Occupy WallStreet. OccupyDC. Occupy Oakland. Occupy Cedar Rapids. Occupy Carbondale. Occupy Islamabad. Occupy Fayetteville. Occupy Macon. Occupy Montreux. Occupy Lubbock. Occupy Ukraine. Okupirajmo Sarajevo. Qiryat Shmona. Samstaða Seydisfjordur.
It’s a cool revolution.
A revolution that transforms the outlook and behavior of many individuals and thereby slowly transforms a society can be called a “cool revolution.” It educates people to think critically, to enter that realm of nonconformity that has always been the source of change. When people have transformed their minds, they will naturally and coolly act to transform the society and eventually the polity. -Robert Thurman, Inner Revolution
A cool revolution is bottom-up, not top-down. We’re seeing it with the Occupy Movement, a groundswell of grassroots protests originating with the urban encampments. Without an over-arching organizing or funding entity, local groups sprang up and self-organized–relying heavily on social media–around “OCCUPY.”
As Thurman says, when inner transformation occurs, action naturally follows from it. The cool revolution has been in progress for some time and only now taken to the streets. The rallying cry “We are the 99%!” makes sense not only because we know as fact that the highest one percent of income earners in the US hold 40% of the wealth, but because we intuitively understand that this is unjust. We understand that the radical disparity in the allocation of resources has practical and devastating effects on the whole of society and particularly upon its most vulnerable members.
When we realized that Wall Street financiers were not going to be punished for wreaking havoc on the economy, nor was their “too big to fail” model going to be reformed, we felt the scales tip. When the US Supreme Court made their Citizens United verdict, according many rights of citizens to corporations, we knew we were disenfranchised.
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. -Martin Luther King, Jr. (Speech at Riverside Church)
With the hierarchical structure failing, we come to the inevitable conclusion, “It’s Up to You.” Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, in the book of this title, writes about how in practicing self-reflection, we take liberation into our own hands and act out of the true self. This is the point when “the personal becomes the political.” Self-awareness is just as important as political protest, because inner transformation of the individual is the basis from which positive political action flows. The simultaneous and reinforcing transformation of consciousness of many individuals inevitably disrupts the status quo. It’s a cool revolution.
Occupy could be a Moment and not a Movement. But in my opinion the passions aroused around the globe, the large numbers which only increase when they are persecuted by unwarrented police violence. To me, Occupy is a marker of a new Age of Enlightenment–both a return to Western Enlightenment rationality (which the religious, authoritarian Right has rejected) and the incorporation of the Eastern traditions of spiritual Enlightenment (whose teachings and practices have been adapted by many Westerners apart from their religious institutions).
*Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman coined the term “Cool Revolution,” and this blog is based on his wonderful book Inner Revolution (Riverhead Books, 1998).