“The coffee house revolution”…REALLY???


By Kenneth Justice

This past weekend I was sitting at a coffee shop early in the morning just outside the city of Philadelphia. I’d only been sitting there for five minutes, I hadn’t even had time to plug my laptop cord into the outlet, when I found myself in the middle of a conversation with the dude sitting next to me.

Every coffee shop tends to have at least one coffee shop connoisseur, a regular patron who has a passion for coffee and a massive knowledge on the subject of all things-coffee; and the dude that I was talking to was clearly this particular coffee shop’s resident guru.

Our conversation went so well that when I told him it was time for me to leave in order to meet up with fellow bloggers and readers who were coming to see me in Philadelphia he asked if he could go with me, to which of course I obliged.

It was as we were sitting at La Columbe in Philadelphia and this coffee house guru got to see up close and personal my fellow readers and bloggers who showed up to meet me, people I’d never met before in person having only connected via the Internet, that I could see the wheels in this man’s head turning.

When the last blogger left, the coffee shop guru turned to me and said quite succinctly, “Kenneth, you’ve started a revolution” he said, “I’m amazed that these people came to have coffee with you and have never met you, I can’t believe how they come and are so willing to share their lives and stories with you

Of course, to be a part of a revolution one must be revolting against something, and I hardly see myself doing much more than sharing a cup of coffee with fellow bloggers and readers and nice conversation. But the more I started thinking about what the coffee guru shared with me….the more I began to wonder if there was truth behind his observation,

For more than a year I’ve been writing articles about the frustrations people have with Western Culture,

—-) Countless research studies are finding that the rates of depression and loneliness have skyrocketed

—-) Most people simply don’t know their neighbors; we live isolated lives from people who live 20 feet away

—-) More and more people have become addicted to staring at their phones and computer screens rather than staring their friends and family in the eyes when they converse with each other

—-) In the United States the Tea Party Movement and then the Occupy Movement (whether we agree with the politics of these movements isn’t relevant) are evidence that people have become frustrated with their lack of relevance in shaping our society

—-) Whether you live in the Ukraine, UK, Australia, Canada, or the U.S., people all over the place are frustrated with their governments and politicians who seem to not give a damn about their constituents

While I’m hardly about to say that my little coffee house tour is some kind of revolution, I do realize a sense of irony in what I’m doing; as so many of us have become frustrated with the way Western Culture is moving, I’ve harnessed the positive aspects of the Internet in order to meet and connect with readers and fellow bloggers all over the Western World.

To call what I’m doing a revolution, in my humble opinion, seems to overstate the case; I’m simply meeting up with readers and bloggers all over the Western World to share a cup of a coffee and conversation; I’m a simple coffee house bum. Yet, when I look at the comment section in some of my articles and see nearly a thousand invitations to stay at people’s houses (people I’ve never met outside of the Internet) I start to wonder about what the future holds.

Alison in Philadelphia made a comment that initially I dismissed, but then the more I thought about it the more I began to realize that it’s a dream that would be very easy to realize; “why don’t we rent a bus in 2015 and get a bunch of us bloggers on board for an even bigger national tour!” she said

The Internet is a powerful tool. I’m thankful for it because without the Internet you wouldn’t be reading this article; but as Western Culture moves closer and closer to a society entirely cut off from each other and dependent on social networks, perhaps there will come a time when you and I say that we want something more out of life,

—-) We want to sit at coffee together and enjoy good conversations like we did before the interruption of smart phones

—-) We want to be a part of a culture where the conversations you and I have at coffee has an immediate and positive effect on the government structures around us.

—-) We don’t want to feel alienated from the powers that be

Perhaps what catches me off guard the most is that the concepts I’ve presented in my articles cut across political and religious ideologies; in my four weeks of touring so far I’ve met conservatives and liberals, agnostics and Anglican’s, Eastern Mystics and Christians. The things that bother so many of us resonate in the minds of so many of us.

