Much of what we do in life is based on law, we have to do things often that involve the correct procedures, health and safety, consideration for others and just because doing something wrong will 99 times out of 100 result in an unwanted outcome of some kind. And for the Christian, being law-abiding isn’t something we choose to do, it is part of our calling from God that we must do. In saying all this, there is a desire in many people to rebel, to do something that they shouldn’t do, to dye their hair green even; in short, to do something naughty! Nothing bad to anyone else I mean, or being anti-social to others in the street, I’m going beyond that; I mean doing something that you wouldn’t normally do, taking a bus ride and not worrying where it will end up at, buying a leather jacket that makes you look edgy and cool, doing something out of character and changing your image and even being the person you have always wanted to be. Not having to worry about what others think about you, being happy, being eccentric, not taking yourself too seriously at all, thinking of a funny joke or witticism and saying it.
Ned Kelly was an Irish-Australian outlaw, a rebel and hero to some, a murdering amoral bandit to others, but he is Australia’s Jesse James or their Robin Hood. If he had been around in the 1940’s he probably would have been an Aussie film star and made it to Hollywood, or if he had been around in the 1960’s he might have been the Aussie Eric Clapton or Jim Morrison, his rebellion and anger expressed in a more positive way, but low born Aussies of Irish descent in the 1880’s in the wilds of the outback didn’t have those options. Many Australians may feel troubled by knowing they are descended from a British convict and even feel anger towards British people or Britain, but the bigger picture is what’s needed to be seen. We are all descended for the most part from poor obscure people and most of our ancestors struggled with some terrible reality. There is a sadness in Ned’s eyes, even behind the anger, a sadness that speaks volumes, a human sadness that we have all felt at times, a sadness that through all the suffering and even horror, there could or should be something more.
In a now mostly forgotten film, called ‘The Petrified Forest’ the character Alan Squier, played by the very English actor Lesley Howard, who is a drifter looking for something or perhaps looking for nothing in particular, gets caught up in a situation where the famed killer Duke Mantee, also played ably and convincingly by Humphrey Bogart takes over the diner they all find themselves in. At the end of the film, after a little chat, as Duke and his gang want to escape the encroaching police, Alan says of and to Duke ‘…you’re the last great apostle of rugged individualism’ and with that shoots him; not a happy ending for either as Duke and the boys get their comeuppance a little later too. But in the scene just before Duke goes, there is a sadness in his eyes that almost made me cry; again a sadness that says if only things had turned out better or had been better in the first place.
In the now seminal and legendary 1960 film ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ the very Working class Arthur Seaton is a bloke who works, parties hard and is a womaniser who even messes with other men’s wives. Arthur is the first real English Working class rebel, on film anyway, an honest earthy portrayal of a real Working class lad with a Working class upbringing in Working class surroundings, where he says honestly : ‘What I'm out for is a good time - all the rest is propaganda!’ In the end, he is settling down with his real girlfriend onto a new housing estate, his rebellion probably disappearing with his growing beer belly, responsibilities and future prospects; oh well, at least he was a rebel!
Then there is John Lennon, the Liverpool rebel and writer of the song ‘Working Class Hero’; for many people in Liverpool, John represents their wit, intelligence, cheekiness, sassiness, creativity and a general all round individuality and anti-authoritarian tone that many Liverpool people cherish. Was he Working class or Middle class? I suspect the jury is still out on that one, but he came from the obscure suburbs of Liverpool to the world’s stage, and nothing was ever the same again. At the start the Beatles were writing poppy, pleasant ditties, nice enough for the most part but nothing too great, as their career progressed however their creative muscles flexed wildly and their fame then turned to admiration as they led the world of pop music to new heights and took pop music into the world of serious culture, something that was considered art in its own right. And the driving force behind it all was John. A sad and fractured childhood, where both his parents effectively abandoned him, left him angry and bitter and with a very sardonic and sarcastic wit, and a desire, as we have seen, to make something of himself. And so the world gave birth to another erratic genius, another genuine rebel.
I listen to a lot of music when I am writing, and now and again I listen Beethoven primarily because his music moves me, sometimes to tears and other times just to know that this man was writing music that he was investing his emotions and his soul into, which is why it stands the test of time. He was so the story goes famously cantankerous, not easy to get on with, and someone who though supremely gifted was looked on by some in high society as a commoner or upstart; the same old story. Another rebel without a cause could we say?
The ultimate rebel for me is Jesus; a man who decided willingly to go to a painful death when He could like the rest of us would have, done a runner and disappeared to some backwater somewhere. When the Devil tempted Jesus: ‘Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. And he said to him, 'I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.'’ (Matthew 4:8-9 NJB) But we know Jesus didn’t, and He remained true to His calling.