Rebel Rebel

Recently my entire class has been asked a question by our sociology teacher: do you think there are many rebels nowadays, and why? The answer to that was one of very few things the entirety of my class has ever agreed on: there’s not much rebellion today. Why? People don’t care about the community anymore, someone said. Young people have everything they want and no need to complain, said another. Then another one jumped in to say that we are manipulated to think we have everything we need and want, when actually we’re seduced and hypnotized into fake needs by the marketing industry and the media. Each of these answers deserves a special post for itself; alas, I decided to sum them up in a unique article about the world we live in today. Not very easy to manage, but I’ll do my best…

In my opinion, it’s true that people don’t care much about the community. However, I don’t think it’s a syndrome of the new age; I think that it’s in people’s minds to tend to take care of themselves and their own needs before taking care of the community. People are altruistic, yes, but that refers to an individual helping an individual; when it comes to a group or a mass, altruism changes into something that psychologists call motive of divided responsibility. An individual tends to think that, since there are other people in the group, someone else will surely react and there’s no need for them to get involved. Bad or good, nowadays it’s becoming the rule of our lives: don’t take part if you don’t have to. There are many people, young or not, discussing the world around them every day and coming across various problems that need solving and things that need changing; but they do not get involved. They don’t do anything. It all remains in the domain of fiction, because I can’t deal with that. I don’t want to start anything. Why bother? It’s such a drag. In the end, I’m not doing that bad to want to make a significant change. I’m happy with what I have and too lazy/unwilling/insecure to argue. There are people out there who are up to it. It’s not my place to do it. And so on.

This is where, I think, the problem arose – and that too has been mentioned as one of the answers to the original question: apparently, we have all we need, so why complain? Okay, we may not have all – one might even be so bold to say that, with mankind’s increasing greed, we’ll never have it all – but we have quite enough to keep satisfied and quiet. Yes, a change might be made here and there, but it’s not that important – it’s not absolutely necessary – so nobody protests. This is what I think differs now from 1980s or 1960s or 1789. People back then were shoved into a corner and told to make a life out of that. They had problems that choked them, socially, financially or any other way. Nowadays, people of the modern world seemingly don’t have such threats.

Or do they? Aren’t we forgetting, say, North Korea, Middle East, Africa…? Those people seem to be pretty life-choked – and they are very well protesting as much as they can. And what are we doing to help them? Is it getting any better? The answers are disappointing to the least.

Perhaps that’s another reason people don’t rebel – they think it’s in vain. What’s the point of trying, working hard to be heard, having so much at stake, if the achievement is next to naught? What’s the point in making a fool of yourself? – because there is no one else protesting, you’re the first one. You need to start it. What, me? Oh, no, not me. I’d rather somebody else did that. But we all would, wouldn’t we?

This is, of course, connected to the previous factors, most of all with the absence of necessity. Which then leads us to the question: if it were necessary, if the situation would be so bad that it would be absolutely necessary, would we rebel? In my opinion, we most certainly would. It is not in human nature to suffer what it doesn’t like.

It’s just that, as strange as it might sound, we like this. We’re used to how things work, we have enough to be satisfied (or we think so), so we ignore what we dislike, since we don’t dislike it extremely. We grew accustomed with certain unspoken rules of today’s society – just like all people did during history. And I believe we will overcome them, as they did; but I don’t think it’ll be done in rebellion. It seems to me that the rules will, one by one, slowly drift away and be replaced by new ones, without anyone noticing it as it happens. There will be no great revolutions or drastic changes, as one age will simply leak into another.

This is my point of view and it might not (actually, it probably won’t) agree with yours. Bear in mind that I live in Serbia, where things hardly ever change, not only because of what I’ve listed here, but also for a number of other reasons connected to Serbian mentality, national history and general state in the country. All of those have made this a very interesting topic for me to explore.

So, what’s the conclusion here? Are there rebels? Where are they? Should there be more of them? And how do we make it happen? What do you think?