I’ve had so many incredible moments in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Philadelphia but one in particular that really stands out happened this past weekend in Philly. A topic came up that two of the people sitting at the table disagreed on, and as I silently watched to see whether it would blow up into a full scale argument; it didn’t. The two people talked calmly and rationally, at various times they both said, “you make a good point” to each other. Now try and see that happen with the people in Washington, DC! Try and get senators and congressmen(women) to sit across from the table and disagree calmly and rationally…..it simply doesn’t happen.

I honestly don’t know what lies ahead of me as I prepare to pull into Madison, Wisconsin this weekend but to say that I’m excited would be an understatement.

Just a few thoughts as I was sipping my…….tea this morning. The vocal stress upon my throat from these travels gave me a sore throat all week so I’m currently drinking green tea with honey to prepare for Wisconsin. If you live in and or near to Madison I would really love for you to join me for a cup of coffee!



Categories: Culture & Society

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80 replies

  1. SEE! You can totally disagree with a person and still have a civil discussion. Yes, I just used the word totally.

    Also, can I join that bus thing? Is there an application I have to fill out or a test I have to take to join? I’ll study hard!

    If I’ve learned anything in the short time I’ve been on this planet, it’s that we all want the same thing. Despite all our opinions and disagreements, we are all fighting for the same sort of happiness. I don’t think this hit home for me until I traveled to anther country. There, even though their opinions were dramatically different from my own, I found they still had the same goals.

    I think this is why I believe so firmly that, if we just listen, people can have a civil discussion, not agree, and still leave the discussion happy. It’s not about agreeing because it’s not about being the same. It’s about understanding so that we no longer fear those who see differently than us.

    • WHOOOOO! FIRST COMMENT. Sorry…. I’ve been trying to do that for a long time….

    • You are cracking me up this morning TK, I often wonder if people notice my catch words… obviously everyone sees “really”…. but ‘totally’ is my second crutch word; I use them to add a sense of affection and endearment in my writing 😉

      As far as your comments; you are TOTALLY right 😉 We can have discussions where we disagree but where we don’t throw marshmallows at each other…..

  2. Hope the tea helps,,,,,, honey. I have a very personal reason for reading your blog. Since my divorce in 2008 I have tried to do all kinds of socializing. I am in a crisis. I find most people are shallow and boring. I am trying to keep up hope that I will meet new people with more to talk about.

    • Thank you Ellen…. it is helping quite a bit. I almost didn’t include that line in the article, but I thought it might be a refreshing twist to me ending every darn article with a reference to coffee… and its also a very truthful statement; my throat is killing me.

      And I totally agree with you; I feel like I woke up one day stuck in a culture of shallow people….. but thanks to blogging I’ve met so many deep and introspective people; they are out there. And this year has been a huge encouragement to my life. Meeting people like yourself has helped give me hope that the world isn’t going to shit.

  3. I’ve noticed that people tend to trend. We get excited and fixated on one thing, but a few years later we calm down and swing back again. Do you think this fascination/obsession with technology will get directed elsewhere in another decade? Surely, the 20s won’t be so tiresome and tedious. I think what you’re really doing is more of a counter-revolution leading away from a dependency on technology. You remind folks that it is a tool – nothing more of less, and we shouldn’t let it become our everything.
    PS – I recommend a Hot Toddy for your throat.

    • I don’t even know what a Hot Toddy is? Its sounds something like a frog (i.e. a toad)?

      As far as your comments, I honestly don’t know Kira, it seems like the excitement over smart phones isn’t stopping. Everywhere I go now people spend more time looking at their phone than at each other. When you and I had coffee in Atlanta, we were the oddballs sitting in the café; neither of us were looking at our phones….. if you looked around I constantly saw people staring at their phones rather than at each other……. I fear that this disconnectedness will only increase 😦

    • Hot Toddy – 1/3 honey, 1/3 lemon juice, 1/3 whiskey
      It’ll soothe your throat – or at least make you not care about it anymore.

