Two Types of Rebellion, Part Two: Acceptable Disobedience and Unacceptable Obedience


It’s well known that you can gum up a bureaucracy by following all the rules perfectly, literally,  and inflexibly. It’s even been used as a tactic of protest. 

You can also push back against a social system by taking the expectations TOO literally, like actually openly choosing virginity, which is what the churches preach and the schools encourage,  but no one much expects teens to actually do. 

But real pushback against expectations comes with the near certainty of real abuse and ostracization. 

Taking the rules too seriously really didn’t cost me much: I’d been socially awkward since early childhood and had no popularity to hoard or squander. I had no game, and would probably have been just as virginal had I tried to “get some.” 

The few close friends I had were mostly on the same page and were geeks and nerds enough to bond together regardless of any differences we had.

And high schoolers never drink good alcohol. Skipping cheap beer and liquor (and the associated hangover) is no loss.

Waiting for good wine and single-malt scotch was surely worth it. You can read that as a metaphor for the other things I skipped in high school, if you’d like. 

But gay and transgender teens with much greater social skills than I have literally faced death just for admitting to who they are. And it still happens sometimes. 

Those who don’t face violence still often face rejection, even from family. They often face cruelty,  discrimination, misgendering,  and a cavalcade of ignorant, invasive questions from people who should know how to mind their own business. 

And they’re often not even intentionally rebelling. Their mere existence is an affront to the system. 

Often, as a nerd, I wondered how the system could tell us to do all these things:  get good grades, say no to drugs and alcohol, remain sexually abstinent, and then treat us so terribly.

I never understood the point of the rules, which is to enforce conformity and consumerism, nor how vital a role acceptable disobedience plays.

In short, I didn’t understand anything about the social structure,  and I certainly didn’t understand real resistance. 

And I had no idea what real outsiders faced. 

Book sense I had in spades … common sense, not so much.

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