role-playing games, personal computers, and other forms of empowering geekdom…

To those that know me, I may seem anything but rebellious. I’ve got two kids, a lovely wife, a townhouse in the ‘burbs, and a Buick. I’m often in button-down shirts, wire-rimmed glasses, and am usually described as exceedingly white. (It’s funny how things change. Fifteen or so years ago, people just called me a geek. Now I get to be the iconic stand-in for an entire race! Me and Weird Al!) But there are so many forms of rebellion…you can be Johnny Rotten, snottily telling off a slimy BBC show host, or Albert Einstein, blasting open the field of physics after it had long since been considered comatose since Newton.

It’s fashionable to say that being your own guy is plenty enough rebellion for anyone, and there’s some truth to that, but it means many things to many people, and so many whom I see mouthing that particular platitude are so utterly ovine that it makes me want to spill my lunch. (Don’t worry; I had to look it up, too.) Having said that, I’m not certain I’m too much better; my most rebellious trait seems to be holding and loudly promoting an unusual political affiliation to the point that it annoys my friends.

I should also point out that my insistence in saying foreign phrases, particularly in the foreign language I know best, in the accent in which natives speak them, is viewed as absolutely insufferable by my teenaged daughter. I don’t plan to change that, because, to me, the way one says a word is at least as important as how one spells it, and we don’t go around spelling everything borrowed in thick-headedly literal phonetic American English. Also, my daughter is teenaged, as I said, so everything I do is insufferable…anyway, nothing too radical going on there.

The most important revolution, I believe, happens between the ears. This does have the unfortunately side effect of causing popular revolution to end up something like this, but at the same time, I can’t think of another way to do it…and once one has reached that stage of enlightenment that this sort of revolution brings, leaving things status quo just isn’t an option.

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3 Responses

  1. I don’t know that I’d consider dynamic change to be necessarily ‘rebellious’ – I don’t think Einstein’s theories were conflict-driven, for example, whatever controversies followed – the photo-electric effect was just as ‘revolutionary’ as the theory of relativity, for example, and both built on the work of other physicists which were part of the ‘establishment’.

    Sometimes it’s ‘revolutionary’ sometimes it’s ‘progressive’, but you’re firmly in the ‘change is good’ camp.

  2. to efbq: I think it’s situational. Sometimes rebellion is just a means to an end, but there are countless examples of people (not scooterbird, just making the point) who view rebellion as both a means and an end. Even the “change is good” statement… change isn’t by definition always good. The end of the change (or at least the direction) has to be good. Process isn’t everything.

    Scooterbird: I think you’re right that rebellion/revolution always has to come internally. As you said before, keeping an open mind about personal assumptions is critical to avoid having a “Hitchens moment.”

    I make a big deal about being deliberately closed-minded; using my opinions as stated fact; and using the broadest possible brushes to paint as many archetypes of people as possible. It’s fun to do it, and it ups the ante for the challenge. Plus, it’s my own mini-rebellion against the whole waffly, “open-minded,” stand-for-nothing liberal stereotype.

    Thing is, I change my mind too and I let my own opinions evolve. In fact, the hard-line stance I appear to take on all beliefs simply makes me appreciate it even more when people can get in and convince me I’ve been wrong.

    So, the question mark vs. the period (or in my case, exclamation point) can be stylistic, but the bottom line remains that learning more about yourself and your beliefs is an absolute good. And you know how rarely I believe anything can be labeled an “absolute good.”

  3. Reading back over it, I did conflate “rebellion” with “revolution” just a bit; the first implies a bit more volition. Einstein was revolutionary; Richard Feynman was rebellious. I consider both to be pretty good – particularly where there is a creative force involved. I think change is at its best when you create that which will replace the current accepted state. The Greens, as a self-criticism, have too many “revolutionaries” who have no idea how to build a party. The result is the “New Left”/U.S. socialist movement – hopelessly fractured and of no use politically.

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