Listening to the news just now, about MPs being jostled and abused while trying to get into Parliament, makes me realise just what a Pandora’s Box the referendum turned out to be.
The referendum was supposed to be advisory, just to find out what the country wanted, assuming it would return a good majority to remain.
But oh my goodness, look what curiosity did. Look at all the forces that have been unleashed. All the attitudes and positions we were blissfully unaware of, that have been emboldened.
If you are wondering how to explain Brexit to little ones, you could do no better than to go back to the original warning story of them all.
Teach children now about when to leave well alone, so they don’t make the same decisions when they grow up and take control themselves.
Tell them that Parliament was so curious to find out what the people thought, they decided to ask them. The referendum was like a Pandora’s Box, they knew should be left well alone – their job was to make the choice themselves, but Parliament was just too curious, it had to lift the lid and find out. It never expected what was going to happen, how their failure to govern and make decisions has brought us to this.
A strange thing happened when I successfully launched my picture book, Pandora, on Kickstarter this year.
Kickstarter is a crowd-funding site, where people can pledge to support a project to allow the creator time and funds to complete it.
Flushed with success, I contacted all the people in the Cherished Supporters tier, asking them for posting details, etc. and also for the name to print on the Cherished Supporters Page of the book.
Can you imagine my surprise, when I came to lay out the artwork for the page, to find that one of the Cherished Supporters was Julian Assange the founder of WikiLeaks!
I contacted the garbled, jumble of numbers and letters on the anonymous gmail address of the kickstarter supporter and asked – “Are you actually Julian Assange or a well-wisher?”
I felt that I should add a note of explanation to the book package I was about to send to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. There might be security issues, especially as the book was sealed in an envelope with a “Do Not Open!” sticker.
It was a special, signed, first-edition with all sorts of warning labels and seals to prevent anyone, but the most curious, from opening the book and finding out what happens.
An anonymous email came back approving idea, explaining that the supporter wanted to send the book to JS as a gift. No reason why. No suggestion of being a supporter or an opponent.
I sent the book to the Ecuadorian Embassy, in London, with a covering letter explaining what was in the package and why. I’ve not heard back from anyone at all and the book has not been returned. I’ve no idea how it was received. I’ve no idea why it was sent!
Since publication, and presenting the story to both children and adults, I’ve thought about the story of Pandora a lot, and children have helped me take a sideways look at it too.
I’ve removed the Eve story, the creation of woman as the cause of all evil in the world. That just has no place in the world today. The story is left with the themes of insatiable curiosity, disobedience and just plain minding your own business.
I agonised over wether I should be telling young children to always do as they are told. For a five year old, that’s generally very good advice. But there are times when it’s not just good, but right to shout out loud about something that is wrong.
But age and curiosity should breed wisdom too, a sense of knowing when to keep quiet – to mind your own business. Or knowing when to lift the lid of the box and release the powers that you may never have imagined possible.
The story of Pandora is a warning: Be careful what you ask for, be careful what you seek! If you are completely minded to go ahead and unleash something you don’t quite understand, be prepared for all the unintended consequences. Your brain is not big enough to compute the potential good or bad that you might set free into the world nor that which might come back to haunt you.
The children I’ve read this to have taught me that the world must have been a very boring place before Pandora opened the box. All the bad things the world had never know before act as mirrors to all the good things. Yin and Yang. Counterbalances. Without one, the other means little.
Pandora also released hope into the world – but, unknowingly, she also released the powerful and destructive force of creativity that formed the world we live in today.
How does that relate to Julian Assange? I’m not sure. It’s a long game that history will eventually decide upon. Maybe he too will become a myth – Mandora?