Zeitgeist

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= a series of documentary movies, which are not to be confused with the movement of the same name and founder


Zeitgeist Movies

The first movie was the one that was heavily biased and based on all sorts of ridiculous conspiracy theories. The 2nd was more balanced and introduces the Venus Project as the real alternative. Now we also have a third one released through independent/ underground cinemas, on what has been noted as the biggest informal distribution.


The first one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeitgeist:_The_Movie, criticized for its conspiracy theories

Transcript at http://www.thezeitgeistmovement.com/wiki/index.php?title=Zeitgeist,_The_Movie_transcript


The second: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Joseph#Zeitgeist:_Addendum & http://www.thezeitgeistmovement.com/wiki/index.php?title=Zeitgeist_Addendum

The Third :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeitgeist:_Moving_Forward

In addition, A documentary produced by a Finnish branch of the Zeigeist movement

http://www.ajanhenki.com/

- with english subtitles - :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkUYnN8s-SA

Review

By Thomas Greco:

"Back in June of this year I viewed an amazingly good documentary film titled, Zeitgeist. I recommend it highly. Get it at http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/

Most of the information in it was already known to me, and includes much of what I've been trying for years to tell people in my own humble way. This film is well put together and pretty accurate as far as I can tell. One aspect that was somewhat new to me was the material that shows the congruence among the various "redeemer" myths going way back B.C. That part, and some of the political material, won't go down easily with true believers of any stripe -- the devout and patriotic, but if one can keep an open mind, there is much to be learned - much that could save our lives.

Now there is an addendum to the Zeitgeist movie that focuses more attention on the "money problem," economic imperialism, and emerging sustainable technologies. The Zeitgeist: Addendum can be downloaded from: http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/; also at,

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7065205277695921912


The first twenty minutes do a creditable job of describing how our conventional political money is created. It's a good supplement to the films Money as Debt and The Money Masters that I previously recommended.


The next part of the film features John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. He does a superb job of clearly explaining how the empire achieves dominance over other countries, giving examples from his own experience. As he describes in his book, there are three levels of action. The imperial forces first try to corrupt the country's leaders and get them to play along, saddling their people with huge debt loads and selling off government owned assets. If that fails, they will stir up internal opposition and either overthrow or assassinate a recalcitrant leader. If that fails, the military will be sent in as a last resort.


In recent years, the reluctance to use the last option seems to have diminished, as war affords opportunities for great profits to be amassed by political cronies and well-connected companies, and the power of Congress to mount opposition to military adventures has all but evaporated.


The original Zeitgeist movie contains important information about the central banking system and the Federal Reserve. If you don't have time to watch the entire film, a relevant seven minute excerpt can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dmPchuXIXQ."


Review of Part 3: Moving Forward

* I. Andreas Exner:

1. The blindness to production

“Infantile disorders” of Zeitgeist

The weaknesses of the Zeitgeist approach are firstly the blindness towards production and secondly its dangerous affirmation of science as a mere reflection of an allegedly objective reality.

That people are not only consumers, but also workers at home, in the factory, at the office, that they are jobless or peasants producing their subsistence is not part of the story the movie tells. This does not only fit quite well into the bourgeois view of the world, that only knows consumers and households, and which is deconstructed so ruthlessly in many other parts of Moving forward, but it also blocks an explanation of how people can really transcend capitalism. An alternative is not created on the desktop of engineers, but in the hearts of people and above all in a concrete transformation of social relations: at the workplace, at home and in the streets, i.e. in the production and reproduction of society. On this issue Zeitgeist has not much to say- thus the peculiar gap between Frescos circular cities, that remind us of Stanislaw Lems city landscape in Transfer or a scenery in Star Trek on the one hand, and the lucid (although market-fixed) critique of capital.

In an interview section in Moving forward, Jacques Fresco says that all people are “victims of culture“. Yes, we are all victims in some sort or theother. Yet, we are not bound to be victims, but interpret and reproduce orchange our social interactions constantly. This is done mainly in constant social struggles on all levels, from the household to the office. Demonstrations are only a minor part of all those struggles – and even a rather superficial and often quite helpless one. So, we are not only victims, but at the same time people that resist domination, fight back and create spaces of freedom. Otherwise it would be a complete mystery why people such as Peter Joseph or Jacques Fresco can ever escape the position of a victim.