Now what? (Smudged future pt. 2)

Okay, so I’ve established that school taught me pretty much nothing, and the world is now expecting me to do something with the nothing I’ve learned.

Let’s ignore the absurdity for a moment and focus on me. At this point, I have a choice. I can either stay next-to-naught educated, belay all the wrong things (because there is no way you can make up for twelve years of missed lessons) and try to focus on making a living out of what I have – a little bit of talent, a little bit of pretending, a little bit of faking and you got yourself a life. Or I can reject a partial, insecure life in which anyone can crush me with my own ignorance, and choose knowledge instead.

What knowledge, you ask? Why, the knowledge that I want, of course.

Let me explain.

First, I need to sort out what I like and dislike, what I love and what I want. What is it I want to do all my life? Photography? Journalism? Theoretical math? Making airplane models out of chopsticks? Whatever it is, you must know. You need to know yourself very well and, therefore, stick to your decision once you decide – no matter how hard it may be.

Here comes the tricky part. You now need to see your options, possibilities, about doing what you want to do. What will it take? A diploma, a working experience, a business plan? In most cases, you will find that you need to learn more. You know some, but not much, of what you need to know in order to, say, go to university or open your own workshop or give tango lessons or whatever. Before you start working on getting what you want, you need to learn. On your own. The school might have something to help you with, but the chances are, you will have to do most of it by yourself. That’s why it’s important to bring the right decision: if it is right, you will be sure of it and you won’t have a reason to give up when it gets difficult. And it will get difficult – sooner or later you will run into something you can’t understand or can’t deal with, something that will confuse you, discourage you, make you feel unfit for your goal. That’s when the decision itself becomes the most important: be sure that it’s the right thing for you to do, that that’s what suits you and that’s what you should be doing. Only then will you be able to continue, stronger and more confident than ever. And as you move forwards, you will realize that you’re actually perfecting yourself and getting better at not only what you want to do, but also at doing other things, at understanding people’s ideas, situations, and generally, at handling what comes your way.

That is what you need. That is what no school has ever been able to teach you: working towards your goal is building you up. It’s significant, because you’re doing it on your own – you claim control and responsibility over it. It’s yours. Your life, your future, your reality, in your hands.

Make it something you’ll be proud of.

Smugded future

If I had been taught from the beginning, would my fears now be winning? – Pearl Jam, Education

I don’t know if you’ve ever wondered about Serbian education system. Probably not. Well, here’s an easy explanation of how it works: it doesn’t.

It’s supposed to work like this: give kids eight years of primary education, that should be enough for them to decide what they want to do with their lives. Based on that, they choose a high school, and based on that choice they can or cannot go to a certain faculty, a choice that results out of twelve previous years of education.

It is seemingly designed to give us as much choice as possible. However, in Serbian high schools, you only get to choose which one you go to. Most schools have two, three or several educational profiles, often not too different from each other, so you pick one of them, and based on that, you get a list of subjects you’ll be studying in the next four years. No choices. Nobody asks you about your interests. You don’t get to say “I would like to study this” or “I’m not at all interested in this” about anything.

Another problem about Serbian education is its poor quality. As for the teachers, they suck. I’ve been at school for almost twelve years now, and I’ve had maybe five good teachers out of, say, fifty. They have little knowledge of either what they’re supposed to be teaching, or how they’re supposed to be teaching it. Most of the time they don’t even bother – not even with talented students who attend competitions. On the other hand, the entire web of subjects and the division of their parts into our school years is done quite badly. We’re taught to separate and divide rather than to connect and make a whole of our knowledge; what we end up with is an insecure mind with little knowledge and less certainty of how, when and whether it’s even possible to use it. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? What have I been doing for the past twelve years of my life? And then your mind snaps as you realize: shit! I’m supposed to do something with what I’ve learned! But what? How can I, when I haven’t learned anything?

