The Stapler Rebellion

“Class, can you tell me what this is representing?”

The VR diorama  showed two women in early Space era outfits, the one in a tidy romper with a skirt-wrap of a style that was classic enough that it kept cycling around every generation or so, the other in a sloppy scientist’s jumpsuit.  The classily-dressed woman had her back turned on a distraught scientist who was shaking a stapler.

“Oh!  That’s the Stapler Revolution!”  One of the know-it-all students bounced a little. “That’s when — when they changed all the laws about staplers? No, that’s not right.  It’s…”

“It’s not often discussed in detail, which is a pity.  Back in the days when this was a very small space station and not The Station,” the teacher gestured around their class space as if taking in the whole station, and the VR scenario obligingly changed to show The Station in its stylized VR glory, 2 megameters in diameter at the widest and a lumpy conglomeration of pieces that fit together mostly by luck. “There were only scientists, and so the scientists ruled and made all of the regulations.  But as they began to import more people — first lab assistants, and then support staff — they began to delegat almost all of the making of the rules to their assistants, their administrative staff. However, as the story goes — and even the scientists’ own records hold to this — they would still want input into those rules, generally after they had been made and implemented.

“Finally,” the teacher waved, and they were back at the diorama, the administrative staff woman now facing the scientist, “the administrative staff had reached their breaking point.  They engaged in what was called a ‘soft rebellion’: they stopped supplying non-essential materials. Staples, coffee, new light bulbs — these things simply ‘were forgotten’ in the orders or were misplaced or… just never got ordered.”  The teacher’s voice suggested approval. “Eventually, it occurred to the scientists that the O2 scrubbers, the food supplies, and the water filtration systems were also ordered through the administrative staff, and they gave in to their staff’s demands.”

“But why staplers?”  One student sounded very confused. “Why was there anything to staple?  Isn’t that an old-time technique for holding together paper? Why would you go to the effort of shipping paper up here before there were trees up here?”

“Ah.”  The teacher, now, was very pleased indeed.  “And that is a very good segue for our lesson on Vestigial Habits and Language. Now, let us move on to the next display…”

If any of the students remembered the ancient metal stapler sitting on the teacher’s desk, they were polite enough not to mention it.  

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