Knowing when to be a rebel

Does anyone else combine elements of being very conformist AND being rebellious in their character traits?  I would consider myself one of those people.  I generally follow rules and want to ‘fit in with the crowd’.  At school, I always wanted to please the teachers and was very rarely the ‘naughty’ child, apart from sometimes talking too much, which will be no surprise to those who know me!  In my 20s, I did become more of a rebel in relation to my political beliefs, going on Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Anti-Apartheid rallies and marches.  When I feel passionately about something, particularly where I perceive there is an injustice, I want to stand up and be counted.

We have seen a strange cocktail of conformists and rebels in the Covid19 pandemic where emotions have been heightened.  Some people react very strongly where they feel they are being compelled to do something by a Government or other regulators. Families have been extremely frustrated by limited visiting and there have been many references to how the rights of residents living in long term care have been diminished, due to the enhanced restrictions. A whole social media movement #rightsforresidents has emerged out of this anger.

I often ask myself how much we should be questioning the established status quo in care homes, which in some cases still continues to restrict people’s freedoms due to concerns about keeping people physically safe.

During the pandemic I found myself having to push back against a range of decisions which had been made in relation to infection control, for example people not being able to have condiments on the table such as ketchup or salt and pepper, or things being removed from tables such as books and pictures to prompt conversations.  My role as the ‘rebel’ was not to disrupt too much, but more to keep asking the questions about whether enabling people’s rights and our duty of care to keep people safe were being balanced appropriately.

One particular example comes to mind.  A Canadian colleague was sitting at a table where an older woman of Italian background was eating.  The woman as a mother and grandmother to many children, wanted the worker, a young woman, to eat with her and kept offering her things to eat.  The worker was wearing a mask and knew that she was not allowed to remove the mask to eat, and this caused some distress to the woman, when she couldn’t accept the food.  My question was whether the decision to remove the mask and eat something with the woman, was more important than the rule not to remove the mask?  The worker was clear that her job would be on the line and the Ministry might take strong actions if she disobeyed the regulations.  But the ‘rebel’ in me couldn’t help wondering why it is we accept this kind of control without question?

Consultant and Trainer

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