“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to him. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” -George Bernard Shaw
It is the nature of the human mind to desire to break the shackles of convention, and bring forth a revolution. We might say that rebelling against the norms of society is anarchy, but isn’t rebellion and revolution a matter of perspective and, more importantly, victory?
This clash between rebellion and revolution makes men who are patriots to some and terrorists to some others. It is because a full stomach abhors vicissitudes. Rules are broken, governments “festooned with cobwebs” are overthrown, new governments are formed, and more rules are made. The question we need to ask is- do rules strangle human imagination, destroying the genius and the art, or are human beings made to be ruled?
In almost every facet of human life, there are some rules _ spoken or unspoken. As children, we are told to be silent and not to harm others and as adults we are told to be silent while others are being harmed. There comes a time when we are tired of being told to do things; tired of being “assured of certain certainties”. It is out of this fatigue that revolutionaries are born – men and women who rebel against the machinery of life, akin to the factory worker in Charles Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’.
The freedom struggles across the landscape of history show people reacting to rules set by governments. Given enough time, corruption seeps into almost any form of administration. In most cases, if a man is able to fulfill his needs on a regular basis, his greed takes over. Greed and envy are but a matter of time. Macbeth, a glorified general, turned into a murderer and a “self-willed child”. The English entered India as businessmen and left as masters adept at leaving us with a colonial hangover. Their initial intention was to trade, but seeing a weak and divided country they took advantage of the opportunity, chaining the “eagle pinion” of an erstwhile glorious country. There is a point beyond which the human mind and body cannot stand torture. An arm can only twist so far. Thus, India revolted, and in 1947, was declared independent. The irony of human society is that we become what we detest. Democracy was fought for prior to independence and is being fought against today. However, no form of government can be perfect. If we copy our friends’ essays on corruption in India, we are no better than those we condemn.
Across many fields, the revolutionary becomes immortal. There are some people that fear the new and hold on to the past. They add a hitch in the growth of these revolutionaries. There are also the hypocrites, alternating between “sick of it” and sycophancy. They can use their saliva to great effect, first for spitting and then for licking shoes. Elvis Presley once called “a hollow culture-thief, an overrated musical charlatan who profited from music. Some feel he had no business recording in the first place.”
There are motley examples across history of art and culture, being destroyed out of intolerance. The Nazis destroyed Semitic literature and more, while the Taliban pulled down the spectacular Buddha statue of Bamiyan. The Medieval Church suffocated almost any theory that contradicted its teachings. Heliocentricity was snuffed and Galileo was placed under house arrest. Aren’t rules of this sort impeding the art and the genius? The problem boils down to the wrong administration. The inarticulate rule of discrimination and orthodoxy stifles human potential, creating ‘glass ceilings’. Discrimination has remained constant across history; just the groups discriminated against change.
However, before condemning or upholding rules, we must ask the question: what rules are being spoken of? The term ‘rules’ encompass a wide area. There are rules that put murderers in jail and others that make you vote for them. As long as those that rule care to feed fat their greed and make thin the masses, there will be rules enough to ravage freedom.
“Then the liars and swearers are fools, for there are
Liars and swearers enough to beat the honest men
And hang them up.”
-Macduff’s Son, in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’
We must be people with open eyes and open minds. Only “real eyes realize real lies”. Judging every situation at its own merit is a sign of enlightenment. “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” (-Aristotle)
The new should be given a chance to flourish but certain boundary conditions must be followed at times to doctor the new. Let innovation drive human society nut experience be there to back up if the former fails. Our goal in life should be to stand out, and build a society where the nail that sticks out is not hammered. To stand out, at times we need to defy the rules. Yes, there will be opposition, but we must then stick to what we believe in. In accordance with the aforementioned Shaw quotation, the new is often termed ‘unreasonable’, but it is what progress ultimately depends on. Nothing can be gained of stagnation. We cannot be men lost in the masses. If you only play by others’ rules and form none of your own,
“All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.”
Pink Floyd, ‘Another Brick in the Wall’.