Rebels without a choice

Warner Bros. publicity still for for the film Rebel Without a Cause

A mere quarter of a mile from my home the traffic ground to an unaccustomed halt. The sporadic nature of its movement proclaimed a contraflow in action somewhere up ahead and, with no other way of accessing my street, I settled down to patiently wait in the Great British Queue… an institution we are good at in this country. Mainly through interminable practice. The grass verge beside the road looked inviting. Wider than the road itself, flat and unobstructed, it leads to the lane that runs to my home a mere few hundred yards away. I didn’t take it of course…partly because it would undoubtedly churn up the grass, but mainly because it isn’t the ‘done thing’.

I glare at the cameras beside the road that now monitor the movement of every vehicle in the country, ostensibly in order to check we have all paid our road tax, but in reality just part of what seems to be an inexorable movement towards the impossibility of anonymity; of escaping from the needs and obligations of the daily grind with at least the illusion of freedom. Shades of Orwell’s dystopia rear their heads… I can’t say I like the insidious increase in surveillance. Not that I don’t understand and approve of security. Not that I particularly wish to hide; but privacy and choice matter to me. Lately it seems as if many minor incursions are being made into the small liberties and I wonder just how far it will go… and how it happens that we simply accept in silence.

I had begun to ponder this whole question earlier, checking sell by dates for one of my sons and disposing of large quantities of things for him which had passed them. He and many others of his generation that I know seem obsessed by the dates on packets. A minor thing, you might think, but it sparked a train of thought as I sat there in the traffic. I know it is a generational thing, because, of course, I grew up in a world that had never heard of putting a sell by date on an apple. Tins and packets, perhaps… though even those, we were taught, were only an indication, a safeguard, and probably marked a midway point in shelf-life. Common sense was the thing; we were taught to apply it to food and make informed decisions.

Regulations have changed over the years and my sons’ generation have been raised in a world where ‘sell by’, ‘display until’ and ‘use by’ dates are the norm. The trouble is there seems to be little understanding of the application of these labels and huge amounts of fresh food are discarded because a date applied for stock rotation purposes puts the proverbial wind up consumers. There is nothing wrong with a slightly wrinkly apple. Fresh fruit and vegetables keep far longer than the supermarkets’ dating implies. You can tell when such fresh produce is no longer worth eating. Yet, although they listen to definition and explanation, my sons refuse to accept in practical terms that only a ‘use by’ date has real significance for food safety. And that is without the aesthetic standards applied that sees misshapen produce rejected.

From a purely commercial point of view one has to give credit to the supermarkets. Once a date is passed and the product discarded, we buy more. They are hardly going to complain or try to stop us. Common sense has been replaced by the subtle imposition of a dichotomy of fear and safety dictated by a printed label.

I know it is a small and rather insignificant example, but I wondered why this and other examples of quiet acceptance are so rife. Of course the world changes; of course older generations will always look back, shaking their heads with an ‘in my day…’ It bothers me to see such mass manipulation take root and I wondered at the lack of challenge.

Perhaps, I mused, the teenage years have something to do with it. Looking back there was always a choice of rebellion available to youngsters… Hippies, Mods and Rockers, Pop, Rock, Punk, New Romantic… I don’t think my own sons really had that wave of subcultural choice in their teens; certainly not in the small town in which we lived. It all seemed rather bland. I wonder just how big a part the rebellion of the teenage years plays in the process of developing the ability to choose a personal expression of freedom for the outer persona that both mirrors and teaches a personal and inner freedom. I also wonder what is in store for this generation as their own children reach the age of teenage rebellion.

Perhaps it is simply an expression of my own generation and upbringing that questions as the technology and society that was invented to serve us assumes the silently dictatorial overtones of an Orwellian Big Brother. We are, after all, each of us, responsible for the world we have shaped.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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39 Responses to Rebels without a choice

  1. Akriti says:

    This is a well written post. I really liked it 🙂

    Keep writing more 🙂

    I’d really appreciate your feedback on my blog .

