The Nature of the Rebel

If I have to make a rebel out you, I must first ensure you have the right personality type, the right frame of mind, the right attitude. And thus, this post.

The worship of heroes is a very common theme in human civilization. Countless fables, stories and mythologies have all originated from real-life heroes and heroines who once lived. Alternately, men have imagined entire pantheons of Gods and Goddesses, who are depicted as performing heroic actions.

There is this very unifying idea in our species as a whole, that a hero(-ine) is someone who is God-like or a Saint.

Witness for instance the number of holidays we dedicate to them – in India, the birthday of Gandhi is a nationwide holiday. In the US, Martin Luther King is accorded the same honor. Examined closely, we shall realize that these remembrance days are little more than an expression of hero-worship.

Same is the case with the countless movies and books dedicated to these “heroic” men and women. Examined closely, these books and movies too are little more than paeans (songs of celebration)  dedicated to these men and women. These works of art keep the memory of these people alive, keep a lot of artists and writers in business, but at the end of the day, the whole thing is an exercise in hero worship.

At best, one may attribute to them (books and movies and holidays) an educational value, in a narrow academic sense. By which is meant, to impart knowledge of the facts and events, but which is strictly not meant to be emulated. The point of failure is obvious, and something that we pointed out in our last post – the same circumstances are quite unlikely to occur in our own lifetimes, and therefore, in a practical sense – what use are these things?

But we are onto something deeper here.

For no doubt, despite their obvious limitations, some of these books and movies may inspire some or the other person to take a heroic stance here or there, on this issue or that, in this age or the next. But will these same books and movies lead them to success in their heroic endeavors?

To decide this question, we must first answer how accurately have these books and movies portrayed the people and situations in question. For were the portrayal honest, one would have at least some hope of success in our endeavors where we have chosen to emulate our heroes.

But as we saw, in the last blog post, this accuracy is not to be had.

Few books or movies or (auto)-biographies have explored the “potentialities” – all they have offered us is a linear narrative – and there is little to be gained from such. At no point, do we get the opportunity to see the “Available choices” before these men and women. When we don’t even see these choices, let alone the mental and emotional states – how indeed are we supposed to emulate them?

And therefore, one has no hesitation in declaring that if we do indeed try an emulation of these tales, we are sure to end up in a ditch, for it is certain, that we have an over-supply of enthusiasm, and an under-supply of knowledge.

An Aside

Here too, there is a distinction.

Men and women who go on worshiping some or the other ancient hero or principle are not at all hard to find in our society. But you have to be clever about it – you must profit from it somehow. For instance, the Congress Party in India has profited a lot from the names of Gandhi & Nehru.

But to be an idiot in this world is inexcusable.

For instance, soon after the Russian Revolution, a number of Europeans and Americans actually moved to Russia. Pretty soon, they found out that the Revolution was little more than excuse for large-scale robbery and anarchy. See this for instance. Stalin used to call such people “Useful Idiots”, which term Wikipedia defines as,

In political jargon, useful idiot is a term for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause.

Heroes and Rebels

In actual fact, the world has never had any heroes. They have all been mortal men and women, who rebelled. In other words, to be a hero, one must first be a rebel. That is the first step.

And as Gandhi said,

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

And from this starting point, the whole idea of hero-worship is easier to understand – why does it happen it all?

Because these men and women won – that’s why!

  • Gandhi does triumph over the British Empire now doesn’t he? By the time Gandhi is done with the British Empire – there is no British Empire any more.
  • By the time Martin Luther King is done with segregation, there is no segregation anymore.

And so on.

And that’s why people worship heroes – for the world has never worshiped anything but Mantras for Success – and these men and women have succeeded beyond measure. It is a longing that is expressed in the hero worship – a desire to be successful, a hope that possibly by reading and re-reading about them, something of that success may be gained.

The Rebel revealed

And in this, we see also the character of the rebel emerge.

The rebel is hardly a Saint or a God.


He is a man, possessed of greater ambition than usual, of greater drive than usual, of greater strength than usual, of greater deceit than usual. He is the one prepared to devote more of his life to his aims than others. He is prepared to take greater risks for these same aims than usual. He is someone more driven to succeed, and succeed at a greater scale than usual.

The one who is not satisfied by what the existing systems can yield him – the one who decides instead to IMPOSE his own system on the world.

In actual fact, the rebel is not a Saint or a God. He is just a driven Man, with an ambition bordering on madness, able to bear more pain in his journey, wait longer than usual for success, and someone who aims far higher than anyone else.

To take Gandhi again, when he is thrown off that train, he has already been in the lion’s den – London. He has studied British Law. He has seen how the Empire works. And he knows that it can be destroyed – he knows its weaknesses (“Moral Authority”) just as well as he knows its strength (“Military Might”).

And when he is thrown off that train, he decides to return the favor – throw the Empire into the dustbin.

Now do you see it? A Rebel is someone with a MASSIVE EGO.

And that is what Gandhi does – now doesn’t he?

He bypasses British military might via Ahimsa (Non Violence), and concentrates in himself a moral authority greater than any profession (statement) of “British Benevolence” or “White Man’s Burden” can ever carry.

And by thus, he brings down the Empire!

And YOU now – you still want to be a rebel?

Then start thinking BIG.

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