Earth Day Musings (A Rebel's Handbook Preface)

Have we really entered this chapter of our nation’s history? A time when so many of us question if everything in the world is fair and flawless. An age where rebel handbooks are even written in the first place. And a day in the life when people actually entertain the notion of reading funny words such as these.

At this crossroads of our human history, many of us − be it deep in our guts, peripheral vision, or daily existence − sense that something in the world is not quite right. That something has fallen out of whack.

Today, A.D. 2016, there are people who call us “thugs” for yelling rebel words when we decry the needless deaths of fellow citizens like Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Sandra Bland. We are called “liars” and “troublemakers” each time we dare to raise our voice about the need for imminent climate change action.

Too often, our calls for peace and love are met by riot police and tear gas. Yet, even in this fog of war, many rebels keep on marching – compelled forward by the indelible hope of a brighter tomorrow.

But our streets are far from filled with marchers. There has been a silent majority when it comes to public discussions about the problems we face today, and I thought this silence meant us rebels were small in number. But I was wrong.

I spent some time trekking around on the open road and during whispers of change with friends around a campfire or hushed conversations with strangers at coffee shops and bars around the world I learned this: there’s a global landscape of discontent. Citizens everywhere are unsatisfied with the status quo.

People have different bones to pick in their complaints: we may focus on issues ranging from income inequality (#occupy) to racial inequality (#blacklivesmatter) to climate change justice (#COP21).

In all the conversations I had, the basic concerns distill down to this: we’re leery of our impotent government, our lives are being impacted by dysfunctional economic conditions, and we’re anxious about the world’s future. We’ve got different ideas about what problems in the world are most pressing, but our biggest area of agreement is this: things today are not on the right track.

What we share in frustration, some of us lack in hope. It’s easy to get people talking about what’s wrong in the world, but there is trepidation when the dialogue turns toward actions and solutions. “I’m just one person, what can I possibly do?” Or, “What way of doing business could possibly better?” And, “Can I succeed in enacting meaningful change without making things worst?”

Rebel forebears like George Washington, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Dennis Banks, Harvey Milk, Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have demonstrated that answers to questions like these can indeed be realized. And many rebels in the world today are actively following in their very footsteps.

There are others who concede that things today are not on the right track but still grapple with the “what can I do” and “what comes next” question. A Rebel’s Handbook is written for you – the silent majority. In the pages that follow, we examine how capitalism is emblematic of today’s status quo and why the topic merits immediate attention. We explain how humor is capitalism’s kryptonite and walk through 21 rebel jokes that can help lead to a brighter and more sustainable future.

A Rebel’s Handbook is also written for the people who doubt the credence of our rebel fight. You may call us liars and you may call us thugs, but please remember that we are also your neighbors and friends. We, like you, are fellow citizens with the shared hope of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

These words are earnestly laid out before you to help assuage any fears you may have about our rebel fight. Our path is one of nonviolence. As such, we ask that you think twice be- fore tacitly condoning tactics like tear gas, surveillance, and imprisonment to subdue our rebel jokes.

And rebels – these words are ultimately written for each and every one of you– penned with gratitude and love. You, like me, know that the world has long had rebel gadflies, warning of social ills and political missteps. But you, like me, have also witnessed that people today are growing increasingly numb to gadfly bites.

In these times of rising sea levels, growing inequality, and increasing armed conflict – perhaps what we need most is not the gadfly, but the buzzing of bees. The collective murmur of an entire species at risk of mass extinction. A collective awareness that we the people are awake and stand ready for change.

But we are ultimately neither flies that bite nor bees that sting. We the people are human. So let’s do one of the things we do best and laugh. Rebels: if at any point in this rebel struggle we stop laughing, then we’re losing.