Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Zeitgeist Movement - Some personal observations

Further to a previous mention on SOYMB of the Zeitgeist and viewings of their film at Head Office , we offer the personal views of a party member who decided to investigate further

I went a meeting of theirs held in Goldsmiths College yesterday addressed by Peter Joseph, a US film-maker who made the two Zeitgeist films. As the word "Zeitgeist" and "Venus Project" could suggest some New Age Cult I wanted to actually meet some members (as opposed to reading their stuff on the internet) to make a judgement on this. The lecture hall was full with 250 or so men and women mainly in the 30s and 40s who seemed quite reasonable and normal to me, ie this is not a cult. Most of them seemed to be supporters of the ideas put forward by the movement.

Peter Joseph, who would also seem to be in his thirties, spoke with the aid of slides for an hour and 20 minutes. He began by explaining how the present money-based and profit-driven system was the cause of most of the problems facing humanity and how it could not be made to serve the interests of humanity. He described the various single-issue organisations such as Greenpeace as growing "like weeds" and as being bogged down in trying to deal with effects while ignoring the root cause. The solution, he said, was a moneyless, "resource-based economy".

This is described on one of their sites as follows:

"All social systems, regardless of political philosophy, religious beliefs, or social customs, ultimately depend upon natural resources, i.e. clean air and water, arable land and the necessary technology and personnel to maintain a high standard of living.
Simply stated, a resource-based economy utilizes existing resources rather than money and provides an equitable method of distributing these resources in the most efficient manner for the entire population. It is a system in which all goods and services are available without the use of money, credits, barter, or any other form of debt or servitude.
Earth is abundant with plentiful resources; today our practice of rationing resources through monetary methods is irrelevant and counter productive to our survival. Modern society has access to highly advanced technologies and can make available food, clothing, housing, medical care, a relevant educational system, and develop a limitless supply of renewable, non-contaminating energy such as geothermal, solar, wind, tidal, etc. It is now possible to have everyone enjoy a very high standard of living with all of the amenities that a prosperous civilization can provide. This can be accomplished through the intelligent and humane application of science and technology.
To better understand the meaning of a resource-based economy consider this: if all the money in the world were destroyed, as long as topsoil, factories, and other resources were left intact, we could build anything we choose to build and fulfill any human need. It is not money that people need; rather, it is free access to the necessities of life. In a resource-based economy , money would be irrelevant. All that would be required are the resources and the manufacturing and distribution of the products.
When education and resources are made available to all people without a price tag, there would be no limit to the human potential. Although this is difficult to imagine, even the wealthiest person today would be far better off in a resource based society as proposed by The Venus Project. Today the middle classes live better than kings of times past. In a resource based economy everyone would live better than the wealthiest of today.
In such a society, the measure of success would be based on the fulfillment of one's individual pursuits rather than the acquisition of wealth, property and power.
A Resource-Based Economy is a system in which all goods and services are available without the use of money, credits, barter or any other system of debt or servitude. All resources become the common heritage of all of the inhabitants, not just a select few."

This, surely, is the same as what we call "world socialism".

He then went on to deal with what he regarded as the main objection to this:

"Some people who consider the tenets of a Resource-based Economy think that the system would be difficult due to something called 'Human Nature'. The argument is that humans are inherently competitive, greedy and blindly self-serving, implying that no matter how technically good things are in society, there will always be 'corrupt' people who want to abuse others and seek dominance."

Which he dealt with in the same way that we would and did in our pamphlet "Are We Prisoners of Our Genes?".

Of course, there are differences. Their economic theory (especially of banking) is mistaken and there are aspects of Technocracy (rule by engineers) no doubt via Jacque Fresco, a designer and engineer now in his 90s and the man behind the Venus Project (named after the town of Venus where he is established, not the planet).
Peter Joseph seems to have come from a conspiracy-theory background (evident from the first Zeitgeist film)which he said he has now abandoned and is in fact being denounced by conspiracy theorists as a propagandist for the "New World Order".
We [ The Socialist Party of Great Britain/World Socialist Movement ] , on the other hand, come from Marxism and the working class movement, so there are bound to be differences of language.
And they haven't yet fully worked out how to get there. In answer to questions on this, Peter Joseph said that the important thing at the moment was to get the idea across; people could decide later exactly what to do (he seemed to favour some sort of non-political mass movement).

Even so, I think it could be said that the appearance of this movement can be said to be confirmation of our theory that, even in the absence of an organized socialist group like us, capitalism would still throw up socialist ideas. I say movement because, at the meeting, it was said that there had been 50 million viewings of the Zeitgeist videos on the internet and a figure of 300,000 was mentioned as supporters (presumably those who have registered for its discussion forums, blogs, etc -- in which case they'd be counting me as a member). Still the figure is impressive and even if they were only one-tenth of this it's a significant phenomenon and one that we should watch.

There are two sites in the UK. The UK Project site , from which the definition of a "resource-based economy" above was taken, which seems to be for engineers and designers interested in the technical site of producing abundance. And a social networking site


Brenton Eccles said...

Thank-you for posting this, friend. My only disagreement is that you call it specifically world socialism - mainly because that can be interpreted in so many ways.

It's very hard to relate what the Movement proposes to any "established" social ideas (and yes I realise world socialism has never happened) because a cybernated system has never been proposed, or possible, before.

Thank-you for writing about this direction.

Gian_Maria said...

Hi Adam,
Hope you are well. :)
It seems to me that the Zeitgeist Movement advocates a technocracy not a real democracy as we do. What is your opinion?

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am a former Zeitgeister turned socialist. I am trying to bridge the gap for others This is the best tool for doing this that I can think of Please spread it far within the zeitgeist community

Anonymous said...

"I never said that it [socialism] was not a good transition tool. It's not the best. It's not updated. Socialism was great when it was designed, but today we have much better systems; much more effective to enhance the lives of people in a much faster way than the old time socialism. Socialism was concerned with the working class; we're concerned with knowledge, and we're concerned with surpassing the need for work. In other words, we think machines could replace jobs that are monotonous and boring or dangerous. That people think in terms of work to earn a living. In the future you don't need to think in terms of work; You'll be provided for and you can study anything you want to study at school. So I would say that most jobs will be phased out. Most of the early professions will be phased out." ~ Jacque Fresco, TVP teamspeak seminar, May 13th 2012 (available on youtube)