What’s a Rebel?

What is a rebel?

It’s been fashionable to be seen as a “rebel” for a couple of generations now.  It’s cool to be different, to be defiant, to speak truth to power.

Is that truly being a “rebel” or is it in its own twisted way a type of conformity?

Those of us with teenagers could say that our children being rebellious  is the norm during adolescence.  It’s a rite of passage to try out your abilities to change your little part of the world.  Even if the rebellion is something small like only wearing a certain brand of t-shirt, to a teenager it’s an important statement of their burgeoning independence.

So, are they rebels?

Is it rebellion to join a political or social group outside of the mainstream?  Or is it the fact that there’s a group make it less of a rebellion, and more of an attempt to conform to that group’s belief system?

I always laugh when I read articles about “rebellious” celebrities, or people who claim to stand up to powerful figures because they’re so brave and not because the cause they’re standing up for is the cause du jour.

Like many terms, “rebel,” is no longer used correctly, and has lost a lot of its meaning.

Even when the film “Rebel Without a Cause” was made, the James Dean character was just a troubled teenager, struggling to find out where he fit in the world.  Are people like that “rebelling” because they’re trying to get attention, or are they truly “rebels”?

I’ve come to believe that true rebels aren’t doing what they do to attract attention to themselves, they aren’t doing it to become famous, or to impress someone, or for any other reason other than they’re just being themselves.

It’s extremely difficult to just be yourself.  The act of standing up against those who would take advantage of you, or those who would mock you for being different, or even those who see something in who you are that they want to acquire for themselves, is difficult.  The world is very seductive.  It’s understandable that most want to be like others, to fit in, to be one of the gang.  Some people will do anything to squeeze themselves into the mold of someone they want to be like, regardless of whether or not it suits them.

Rebels won’t, and frankly can’t, do that.

They stand a little outside not to be trendy or cool, but because that’s where they’re comfortable.  They can appreciate the rest of the world and what it has to offer, but it doesn’t feel right to them to be part of that world.  They reject  it, not because it’s horrible, but because for them, it’s not the right fit.

I’ve struggled with conformity my whole life.  For years I was rather meek and quiet, observing what was going on around me and realizing that I didn’t fit in.  I had friends, and found out later I was considered “popular” in high school, (that was a shock!), but even then I felt the need to be a little outside of the mainstream.  While others were doing one thing, I was doing something else.  I’d enjoy listening to a new band, and then when it became popular, I moved on.  I’ve often wondered if it was because I didn’t want to be a part of the “norm” or if I’d really grown tired of something I’d been doing that suddenly became popular.

Part of it is that as an artist I’m always thinking ahead.  Conformity is something I fight, I don’t want to do what other people are doing, and nothing drives me crazier than when I realize that someone is copying my style.

I once told a former boss that it was always better to be setting trends, not following them, and that the ability to leave something behind when it was “done” for you was essential to staying ahead of the game.

She never got the message.  Although she’s using the “setting trends, not following them” mantra in her marketing materials, she’s still where she was years ago, not willing to let go and move on.  But then, she’s not a rebel and never was, and she’s been successful so it works for her.

I believe that rebels are people who are outside of the normal human experience in that they avoid conforming not because they necessarily are opposed to it, but because they just can’t do it.  It’s not in their DNA to be like everyone else and to follow everyone else from trend to trend and fad to fad.

Rebels try to stay true to themselves, to who they are, to who they have to be.  They share their gifts with a world which will sometimes pick them up and make them popular, only to move on to someone else.  A true rebel will continue to be who they are, even after being picked up and dumped.   They won’t chase after the fame again, they’ll just go back to who they are.

One thing I have noticed is that a lot of people admire and would like to be like the “rebel” in their life.  They appreciate their ability to be themselves, and to not feel self-conscious about it.  They are also jealous of their ability to make decisions not based on fear, but on what feels right to them.  Not all rebels are successful in business or the arts, but I believe that those who are comfortable in their own skin and doing what feels right to them, are a lot happier.

When it comes down to it, isn’t that what really matters?

So what does this have to do with what we are trying to do here at E&O?

Well, it’s all about thinking for yourself.  We know that there are folks on both sides of the aisle who hum along with what they consider their side’s talking points.  They would never consider ever voting for a Democrat, or a Republican.  Their identity is tied up in their political orientation.

There are attributes that seem to be ascribed to both sides.  Democrats are supposed to be more caring and concerned about the little people, and Republicans are supposed to be about holding people down and only caring about the wealthy.

The reality is that very wealthy people are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans, and that Republicans give substantially more to charity than Democrats do.  So who’s holding people down, and who ‘s more caring?  It’s a conundrum.

That’s why it’s so important to us that people stop viewing each other based on preconceived notions based on everything from race to political affiliation.  It’s time we accepted each other as individuals and appreciated those things that make us all unique.

I say, let’s all be rebels, and be free!

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