The Buddhist Pirate

The Buddhist Pirate
Last weekend pirates gathered at the “Think Twice 2014” Conference in Frankfurt. I was there to present the agoravoting project and to get a better understanding of what the hell this pirate movement is about. I have been involved less than a year and apart from the few pirates I had met (in Madrid and London), the Think Twice conference was an opportunity to meet pirates from all over Europe, and even two pirates from Japan!
My first impression about pirates became clear: they are a bunch of nutcases that can’t agree on any topic at all for longer than 5 minutes. I told to myself:  “I think I’ll fit in”.
I had the opportunity to meet pirates of various kinds. We have the pirate that is anarchist, green, Christian, atheist, vegetarian, liberal, blue collar, white collar, no collar etc etc. Any of them would have been a great subject for an interview. I could have made great articles about the Italian hacktivist, the Belgian philosopher, the Rumanian immigrant, the Flemish ecologist, the Japanese theorist. From all of these possibilities there was one in particular that pushed me into writing this article, even though this is not my craft nor my art. This person was the Buddhist Pirate.
Many will tell me, and some already did, that the definition  ‘Buddhist Pirate’ does not reflect such a complex and interesting character as Herbert Rusche. I could have chosen several other impacting headlines for this article: ‘the green pirate’,  ‘the gay pirate’ or ‘the  proto-pirate’.
Just after my conversation with Herbert, I found out much more about him. He is a person with a lot of interesting tales, enough to have his own Wikipedia article.  Just to mention a few: he is one of the founders of the German Green Party (and also member of the Parliament), founder of the LGT movement in Heidelberg and many other activities.
Herbert Rusche is 62 years old, born in Frankfurt, he speaks English fluently but with a nice German accent. The first impression is affability, I can’t stop thinking about Robin Williams every time he smiles, which he does often. We sit at the table, in one of the social events for the Think Twice conference, when I meet Herbert and we start a casual conversation:
Pirate Times : Claudio [one of the Italian Pirates] told us you already had dinner…
Herbert: Yes, on the way here we went to greet one friend of mine who has a Burmese restaurant and he invited us to some food.
PT: Burmese?
Herbert: Yes, Myanmar now. I am a Buddhist and I have strong ties with the Buddhists from Myanmar. I have already helped many of them to get established in Frankfurt.
PT: Just the Buddhists?
Herbert: 90% of the Burmese are Buddhists, the rest of them are Christians or Muslims. There is a dreadful dictatorship in Myanmar and many exiles from all religions arrive to Germany. Christians and Muslims have strong communities that support them, I help from the Buddhists community.
[Since I am rarely afraid of sounding stupid, I ask my next question]
PT: What is Buddhism?IMG0040
Herbert: Buddhism is a guide, it offers you a way to be a better person. There are no obligations nor impositions. You could argue that it makes us passive, many problems of the Buddhist community are related to that, like the Buddhist in Tibet. Buddhists are tolerant and accepting. The Tibetan culture says that the world stands on the back of a turtle, a Buddhist will not argue that, he will just accept it, whatever, as long as it keeps you happy.
[A meta-religion, someone comments wittingly, ‘Is the pirate party a meta-party?’, I think to myself]
PT: Yet you are a pirate now…
Herbert: There is much that can be done without getting in other peoples way. I try to help to get a better world, I started more than 40 years ago and I will continue to do so, now also with the pirates and many others.
PT: How do you see the pirate movement?
A: I am worried, because I am seeing things from the past all over again. After the pirate boom, many people came that did not understand the pirate movement. Consciously or not, they would repeat the same patterns of traditional parties; the tendency to gather power, set rules, the will to lead… basically with the goal to become a professional politician.
PT: So, you are pessimistic about the pirate movement?
Herbert: Not at all, I just observe it in perspective. I have been fighting for my ideals over 40 years and changes come slowly. It is like trying to make a hole in the wood with a toothbrush… For example, I don’t worry that much about the results in the elections. We are trying to introduce new revolutionary concepts in society and that takes long. I take it easy, I am a Buddhist after all [chuckles].
PT: I’ll share a personal concern with you: Trolls. How would you solve that?
Herbert: Four letters, MDMA, [laughs loudly]. No really, the best way to understand each other is face to face. Lots of information gets lost in an online communication. We all communicate differently and information can be easily misunderstood. I could say something with a happy face and you’ll know that I am joking, I might have a serious face and you’ll know it is not something to joke about.
PT: Hold on, MDMA?
Herbert: [Laughs loudly again] Yes, we could use that in extreme cases. They call it the sympathy-drug. It does not have strong effects as  other drugs, it just allows you to communicate in an open way. We could get all the trolls in a room with some of that [laughing loudly].
PT: Does Buddhism agree with that?
Herbert: Well, as long as it does not dim you consciousness…
[This is where a flame ensued and many others joined the conversation at this point. Again we see that every pirate seems to have their own very clear opinion on this issue (and every other issue for that matter). So, for now we will have to leave the interview here, but with many more to come, since we will for sure be here for the long run. Namaste Herbert!]


Featured image: @JoachimSMueller
Other images: CC; @herusche; Michael