2. The patriarchal authority of science

The blindness on the eye of production leads Moving forward also to a nearly complete ignorance towards the relation between genders and the importance of feminized work at the household and in “mothering” (a term Genevieve Vaughan has coined) for the market system. This fits all to well into an affirmative view of science that seems to hold the solution to all problems. A view, that the movie itself embodies, since practically all people that are interviewed have academic titles – and are all male (with one exception) and seemingly endowed with some sort of superior knowledge. It is as much astonishing as dangerous to think that anything like absolute and universal truth exists “out there” and that this truth is the business of people called “experts” and “scientists”.

While it is true, that technical problems of how to organize production are not to be solved in political terms – there is indeed no republican or liberal car – it is quite false to think of one solution for all and to imagine any technology as being neutral. This isn’t true for atomic bombs, and it isn’t true for computers. It seems that Zeitgeist wants to replace the absolutist authority of the state – which it correctly critizes – with another absolutist authority: that of science, the domination of an allegedly universal, neutral, and objective reason, mediated by similarly neutral, objective and – of course – well-meaning scientists.

In the realist view, that Zeitgeist regrettably promotes, science is seen as a reflection of reality – this is certainly false. Reality is a construction, and this construction is done by different means, including everyday language and culture, modern and traditional, Western and Eastern science.

While it is clear that oil is finite and we can’t run through a wall, the terms in which we explain this peculiar resistance of the “outer world” to our goals are variable, flexible, depend on cultural predispositions and assumptions – they are anything else than absolute. We cannot even say, why the simplest solution to any scientific problem (as the commonly accepted principle of “Occam’s Razor” requires) is also the “true solution”, has more to do with “external reality” as a more complicated explanation. And to give universal and transhistorical criteria for what is “simple” in a scientific sense will also prove to be hardly feasible.

The praise of science makes one chilling, when some of the interviewees shortly speak about the question of population and an assumed collusion with a so called carrying capacity. As a matter of fact, world population will most probably peak at 9 billion around 2050. And it is subject to – yes, what a surprise – scientific controversy and ideological battles as a part of class struggle, wether 9 billion people can lead a good life or billions are expected to vanish by way of catastrophes due to some sort of an alleged overshoot.


3. The false promises of technology

Hence it seems that Zeitgeist rescues the original idea of communism – “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” (Marx) – while perpetuating one of its great mistakes: that the organization of production and distribution is a mere technical question for which a universal scientific solution exists. This mistake had its heyday in the interwar period. And it is not by chance that there also are the historical roots of the Zeitgeist-movement, which is an offspring of the so called technocratic movement that took (and takes) Frederick Engels saying that if suffices to replace the domination of people over people by the administration of things at face value.

The final, visionary part of the movie makes clear, that the satisfaction of human needs does not fail due to a lack of technological means (indeed, this was probably never the case in human history, since needs are shaped by technology as well as the other way round). This is certainly true. Yet it is false to promoting the one universal solution of a utopia of technophile administrators, consisting of a global system of managementof resources, of production, and distribution. The fact that human needs are to some extent universal does not imply that the ways these needs are satisfied, interpreted and deployed converge on one and the same global path of societal development.

Global cooperation might be useful, even partly necessary. But it cannot and should not rely on people functioning like machines, obeying the allegedly natural constraint of resource management which might be enforced by a scientific steering comitee – the movie interestingly enough is completely silent on such things as decision making and control of decision making institutions.

Jacques Frescos vision of a perfectly “clean and efficient” way of living and producing in circular cities dangerously resembles what James Scott called “high-modernist schemes“, which, according to his book Seeing likea state, “failed to improve the human condition“. At this point, Fresco appears to be an anachronist variant of Le Corbusier. While Le Corbusier loved right angles, Fresco adores the circle. Well, a matter of taste, not of emancipation, isn’t it. As long as the Corbusiers and Frescos of this world do not compel anyone to adopt their visions and suffer their consequences, this might be okay. (Brasilía, which was built according to Corbusiers ideology turned out to be a very unfriendly place that exists only because itis supported by informal life and unplanned outskirts.) Yet, to make the great solution out of it is simply wrong and potentially authoritarian." (http://www.social-innovation.org/?p=1800)


* II. Eric Hunting

"I downloaded and watched this movie last week. I found it far superior to the earlier movies in that it was less focused on the hackneyed theme of a grand class conspiracy and, instead, focused on characterizing the global economic/cultural situation as a social pathology that, while exploited for the benefit of some, is less conspiracy and more evolutionary. This is more in line with how Fresco himself has characterized this in his writing. The film also made the movement's best attempt yet at specifically defining the nature of a resource based economic system. This was a breakthrough as the concept has never been present well in the Venus Project's own video media and has only ever been offered to the world in various written works. It's still going to be a difficult concept for many because there are few to no historic examples that the public has any collective memory of. And the notion of automating the management of world resources is quite alien to a society quite ignorant of just how automated economics already is today. So the concept is going to remain a hard sell. It seems, though, that, with this film, this Zeitgeist movement has moved beyond a class protest concerned with stimulating fear and anger for sake of public attention to what could be called an economic atheism with a potentially more coherent ideology -and potential for much greater credibility. I see that as significant progress.

