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Video Review – Zeitgeist: Moving Forward

By Bhavani Prakash

Zeitgeist roughly translates from German into “spirit of the times.”  The movie Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, directed by Peter Joseph was released globally on January 25th, 2011 as a sequel to “Zeitgeist“(2007) and is available to everyone free for non-commercial use as a public commons.

I haven’t watched the 2007 movie at the time of writing, which I understand puts forth some radical theories on religion, the 9/11 event, and government and corporate propoganda. So I guess I got to view this one with a relatively unbiased mind.

The first half makes a cohesive analysis of the psychological, economic, social, political and environmental morass that we have created, and links all of these very effectively – this is where the strength of the movie lies.

Joseph connects the psychological imprints we get from our surroundings to various societal problems including drug addiction, aggression and consumerism. He strikes at the heart of the problem, namely the functionings of the market economy which rewards cost effectiveness and economic growth – a process that conflicts with human and planetary wellbeing.

Our current economic model is headed towards disaster on all fronts. It is also highly inequitable with poverty being the worst form of violence against humanity. Joseph also calls the monetary system a ponzi scheme, because the dollar is nothing but debt, and eventually a point will come when the Federal Government is unable to service the interest on the debt, leading to a systemic collapse.

The latter half of the movie, however, is less convincing. As an activist myself, I’m constantly looking for solutions to various issues, and these solutions need to be viable and practical – unless of course some kind of swift and dramatic revolution like the film proposes at the end happens.

Joseph doesn’t like the word ‘utopian’ but his vision of how we can overcome the problems is radical to say the least.  He asserts we can do away with currency and markets with a centralised resource allocation ‘machine’ which can scientifically calculate all of human needs and decide how much to produce and what resources to use and conserve.  Sound communist?  The movie spends a good few minutes to refute this.

Who’d control such a supercomputing machine that Joseph suggests? The political path to this isn’t clear, and though I don’t agree with the computing idea, we could benefit from some kind of ‘supragovernment’ or a federation of nations, which can make decisions to the best interests of the planet as a whole and all its citizens, especially those with less access to resources. There are many, who support such a holistic view as espoused at the Bolivian Climate Change Conference on the Rights of Mother Earth held at Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2010.

I also prefer a more practical model like Contraction & Convergence that allocates emission targets to nations on an equitable basis, using the markets to penalise or reward those who are on either sides of this target.  We also have ways to incorporate environmental and social costs into the market based system – such as removing incentives for and taxing fossil fuel intensive as well as socially destructive activities. We can also redefine laws that can penalise persons who hide behind the ‘corporate persona’ by making environmental crimes or ecocide a crime against humanity.

However there are some very plausible ideas in the narrative such as green transport, vertical farming and cradle-to-cradle design which could well become mainstream in the coming decades. I would have really liked the movie to touch upon one avant-garde idea that Jacques Fresco, the founder of The Venus Project (the ideological basis for the movie) has researched about which could break our dependence on fossil fuels – namely Zero Point Energy from vacuum. This is touted as the ” Forbidden Energy Science” that ‘energy cartels would rather you not know.’

We do have as a society, all the techonological and policy solutions for a sustainable world without necessarily having to go to the extreme of giving up markets or currencies – how we create political will and change is the moot question.

It’s a long and slow movie – 2 hours and 41 minutes, but do watch it, it has lots to tickle your brains with.

Video link here

Further links that may be of interest:

1. The Venus Project is the ideological basis for “Zeitgeist: Moving Forward” It was founded by Jacques Fresco, considered by many as “Leonardo da Vinci’ whose ideas are often ahead of our times. The project strives to create ” a bold, new direction for humanity that entails nothing less than the total redesign of our culture.”

2. The Venus Project Video with Jacques Fresco, the Founder of the Venus Project.

3. Free Energy – Zero-Point Energy Extraction from the Quantum Vacuum Video

4. EWTT: Why We Need A Law On Ecocide

5. EWTT: Bolivia Climate Change Conference and The Rights of Mother Earth

6. EWTT: Contraction & Convergence: An Urgent Global Imperative to Tackle Climate Change

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Posted by on Jan 29 2011. Filed under Behaviour Change, Climate Change, Sustainable Growth/Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Video Review – Zeitgeist: Moving Forward”

  1. Hi Bhavani,

    I organised the Zeitgeist: Moving Forward screenings in Singapore at Sinema Old School in January. Unfortunately, I only became aware of your review when a fellow Zeitgeist Movement member, Antonis, directed me to your site.

