Let’s join them up. It’s a brilliant combination that surprisingly provides the answer to just about everything. Invite your inner anarchist out to play and we’ll take a quick look.
So there I am in the cafe, making heavy weather of a load of work stuff. Everything seems difficult. I tell myself that I have to produce something really good (first hint) and that I must show added value to the team (big clue).
Thirty minutes waddle by, and nothing has been achieved. Feeling leaden and not at all useful (another clue), I put the lap-top on the naughty step.
The phone rings.
Taken unawares, I do what I should have done ages earlier.
I ask for help.
What a great conversation! A mutuality of suggestions and talk results. Everything immediately feels lighter, brighter, and more do-able as we say goodbye.
So why is Kropotkin in my café?
Prince Kropotkin was the poster boy for Anarchist thought in the 19th century. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Kropotkin )
(He’s the favourite political thinker of Tom Hodgkinson of ‘The Idler’ fame http://idler.co.uk/about/ ).
Kropotkin’s ‘Mutual Aid’ was published in 1902, and is a heart expanding counterpoint to Darwinism as we have come to interpret it.
Prince K stressed the importance of cooperation, rather than competition, as the basis for a healthy and creative society. Following zoological research and data, as Darwin had done, he said he ‘failed to find..that bitter struggle for the means of existence’ that he was looking for. Could different views be explained by geography? The location for much of Darwin’s work was characterized by limited natural resources supporting dense populations of varied species.
In Russia, where the environment is constantly threatening to extinguish life, species co-operate to survive and thrive. Darwin was preoccupied with population control in a crowded land as modern capitalism emerged, Kropotkin was living in a pre – revolutionary structured society as socialism emerged.
But what I really like about Prince K is the love shown in his world view. He observes natural fluid collaborations emerging as they are needed. He sees mutual beneficial acts between equals (rather than the giver and receiver roles found in charity). He notes that nourishing happiness seems to come from social relationships, rather than individualistic behaviour.
Mutuality. Collaboration. Reciprocity. Joining.
If I hadn’t been so pig-headedly individualistic about being able to fix something all by myself, and had explored collaboration at the start of the morning, how much happier a time that would have been.
And the link to coffee?
From 15th century Sufi Muslims, through the first coffee house in Mecca in 1511, through English Coffee houses in the 1650s, to a branch of Starbucks in the Forbidden City in 2007, this mind altering substance mirrors very Kropotkin-like behaviours. These early coffee houses were places where news could be shared and free speech encouraged: no external authority needed or sought. ‘Penny universities’ where the coffee drinkers learned together.
Back to reality: the café I’m sitting in now, bristling with smart technology, feels a long long way from a place where political discussion and subversive thinking takes place in an egalitarian environment.
But then the café has the last laugh. A dispatch rider’s bag has got caught up in the chair right by the door, just as two children are casually trying to scoot in. Four of us, strangers, leap up as one to catch the door and the children.
I knew it