Rebellion: An act of violent or open resistance to an established government or ruler, the action or process of resisting authority, control, or convention.
Listening to Louis Zamperini’s incredulous tale in Laura Hillenbrand’s book Unbroken of unending survival through Olympic trials, physical ordeals, narrow war escapes, crashing planes, 47 days at sea in a bullet-holed raft, POW camps brutal enough to break bones and souls, I hear survival, and resilience, all backed with a nagging and impish rebellion.
And I wonder… does rebellion actually abide often with/through resiliency and perseverance? Is the oft-touted-as-bad attribute of rebellion a good and necessary thing? Is rebellion naughty? Or necessary?
My nose ring when I was eighteen (before nose rings were acceptable, cool, or in any way fashionable — it was 1990, after all) was an outright act of rebellion that elicited expected anger and frustration from my parents. But it was only an expression of identity rather than a flouting of taboos or of rescuing the world from bad practices. It was probably more naughty than necessary.
Other forms of my rebellion are more necessary (or so I believe). My own tinges of rebellion, especially when ordered to do something at work with which I may not agree, subtly (well, sometimes not too subtly) and suddenly appear. You want each class to build a gingerbread house for a competition when I think that’s a complete waste of food in a time when some of our students come to school without meals? Okay: my class will build that “gingerbread house” out of cans and boxes of food that will then be donated to the food bank.
Rebellion occurs when oppression reaches a level that we can no longer tolerate in good conscience. It occurs when our vision for extraordinary living is more compelling than our urge for comfort and status quo. Scott Chafee
Did I have to rebel in any way close to Zamperini (hiding a personal, tiny journal at a Japanese POW camp, heisting newspapers to discover war news and food to avoid death, starting a fire with boot laces and an apple crate to keep he and fellow prisoners warm even while knowing a harsh beating would likely ensue)? No. Have I rebelled with as much force as Tawakkol Karman (known as well as “Iron Woman”), a Yemeni journalist, activist, and politician who pressured the president to step down and also attempted to up the legal marriage age of women to 17? Of course not. Just because I haven’t been as famous as army fatigue-wearing Cuban spy Vilma Espín Guillois or Guyana’s first female president Janet Jagan, are my actions fruitless? Nope.
Does it mean my seemingly simple acts of rebellion — the ones done to change the world in a positive way — are meaningless? Again: no.
We all make a difference. Every act of rebellion, though considered naughty by some, can be deemed necessary. Corinne Rodrigues refers to these acts of rebellion as “positive rebellion” (rather than simply being self-destructive or violent ones). Calling someone out on their bullying tactics or inappropriate words/language/jokes is powerful. Voting, refusing to buy plastic-wrapped vegetables (and probably paying slightly more), declining alcohol when everyone else insists on its necessity (or, conversely, enjoying some while others judge) may seem meager attempts at rebellion when, in reality, they are still that: acts of rebellion. Necessary acts of rebellion.
Rebellion and resistance are often most effective when they keep us sane, happy, and capable of empathy in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Kristen Kalp
What acts of rebellion have you accomplished?