Sunday, December 24, 2006

Rebel Without a Cause

ok, I know. I KNOW! I have to stop stealing cheesy post titles from obvious pop culture references. it's painful and wrong. but they just scream to be stolen! can I help it if I've finally grown into the corny gene passed down by all Jewish parents and doomed to plague all of us for the rest of eternity? I submit to you that it is not. science and fate combine to create in me a guiltless victim, and that I will hold to.
so, as to the actual topic of this post. I've been thinking about this for awhile, and various recent posts on various blogs have gotten me thinking about it again. I got into a heated argument with a friend semi-recently about the definition of rebellion. now I know you can semantics about this any way you like, pretty much like anything else, but at the core of its actual meaning- what is it that makes someone rebellious? by definition. is the defiance of a rule or standard enough, or does it have to be defiance with a purpose? is it simply a railing against contraints? what about railing against ideas?
as a teenager, the idea of rebellion comes with certain connotations; leather jackets, motorcycles, piercings, illegal substance usage, shoplifting. or, if you belong to the frum community, not wearing socks with a short skirt, a lower neckline, shorter sleeves, dying one's hair; long hair and hemp wear, if you're a guy, and sometimes all black clothing and nail polish...for everyone, staying out way too late and hanging out with people of the opposite, piercings, illegal substance usage, and shoplifting. in fact, these earmarks are so easy to identify, it makes it quite a simple thing for teenagers who want to act out to figure out what to do to make that statement. but are they really making a statement?
I have often wondered how many teenagers did things solely because, according to the media promulgated stereotype of a teenager, that was what they were supposed to be doing. or thought they were supposed to be doing. how many of them actually cared or thought at all about it, and how many just didn't want to be the frummy ones.
I have often said that me and my friends in high school were the most rebellious ones there. let me clarify; we were all goody-goodies. a good majority of my class would fit that description. when the teacher hadn't shown up and half the class period had gone by, we were sitting in our seats doing homework. but we all longed desperately to change the system. not one of us was satisfied with the way we were being educated, and a good few of us resolved to go into education just to reform the system. even some of the most Bais Yaakov among us, even those who openly admitted to believing in the system and the hashkafa in general, but still recognized where it was messed up, and wanted to fix it. we discussed it at length -where the flaws were, their causes and effects, and what could possibly be done to make it any different. we went through nearly every day examining all our teachers and authority figures, analyzing what we would take and what we would leave, what we would change around. we wanted to revolutionize from the inside.
meanwhile, the girls who wore too much make-up and too low necklines, who hung out with boys and did various other things frowned upon by our school and by the system in general....most of them straightened up by senior year so they could get into the right seminary and land a good shidduch.
I'm not being entirely clear. since my experience is largely with frum girls, this is the demographic I will speak from. and the so-called "rebellious" ones from this demographic can be broken down into categories.
1) the kids who come from good families (bonus points if parents are on the board/have a lot of money) who decide to screw around and have fun in high school, bc they know they can get away with it, then straighten up either by senior year or in Israel, and get serious just in time for the shidduch market, which will overlook teenage indiscretions if the family has enough money. or if you're a boy.
2) the people who were never down with the system, and made no bones about making this clear to everyone. vaguely anti-social, don't deal well with authority figures, although they may not actually be into any "delinquent" behaviors. will have a very hard time getting a shidduch and will eventually move to NY where they can blend in and live their own lives more easily.
3) people who appear to be down with the system bc they play by the rules, but really hate it intensely, or hate its flaws intensely. will either find another community, or else come back to their own community and try to reform it from the inside out.

which of these people are the true rebels? those that stand for something and try to do something about it? or those who are only concerned with having a rebellious image, or the good time that only rebellious people can have, while planning to fall in with the game plan eventually anyway?

all my life I've been rebelling against the system, partly bc I thought as an intellectual, it was what I was supposed to be doing. and partly bc they got a whole bunch of stuff wrong, in my opinion. but I think in my heart of hearts, I always wanted them to be sort of right, to have basically gotten it. and then one day I woke up and realized that no, no they don't. at best they get about half of it. it's damn depressing to finally be vindicated. so where does that put me in the equation? a good girl, intellectually rebellious, who wanted to fall in with the game plan to reform the system, and now can barely stand to be within the confines of any community at all bc of the neverending predictability? who understands the need for a system while needing to be outside of it? in the infallibly human process of perception, I can't escape categorization, if only out of the need to remove myself from it. but that in itself is a category, the category of all those liberal intellectuals who refuse to be categorized. which is basically a cop-out. in backing away from one box, we inevitably back ourselves into another. there is nothing but boxes, it's an endless maze of box after box after boxafter box.... anyway....the point of all this is...rebellion is another name for another box, another steryotype, already pre-planned and paved, at least the persona is.

so if real rebellion is more than just a persona, a role waiting for someone to step into it, then what is it?


Blogger Chasidheretic said...

Seems like you are rebelling against the rebellious—the ultimate rebellion, huh?

1:36 PM  
Blogger Shtreimel said...

Stupid Google. I always go by the name Shtreimel. They must have picked on me because I refused (until now) to migrate both accounts into the "new blogger".

Almighty Google, damn it. They act like a real biblical god now.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

not rebelling against the rebellious so much as the classically accepted construct of what rebellion is supposed to be. and, ok, maybe also the people who think they're rebellious.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Tobie said...

I think that the only way to be truly rebellious is to stop worrying about the whole thing and just worry about being yourself. which might just be rebellious, by everyone else's standards, but who cares?

11:30 AM  
Blogger yitz.. said...

imho, Ga'avah is the essence of rebellion. Whatever it is, if it's without ga'avah, it isn't really rebellion. And if it's ga'avah without external expression, it's still rebellion.

just my philosophical 2 cents

4:12 AM  
Blogger Miri said...

I see your point; but on the other hand, how could you allow for free thought at all if you say that all rebellion is assur bc of gaaveh? I'm not sure that's what G-d wants from us. I kind of think He likes the whole religion is something which is dynamic and evolves and stuff. can't have that without a tinge of rebellion here and there.

12:55 PM  
Blogger yitz.. said...

i didn't say all rebellion is assur, only that all rebellion is based in ga'avah.

you can act out of pride in something other than yourself.

Mordechai was a rebel because he held God higher than Haman. Same with Avraham. Eliyahu haNavi on Har Karmel.. etc etc etc. Pinhas ben Aharon

There's holy ga'avah. Just like there's holy chutzpah. Just like there's shtut d'kdushah.

6:17 AM  
Blogger Miri said...

this is true;and plays into one of my main ideas about G-d which is that I think sometimes He wants us to use our so called negative traits like gaaveh and anger.if that's what it takes to keep the Torah dynamic, than I think He'd prefer it to our sitting meekly with folded hands and doing nothing out of "respect" and "modesty." only when the situation calls for it of course.

9:27 AM  

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