Wednesday, October 01, 2008

It Pays To Rebel!

From the time we are old enough to understand language more complex than Mummy or Daddy, we are told that rebellion is a sure road to ruin. In most families if you express a desire to do something "out of the ordinary", such as become a muscian, artist, or writer out pours a litany. "You won't make any money." "You will be wretched and poor." "That's not for our kind of people." Then all the stories about the poverty, drug addiction and alcoholism of noted artists. Later on in high school or university, if you take an interest in peace, and the environment or join a socialist or anarchist group, then comes, "You will never get a good job with ideas like that." "Be practical." "You'll end up behind the eight ball." "Idealism is fine, but it won't pay the rent." "Wait till you are 40, you'll think different." It seems that unless you do what you are told, keep your thoughts to yourself and join the sheep, your future is toast. But, in reality, how good is the pay back from conforming?

Examine even briefly the history of the past hundred years and the results of doing what you are told don't seem so great. One result is premature death. Millions of men died in obeying the bosses call for victims in their wars. Many millions more were seriously injured or came back emotional wrecks. Then there was that little episode in Germany with the funny mustache guy. Genocide and a war that killed maybe 50 million people. All the work of obedient "good Germans." Roll ahead a few years. The men of the 1950's and 60's who worked obcessively all their lives because that was what they were supposed to do died in droves before or shortly after retirement.

The good little 1950's-60's housewives ended up alone in old age with no interests other than TV and bingo to comfort them. The people today who obey the media propaganda and simply must have three cars, a mini mansion and every new gadget that comes along, find themselves worked to death and in debt peonage. Then cigarettes, diet sodas, junk food, all consumed by the lemming masses whose pay back is obesity and cancer. And so on...

The vast majority of rebels who headed for the hills or took off to Mexico rather than get themselves killed in the trenches, survived. The socialists, anarchists and trade unionists who remained true to their convictions all their lives – and many did – ended up in old age admired and respected by a younger generation of militants. Addicted or alcoholic artists certainly existed, but they were always in the minority. Their misery was the product of their times, of the highly authoritarian and repressive system they lived under.

I do not personally know a single artist, musician, writer or social activist who is miserable, or an addict or drunkard. The vast majority of fellow rebels I have known and grown into middle age with, have been successful and managed to live lives, that while not up to the 3 car, McMansion "standard", are by no means impoverished. They have become respected in their fields, such as art, journalism, crafts, music, poetry, film, photography, teaching, medicine, research, politics or trade union work.

The real route to success is doing what you really want to do. To excel, one must push at the boundaries, to go beyond what was done before. Pushing the boundaries means refusing to do what you are told - in other words rebelling.

But it makes sense that the rebels do well and the sheep suffer. That is the whole point of the authoritarian structure that demands obedience and conformity. The rulers want the people to obey so they can be easily exploited. If everyone rebelled and thought for themselves the bosses would no longer be able to control the population. The "good worker" is supposed to be fleeced. Obedience is a suckers game.


Blogger Werner said...

One of the worst things about being in rebellious "mode" is that the people around you are not always on the same page. That's certainly true with some of the people I work with. Diplomacy only works so far although I try to give it my best shot. But like most people I have my limits. It would really be to the advantage of all anarchists (and other folks of course)if we could work independently of bosses and other jerks. Over the years I've found myself sometimes attacking people who are not my enemies largely because of the continuing effects of wage slavery. That's my excuse anyway. I always end up regretting all this so I suppose that's one good thing overall.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Nick Manley said...


It's nice to hear this. I sometimes worry greatly about what my interest in radicalism would do for my economic prospects. It doesn't help that I happen to talk to people on the very fringe of the political spectrum. It'd help if freedom oriented political radicalism had more clout here.

America has never had anything like the French CGT. The rightist end of the libertarian political spectrum hasn't faired very well either. The LP nominated Bob Barr and effectively became GOP lite. They'd fare much better by being an Alliance of the Libertarian Left mutual aid society or something. I could personally use some kind of rebel organization offering health insurance right now. I am dependent on my dad's insurance, and I have to be in school full time to have it.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Graeme said...

Very inspiring Larry. Especially now as I look for a job. Thanks.

12:35 PM  

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