Ask the average parent about views on disobedience and the answer you are most likely to get will be that it is a bad thing. And yet despite this there is some evidence around that disobedience is on the increase.
Some might argue that it is a simple everyday human reaction. The more we are told to do something, the less we want to do it.
One can observe this with children, of course. Appeals to logic, offers of rewards, and threats of punishment all seem to be as nothing to the child who has decided that whatever he/she is doing now and is being told not to do, is something he/she just has to do, right now, over and over again.
“Don’t kick the door,” says the parent.
“Thump,” responds the child’s foot.
That’s how it goes.
I got a new insight into this state of affairs a couple of weeks back when a package turned up addressed to me at Admiral Self Storage with the sign, “Do not open” on it. Since there was no indication as to who had sent the package or what was inside it, I was somewhat bemused.
Having left the parcel on a shelf for a day I then wondered if there could be something dangerous about the package, and so quickly moved it outside the building into an empty storage area.
Two days later I went back to look at it again, and it was still there.
After a week, with nobody having called me or emailed me with what I would have taken to be a helpful note saying, “This week I sent you a package with the words ‘Do not open’ on it. What I need you to do is…” I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I opened it.
Inside was a collection of small replica soldiers which appeared to be of some antiquity, and which I took to be part of a collection. Each soldier was in a cellophane container, each with a small version of the now famous, “Do not open” label.
Once more I waited for a week, before finally succumbing to a whole variety of internal pressures, and upon returning to the box duly opened one of the little packets and removed the soldiers.
After three such operations, and finding that by and large, the world had not ended, I decided to tip out all of the individually wrapped soldiers onto my desk. And there, at the bottom of the box, were some fifty or sixty signs (larger than those on the solider packages, and more akin to the size of the label on the box) saying “Do not open”.
Contemplating these for a while I decided to remove a dozen of these before carefully replacing the soldiers and the unused stickers, resealing the box and putting it in storage.
I then took one of the notices and put it on the door to my office.
Five minutes later one of my colleagues came in. “Didn’t you see the sign?” I ventured. He looked at me curiously, went back, looked at the outside of the door, and said, “oh that” and returned to the visitor’s seat in my office.
After the meeting, I then returned to the outside of my door and put a second identical “do not enter” notice on it.
Ten minutes later my phone rang. It was another of my colleagues from the warehouse who told me that he had been over to see me, but had found the notice on the door, thought I was busy and so was phoning me instead.
“So you are phoning me because you thought I was busy,” I repeated.
“And what would you do if I were not busy?” I asked.
“I’d come and see you in person,” I was told.
“So what’s the difference?” I asked.
“There’s no notice on the phone,” he replied, quick as a flash.
I immediately felt the need to gain advice on this conundrum. But then just as suddenly the words of Michael Gove during the recent election came back to me. “I think you’ll find,” he said, “that the country has had enough of experts.”
Given that he is the Justice Secretary and thus responsible for the work of solicitors, barristers, judges, magistrates and the like – all of whom are experts in their own way – I decided to send him an envelope with “Do not open” on it.
I am trusting that he doesn’t have an expert on hand to advise him whether to agree to the instruction or not.
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Admiral Self Storage Ltd
Tel: 0800 810 1125