When I was a student, my school’s curriculum required me to attend a personal development seminar for a week. Many of them were hokey bullshit, as these things often are (neuro-linguistic programming, anyone?), but one of them called my attention: autonomy.
I don’t remember what the description said, maybe it was just the least bad of the lot. I had no idea what to expect, and that probably contributed to the magnitude of the impact it had on me. The instructor was a no-nonsense middle-aged man. He did not teach for a living, at least not people our age. For a week, he guided our small group through a down-to-earth, straightforward and practical reflection on autonomy.
The first thing he did was define it for us: why autonomy rather than freedom or independence? Simply put, because while these two are lovely ideals, they’re also unrealistic for any human being to achieve. Stop lying to yourselves, he said. No one is free. If you live in a society, your freedom will always be limited by an even greater principle: respect for others. Also, don’t fool yourselves into thinking you’re independent: there’s always someone you rely on, and if you are where you are now, someone’s helped you along the way.
Autonomy is a highly underrated notion. It’s what you call freedom, or independence, once you become an adult. It comes with the peaceful acceptance of boundaries, yours and those of others. It does not mean always doing what you like whenever the hell you want to. It’s learning to recognize what truly matters to you and doing right by yourself, in accordance with your values. It’s giving yourself the means to do it, adapting to circumstances without losing yourself. It’s not saying “I’ll go skiing instead of celebrating my dad’s 70th birthday.” It’s saying: “I’d much rather go skiing, but today my dad is more important.” Being autonomous is turning into the person you are and standing strong in your own boots, with high standards, but no illusions, no expectations, and no jadedness.
I was 19 years old, and it changed quite a few things for me. So thank you, Ross, for reminding me of that lesson.
— From SF.
Starbucks is trying to be more American in Britain and comedian Jon Holmes noticed it’s not really working:
“The corporate dark overlords of the high-streets, Starbucks, has launched this new initiative whereby they’re going to ask you your name every time you go in and buy what they optimistically describe as coffee.
This is an American idea of course being all friendly and welcoming. While it might work in the States they simply haven’t reckoned with their new target audience. I was in a Starbucks yesterday (…) when I hear the sound of rebellion. The barista was behind the counter and smiling, which was his first mistake.
“Hi! Welcome to Starbucks! What’s your name?’ said the barista brightly to a man in his 40s. The man replied “shove it up your ass, mate”. Did you know, I was warmed to my soul. The man’s comeback was of course a textbook British response to someone being nice to them but it wasn’t the wittiest that I heard.
The best one came when the increasingly desperate barista tried out the new policy again on the next man in the queue. When he force-smiled out the words “Hi! What’s your name?” A voice from the back of the queue went
“Don’t tell him, pike!”
— From London, via BBC radio 4 The Now Show.