However, as with the past films and as with the Venus Project in general, we're still left with no specific plans of action. No presentation of anything the audience is supposed to actually do about the dysfunctional status quo but embrace the suppressed reality of the situation. We are given an emotional impression of a fanciful near future global mass social uprising resulting from a spontaneous mass epiphany triggered by a 'tipping point' in economic failure and social strife. But nowhere are we told how to functionally prepare for this imagined event.

As a conclusion to the description of the new economic model we are presented with Fresco's model city of the future as an example of the rational habitat and its superlative lifestyle such a scientific approach to global resource management would produce. But, beautiful as it is, frankly, it's very much a Greek Temple on a Golf Course. A Neo-EPCOT. A scientifically engineered urban megastructure of the classic Modernist sort that exists as a set-piece of architecture, presumably springing from the aether fully formed and inhabited and devoid of the organic evolution that characterizes any real city. It is, on the face of it, implausible because it can only exist and function in its finished full-scale form and would require a kind of nation-scale public works project of the likes -and time frame- of the Great Wall of China to create. If this is a suggestion of an objective, it's not a good one. Where would you start? (this is a problem I understand well from my work on The Millennial Project and the problem of Marshal Savage's similarly anachronistic notion of marine arcologies -which in turn relates to Paulo Soleri's similarly flawed arcologies) Real cities are organic constructs. Emergent phenomenon. They are not planned but rather generated by an attractor formed by the convergence of interests on a geographically strategic location. They grow incrementally and must be functional and habitable at every stage of growth. One of the minor contradictions in the Venus Project vision is the way Fresco's mid-century Big Machine model of technology and architecture contradicts the core paradigms of a Post-Industrial culture and the contemporary trends in technological evolution he is otherwise advocating. The Venus Project needs a more 21st century urban theory to compliment its economic theory. Maybe then it will have a functional model for a habitat it can actually aspire to build now, today, as an example for its new way of life.

Still, overall this movie seems like real progress for this movement." (via email, p2p-foundation list, February 2011)

A more general comment regarding the Venus Project, which is somehow related to the Zeitgeist Movement:

""I would offer some suggestions as to possible reasons for the state of things with the Venus Project. As I've gathered in following his work myself, Fresco considers himself chiefly a designer and inventor and has long had this notion that the role of the designer/inventor is no more than to design and invent while implementation is someone else's department. But he's never had partners that could assume that implementation role. As brilliant as he is, most of his inventions have never gotten past concept stages because he's never been willing to get his own hands dirty in implementation and business development when no one else would. And this same thinking is reflected in the history of the Venus Project. For most of the, possibly, 50 years Fresco has been cultivating the Venus Project, he's been evangelizing its concepts through his designs. In other words, he has been trying to sell its concepts to a general public that is not sophisticated enough to comprehend them directly by using an idyllic visual image of the future that contrasts the squalor of contemporary life and cultivates a desire for a higher standard of living only this new cultural paradigm can deliver. The basic idea here is to cultivate collective desire through the appeal of a design such that people will be compelled to pick up the tools -intellectual and physical- to make it real. This is exactly the strategy you would expect from an industrial designer. That's how they normally sell ideas. But can you actually sell a whole society on a whole new cultural paradigm using pictures of its possible artifacts and visual impressions of its lifestyle? That's basically what the Venus Project has been trying to do for decades -before Zeitgeist. (which is now more directly trying to sell the theory, in the context of an explanation for why everything now sucks, because the middle-class zeitgeist itself has changed. They were very comfortable and complacent when Fresco started. Now they are under threat worldwide and looking for answers)

I think you can usefully communicate many things this way, but it's got limits. It can only be part of a larger strategy that seems to have eluded Fresco for much of his life. We certainly live in a visual culture and you can communicate a great deal about the nature of a culture through architecture and industrial design. Though a lot of contemporary designers seem oblivious to this, any given design is a reflection of production technology, economic paradigms, and common community aesthetics, which in turn are reflections of culture. You don't have to be an anthropologist to get this. Humans have an innate ability to reverse engineer things, relative to their inherent understanding of physics and materials, by looking at, touching, and using them. This is how we perceive the value of many goods -and which corporations often try to trick through aspects of design to create a false perception of value. So we can, potentially, come to understand certain aspects of a proposed new culture through the nature of speculative designs of artifacts suggested to be products of it. This is the purpose of futurist visualization.

