So, today I decided that I would spent my afternoon reading in the Radcliffe Camera (or the Rad Cam as me and fellow law buds like to call it), it’s a library in Oxford where you would literally be able to hear a pin drop. Everything is always so still and silent – everyone is reading, or at least trying to read, or perhaps they are just giving the impression of reading. Whatever it is that people there are doing, today I just felt uninspired. I sat in front of a book “In Defense of Anarchism”, of course I did, it’s difficult not to when every single person in the room has their head buried in a book – whether they were taking a nap or actually trying to read, I don’t know but I, for sure, was not doing anything constructive. Words were just words on a page to me – I didn’t read them as sentences and whatever it was that I was doing, it did not require any brain power at all. So after about 2 hours of sitting in front of this book which was on this week’s reading list, I packed up my stuff (very very quietly) and headed out. What a relief, I thought, how suffocating that library was! Then, having not eaten all day and it being about 5pm, I headed for a coffee break and I guess, dinner.
I somehow ended up in Pret a Manger, the ever so slightly snazzy and posh (I guess it is quite posh right?) cafe. It was really busy. I didn’t realise that many people went to coffee shops on an early Sunday evening… Anyway, I was wrong, I actually struggled to find a seat, so I had to sit with these two men discussing some kind of business project – and yes, they were discussing it in classic coffee shop style, one hand holding coffee and the other holding a proposal. That was fine, I was only there to eat anyway, but I guess in an attempt to combat looking like an absolute loner I took out my tablet and began doing some more Jurisprudence reading. This week’s topic – Authority. Everything was fine, and I was just munching through my Chicken Jalepeno wrap until the two men left and before I knew it, a family of four replaced them.
Without purposefully paying much attention I acknolwedged a controlling mum, a stressed out dad, and two young children. It was really interesting listening to their conversation and although it seems rather socially inappropriate to have listened, the conversation was so loud that it was almost impossible not to. The mum, in a stern tone, asked the older of the two children, ‘Now how do you feel about the food? How would you describe it?’ in an attempt to teach them vocabulary (I’m assuming). You could tell that both parents were tired, probably after a long family day-out and the mum actually let out a rather fed-up sigh. The dad didn’t say much at all the whole time other than the occassional ‘mm, this is a nice place’.
But after roughly half an hour of the same dynamic the mum left the group temporarily to visit the toilet and that’s when I could almost feel the children’s acknowledgement of a change. The children immediately became more active, with the younger one crawling onto the sofa seat I was sitting on, waving a newspaper dangerously close to my face and the dad asserting ‘Tiger, do you want to lose something again? Stop that now. Stop it!’ but to no avail. You see, it was clear that the children only listened to orders (excuse me if that’s too emotive a word, but it seems appropriate in light of the reading I was doing) that were made by the mum – the children barely even flinted at the dad’s threats. Nothing the dad said would get the child to stop his newspaper antic and at one point the dad said ‘stop, you almost hit someone (me) in the face’. I wanted to assure him that I was fine, but he seemed very stressed out and I didn’t want to embarass him by acknolwedging what he had said to the child. So I just kept eating and I pretended all was fine. Until I could see the mum coming back and as soon as the child recognised this, he immediately put down the paper and sat down in his origianl seat.
Interestingly, I was, and still am, reading about the concept of authority in Jurisprudence.
‘How fascinating!’, I thought, that the children recognised authority as belonging to a certain person. The dad and mum could have made the exact same threat but the children would only react in accordance of the rule if they found the threat to be made by the person whom they considered to posses authority – the person whom they considered authoritative. That the content of the threat did not matter I guess seems obvious since those threatened were children and probably didn’t evaluate, or reason quite as extensively as an adult would. But, it was as if my jurisprudence reading had come to life in the format of this family of strangers to me.
How fascinating. A whole 2 hours in the Rad Cam I felt uninspired and unmotivated – but a rowdy coffee break in a local coffee shop was actually rather thought-provoking. Ironic? Perhaps.