In the fifth grade, my teacher gave me editorial space on the back of the classroom door. “Anna Beach’s Things That Need to Change,”was something that I wrote and updated maybe a half-dozen times, and whose topics were based almost entirely on complaints from other members of my family shared around the dinner table. The fact that my sister had seen a mouse in the high school turned into a scathing indictment of its structural integrity. When the electronics store was out of a certain kind of VCR my father wanted to buy, I wrote an exposéon the disturbing epidemic of bait-and-switch. It was, in a way, an act of rebellion, of outspokenness, of me saying to my classmates, “Oh, you like N*Sync? I write editorials, motherfucker.”
I find myself returning to this situation often, not only because it is absurd and comical, but because I think it illustrates one of the curious things about rebellion, in general. When we rebel, there is such an individualistic power about it. We may say out loud, “Power to the people,”and mean it, but we also think to ourselves, “Yeah! I kick ass for making this statement!” This is especially true in social media: having a profile picture that is of Che Guevara may very well symbolize that you know everything about him and agree with his work, but it is just as likely that you simply know he was a rebel, and you think that’s a bitchin’graphic, and it will let your facebook friends know you’re cool. This isn’t to say that there aren’t completely legitimate mass rebellion efforts exercised by people who are directly affected by serious oppression. It is simply to say that, in the world I know, the world of Western hemisphere upper-middle-class white folks, blatant and brutal oppression is not something most people are acquainted with.
I wrote those editorials because I needed to set myself apart from the culture of Limited Too (see: http://iwasa90skid.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/90s-fashion-limited-too.html) and cattiness that I found myself in. However, my “rebellion”was, in the end, a reflection of those around me I was inexorably connected to. One of my biggest challenges as an adult has been separating myself from the more negative aspects of my family members and the community in which I grew up that I internalized unknowingly. As soon as I let go of their oppression, of the perceived injustice committed against them, I had no need to rebel on their behalf anymore. If I am the only person left in my head, then I am also the only person who can oppress me. Rebellion has a place, certainly, but I think that most of the “rebellions”I have witnessed are, more than anything else, people struggling to escape from those aspects of society and people which they have internalized that say constantly, “You are not enough.” If, one by one, we can reach a place of being enough, of not allowing simple things like a mouse in a hall at school or a ten-dollar price differential on a VCR upset us, we can move beyond the need to rebel, to create conflict. We can stop writing editorials and start living.