On being a rebel

Being a dissenting voice, and listening to dissenting voices, are key skills in a developing world.  Photo by Chris Slupski on Unsplash

Rebelliousness is an art.  It’s not everyone that can argue back against something holding power over them.  It’s not everyone who can stand up to others, against an established system.


There are many improvements in society that happened because someone bothered to realise that things could be done better.  It’s how societies develop.  In the beginning, rough order predominates: the main concern is to get things under control.  It’s only later that more subtle forms of control and discipline can be exercised.

Because societies evolve, we actually need individuals to speak up and advocate change.  If this did not happen, communities would become quite oppressive, blindly obeying rules, even when they did not suit a lot of the community’s members.

So, if you are called a rebel, be a little proud.  It means that you have been recognised as someone who is prepared to argue against the established order.  Without behaviour like yours, nothing would change or develop.


Take a moment to imagine yourself as a little society of individuals, all crammed inside one human body.  There is peaceful you, energetic you, argumentative you, considerate you, passionate you, artistic you, bored you, strange you, familiar you, friendly you, time-alone you.

If you kept things the same all the time, all your different selves would never have a chance to speak up for themselves, and argue for change.  Your lifestyle might suit some of them, but not all of them.  Maybe your life of community is starving time-alone you of solitude.  Maybe your peaceful manner is starving argumentative you of speech.

By being attentive to your inner community of selves, you become more aware of how to integrate the different parts of your personality into a person who is more balanced, more wide-ranging, and more flexible.  So listen to the little inner voices of rebellion, before they become revolutions inside you.


In the same way, what are you not empathising with in your friends?  What aspects of themselves are you not allowing in your life, because you are afraid of them, or disagree with them, or disapprove of them?  Are you so sure that your friends are wrong?  Perhaps they can enrich your life more if you allow them to rebel against your rules.  It would be more humble of you, maybe, to allow for this.

You could ask your friends what new ideas they have; question them about what they would like to happen next.  This adds a degree of variety to your life that it is hard to develop for yourself.  After all, you are only one person.  But you are surrounded by a world full of people who think slightly differently to you.  Instead of trying to rule them all, therefore, perhaps you could let more of them in to speak to you with their thoughts, ideas and suggestions.


Just for today, listen out for different ideas.  Look in society for people who might be fighting for change, and see if you can listen a bit harder to their voice.  Perhaps dip insde yourself as well, and see if certain parts of you, which you have undervalued, want to come out to play more.  And maybe listen more carefully to your friends.  What have you been ignoring, that they have been saying?  What, in your behaviour, is not helping them? How can you help them more?

Just for today, try to hear some different voices, the ones you don’t normally hear.  Give new ideas air time in your mind, and see if there might be a future for them.



Rebelliousness is a valuable thing.  It releases people and societies from oppression, and helps them to develop.  Whether in society, inside ourselves, or among our friends, we can gain from listening to voices of rebellion.  Giving a voice to rebellious thoughts can open up the way to an enriched future.

Be prepared to shake things up.  In particular, make an effort, sometimes, to listen out for under-represented voices, and give them air time.