To no one’s surprise, the current economic downturn may have devastating effects on the mental health of the increasingly poor. According to the World Health Organization, “The economic crisis is expected to produce secondary mental health effects that may increase suicide and alcohol death rates” which could be alleviated by social welfare, family support, and a higher standard of living.
But according to Robert Thurman the increasing discrepancy between rich and poor has a surprisingly adverse effect on the mental health of the rich as well. In 1964, Robert Thurman, the highly influential American writer and academic, became the first American to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk.
Scott Robertson of the Huntsville Mental Health Examiner observes, “Meditation, insight, inner tranquility, and compassion are all crucial aspects of a healthy mind. This political message and massive movement has much to offer in this sense. As a consequence of the collective state of American minds, it is becoming harder to ignore our inner turbulence and disheartening violence towards each other. Buddhist practices have been adopted by many Psychologists as viable tools for therapy and transformation. Thurman believes these demonstrations are growing successful because they contain a sense of nonviolence and compassion which the world so greatly needs.”
Thurman admires the “cool heroes” who occupy Wall Street for utilizing non-violence to promote peaceful change. For Thurman it is about a higher standard of loving as much as higher standard of living. Finally, he asks that we work together to create a nation where gross national happiness is seen as important as gross national product.
Here is a transcription of Robert Thurman’s October 12, 2011 address to the Occupy Wall Street Movement in Liberty Plaza:
“I came down today at your invitation because everyone here today is an example of what I have been waiting for for many years- namely what I call ‘cool heroes.’ We need cool heroes today. We don’t need hot heroes. By ‘cool’ I mean ‘non-violent.’ I mean those who can be forceful, intelligent, just, and insightful and speak up loudly and clearly, but without getting angry or without indulging in hatred.
Here we are in Liberty Plaza and we’re trying to keep liberty going on this planet. And actually, this planet is in dire jeopardy because of the military industrial machine that is beyond East and West. The industrial part has to do with organized greed. It expands the individual’s limitless greed with high tech power. And it’s transcending the capacity of the planet. Pollution, global warming, overpopulation all come from this technological expression of greed.
On the other side you have hatred that necessarily goes along with greed. Because the greedy person hates the other greedy person who he assumes is trying to take away whatever he wants. So we need to control both of these problems. Therefore, in order to do that, every person has to control it in their own mind. No one should be protesting against some nasty bankers, if they really truly hate them.
They are not worthy of being hated. They are just like us. They are just luckier at the moment. And unluckier in the long run. Because they are taking away too much from too many and this makes them paranoid. They never can have any fun cause they think you’re gonna pick their pocket.
And one billion is not enough. They need ten. When they get ten, they need twenty. When they get twenty, they want a hundred. By that time they are reduced to a pile of shivering paranoia trying to keep everything clutched with them in some sort of a plastic germ free bag like Howard Hughes.
If they are male, by them they are on their fourth trophy wife. Their kids can’t stand them. And they are literally afraid of everyone. Therefore we need to be sympathetic to them. We don’t hate them. We feel sorry for them.
I imagine none of them are out here protesting, making new friends, hanging out, losing weight, getting no good food, having to hold their pee till they find a restroom. They’re just uptight in their offices pushing buttons on their computer screen. The only relief they have is going to some sort of squash court somewhere and viciously whipping each other. They really are objects of sympathy and compassion.
Actually, I think you all know this, but maybe you need encouragement about it. Actually you are happier than the violent people. Look at you. You’re all smiling. You’re only worried that the professor is going to say too many words and you won’t be able to hear. But you’re actually cool in your own space. You have an aura of liberty about you. That is your most precious thing that you show.
However, the corporatocracy has taken over the media and the electoral system. So they are defeating your will. Every poll says 70% of us want social security with no problems, want a single payer medical system, want to have banks and insurance companies realize they work for us. Service industries mean they serve us, we don’t serve them.
Corporatocracy are sort of a wimpy bunch of guys with a couple of token girls who don’t actually know how to make anything. But they know how to sign checks and push papers, which my pathetic university taught them without properly teaching them ethics, or meditation, or sex therapy even, or yoga, or how to have a decent life.
But the one thing they’re good at is not wanting to pay people to make things an honest wage, a decent job. So they support dictatorships like China to keep slaves on tap for them on a dollar a day so they can bust the unions here and export all our jobs and even get tax breaks for it. This has to stop. You have to vote the congresspeople who are corrupt out of office so that 70% of the wishes of the American people will be honored by them.
They should serve their constituents, which is you, and not their contributors, which are the people up there in those buildings who are the 1% or less. And you are the 99% or 70%. So you just have to stand there peacefully insisting upon it. And keep it clear in your understanding. And don’t be brainwashed by political propaganda like Fox News, like all of the Murdoch companies which are just serving the few corporatocracies to lull us into complacency which temporarily now you are not doing, which is really good. You must keep it up. And no violence.
In that light you must all meditate every day. But not just some ‘Duh, I don’t think anything. I feel so good, I didn’t think.’ That could be nice like a Prozac or something, but it could be a little addictive and it doesn’t really bring you insight and it dulls your compassion and it dulls your intelligence, what you really need. And so when you meditate, think about compassion. Think that here we are free to spend our time envisioning a happier world. A world like what [Dr.] Jeff[rey] Sachs is working for, talking about gross national happiness.”
Here is the Video of Robert Thurman’s address.