That’s when it turns out that actually, all this time, you were just wasting time. There’s a handy word for that in Serbian – džabalebarenje. It means sitting around, doing nothing, or doing something insignificant.

Why is nobody focusing on this? Why does no one think of this? Is everyone really so indifferent about their education? I want to learn – to actually learn! If school can’t teach me, than what’s it for?

Personality vs. Society

I have always been different. I learned to read and write before I started going to school. By the time I was twelve, I had already read half the children’s library. While other kids were shyly hiding behind their parents, I was always eager to say hello; I used to talk all the time, really. I had interests I wanted to share with others, I wanted them to know me, I suppose. But, the more I did that, the more I was given the impression that they don’t quite understand me, or, to put it differently, they don’t like to understand me. Somewhere about the age of twelve I concluded that they don’t really like me at all, and they think that everything I say and do is because I want attention or proof that I’m better than them. They took me the wrong way and disliked me immediately.

Almost all of them slowly grew up to be the kind of buddies who intentionally whisper you the wrong answer and then laugh at you, so I learned not to ask for their help. Also, I started closing myself; I didn’t want to be exposed to people who would think me stupid and laugh at me, just because I’m not the same as them. Finding their behavior gross and realizing that, actually, I don’t like them either, I started liking being different. I loved my weird taste in food and I was glad about my organized studying and I was proud of my reading habits. I was generally proud of myself for sticking out as different from people I don’t like. By the time I got to high school, I knew what I was worth.

It has been four years since then; during those four years, I’ve seen all kinds of people and all kinds of social laws, groups and stereotypes. Observing brought me another conclusion, even worse than the previous: everyone wants to be like everyone else.

Yes, they all want to be special, but they want to be special in the usual, previously determined, socially praised way, the common way. So they’re doing their best to fulfill the conditions.

I see people trying too hard to fit in, to fit into a group they don’t even feel comfortable in, just so they would be a part of something. I see people faking emotions and opinions every day, just because they think it’s cool to say something like that. I see people desperately trying to be liked by everyone, not wanting to stand in the way of majority, avoiding its criticism at all costs. But, in the good words of Elbert Hubbard, the only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing. And that’s what we’re facing now: a population of young people – of clever, funny, creative people, people who can think and make truths of their own, people with potential – becoming faceless drones interested in nothing else except their social statuses. Which I think to be a ridiculous waste.

I don’t understand – what is it that you’re so afraid of? Why are you so desperately holding on to the usual standard if it doesn’t fit you, if it’s hurting you, giving you itches and allergies? Is it because of the safety?

Being a part of a mass does protect you from being laughed at – not always, but mostly, yes, it does. But there’s another kind of safety you don’t have: what’s to stop you from losing yourself? As a part of a mass, you must constantly adapt to changes, because mass is hardly ever permanent. And when making changes that are needed in order to be approved by the mass, you may be making changes that absolutely don’t suit you. You may take stands completely opposite to your actual opinion. Say, you love cheeseburgers, right? But it’s in to be thin, so you can’t eat them. Then it’s suddenly in to eat healthy and you have to hate them. Next thing you know, you can’t decide whether you love them, hate them or have them for lunch. This is laughable when it’s about the burger, but when you find yourself deciding about your education, money, or family, instead of your food, it isn’t funny anymore.

Now imagine that happening to pretty much every characteristic of your personality. If none of them is permanent, then who are you? What is your name? You don’t know your name, because you change it every ten minutes.

Have I ever pretended to be a yes when I’m actually a no? Oh yes. But there’s a difference between occasionally changing small, insignificant things according to social expectations, and changing everything you’ve got, no matter what you might be changing it to. Being a part of a mass may protect you from others’ harsh words, but it also may destroy you by its constant motion. Personality isn’t something that should suffer frequent changes; it needs to be kept stable. And you should take good care of your personality. It’s your only signature in this world.