I recall the first time I tried to argue with a teacher, and quickly realised it was a futile exercise.

To tell them they were wrong was like trying to get Wags to roll over. He looks me in the eye with that “you want me to do what?” look, puts his paws on my shoulders and licks my face.

I never had a teacher lick my face, but the stare you’d get when trying to argue a point on an assessment paper was vacant.

An auntie of mine once used to argue with the talkback radio callers. Audibly. She’d then get agitated that nobody would respond.

She wanted action, so on one occasion I recall suggesting she call the station. Make your point heard, I said.

“What? And open myself to scrutiny and ridicule. No way.”

You can’t blame a man for trying.

As I was making my way through the work ranks, my father used to say a couple of things. My favourite was: “Bluff your way to the top, son.”

But there was another, and a saying I’ve heard often: “If you’ve got a suggestion, say it in a way they think it’s their idea.”

I left a newspaper article on the desk of a particularly stubborn teacher one day.

I was trying to prove that I had made a valid point in one of my assignments. Knowing that any form of verbal argument was pointless, I thought the subtle approach might work.

The teacher gave me back my article, gave me a pat on the back, and walked off.

It was a valuable lesson. Don’t worry about gaining any credit. You’ve earned respect. Take your small win knowing you’ve made your point, and move on.

It’s one of those things I’ve taken with me in life. Being able to make progress without creating waves.

I tried to do it at work, although a room full of egos was never easy. More importantly however, I’ve always done it at home.

Wanda and I have our disagreements. But we don’t argue much. It’s easier to allow Wanda to review the situation, provide some recommendations, at which point I accept them, “lock, stock and barrel.”

Sound familiar?

When governments make mistakes, they order an inquiry. They distance themselves from the problem. No point arguing, right?

Someone then goes away and sifts through all the complaints. Legitimises them. Puts them into a spreadsheet. And makes recommendations that the worker bees have been asking for years prior.

They then write a report that goes back to Queen, the one who ordered the inquiry.

But they’re clever. They write it in a way that allows the people who ordered the inquiry to present the findings as their own. Not their own work, but their own ideas.

Allow me to provide some context: “I would not have asked Professor Coaldrake to conduct this review if I did not want reform,” says the Queen P.

“We will accept all of his recommendations and we will implement them lock, stock and barrel.”

So yet again, the cunning plan to make progress without creating waves is implemented with the finest of precision.

Because, you see, the Queen P has seen worker bees come and go, collecting honey until they fall over with exhaustion, answering to middle-ranked bees who sit at home in their hive wanting nothing more than to prove to the hive leader that all is sweet.

Worker bees are expendable. Middle-ranked bees live longer and live much cushier lives working their way around the hive, probably making friends and cutting deals for mutual longevity.

And in the end, it’s all about the Queen whose existence is dependent on how those outside the hive perceive the operation to be.

We – the outsiders – see the worker bees, collecting pollen, and we’re in awe. But if there’s a hitch, and worker bees aren’t happy any more, that’s when the problems kick in, and the Queen looks bad.

We could get a new Queen. But that would be difficult. So we accept that she accepts the recommendations of an independent assessor, “lock, stock and barrel.”

And so the cycle continues.

Hey Wanda, you know how you said it would be a good idea to get some honey from the supermarket for my tea?

 

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