The Cool Heroes of Zuccotti Park
insightful, nonviolent—Buddhist scholar ROBERT THURMAN tells the
protesters of Occupy Wall Street that they’re just the kind of people
the country needs.
here is an example of something I’ve been wishing for for many years.
You are what I call “cool heroes.” By cool I mean nonviolent. Cool
heroes are people who are forceful, intelligent, just, and insightful,
who can speak up loudly and clearly, but without getting angry or
indulging in hatred.
need cool heroes today. We don’t need hot heroes. You’re happier than
the violent people. Look at you; you’re all smiling. The final
completion of the American revolution has to be fun, nonviolent, and
determined while cool. As Gandhi said, peace has to be the path to
peace. Violence will never be the path to peace. Jesus said “Love thine
enemy!” The Buddha said that hatred will not put an end to hatred. Only
nonhatred and love will put an end to hatred.
are here at Liberty Plaza because we’re trying to keep liberty alive on
this planet. This planet is in dire jeopardy because of the
military-industrial machine, which is beyond East and West. The
industrial part represents organized greed. It expands the greed of
individuals with hi-tech power and it is exceeding the capacity of the
planet. Pollution, global warming, and overpopulation come from this
technological expansion of greed. On the other side, we have hatred.
This necessarily goes along with greed, because greedy people hate other
greedy people, whom they assume are trying to take away whatever it is
need to control both greed and hatred. But to do that, every person has
to control the greed and hatred in their own minds. No one should be
protesting against nasty bankers if they really hate them. They are not
deserving of being hated; they are suffering people just like us. At the
moment they may seem luckier than us, but in the long run they are
unluckier. They are taking away too much from too many, and this makes
them paranoid and unhappy. They need ten million dollars, and when they
get it, they want a hundred. And when they’ve got a hundred million
dollars, they want a billion. By then they’re on their fourth trophy
wife, their kids can’t stand them, and they are literally afraid of
we don’t hate the bankers and traders of Wall Street whose offices
overlook us. They are objects of sympathy and compassion. Actually, I
think people shouldn’t be allowed to graduate from business school
without getting an education in what enlightened self-interest really
means. They should get extensive training in personal emotional and
meditative skills to cultivate true contentment, so that one of the
important questions they have to answer before they graduate is, how
happy are you really?
voice here today is being heard worldwide. Against it is the whole TV
nation, twenty-four hours a day giving your compatriots— good, kind
people all over the country—a completely distorted vision of what is
really going on here. To break through that you will need to be
persistent. You are making your voices heard now, but the difficulty is
going to be to sustain it. You have to be as smart and as durable as the
Ukranians of the Orange Revolution. They were nonviolent, they stayed
out there in the public square, and they changed their country.
have an aura of liberty about you—that is the precious thing that you
demonstrate here. However, the corporate interests have taken over the
mass media and the electoral system, and they are defeating your will.
Every poll shows that a majority of Americans want Social Security, a
single-payer medical system, and banks and companies that work for them.
We have to vote the corrupt people out of Congress so that the wishes
of the American people will be honored. They should serve their
constituents, who are you, and not their contributors, who are the one
percent up in those Wall Street buildings.
would like to ask, where is the sweetness of Jesus Christ in this
country? He consorted with the poor, the downtrodden, the abused, and he
put his life on the line for them. Jesus was the sweetest. Every
Buddhist worth their soul loves Jesus.
you have to stay here, peacefully insisting on change, clear in your
understanding. But you must beware of anyone who seems to join your
ranks who is too hot, who preaches hatred, who thinks there is one bunch
of people who are really the villains. As I said, those bankers are
victims themselves. They are doing evil now, of course, but they are
also helpless victims of their own greed and a system that allows them
to magnify it beyond their control.
that light, we should all meditate every day. But not some kind of “I’m
not thinking anything, oh I feel so good!” meditation. That might feel
nice, like Prozac or something, but it can be a little addictive and it
doesn’t increase our insight, intelligence, or compassion, which are
what we really need. So when we meditate, think about compassion, and
think about the fact that we are free to envision a better world. And
stand up for it, with hope and joy.
from a speech by Robert Thurman to Occupy Wall Street protesters in
Zuccotti Park in New York’s Liberty Plaza on October 13.