What makes normal, everyday people who disagree with the ‘way things are’, challenge the status quo and protest – whether the issue is civil rights and democracy, tuition fees or pensions, protecting the environment and the nation’s forests or opposing a war?
One factor, according to Dr. Frank Sulloway from the University of California, Berkley, is upbringing – specifically being a younger sibling. According to Dr Sulloway’s book, Born to Rebel, laterborns are statistically 4.6 times more likely to rebel against convention.
The best way for younger infants to guarantee their food and shelter lies in grabbing their parent’s attention away from their older brothers and sisters. Firstborns often try to conform to their parent’s ideals, as that is the best way to establish their position in the family, but younger siblings are much more likely to turn convention on it’s head in their attempts to win parental affection.
Several notable successes were former rebels, including: Stephen Fry, the middle child of three, expelled from two boarding schools and later imprisoned for three months for credit card theft, Barack Obama, who grew up with eight half-siblings who studied the bare minimum, in college, and famously ‘partied hard’, and Bill Gates, who waged war as a teenager against his parents, to such an extent that the family went to therapy for two years, his farther later allowed his headstrong son to rebel which improved their relationship, and contributed to Bill’s success.
Does rebellion work?
Clearly sometimes it does.
We live in a connected age, with endless amounts of information readily available on a whole range of issues. The question for us all is do we get involved or not ?
One thing is for sure, unless we bring the issues we care passionately about to the world’s attention, then nothing will change.
I well remember my first encounter with rebellion back in 1972, when as a young Trades Unionist I supported the coal miners’ call for industrial action at Saltly Gate coking plant in Birmingham, where along with twelve thousand other striking factory workers, we successfully forced the reopening of negotiations.
So, fellow rebels, the choice is yours.
Speaking to an audience recently in Soweto, South Africa, Michelle Obama urged:
“reject the false comfort that others’ suffering is not your concern, or that if you can’t solve all the world’s problems then you shouldn’t even try . . . refuse to remain a bystander when others are suffering”