      As for the gadgets, I think we’ll peak. I really do. I don’t think we’ll go without them, but I do think once we’ve gotten used to all the shiny stuff that we’ll calm down and not be so engrossed. Basic child development follows that we respond to outside stimuli but eventually get used to it and quit responding. I find society at large tends to follow that same pattern. Here’s hoping it does, anyway.

    • Holy mother of jesus Kira, I’m laughing so hard! I didn’t know it involved whisky…. gosh when I drink whisky I’m pretty much done for, I don’t even think id need to add the lemon and honey 😉

      I would totally try your remedy, but unfortunately, I’m so busy I don’t have a few hours to be lying in bed passed out! I will remember it though and when I have a day off maybe I’ll give it a try :0)

      I’m glad your an optimist because I’m not seeing any evidence of us peaking with the technology. Once Google glass becomes affordable for the average consumer; I think its all over as far as any connection we had with the 20th century.

    • Not to fulfill stereotypes, but I learned that recipe from my grandfather.

  4. This seems to be such an amazing journey you’re on–I’ll admit I’m jealous! Thanks for sharing on your blog. 🙂

  5. I don’t know so much about revolutions, but people like to connect. The internet is great for this, but it can supplement, not replace human contact. In India, more and more people are staring into small screens, and forgetting how to look each other in the eye, or how to read from a smile. Call this the digital marketing revolution.
    For me, I am off to have a beer with one of my oldest and best friends – my first real crush! I will never start a beer though, as I have a hard enough time keeping my weight down!!

    • Its kinda scary that even though the differences between India and the U.S. are so great; that the smart phone is having the same negative effect on both of our cultures 😦

  6. Traditional Scottish preparation of a hot toddy involves the mixture of whisky, boiling water and sugar or honey. Additional ingredients such as cloves, a lemon slice or cinnamon (in stick or ground form) may be added.

    The Irish version, hot whiskey, generally uses Irish whiskey, brown sugar, a lemon slice with cloves, and hot water.

    A common version in the Midwestern United States uses Vernors Ginger Ale, lemon, honey and Bourbon whiskey.[citation needed] In Wisconsin, brandy is often used instead of bourbon.

    A common version in Ontario typically consists of heated Canada dry ginger-ale, honey, and either whiskey or brandy. It is often recommended to heat the ginger-ale before adding the whiskey or brandy, otherwise the heating process will reduce the alcoholic effects of the liquor.

    • Paul, I should have known that anything connected to whisky would be something that your the guru of! Thank you! The first day off I get, if my throat still feels like this I am going to give it a try…… for now I have to keep pressing on and hope I don’t lose my voice again 🙂

    • KJ – problem with adding a comment is that there suddenly sprouts 20 between the one I was reading and the reply I added! I second TK’s wahoo – when you get top slot it feels TOTALLY REALLY fab!

      And you is gonna need a big bus fella! A buses wheels revolt as in revolution around and around!

    • I’ll have to see if I can get a double Decker bus like the ones you have in London 😉

  7. Good for you.. . . .leadership ability !

  8. Dear Kenneth,

    I have so much in my head and heart right now about this article that I physically can barely form a complete sentence. I don’t know for sure but I believe the conversation you are referring to is the one I had with the man in the yellow jacket? Maybe not, but I can tell you this – that part of the conversation I can remember so vividly that the hair on my neck stands up to think about it.

    There in the middle of that buzzing coffee shop I sat looking into the eyes of someone I had only met that day, I can’t tell you the emotions I felt about what we discussed except to say they ran deep. But there was something that ran even deeper: an inner peace. A peace that could permeate and nestle inside ideas and thoughts because it came from beyond that level of thinking. It was a peace that said “Listen.”

    I will never forget that day, that conversation, that vibing groovy peace energy. I remember you saying “I’m a fly on the wall of this conversation.”

