Living in a city fueled by flagrant materialism, conspicuous consumption, and a reputation for social if not outright physical violence has made cowards of us all. If you talk back to the cop who pulls you over for your skin color rather than your flickering taillight, you risk a beatdown. Speak up about the craven capitalism of your corporation, and you'll find yourself on unemployment with three sketchy roommates in a studio apartment. Yet a spirit of rebellion, one that has haunted Miami for decades, is taking corporeal form. People are overcoming fear and are speaking -- and stepping -- up. Students and janitors at the University of Miami in April staged strikes and sit-ins over low wages and lack of benefits for cleaning crews. During the same month, farm workers and their supporters congregated in Homestead to advocate for rights for illegal immigrants. And that issue brought out a rainbow of flags from different nations for similar actions on May 1. A sometimes strident yet effective brigade of homeowners in Coconut Grove has torpedoed plans for a Home Depot on Bird Avenue through a combination of speaking before the Miami City Commission, leafleting, and plastering fences and walls with "The Grove Says No" signage. Some of these people have all the Benjamins, but many, if not most, are of limited means and risk a great deal by making their minds known. Still, if Silence = Death, a lot fewer people in our town are on the doorstep than in years past.