Modern-Day Rebel This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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“Modern-day warrior, mean, mean stride, today’s Tom Sawyer, mean, mean pride,” sings Geddy Lee of Rush in the opening lyrics of “Tom Sawyer.” Just who is today’s Tom Sawyer? Who is the modern-day rebel?

Teens are compelled to rebel. However, most are confused about the ­concept, believing rebellion to be ­flagrantly disrespecting their elders, using obscene language, or downing a fifth of Jack Daniels and crashing their car into a tree. This is not rebellion, this is idiocy, and it is only hurting them. That is pathetic.

The best way to rebel is to become smarter than everyone else. Knowledge is power, and power is success. Trust me, there is no better way to exert your dominance than by outwitting your opponent. No one will listen to your point if you present it in an erroneous way, so to rebel with success you must add knowledge to your arsenal.

The first and most recognizable rebel is the iconoclastic archetype. They are an affront to authority and all that is conventional. They protest for change on myriad topics. A perfect ­example are the hippies of the 1960s, who thought that our society needed to let loose. They protested things they felt were unjust, like the Vietnam War, and one must commend them for their courage (although some were obviously just along for the ride, or “drinking the Kool-Aid”).

The second and more counterintuitive rebel is the Alex P. Keaton archetype (after the main character of the classic TV show “Family Ties”). His parents were bleeding-heart liberals, so he rebelled by becoming a conservative. He wore suits and adopted a Reaganesque philosophy. It takes courage to defend the law when everyone around you denounces it. Alex P. Keaton may be just a fictional TV character, but he embodies the archetypal non-iconoclastic rebel.

Growing up can be immensely confusing, with people telling you how to act, the pressure to succeed, and the temptation to try to fit in. A person could go crazy in a world like this. First, you find yourself rebelling against authority figures because you see how flawed they are. You question everything and denounce your ­religion. You become the iconoclastic rebel.

But then you notice your fellow adolescents. You see them protest for nothing but attention. You know that your actions are sincere, but you can’t help thinking you are part of the pretension you so detest.

Then you adopt the Alex P. Keaton archetype to rebel. You know you are safe from pretense because no teenager in his right mind would want to adopt this persona; it offers no cachet. You become respectful of your elders, reclaim your religion/morality, speak proper English, and constantly quote Ronald Reagan.

You enjoy your new persona for a while until you realize you can’t quite relate to yourself anymore. These flawed authority figures are what first made you question things, and now you treat them with respect you know they don’t deserve?

You like some of your newly ­acquired characteristics, but you realize you were only acting this way in response to the phony behavior of ­others. Once again you question your sincerity.

But then it clicks. You can praise the genius of Ronald Reagan and be an agnostic. You can listen to heavy metal and speak proper English. The world isn’t black and white. The real rebel has no qualms about operating within both categories because the real rebel doesn’t care what others think. “His mind is not for rent,” sings Lee. As the brilliant writer/philosopher Ayn Rand put it, “To be free, a man must be free of his brothers. That is freedom. That and nothing else.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 10 comments. Post your own now!

KatsK This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm
Really good job! I agree- and so I shall counter-argue (or shall I say thought-provoke?) with this quote; "When they give you lined paper, write the other way'. ~Juan Ramon Jimenez . . . Are you going to be a conformist, and conform, or are you going to be a nonconformist and conform to that? Or do neither and not be bugged by what people think. Your definition shows what a true nonconformist is, for who is a nonconformist when he worries about what people think of him (by the way, I am not sexi... (more »)
 
janeeyre This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 4, 2010 at 11:31 am
Fantastic article! This is so thought-provoking. Keep it up(:
 
vejman said...
Sept. 21, 2009 at 9:24 am
i have been trying to tell this to people for years..
 
Tasogare This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 18, 2009 at 7:55 pm
That last paragraph is pure genius. It speaks to me.
 
sleepingin said...
Feb. 11, 2009 at 2:39 pm
this is fabulosity in a divine form.
 
smartballer35 said...
Dec. 27, 2008 at 12:21 am
Really nice article. I try to do this in my everyday life. I like the use of quotes. Write on!
 
Aischa said...
Nov. 18, 2008 at 3:02 am
Very impressive! Kudos!
 
Venus said...
Oct. 31, 2008 at 2:17 am
this is brilliant. my friend, i applaud you!
 
BillyBobJoeFrank said...
Oct. 24, 2008 at 3:27 pm
This is a fabulous article.
 
maemae said...
Oct. 24, 2008 at 6:10 am
'the world isn't black and white' is my life motto. True that!
 
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