Material success and possessions do not make a person any more or less spiritual. I fundamentally disagree with the notion that to be spiritual means that one has to abandon materialistic impulses. It is not wrong for you to own possessions, it is wrong for your possessions to own you.

cooperative spirit - article by Andrew CharalambousI once described myself “as a very poor man who happens to have made lots of money”. You see we like to presume that we have succeeded in life purely because of our own merits. In truth anything achieved is achieved together. Could Da Vinci have painted the Mona Lisa without Mona herself? Could Winston Churchill have won the Second World War without the help of million of others? Could Steve Jobs have created the enigma of Apple without the contribution of countless scientists and marketing executives? These individuals are the tip of the iceberg, everything is a team effort.

I for one owe my progress to the staff I have employed, various professional advisors, the support of the banks and so on. On my own I sincerely believe I would have achieved nothing. And I am glad that is the case because I have always firmly believed in the cooperative culture and spirit.

We are losing our sense of community, our sense of togetherness. The free market has become more meaningful than the natural values of friendship, kindness and altruism. I look forward to the day where we will speak less of  ‘my’ and more of ‘ours’. As our society evolves we will recognise that the greatest challenges we face are common challenges which we need to overcome together.

When the burden of doing everything is on one person, it becomes overwhelming and stagnation sets in. The individual will need to seek help or abandon what they were trying to accomplish. The co-operative movement begun in Britain arguably as far back as 1498. The Shore Porters Society of Aberdeen is said to be the world’s first ever co-operative. Robert Owen is widely considered to be the father of the co-operative movement. As far back as the eighteenth century Owen believed in giving his workers and their families free access to education and participatory rights in his cotton businesses. Today, the co-operative movement is global in both character and geography. And I would argue that this co-operative philosophy gave birth to great institutions such as the British welfare state. The contemporary social enterprise concept has also evolved from the co-operative ideal.

We need more cooperatives, more social enterprises, we need more shared responsibility. We need to rediscover the joy of succeeding together. Of using our resources to grow together rather than to compete against one another.

I am a free thinker. My beliefs are not confined to any one ideology. I care not if some consider the co-operative movement as being essentially leftist in origin. I answer only to my own conscious. Better to have a mind opened by freedom of thought than closed by belief.

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