When I was in my mid-20s, someone said to me, “you’re a rebel without a cause.” I was surprised to be called a rebel at all (being a person of no consequence), but when I thought about it, I wondered why he considered – after most of the discussions we had shared – that I had no cause? Isn’t the phrase rather flippant and belittling, particularly coming from someone who knew some of my main hang-ups?
Is it a way of saying “you’re always annoyed about something, and it’s always the little things”?
Maybe (without his quite meaning to) it’s a way of saying “I’ve never experienced what you’ve experienced and so it’s of no importance to me. If I don’t know what you experience, then it’s probably something that doesn’t even exist.”
I was uncertain what he meant – but something about the look on his face gave me the impression he was feeling particularly pleased with himself that day – “look, I’m using a poetic turn of phrase while being perceptive and sceptical. I don’t need to listen – I’ve got you figured out.”
I wonder if he realized I would remember and worry about it long after the other, more thoughtful things he said had been forgotten.
Well, years have passed since then, so would he still think it applies? I’m older now and… well, I tried to say “more mellow” but I really don’t think that’s true. Many of the same things trouble me, even more than they did when I was younger. Some issues I understand more and have quietly ditched by the wayside. I’ve found other things to rebel against. There are things I used to be OK with but along the way the red mist started to descend.
The main difference with growing older is that I slide away from some battles or phrase myself more carefully – well a few of you may not believe it, but I do :-). I could be quite a confrontational rattlesnake when I was in my 20s, but a lot of the time it was misplaced wit, or an attempt to impress with my frank views – immature, yes. Other times I didn’t really believe anybody was paying attention. The more frustrated I got, the harder I complained. Sometimes all I needed was a soothing “quite right too” to make me shut up. Try telling that to my victims though. I haven’t necessarily changed my mind about whatever issues upset me before… I handle them more cautiously, making more effort to see all sides – and ending up more confused in the process.
Meanwhile, it’s still a world where some of the people you clash with don’t appreciate what you’re trying to say even if you spell it out fifty times. If they respond, it’s with a completely distorted reflection of what you said. They never get it straightened out, often because they don’t want to – that’s something you do realize with age! In mankind there’s a strong desire to believe in pure goodness and black evil – folk can be all too willing to file you under the ‘E’.
Getting back to this expression ‘rebel without a cause’, I suspect that it says as much about the person who uses it as the one it’s used about. Is the first person listening? REALLY listening? …Probably not.
Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this post when it was hosted on Blogigo:
ilovetchocky wrote at Jul 12, 2006 at 17:14:
I also feel at times that we are all walking around, making noise, only hearing ourselves.
Dilan wrote at Jul 11, 2007 at 07:10:
I think you’re right… if A tells B that B is opinionated, doesn’t that mean A is opinionated as well?
Know ye this: The world just doesn’t understand those who don’t conform with it. The world works off the basis that ‘society’ is *always* right… 😉
While I think that pure good and evil can exist, there are conflicting opinions on what this pure good/evil is… and a load of strife ‘cos of that….
Reckon you’re an anarchist/libertarian of sorts (no bad thing!)… and I guess that makes two of us…