Whatever happened to the sinister, well-funded organisation known as Common Purpose?
Common Purpose is a British-founded charity that runs leadership development programmes around the world. Common Purpose UK is a subsidiary of Common Purpose.
“We develop leaders who can cross boundaries”
There was, as I recall, a good deal of alarm about it 10 years or so ago. The idea was that, in a time of crisis, the leaders that Common Purpose had trained would step out of the shadows and become, well,… leaders. As if, somehow or other, leadership skills could be taught just like carpentry skills or cooking skills or writing skills. It sounded like a thoroughly scary organisation, particularly since its initials – CP – were the same as those of the Communist Party.
It still seems to be around. But its promised army of new leaders seems to have failed to materialise. And nobody seems to talk about them any more.
But it occurred to me this morning that more or less any new movement or organisation must share a common purpose. It will be made up of like-minded people, with shared experiences and shared beliefs. Initially they will meet up in cafes and bars and each others’ homes, and they’ll all be complete nobodies, and they’ll have no money.
There might even just be five of them. Call them Charles and Michael and Brian and William and Keith. And they meet up regularly. And initially they won’t even have a name for themselves. But, after they have attracted interest, and begin to get paid to display their skills, they start calling themselves The Rolling Stones, and they form a company with its own logo and its own unique product. And they all become very rich and famous. And they become an institution.
Much the same happened with Greenpeace, which was formed by a few like-minded people in Canada, and also grew into a global institution.
Or, once again, there might be people with a shared interest in physics, who meet up and discuss new ideas. People like Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, and they come up with ideas which fairly rapidly become institutionalised as Quantum Electrodynamics.
And they all make the transition from being penniless nobodies to rich and famous institutions. But in this transition process they become rigid and dogmatic and repetitive. After a while they have nothing new to say. And that’s what’s happened to the Rolling Stones, and Greenpeace and Quantum Electrodynamics. They’ve become fossilised. And they’ve become monsters.
And Tobacco Control has followed the same development trajectory. Some 50 or 100 years ago it was made up of a few like-minded people, all of whom hated tobacco, and who gradually became more and more influential. And in a world in which absolutely everybody came to know with perfect certainty that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, it was hardly surprising if they found lots of support from a great many like-minded people. And so it became powerful and influential. Tobacco Control became a dogmatic, rigid institution. And of course it became a monster too.
And when they become monsters, they start to lose support. People drift away. I used to be a Rolling Stones fan, back when Brian Jones was their presiding genius. But after he’d gone they became a boring, repetitive R&B band, and I drifted away. And they became an institution. And now they’re an ageing dinosaur, and a kind of monster.
But the Rolling Stones remain a rather benign monster. They don’t do any harm. And Quantum Electrodynamics also remains benign. But Greenpeace, and the Green movement, have gradually turned into something malignant. They’ve become bullies. And Tobacco Control has now become an utterly malignant – in fact satanic – institution. With its bullying and browbeating, it does a stupendous amount of harm. And this is why it must be destroyed. Even if it takes 100 years to do it, Tobacco Control must be destroyed. For, if the Rolling Stones were united by their love of music, and Greenpeace were united by their love of the natural world, and Quantum Electrodynamics grew out of a love of science, Tobacco Control is united by a shared hatred of something. All that Tobacco Control has ever had to give to the world is its hatred, and that is all that has done.
But one result of this is that smokers all over the world now have the shared grim experience of the exile and exclusion and persecution that Tobacco Control has brought them. Smokers are a new group of like-minded people, united in a shared experience in much the same way that 4 or 5 young men were united in the shared experience of the boredom and tedium and sameness of post-war Britain, where about the only thing to do was to strum on guitars in their bedrooms.
Smokers are going to come together. And in fact they already are, in small ways. Most of them are, as ever, penniless nobodies. They have no voice. They have no influence. But that’s were everything always starts. It starts with a few like-minded people, with a shared experience. And it slowly gathers momentum. And it gathers support, because a great many people all over the world have been through the same grim experience. It will become a brotherhood (and sisterhood) of smokers, and it will be as much the product of persecution as was Christianity.