    There is a movement afoot and I believe more people are “on the bus” than I even realized until I met you and other writers like us. We are moving toward authenticity, toward shedding boundaries. I’ll stop here because I don’t want to clutter your beautiful sliver of the cyber universe. But these deep conversations rule both sides of my brain and my heart more and more often these days.

    Something’s gotta give. You are such a freaking gift, dude.

    Peace ~ Allison

    • “We are moving toward authenticity, toward shedding boundaries.”

    • Hi Mrs P!! 🙂 Let’s rock this goodness!!

    • 😀

      Actually, the whole bus idea reminds me of the Magic Bus from the sixties and I get visions of psychedelic colors and hippies and my friend, who actually traveled on that bus!

      Trying to erase that image from my mind…this isnot THAT bus! 😉

    • Great comments Alison, I could respond with a really lengthy comment but I’m just gonna quote this by you because I think its really good,

      “We are moving toward authenticity, toward shedding boundaries”

      Sublime statement 🙂 (or in your vernacular; very groovy!)

    • Sublime 🙂 I like that very much.

      PS. Kind of freaking out excited that you are digging the bus idea! Oohhh how I was hoping it would stick lol now for a name . . .

  9. I think by and large bloggers tend to have better communication manners than the average Joe. Many blogs do not allow venom to flow through on to their blogs and self discipline is the tool of the commenter who wants to be heard, which is fantastic because then you can have some genuine dialogue!

    Too many people are slaved to their phones. I know that all of my clients are…you can almost see the hysteria ooze from the depths of their soul every time their phone rings or vibrates…they even allow anyone to text them and most can’t have a decent conversation without it interrupting them. It’s not just the young generation…I see white collar professionals breaking laws right and left because they got a text…distracted driving (usually in big yuppie vans), disobeying speed limits and traffic lights. It’s like they lose their sense of right and wrong, putting themselves and others in danger as a result.

    Having once been a slave to my phone, and experienced that psychosis, I refused to play that game any more. My phone is a tool to use when I [sic] need it. It is not there for the convenience of others. Okay, I stole that sentence from my husband…but it works for me too. My clients know that is how I operate and leave messages, knowing that I will reply in a timely manner. I don’t carry my phone with me 24/7…it is my choice. I have observed that one of my clients has stopped being a slave to her phone over the past six months. She even leaves it at home when she goes out to the gym. She seems much calmer and more relaxed. Is it a coincidence? Not sure…I’d like to think so.

    I think the real revolution is people deciding to be different…not follow the status quo, whatever that is at the time…make their own mark. Most of the real movers and shakers of the world going back as far as history has been recorded did this. Having grown up in Silicon Valley, I remember when it was just orchards…it’s a completely different universe that blossomed right in front of me…how quickly things change when you think outside the box. 🙂

  10. Regarding smart phones…Recently witnessed a father and daughter sit down together at a restaurant, each pulled out a phone and became TOTALLY absorbed. I guess the Dad thought he was having lunch with his daughter. They spoke briefly when the food arrived but then sat phones near their plates and continued staring into them.
    Regarding conversation…I meet several times each week with people for Bible studies in our favorite coffee shop in Sandy, Oregon. The place is named the Antfarm (http://antfarm-international.com/). During our meetings eye contact is obviously essential as we share our thoughts and verses. However, I must admit that a few of my friends carry smart phones loaded with Bible apps.But…no one checks for emails or texts.
    Regarding government…Of the people, By the people, and For the people? Just think how much impact people like you and I and your many followers could have if we began sending our representatives rergular texts and blog entries.
    Thank you for sharing your unique life with so many.

    • Great thoughts Doulos,

      Everything you say is exactly what is going through my mind about all of this…… and your totally right when you say, “just think how much impact people you and I and your many followers could have if we began sending our representatives regular texts and blog entries”

    • Ironic when you consider that America was founded with tremendous sacrifice to get away from totalitarian/gov/church rule only to give way to a form of that today. Today we are ruled by a few hundred people headquartered in D.C. who are sub-ruled by corporations via lobbyists with deep, deep pockets. The voice of the people is an archaic saying like a lion with no teeth. If we get out of our smart phones and hold elected officials accountable, American could change. Although at the heart of each issue is the absolute power of God. Faith, or lack of, provides the foundation (weak or strong).

