The lonely rebel

The rebel who save the world.

One lonely rebel against conformity saved the world.

One lonely rebel against conformity saved the world. (Photo from 2008 Olympics, Beijing, China)

It is often the lonely rebel who chooses individuality against conformity who later is the hero.  How human society loves conformity, preferring every participant to follow the system, and how dare the individual diverge from the mechanical path!

The world can thank a rebel for saving it in the last years of the Cold War between Communist East and the “free” world of the West.  No superman, just a civilian nobody who expressed the choice of individuality rather than follow the system his employers demanded of him.

1983 was a crisis year, Russia was paranoid about a preëmptive nuclear strike by the West, afraid in the face of claims of a new Western defensive shield called “Star Wars” claimed could knock out any missile launched against the West.

Stanislav Petrov was a civilian officer recruited at an early warning base in Russia, his duty was to watch for any attempt to launch missiles against the Russia by the West.  26 September 1983 the alarms went off, computers indicated multiple missile launches against Russia.

Petrov intuitively felt something was wrong with the computers, a computer malfunction perhaps, he went against his orders and did not report the “launch”. Petrov waited until the first missiles “landed” without incident until he reported what happened.

Had Petrov reported the missile launch Russia would have likely launched its own missiles, followed by the West launching theirs, starting World War 3.

His Russian superiors punished Petrov for his insubordination, only when Communism collapsed was Petrov recognised for potentially saving the world for his daring individuality.


16 responses to “The lonely rebel

  1. sounds like Edward Snowden… waiting life imprisonment or death for treason in the US.

    I agree – one cannot lead by doing what everyone else is doing.

  2. Wow-amazing. I did not know this. Makes me wonder about other participants in world events who will never been known. Interesting.

  3. This is so interesting Alex… and brand new information to me… I have often wondered if a computer could be hacked and these systems falsified causing a third world war… as I’m sure that China and America now face each other in the wake of the Russians having stood down, do you think a bug could have these two shooting at each other… if it is so then I’m glad I live in the Southern Hemisphere well away from it all…
    But Petrov should be glorified as the one who saved the world…

    • I reckon humanity is getting too complacent in relying on its technology and systems too much, I think the world had a close call in 1983. There should be a statue to Petrov in every nation for what he did.

  4. I remember reading this some time ago now Alex, yes often its the ones who stand out from the norm who dare go that extra mile… The Berlin Wall is another example… I had a friend who was working in Berlin at the time, He was a former colleague I worked with and he brought me a piece of the graffiti concrete wall as a memento which I still have today to remind us how the things that divide us can crumble and be torn down as we strive to a united world.. 🙂
    Lovely informative post Alex

  5. This kind of paranoia was commented on in so many films of the 80s, like WarGames, Dreamscape, and others. Richard Feynman himself in the documentary, The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out, talks about how he did not think about what he was doing and the implications of his success when he was working on the Manhattan Project. He did not realize until after, which then threw him into a dark hole of depression and gloom, convinced that everything done was being done for nothing as it was all going to end in Nuclear War.

    • I have watched the movie WarGames, which illustrated the point of this blog well. When we push further forward leaving all our decision making to technology the risk rises that the machine may do us harm.

      The tool is only as good as the user. Richard Feynman in my opinion should have been wise enough to know the weapon he was creating would evolve to become the monster as we have now seen.

  6. Pingback: The lonely rebel | The Liberated Way « Makere's Blog

  7. [ Smiles ] As far as I am concerned, there will always be rebels in every age.

    Great article, Alex.

  8. Fantastic example to prove your point. Now for todays whistleblowers to be seen as heroes as well.

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