Rebelling Acts

The Boston Tea Party was a revolt against the Tea Act of 1773 which imposed a tax on tea sold to the American colonies.  The revolt triggered the formation of the First Continental Congress and eventually the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775.

The Boston Tea Party was not the only time the British government was confronted with a protest over freedom issues.  In the 1820’s, Elizabeth Heyrick led a boycott of sugar coming to the British Isles from its colonies in the Caribbean.  While England had outlawed slavery, it allowed its colonies to continue slave practices.  The boycott that Heyrick initiated led enslaved people to revolt and eventually led the British Parliament to abolish slavery in its Caribbean colonies.

Mahatma Gandhi led the Indian people to reject expensive cloth from Britain.  He started spinning cloth and encouraged Indian citizens to do likewise.  The spinning wheel became a symbol of Indian independence from England.  The success of the boycott eventually led to the financial collapse of the British Indian government.

These three rebelling acts ultimately achieved their desired ends.  When we think of rebelling acts today, we think of violence, property destruction, and a loss of lives.  Rebelling acts do not have to be such to be effective.  Rebelling acts can be a force for positive change when properly conceived and executed.

What makes some rebelling acts effective, while others fade before they achieve their desired purpose?  Some factors that seem to contribute to the success of rebelling acts include:

  • The acts themselves are symbolic. They represent things that everyone can connect to (e.g. tea, sugar, cloth).
  • The act is something that everyone can feel comfortable doing.
  • The acts are sustainable. They are things that we can build into our lives’ routines.
  • They are fun in that those in authority often become perplexed at how to stop them (i.e. How do you order people to eat sugar?).

Do rebelling acts work well within organizations?  They can be if done properly.  Some examples include:

  • Following a distasteful policy 100% of the time to show how absurd it is.
  • Circulating a photo of a very expensive purchase made during a time of austerity.
  • Following work time procedures exactly (e.g. thus overloading exits, quitting in the middle of a meeting, excessive documentation of expense accounts).

The above examples illustrate rebelling acts directed at corporate hypocrisy.  Other rebelling acts may be more serious when they pertain to such issues as social justice and equality, compensation practices, work ethics, work safety and others.  All of these issues can be dealt with using rebelling acts.  But it will take some creative thinking to identify the best rebelling acts to use.

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“Resolved, that the women of this nation in 1876, have greater cause for discontent, rebellion, and revolution than the men of 1776.”  – Susan B. Anthony

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