On a punishingly humid day in April 1930, an emaciated Mohandas Gandhi, clad in simple white robes and brandishing a walking stick, began a 240-mile march to the sea where he would illegally make salt. His act of defiance against the British colonial administration’s salt tax would soon grow into a wave of (mostly) nonviolent protests across India and would later be seen as the death knell of nearly two centuries of British rule.
Gandhi’s central role in dismantling the Crown Raj made him a cultural icon—a symbol of peaceful rebellion in a violent world. What’s often forgotten is the widespread criticism leveled at him by his contemporaries. Many figures in the Indian nationalist movement found Gandhi’s radical ideology—which rejected modern civilization—misguided and regressive. Gandhi idealized the pastoral village life only to find it just as inured in brutishness and vice as the cities. B.R. Ambedkar, and Indian intellectual who would later draft the nation’s constitution, feared Gandhi’s strategy of nonviolent noncooperation would sow the seeds of lawlessness in a newly independent India. (On this mark, he was somewhat correct: following independence India fractured along religious lines, leading to the violent creation of Pakistan).
Many rebels—particularly successful ones—are elevated above the unsavory labels often applied to them in their own time: Fanatics, Ideologues, Provocateurs, Rebels almost never enjoy universal support. If they did, there wouldn’t be much to rebel against. Less than half of the American colonists supported the patriots, and to many their gambit was reckless and counterproductive in the struggle for independence.
In short, it’s open to interpretation. In this issue, we explore. An ardent conservationist who accidentally brought zip lining and eco-tourism to his beloved rainforests (pg. 9). Dirtbags who sleep in vans and climb all day, who have something to teach us about “the good life” (pg. 36). Firebrand evangelists whose steadfast devotion to their beliefs drives them to bigotry and hate (pg. 12). Parents and teachers who, out of genuine concern for their children, lobby to ban books and stem the free flow of ideas (pg. 28).
Resistance to the established order doesn’t always require a figurehead. In a highly connected world, it has become easier for grassroots movements to develop and spread without the help of a great orator thundering from the pulpit. In these pages, we see how this happening today. Alternatives to long-entrenched monogamy are arising (pg. 16). People taking charge of their gender and sexual identities (pg. 6). There is nascent opposition to a homophobic regime in a place far from the frontlines of the LGBTQ rights movement (pg. 22).
Another writer recalls the provocative inanities of “pop punk” music to remind us that rebellions don’t need a definitive point (pg. 32). We all have a desire to make our presence in this world known, and thumbing your nose at authority just to get a rise out of people is one way to do that.
Or maybe we’re just bored. For my dad, rebellion was throwing cantaloupes at passing cars on the interstate. For me, it was tagging stop signs and wearing bright pink Converse—shoes that I would never want getting dirty on a march to the sea. Take that, establishment.
-Jack Queen and the Cipher editors