    Like

  2. …insightful, reflective piece…as part of the ‘throwback generation’, I enjoyed this very much, m’lady, Sue…

    Like

  3. alienorajt says:

    Jolly well said, Sue; I totally agree – both about the dystopian aspect of our lives and the whole Elf and Safety Monstrosity! xxx

    Like

  4. This very topic came up on another blog a couple of days ago. We must all be in the same zone.

    Like

  5. Same zone: feeling the pressure of all that is seemingly forced on us in today’s fast and complicated life.

    Like

  6. J.D.Hughes says:

    Great post. Today’s young seem much less concerned about losing their freedoms. Possibly because they’ve never had to fight for it. The insidious creep of the State and Business into all our lives won’t stop until they do.

    Like

  7. Eliza Waters says:

    It does seem like our world is creeping ever closer to Orwellian, kind of scary. As to the labels, there are websites that guide you on how far past the “sell by” dates you can safely consume things. Very helpful, since I abhor waste.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My kids stress about use by &sell by dates. Goodness I’m sure some of the things on my mum’s shelves and freezer had been there for years! And yes we ate them even the jams laid down that got “lost” at the back of the shelf… We survived! 😀

    Like

  9. Running Elk says:

    If it aint crawing towards you… it’s edible. (Even then… with a slice of ginger and drizzle of oil it might be palatable… )
    The thing that drives me nuts about throwing away common sense in the “is it edible” stakes, is the sheer volume of waste generated. In a previous life, I watched, in absolute astonishment and disbelief, as vast quantities of perfectly acceptable foodstuffs were tipped into a skip and turned into landfill, simply because the “display until” date was nigh… meanwhile, just around the corner, people are sleeping rough with empty bellies… 😦

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      That’s what gets to me too. There was a previous life when food was picked up off the floor after the market… and as you say, perfectly good food being trashed because it is cheaper to do that than distribute it where it is needed.

      Like

  10. noelleg44 says:

    Don’t get me started on Big Brother. Now in addition to calories having to be listed on everything we buy, ALL restaurants, cafes, diners, dives and drivethroughs will have to list the caloric content of EVERYTHING they have on the menu. Obamacare.

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  11. As I prepared the turkey on Thanksgiving Day, I quietly reflected on how we’re much more cautious about germs today than in years past. Some of those precautions are healthy.

    I do think twice about adding a calorie-laden dessert to my order when I see those daunting numbers. But calorie counting is among the measures I take to manage my weight. (Needless to say, those numbers weren’t a consideration this Thanksgiving. Sometimes, you just got to rebel and break the rules.) 😉

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    • Sue Vincent says:

      I agree, sensible precautions are fair enough… We understand more these days, though over-caution can cause problems too as we fail to build resistance to some things.

      As far as calorie labelling goes, I’m happy with that on the most part… though restaurant menus could be exempt, I feel! Informed choice is good… but so is the occasional guiltless indulgence 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. TamrahJo says:

    I thought of the Serenity Prayer while reading this :
    “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference”

    Truly believe that modern spirituality mores/self-help movements of the past few decades here in the U.S. (perhaps silently supported by authoritative regimes?) have convinced people that rebelling or taking a stance in order to fulfill line two is somehow in violation of being an ‘enlightened soul’ or ‘good person’ – –

    The standard answer I receive when I’m ranting about lost liberties/common sense/taking a stance against the ludicrous/irrational/bureaucratic nonsense?

    “Why do you get so worked up? It’s not like you can change it – that’s just how it is and you’ve got to learn to let these go..”

    NOT!

    I’m more than happy to raise my kids to be rebellious teeny-boppers, even when I sometimes am the target of their rebellion and have vowed to be a rebellious teeny-bopper for as long as I breathe – no matter how old I look – 🙂

    And happy to see all the comments on this post – My Rebel Soul does not walk alone! 🙂

    Here’s to standing up, speaking out and gathering with birds of the same flock! 🙂

    Fantabulous post!

    Like

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