    First off, I would like to mention that Zeitgeist: The Movie does not have anything to do with The Zeitgeist Movement or The Venus Project. At the time, it was a personal project of the director, Peter Joseph, though the questions it raised provoked the attempt at its sequel, Zeitgeist: Addendum in late 2008. Zeitgeist: Addendum was a response to the people who acknowledged that there was something fundamentally wrong with our world, but didn’t know what to do.

    After Peter Joseph was introduced to The Venus Project after Zeitgeist: The Movie, it became the inspiration for Zeitgeist: Addendum and The Zeitgeist Movement was founded as the activist arm of The Venus Project. 2 years later, with more than 1000 chapters around the world, Zeitgeist: Moving Forward was produced to provide a more academic and holistic explanation of the rationales behind a resource-based economy (RBE). It was organised and distributed independently by The Zeitgeist Movement chapters, reaching 340 screenings across 60 countries in 30 different languages.

    You can watch or download all three films at http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com

    That being clarified, I’ll move on to your review.

    The approach taken by The Zeitgeist Movement differs from the traditional activist establishment in that we see the vast majority of the environmental and social problems of today as being symptomatic of the current socio-economic model itself. It is not that people are inherently “evil”, the issue is that those kinds of aberrant behaviours and values are being promoted and reinforced within a monetary-market model in order to keep it functioning. The paradigm itself is broken; profit pathology rules, and if we ever want to reach a world where environmental balance and social justice are a way of life, not simply a matter of paper proclaimations, then we need to transcend this obsolete model that is designed to serve the interests of a small elite minority.

    While attempts at reform are admirable, our end goal is to see a global RBE that will render most of our problems today obsolete. A resource-based economy has no currency, markets or methods of exchange because there is no need for them anymore. When we are perfectly capable of producing an abundance for the human race through technological means, placing a price tag on something will inevitably limit peoples’ access to them. And when we can produce more than enough, maintaining a monetary-market system where people have to work just to earn money, so that they can access resources they need to survive is just socially paralysing. Why maintain a system based on scarcity when we have the scientific and technological ability to create a system based on abundance?

    In the words of Bernard Lietaer, “I believe that greed and competition are not a result of immutable human temperament; I have come to the conclusion that greed and fear of scarcity are in fact being continuously created and amplified as a direct result of the kind of money we are using. For example, we can produce more than enough food to feed everybody, and there is definitely enough work for everybody in the world, but there is clearly not enough money to pay for it all. The scarcity is in our national currencies. In fact, the job of central banks is to create and maintain that currency scarcity. The direct consequence is that we have to fight with each other in order to survive.”

    Already, advanced forms of automated artificial intelligences are displacing whole sectors of society; and it becomes tragically ironic when people don’t have enough money to buy something which can be produced in an abundance because of a lack of something as abstract as “money”. Ultimately, a RBE recognises that it is not money that matters, it is the resources themselves that improves peoples’ lives and brings progress to the human race.

    More than just being defined technologically, a RBE will mark a shift in the dominant value systems of our society. It is only because of the emphasis of dominance, ego and hierarchy today, that the question “Who is in control of a RBE?” arises; which could be said to also be a symptom of our socio-economic model since such psychological distortions occur when peoples’ emotional needs aren’t adequately met. In other words, people are operating on a scarcity-oriented value system while projecting into a society based on a value system of abundance.

    When people have access to what they need in a RBE, where they are taken care of, cultivated to reach their potential, why would anyone need to abuse or sabotage this system that is benefiting everyone on the planet?

    When a pilot is flying an airplane, he doesn’t look out of the cockpit to gauge the altitude of his plane. Rather, there are systems that use radar to accurate gauge the altitude that is relayed to the pilot. Similarly, because of the vast amounts of planetary and resource feedback that will be taken into account in a RBE that is designed for maximum sustainability and resource access, no one human or group of humans will be able to process it. Only machines are capable of doing that. And coupled with the fact that there will be no more money interests vying for a say, decisions are arrived at with the environmental and social well-being as priority. Gone will be politics because it is irrelevant, instead we will have the scientific method applied to the social concern in a system designed to take care of everyone.

    Finally, equating The Venus Project as communistic is an erroneous association, though it is an effective way to evoke a negative emotional response from people who might not realise that the communist social system also maintained governmental, military, monetary institutions, just like what we have today. A RBE is a model that transcends the built-in dualities (free market vs command economy) of our conditioning, and when you consider the rationale behind each component of a RBE that is designed to intelligently manage the Earth’s resources, then it makes perfect sense to move into this new paradigm.

    I hope I’ve sufficiently address the issues you have raised, and I’ll be more than glad to engage in more conversation should you have more questions.

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