Rabble-rouser. Trouble-maker. Stirrer of the pot.
Historically, the terms could hardly be called complimentary. Following the leader without asking questions has been the theme of hierarchical society for generations.
Which is exactly why we should stop doing it.
In the internet age, if someone wants me to follow them, they’d better have a damn good reason to prove to me why I should. Gone are the days when leaders were untouchable and all-knowing. When rules were adhered to simply because they’d always been in place. In our increasingly digital world, counter-narratives and downright rebuttals are becoming more and more common. And thank God.
At the heart of the most important social progress, there often stands one person who dares to push the boundaries. People like Rosa Parks, James Obergefell, and Liz Roberts. Without them, and the thousands they go on to inspire, society would grind to a standstill.
And even when the issues at hand aren’t quite on the same level of importance as civil rights, marriage equality and trans rights, it’s still important to speak up.
I vividly remember receiving a school-issued collection of leadership materials when I was at high school. The entire book used male pronouns. “A leader leads his troops from behind,” for example. Not a ‘she’, ‘her’, ‘they’ or ‘their’ in sight. As a fiery 17-year-old feminist I was having none of it, so I made an appointment with the Assistant Headmaster to tell him just how wrong it was. As you do.
Hardly revolutionary or world-changing, but it was something. And I have to believe that all of those ‘somethings’, big and small, eventually add up to change.
But stirring the pot can be scary. Systems don’t particularly like being forced to change. If enough people start slowly moving in the same direction, however, eventually we’ll reach a tipping point.
Like the abolishment of segregation and the legalisation of marriage equality, change does eventually happen, if enough people join the march of progress.