  11. I wouldn’t mind taking a bus trip with the group either. I very much agree with “Mrs. P.” ^^ I think bloggers tend to weigh their words a little more carefully. I know that my blog is one of my many “positive places” where I expect kindness and civility, and I’ve never experienced anything but that. I’m the same way in person, too. It think it’s a combination of my upbringing and my 16 years of teaching that have made me always reach for diplomacy. I crave harmony in all realms and like to see opposing sides reach a happy compromise via technology or in person.

  12. We don’t always agree, we except and respect others opinion. Two minds can never think alike, but more options, better solutions. Back home we say: ask 100 ppl around and do what’s in your mind.😊
    Disagreeing makes the conversation going and more interesting.
    I’d love to have a cup of coffee with you and sign my self in your bus trip😆

  13. Feel better! Can’t believe you’ve never had one, much less heard of, a hot toddy. And, really, you don’t have to have that much whiskey. You can add whiskey, lemon and honey to a cup of tea and that will help, too. Maybe it’s a southern thing, cause we have hot toddies before we are even old enough to drink! 🙂

    I’m saddened by the fact that we need a revolution to reconnect with people, each other. But, I like it!

  14. Every revolution begins somewhere…Hope you feel better and the toddy REALLY works!

  15. For what it’s worth, I think the bus and bigger tour is a wonderful idea. So would be a stop in Bismarck, North Dakota. 😉

  16. Ironically, a lot of the dissonance you mention is the result of the internet in another way: we now have far and away more information about the way government, for example, works than we ever had, and we have it relatively unbuffered. Paradoxically, we also have instant access to everyone’s opinions on the way things are going. Ever hear the expression “too much information” given wryly to a friend who’s telling us personal details we don’t really want to know? Maybe when we’re face to face, all our buffers are up and operating.

  17. “Of course, to be a part of a revolution one must be revolting against something, and I hardly see myself doing much more than sharing a cup of coffee with fellow bloggers and readers and nice conversation. But the more I started thinking about what the coffee guru shared with me….the more I began to wonder if there was truth behind his observation,”

    It is very true. People like you and I are revolting against the irrelevantization of the modern world. I think that if the internet suddenly disappeared, people would need to be able to communicate face to face. I want more of that.

    • Chandler, we just need to put our minds together and figure out how we can revolt against what you have splendidly termed, “irrelevantization of the modern world”

    • I was not the first to use the word “irrelevantization”, but I wrote a post explaining what it meant. It sounds more powerful than separation or division.

      And we can definitely find even better ways to revolt against what has happened to this world.

  18. Looking forward to your SF coffee house visit!

  19. ¡Viva la Revolución!

    (also, it’s Ukraine, no article. it’s like calling it ‘the Germany’, it sounds strange)

  20. What an excellent blog!! Loved It! We do live in a world that little by little feels less and less like home to so many people. In the UK and beyond statistics show that Loneliness will be the biggest killer in 10/15 years time and everyone seems ok with that?? I don’t know what will turn the tide that so desperately needs truing but reading your words gives me hope. We can all start a little revolution where ever we are just by giving a little more time and thought, just by being present and not here but yet so far, if you get what I mean? What starts off small often has the greatest impact, it maybe just a few bloggers today, but tomorrow, who knows what tomorrow will bring. I recon enough people with a little bit of courage, a handful of faith in one another and a cup full of passion could end up making the world the kind of place we all dream it could be! Here’s Hoping 🙂 God bless your courageous heart my friend, keep up the great work 🙂

  21. If only the bus could manage continents instead of States and cities. We could totally have a really good chat over a non-alcoholic cuppa. You’re making great changes to people’s lives every week just bringing them together. They come to meet you Kenneth and end up meeting each other as well.
    I bet quite a few of them meet up again once you’ve gone.

