Democracy Arsenal

« Bush vs. the Constitution | Main | Another Echo of Vietnam »

July 13, 2007

Why I Love Starbucks
Posted by Shadi Hamid

“We will end poverty and stop HIV/AIDS within our generation when guided by African principles such as ubuntu that underscore our interconnectedness. With greater compassion for others, we would no longer accept hunger and diease as facts of life” says Cedza Dlamini, founder of the Ubuntu Institute for Young Social Entrepreneurs. How do I know he said this? Well, because I found the quote on my Starbucks cup yesterday.

When I read the quote, I thought to myself, liberals – i.e. Starbucks drinkers – are very well-meaning people. And I’m happy that they will now know what ubuntu is. There is something rather amusing (and self-indulgent) about “coffee-cup liberalism,” but at the end of the day, I kind of like it. Let’s export it. Oh yea, we’re already doing that. If you weren’t aware, Starbucks is in the process of colonizing Egypt. I can’t say that this is a bad thing, particularly as there is a new theory emerging in the political science literature called the “Starbucks peace theory" – i.e. countries with Starbucks don’t go to war with each other. So, instead of invading the Iranians, why don’t we force a Starbucks store in Tehran down their throats? That can be our stick, until we think of a carrot (or is it the other way around?).

Back to the original point. Your local Starbucks store is a fun place to spend time in with your laptop. If you spend enough time there, you begin to form a community of people endlessly peering with quizzical stares at their laptop screen while indulging in an exceedingly expensive coffee concoction of some sort, and you make lifelong friends (on one of those big six-person tables with the two blue lamps…yeah, you know what I’m talking about). This is liberalism at its best, and I’d very much like to see us impose it on other people. Why not?

However, there are things I've seen and heard at Starbucks recently that have caused my eyebrows to rise slightly. First, there’s that incredibly cloying picture of Paul McCartney at every Starbucks store on the planet to mark the release of his new album (courtesy of Starbucks music label Hear Music). Memory Almost Full, as it's called, is irredeemably bad, yet another disappointment in a career that has been defined by an uneasy but unmistakable feeling that Paul is useless without John. Yes, Macca’s best post-Beatles song was “Another Day,” and that was in 1970.

Besides Paul, there are other things that have caught my attention lately, for better and worse. Yesterday, for instance, I was waiting in line and the guy in front of me asked the barrista for a medium coffee. I couldn't believe it. I was beside myself. What is that? It's not called "medium." It's called grande! If you don't know this simple fact, you have no right to step into a Starbucks store. I had another memorable moment earlier this week. Again, waiting in line. The guy in front of me asks for a "Hashish latte." I'm not joking. He thought this was funny and started chuckling (maybe it was an inside joke). I guess it was kind of funny. Even funnier though was the barrista's response: "Yea, I got kicked out of a bar once for smoking hashish." I thought I was in a parallel universe, and, well, in a way, I was.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Why I Love Starbucks:


Can't say I've ever heard of the "Starbucks peace theory," but I have heard of Thomas Friedman's "Golden Arches" theory. (Which never was strictly true, but is a powerful point regardless.)

I boycott Starbucks because the company treats it workers like Sh*t and pay them poverty line wages. Below is a trial against Starbucks in the National Labor Relations Board that started last week in N.Y.C. Go to for more information. Starbucks is full of Bullsh*t when it sells these progressive liberal ideals. Its all about profit.


A trial against Starbucks at the National Labor
Relations Board over terminations, discrimination,
interference,and surveillance against its own
baristas. The proceedings are open to the public.


Starbucks' socially responsibility claim is in for its
biggest test yet. After an independent investigation
triggered by charges from the IWW, the Labor Board hit
Starbucks with a massive complaint alleging over 30
critical violations of workers' rights including the
termination of three employees for union activity. The barista firings
at issue in the case resulted in solidarity actions from around the world.
Now Starbucks will have to answer for its illegal acts in open court.

Despite the fierce anti-union campaign by the world's
largest fast-food coffee outlet, baristas around the
country continue to join the IWW Starbucks Workers
Union to pressure the company on issues of concern
including insecure work hours, poverty wages, and
unaffordable health care.

Interesting you should bring up Iran. I was reading a great book by Elaine Sciopino (NY Times Reporter) on Iran, and I guess she was on some bus trip through the country with a bunch of Western tourists (this was back during the Khatami days) and this businessman next to her on the bus had this loud eureka moment and said "God! You know who could make a killing here? Starbucks! Think about it, there's no public alcohol consumption... I know the guy to do it too." Maybe it's time for some barista diplomacy.

No offense there--but you sound like a ditz!

I always love it when people preface an unabashed insult with the phrase "no offense." The ironic juxtaposition never ceases to please, particularly when offered anonymously. Thanks for that scintillating addition to the conversation.

ahhh, but Iran already has its Starbucks and McDonalds. They're just called "Classic" and "Starburger" - Persian versions!

Regarding Quote 255
I have to comment on the quote #255 from Cedaz Dlamini telling us that if we only adopt the African principles of Ubunti we would be able to end poverty and Aids in our generation.

Perhaps this quote is taken out of context of a local discussion in Africa but it seems to be intended to have a global impact when printed on a starbucks coffee cup.

A simple observation of reality will tell you that is not likely Ubunti is this powerful. If these principles work so well in Africa why is poverty and aids a bigger problem in Africa than anywhere else in the world.

It is obvious that the principles of democracy, religious freedom, accpetance of diversity in our culture, and free enterprise have demonstrated a more effective results against poverty and disease than any other systems or principles.

If Ubunti is thought to have such a powerfull potential why not first demonstrate results so that others might be convinced of its effectiveness otherwise it just sounds like some new age nonsense.

Welcome to our game world, my friend asks me to buy some Metin2 yang . I do not know how to use the Cheap metin2 yang ; my friend tells me how to use. I will thank for my friends bringing me in this world. I am not regret to buy Cheap metin2 gold . We all love game, if you want to play it, please Buy metin2 gold and join us. Please do not hesitate to have game.

Therefore, I should buy Tales Of Pirates Gold with the spare money.

I hope i can get rf online gold in low price.
i buy rf money for you.

This nickname, I have two small things in the ghost online gen. It is necessary that ghost goldfor the game.

Tomorrow will be my birthday, so my friends promise to buy AO credits as gifts. I am so happy. They understand me so well, Anarchy online gold is my favorite.

I am so happy. They understand me so well

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Thank you for your sharing! I like i very much!

The FRANCK MULLER Watch Santa FRANCK MULLER Watch Monica-based

Good recommended website.

That's awesome! I can't wait to get into it.

Both sides of the symmetrical lines, wantonly flaunt a perfect Louis Vuitton handbagsline, in the right case, the border, from 9 o'clock to 12 o'clock position to develop a unique design to show the whole concept of asymmetry, resulting in visual surprise, crown, located in the the right to beautiful, 4 o'clock position of the bright red jujube board. Black dial with white silkLouis Vuitton handbags screen printing, second hand with red paint, resulting in the formation of brand image is more out of color.

Good recommended website.

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.

Guest Contributors
Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use