Being a rebel has never been my forte. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always seen the romanticism in rebellion, from the heroes of the French Resistance to the ‘rebel scum’ who stood against Vader’s Empire. I grew up in the seventies & eighties, when every cop series featured the gritty detective fighting against the strictures of his superiors and getting the job done, dammit! The rebel was my hero, the aspirational self of my fantasies.
But, but, but. I had a loving but strict upbringing and never quite found it in myself to push the boundaries past my emotional comfort zones. There were those of my peers whose bravado I admired, but even as an avid ‘Beezer’ reader I couldn’t persuade the Numbskulls in my head to lighten up and push back against the man, man.
My teenage years were spent more in introspective angst than rebellious anger. My one revolutionary act was, at the behest of a friend, to skive off from school assembly in second year. While the headmaster delivered the missives of the day, we sheltered in the boys’ toilets, expecting to be discovered and lambasted by a teacher at any moment.
It was a long and pretty pointless twenty minutes. Rebellion was now associated with a faint aroma of urine, not a scent that would encourage repetition. The teenage dissidents, radicals and renegades still had the aura of ‘cool’ around them, but I would never again try to join their ranks.
As a young adult, I joined the flow of civilised life, getting a job and even doing a spell in the army. Those years of following commands that often made little sense perhaps loosened the orderly constraints that bound my mind. Respect for authority can’t help but take a hit when the measure of the men in authority suggests that something is lacking.
Moving into middle age, it’s clear to me now that life consists largely of bluff and bluster, that authority is often a cover for corruption or incompetence. Few people really know what they are doing and the most dangerous people are also the most certain, the most ideological. Society, I have learned, is a car with no brakes or steering wheel hurtling towards a cliff, where the person in the driver’s seat is trying to convince the passengers that they are in control. Climate change and war are imminent harbingers of civilizational doom, but people seem to be more concerned about Brexit. It’s like the passengers arguing over which air-freshener to hang up in the out-of-control car.
So perhaps the time is coming for my rebellious spirit to finally surface. Maybe it has been waiting for something worth rebelling against – a society where shareholders profits are more important than mass extinctions; a world where the few set themselves apart at the expense of the many. Such a world of inequality and environmental collapse may turn even the meekest among us to thoughts of mutiny.
I worry though where such a rebellion may take me; almost certainly to places less fragrant than the boys’ toilets in a 1980’s secondary school…