  22. Kenneth, I’ll bring my camera if the bus will tour during the winter if not I’ll wait another bus…:) Reading some of the comments I get so small with my english and have no clue what esle to type here. All of you are great, especially Kenneth who creates addictions for coffees & good reads.

  23. People have lost the feeling that they have control over their lives. They feel at the mercy and whim of powerful forces with ungodly amounts of money. Their voices don’t count. The almighty dollar counts and buys the votes. The rest of us get nothing but a cup of joe and some needed conversation.

    Keep up the tour. Put Iowa City on your list.

  24. We say times are changing, world today is so much different from what was going on twenty years ago, but that is the same thing our parents were saying to us twenty years ago, and I suspect, the same thing our grandparents were saying to our parents forty years ago. Instead of blaming technology and social media on alienating people, I am trying to use it as a tool to help me keep in contact with my family and odl friends, who are scattered around the world, and possibly to struck new friendships. But the end game is always looking someone in the eye while you talk.

    You can look at it from both sides…although it is true that modern society seems to be drifting apart with all this modern technology, it is also true that twenty years ago I probably wouldn’t even know you existed, let alone follow you half across the world in your endeavours. What I am trying to say in this lengthy comment, it’s all about how we use it, in the end it is up to us.

    And now I am stepping away from my computer and going out to meet my friends for a drink. 🙂

  25. Seriously dude…this is such an awesome experience that I don’t think you’ll fully realize until after the fact. Amazing. I really do wish I could go along for the ride. I’d love to meet all these folks and exchange ideas, etc. You talk about your life as not being all that exciting but if you only knew how trapped I feel these days and strapped by money, trust me…your life and this tour would suddenly become so much bigger. As for revolution – I always knew there was a bit of a rebel in you lol. I suppose it could be a revolution on the lesser scale of refusing to let go of the importance of face time with others; the importance of genuine socialization versus screen time. I’m so glad to get to read about your experiences so I can at least live through you vicariously lol. 🙂 Have a great time in Wisconsin!

  26. I know exactly what you need! An Irish coffee! Just add a slug of whiskey and cream on top – might not look out of place in a coffee shop :o) I much prefer a hot toddy with lemon, brown sugar and cloves. Any dates for Ireland yet?

    • MMMM! I did have a couple of those when I visited Ireland years ago! (I’m not saying how many I drank) its looking like October for the UK…. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able to publish official dates soon 🙂

  27. it is amazing how much one can do and achieve when talking calmly.
    but when everything is rushing it is hard to slow down. as if one is sucked in to other poples stream

    As for that bus that is a grand idea 😀
    maybe not so much a revolution but part of evolution. teaching people to communicate with out a screen.

  28. I am most ready for a revolution in this matter whether you are the standard bearer or not. 🙂

  29. You had my attention at coffee. I love coffee, I love coffeehouses, and I love The Coffee House: A Cultural History. If you can tolerate academic history, you ought to read it–and then tell me via your blog or mine what you thought of it.

    I have long thought the best revolutions would start in a coffee house. Preferably one I’m at.

    • Rory, I HAVE read it 🙂 twice! Its a great read for sure. And I don’t know if you realize this; but revolutions HAVE started in coffee shops…. though maybe not as big as what we think of in terms of revolutions

    • Cool! Did you blog about reading it? I’m new here so may have missed that. I’m an historian with a focus on essentially 1789-1848, so yes, revolutions! In my past-life fantasies, I’d have been in Paris in the 1770s and early 1780s.

  30. your picture is at 19th and Chestnut… I used to live in Philly.
    There are some great restaurants all around that area and east too — actually in any direction from there

    I live south now… glad you enjoyed Philly – best wishes for getting over that sore throat

    ~ Eric

  31. These conversations are so much fun, I look forward to your visit to New Orleans.

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