The Compliant Rebels

I am on one of the last few trains that will take me home to the west of London. Normally, this train would be fairly empty, but given that it is Saturday, you would expect the last of pub-crawlers and bar-hoppers making their way home, so I expect a few more people than a weekday.

Not to be.

There is a huge defiant crowd on the platforms and in the train, and they are loud. They are singing happy celebrating songs, so I think that a football match has been recently won somewhere nearby. I didn’t think there was, but not being an avid football fan, I wouldn’t really know. I have seen that before. There is something different today, however. Very obvious. Every person on the train is carrying a can of beer, or a glass of golden spirit. There are fancy dresses and happy faces almost concealing anger.

Bottle Top

I had a wonderful evening today, relaxed and stretched out, without any agenda determining the speed or direction of my walk. Later, after a couple of tranquil and thoughtful pints, my mate jocularly suggests taking a beer can for the longish tube journey from the East to the West. I agree, I should, for it is the last day today when you can legally drink on the local transport, but then I have never had a drink in public transport ever, so we let the joke die its natural death, rather than be reborn as reality.

I see them, from between a tangle of arms and legs through angled armpits and knees, there are those that grip the aluminium cylinder, very tight. They stand quietly leaning near the door, no songs of celebration and such. You would think that someone was almost about to snatch it from them. Which is true, in a way, fourteen minutes later.

It is 11:46pm. Starting June 1, 2008, drinking alcohol or carrying open alcohol bottles will be banned.

In a crescendo the cheering and speech from every beer-can-wielding person grows shrill. The belligerence pierces my in-ear Bose ear-phones. It is a loud and hollow sound, empty of substance and unworthy of the rebellious icons on their beer-drenched t-shirts and tank-tops.

A rebel would start this act fourteen minutes later. To rebel against a law, before it is in force, doesn’t come across as a rebellion, really. I will not be on the tube tomorrow, so I will not know if any true rebels remain — for whom this is so important an issue that they will have a similar party tomorrow. But I doubt it. If the purpose was just fun and frolic, well then I sure hope everyone enjoyed it. If it was just about sending a message, I am sure they got it. Thank you very much, the ban is in force 14 minutes later.

All over the world, there is a gradual acceptance of everything that is imposed on us. There are no rebellions anymore, romantic or otherwise. There is cataract-like compliance — slow opaqueness to reason a blurring of reality that spreads a dull sameness all over.

Score: Authority: 1; Rebels: Nil

Sad, now, that we rebel within the confines of law.


20 thoughts on “The Compliant Rebels

  1. Well said! This post is so word perfect.

    The revolutions are really over. Or at least put on hold for a time that appreciates it better. Everyone it seems is happy to have boundaries thrust on them. I wanted to read Hari Kunzru’s “My Revolutions” for this reason. Have you?


  2. It is a sad realisation that there is no longer such a concept of free world. We are constrained by law, government, society and even peers. I think it is even foolish to think other wise. And yet I hope that freedom or expression is never lost on us.

    They don’t have laws about hoping yet, do they?


  3. Pingback: defend the profit motive « the small issue
  4. Law has its place and law is enforced for the good of all the people under the jurisdiction. How many times does the government have statistics to prove that what they are setting as boundaries is helping people or alienating people. Any person who is in his/her senses know their boundaries and abide by it. Because of some outliers, the entire set of people in jurisdiction or country have to suffer. But who will listen? Rebels can voice or show their anger, but who will see? People will comply with the boundaries but even then some will not, but who is penalized? The answer to all these questions are the people who comply to law.


  5. Pingback: The Compliant Rebels | DesiPundit
  6. This post is so beautiful. You’re a part of the picture – close enough that I can actually hear the breathing of the crowd and the clang of the can against the door….and yet you are apart.


  7. atul,

    I’ll skip the “hey you’re on DP” bit πŸ˜‰ and move on. welcome to the establishment πŸ˜€

    okay, I’m done taking potshots.

    what can i say. you’re my mele me bichda hua bhai.

    and guess what are we doing!



  8. ==SWS:
    Thank ye!

    I agree, this isn’t that era, perhaps one will dawn soon. Not read @ My Revolutions. “For this reason”? What’s it about?

    Not yet @ laws against hoping. That is something that they don’t quite care about. That’s intangible, it isn’t demonstrable, doesn’t get mileage and is useless as propaganda.

    As long as they are trying to constrain or restrict, it means that freedom of expression still exists, doesn’t it?

    They always do @ wrong, don’t they? I think the art of rebelling is lost on us; confined to books and movies.

    The invisible “they” are the ones who have to be satisfied. Statistics and proof is not a necessary tool to enact and implement a law. We easily believe authority, don’t we?

    Thank you!

    You have made the post look good, really, I had to read it again to see what you saw. Thank you! Truly!

    Welcome to Gaizabonts!

    Thank you!

    I read you, bro, I read you! (of course, if you didn’t explain this, I would have just erm’ed)

    And I see you have read it well! Thank you.

    Welcome to Gaizabonts!

    Thank you!


  9. I liked the last line – we rebel within the confines of the law.

    As a society its seems like we are moving towards something like the one shown in the Stallone-starrer Demolition Man where nearly everything is controlled and you get negative marking, sort of, if you foul. Looks like those days are not far if this apathy and compliance continues.


  10. “A rebel would start this act fourteen minutes later.” – strikes a romantic chord!

    Perfectly stated conclusion.

    “…spreads a dull sameness all over” is scary! It reminds me of Atlas Shrugged and what a herculean task lies ahead of those who wish to live…I mean…really live!


  11. ==Jolvin:
    A case of life imitating art?

    But whoever made Demolition Man, must have felt it inside, anyways – this was an exaggerated response of what the person felt? Far? We are already there – it has started touching the lives of some people – in a slightly low-tech way.

    Thank ye, been a while, you doing well?

    You bet, it is scary, that is what they want!

    Welcome to Gaizabonts!

    Thank you!


  12. Pingback: Radio (2003) « Been There, Read It, Seen That, Ate It
  13. Ur post is nice and am new to your blog… followed u from Ganga’s blog…

    Well, maybe this is a late comment, but i’d like to.
    I know its absurd to ask you for opinion but the tag of compliant rebel turned me on…

    I might be egoistic to say this but do you think the following is a real rebel behavior: – rebellious against Fate to pursue MBBS admission for two long years only to see the last medical seat go to a “special” caste person just before my eyes; rebellious against parents in choosing to come back to India after studyin abroad to work for my country and rebellious towards all in the family to marry a North Indian whom no one liked!

    Sometimes I feel rebellion – to do what we want no matter what – takes a long term toll on our own Self.. What say?


  14. ==Shini:
    Welcome to Gaizabonts! Nice to “see” here!

    While I can’t say much about the first part of the comment, I guess, if the rebel begins to consider effects of rebellion (apart from the belief in a positive outcome), isn’t much of rebel, I’d say!



Use your Twitter, Facebook or your WordPress account to comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.