A Saturday Night In Starbucks

Several years ago, an unusual set of events found me at Starbucks on a Saturday night. It had been a reasonably decent day, but there are, as we all know, plenty of things in this world to be depressed about. And those things, as we also know, are massively amplified by the attention-seeking class. Somehow, the parade of negativity had its effect on me.

Sitting in the Starbucks cured me.

What I Saw

It was a very average Starbucks in a very average location. And the very average people sitting with me were a nearly perfect cross-section of the American demographic.

To my left was a middle-aged black man, doing something on his laptop. Just past him was a middle-aged white woman doing the same. Past her, in the corner, were three teenage girls – one black, one white, one Latin – studying together.

Behind me was another black man with a laptop and piles of papers, and past him a young couple falling in love over lattes.

At the big, center table was a 25ish woman, with multiple piles of paper upon which she was working very hard. After a while, her boyfriend showed up. She hugged him, laid her head on his shoulder, and they kissed. It was sweet. Then he got to work with her.

There were also people coming and going. They were more of the same: A cross-sectional American parade of people behaving quietly and well.

Watching these people, I decided that it would be far better to spend time helping them than to obsess over all the bad things in the world. These are the people who deserve our efforts.

What Would Help the Bright Side of Humanity?

That, of course, brought me to the question of how to help the bright side of humanity, and I decided that a great start would be to make one point very clearly:

Fear is a brain hack; a malicious and effective one.

When people want to get their hands on your time and money – and don’t want to be bothered with that pesky ‘reason’ thing – fear is how they do it… over and over and over. Fear works.

So, if we want to move the brighter side of humanity forward, the first thing we need to do is to inform them that fear is their greatest enemy. They need to understand – and remember – that when someone tries to make them afraid, they are being hacked.

Secondly, we need to assure the brighter side of humanity that their way is right… that they have every right to live their way; that they should not abandon their values to screaming political hucksters.

Power-seekers have always been with us, and they can succeed only by getting frightened people to line up behind them. They need us to adopt their slogans, respond to their fears, and run their stories through our minds.

Those story lines, of course, service dominance, power, and archaic models of lordship. They do not serve human advancement.

The people I saw in the Starbucks held a different and better set of ideals. They believed that everyone should be treated with respect; that coercion and fraud are wrong; that everyone should be left alone to do as they please, so long as they don’t intrude upon others.

This decent side of humanity needs to know that their ideals should never be abandoned for a political cause, no matter how Earth-shakingly urgent it seems.

The people I saw in the Starbucks, to be blunt about it, were morally superior to the powerful and the fear-peddlers.

Such people should hold to their values, stay with their own lines of reason, and believe in their own virtues.

And When They Do?

Once the people I saw at Starbucks start believing in themselves, the world will change, and massively.

These people – and there are untold millions of them – are productive and cooperative. Their problem is that they’ve been laying aside their virtues at the insistence of fear-peddlers.

The people in the Starbucks didn’t need edicts from potentates.

Once the “Starbucks people” decide that fear and subservience were contrary to life itself, they will move into a better age. Such transitions are difficult, of course, but once these people truly believe in their own ways, the ways of the fear-peddlers will pass away.

May it be soon.


Paul Rosenberg