To Rebel is to Conform

David Dunn ’23

Rebellion is often associated with being young, as young people look upon the world with a fresh gaze and are quick to point out any wrong that they see. As a college student especially, it can be tempting to adopt counter-cultural practices, or to align oneself with social and activist movements. In fact, college campuses are often hotspots for activism, and it would not take much effort to recall the last time a college or university campus made the news due to student protests, activist work or some other form of rebellion. 

Being in college affords one a lot of freedom and with that freedom comes the urge to better one’s surroundings. When becoming involved with organizations or causes, whether they be social, political, religious, etc., one naturally begins to rebel against some sort of status-quo. We join these causes because we want to advance them in some way. For instance, one can volunteer with a political party to advance a mission statement tied to legislation and public policy. 

However, one thing that we students often neglect to consider is that in rebelling against how things are, we conform to some kind of idea of how they ought to be. Worryingly, however, we conform to someone else’s idea of what they should be. For instance, when I think of rebellion, counter-culture or some other such concept, my mind immediately goes towards the punk-rock movement that swept the western world in the late 20th century. Punks were often recognizable due to their clothing, jewelry, spiky accessories and piercings. Further, they often sported bright, unconventional hair styles and wore clothes depicting band symbols or [anti]political slogans. Truly, the punks of yesteryear were keen on radical independence and distancing themselves from the authority, whatever that meant to each individual person in the movement.

However, I would argue that all punks still conformed to an idea of what it meant to be punk, what it meant to go against the culture of their time. Worryingly, this conception of being punk was determined by influencers, such as bands, and was quickly jumped on by corporate entities. Quickly, the punk world became filled with ‘posers’ who did not share the same interest in individual expression. 

With all of this being said, we as students must keep in mind that to rebel is to conform, and we must be careful what we are conforming to. This is especially so when it comes to politics and social activism. While we all might be passionate about making real change in the world, which is a noble pursuit, we must be cautious that in doing so we do not conform to some ideology or institution that does not have our same interests in mind. It can be easy to forge alliances with individuals or organizations over one common goal, but quickly get swept into dogma that you weren’t sympathetic towards to begin with. What is crucial, then, is to ensure that the organizations or institutions that you support are authentic, and align with what you truly value.

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