Reflecting on my life, I don’t think I’ve ever classified as a fully fledged rebel, but I’ve certainly been an ‘Occasional Rebel’.
An adolescent and young adult during the 1960’s and early 1970’s, I could perhaps have rebel led by living a ‘free, hedonistic life of sex, drugs and rock and roll’. I didn’t. Actually though, I did rather like rock and roll! One small but probably developmentally significant rebellion - I remember telling my mother that I was staying at a friend’s house when I was fifteen, leaving out the fact we were planning to go to the famed ‘Malvern Rock’. Going to ‘Springvale Rock’ a few years later was hardly a rebellion, especially as my brother and his friends were there too. Cannabis hadn’t really taken hold in Melbourne until the late 60’s early 70’s, and drinking alcohol was hardly seen as being rebellious!
I recall an ‘individual’ rebellion during Year 11 in early 1964 which did result from a sentiment of indignation and disapproval of a situation. I felt sickened and heartily disapproved of watching elderly Miss Crabb first demonstrating, and then us being expected to make, ‘tongues in aspic’ during a Cookery class at Malvern Girls School. Somehow my values about what was important for me to know about were being questioned. I visited the Principal’s office and refused to continue with Cookery, asking instead to take Economics by correspondence. Success ensued! I went on to complete the Year 11 course and to study Economics in Year 12, University, then to teach Economics. And I have never made anyone tongues in aspic, ever!
A student at Monash University in the period 1966 – 69, I was initially very quiet, but overtime became interested in student issues on campus and eventually joined in moments of collective rebellion. It was a time of the Bolte government and the hanging of Ronald Ryan, so there were important issues to weigh up. However my rebellion was of the peaceful and non violent kind; the only civil disobedience, a ‘sit in’ in the University Library over cuts in funding to the Library, of a fairly orderly nature. I became engaged as I have a times throughout my life following the pattern of unfairness – indignation – powerlessness - collective action.
My first school, rural Heywood High School in 1970, included a number of senior teachers highly regarded in the community who were also passionate union members. Concerned to reduce class sizes, have reasonable teaching loads and qualified teachers, these teachers engaged me in thinking through the issues and in strategies engaging the community in understanding the reasons for us planning to take industrial action. My values about fairness were under attack, I was indignant about the appalling teaching conditions, so it was rational for me to go on my first ever strike.
Going on strike, in my experience, is never an easy decision to make and eventuates when to my values about what is fair to others (the students in large class sizes taught by over extended sometimes unqualified teachers) are clearly compromised and change isn’t lkely to occur without ‘rebellion’ of some sort. I remained a member of the teacher’s union throughout my thirty three years as a teacher and was throughout an ‘Occasional Rebel’ on an ‘as needs’ basis.
One final memorable anecdote of ‘individual’ rebellion. As a young teacher in 1972, after moving to Melbourne from rural teaching, I became indignant when the teaching load I was allocated at the prized MacRobertson Girls High School did not reflect the teaching methods areas I had offered. There appeared to be no interest in negotiating with me for a more reasonable teaching load. I must have been extremely indignant, as after not being heard at the school or receiving responses to my letters, I physically visited the Education Department’s staffing office, sitting there, refusing to leave until someone spoke to me. Fortunately someone did. An alternative teaching position was found at Elwood High School which was a great improvement and indeed one of my most memorable schools.
Reflecting back, I may not have been as assertive personally with the Education Department had I not had the experience two years earlier of rebelling collectively against unfair teaching conditions at Heywood High School. While I’m naturally rather accepting and only an ‘Occasional Rebel’, there have definitely been times throughout my life when my values have been challenged, I have become quite indignant and have rebelled either personally or by engaging with other activists.
In my third age I’m probably best described as an ‘Armchair Rebel’, who often feels indignant, cheers on others who resist some orders of an established authority and still ‘do what I can’. The fact that my knees are ‘bone on bone’, makes it very hard to participate in demonstrations and marches –though I’m active in supporting the causes I believe in through involvement in local community groups and in social media. I suspect I have compassion fatigue at the moment because I’m indignant about so many things that are in conflict with my values. I’m trying to work out which ones to focus on– for example, should I take my money out of the Commonwealth Bank because it is providing some level of support to the Adani project??? Should I elect for ‘renewables only’ provision of power from my electricity supplier? and more….