When I've tried to find artists/illustrators to collaborate with -and this is often the point where I scare the hell out of them...- I will say to them that, in the real world, there are very specific reasons why anything looks the way it it does. And when you're doing futurist or technical visualization, as opposed to just SciFi, you are very deliberately trying to showcase those reasons through design because its those things that communicate the plausibility of the ideas you're trying to get across. For instance, if you understand that the overriding logistical limitation of manufacturing on orbit is that you can't precision-fabricate anything that can't fit through a pressure hatch of some kind, well, suddenly 90% of all the spacecraft and space stations you've ever seen portrayed in the media look like nonsense!

So we see in Fresco's design work an attempt to communicate through it an impression of how his imagined future culture works. How it makes things and the aspects of design that reflect its culture's values. (there is no chrome, fishtails, and Swarovski crystals in the Fresco future) Unfortunately, his understanding of technology and design theory seems to have gotten stuck somewhere in the late 1960s or early 1970s, making some of his designs both stylistically anachronistic and also contradictory to how to we commonly envision many current and near-future 21st century production technologies to work. His concepts for things like space structures and nanotechnology in particular remain way off the mark and his greatest anachronism is Big Machine fabrication. My guess is that, due to an assumption that he was very far ahead of the curve to begin with and because at that point he started being more concerned with cultural theory, he hasn't kept up with the industrial and technological trends so his general design theory has not evolved -or, as with many architects, he just assumed he had achieved some kind of perfection and just never reviewed it later.

But there's a more critical missing piece here; functional example. It's quite logical for the Venus Project to be very concerned with building a research city. That's the next step. Our society is so disillusioned, so hard-boiled, that we're now compulsively skeptical about any notion of the future that isn't dystopian. The best production value visuals can't make a strong argument for the future when, culturally, we just don't believe in the future anymore. (every spin-off of Star Trek ended in total war. Every other recent SciFi TV series has been about war. Every current SciFi computer game is a war game. Says a lot about what the culture thinks of the future) So, like flat earthers, we need to be led by the hand one way around the globe and then the other before we can get it. And the logical approach to that is to try to compete with the dominant cultural paradigms where it counts; a direct competition in demonstrable standard of living and quality of life based on actual working systems. This really may call for a Colonial Williamsburg of Tomorrow. Unfortunately, Fresco has left his followers with no functional plans for how to do this -because, again, implementation was someone else's department. His model city cannot be bootstrapped. Its monolithic design doesn't account for it to be built in the absence of the new systems it embodies, and there just aren't enough guilt-ridden trillionaires in the world. It's a catch-22 by design. They are going to have to move beyond Fresco to figure out how to do this. It's like building the first RepRap. You can't actually do it literally. You have to start with a 'RepStrap' built using other tools. Then that builds true RepRaps as its children. That's where we all are, strategically, in the larger general Post-Industrial/P2P cultural movement. The future can only be developed in-situ. But the Venus Project movement may not yet be attracting people with the wherewithal for that since, as you pointed out, it's picking up a lot of young people with more aspiration than knowledge and skills and who get frustrated when there are no plans at-hand to build anything specific right now. I would agree that Fresco and the Venus project have been operating in a vacuum to some degree, which may have a lot to do with coming out of the US where this field of study has been, sort of, underground since the 70s and where you do have to account for the Great American Reality Distortion Field. I'm hoping this movie is some sign of change in all this, but we'll see." (email February 2011)

The Movement

Quote by Peter Joseph:

"The Zeitgeist Movement is a grass roots campaign to unify the world through a common ideology based on the fundamentals of life and nature. "

Mission Statement

Founded in 2008, The Zeitgeist Movement is a sustainability advocacy organization, which conducts community based activism and awareness actions through a network of global/regional chapters, project teams, annual events, media and charity work.

The movement's principle focus includes the recognition that the majority of the social problems that plague the human species at this time are not the sole result of some institutional corruption, absolute scarcity, a political policy, a flaw of "human nature" or other commonly held assumptions of causality. Rather, the movement recognizes that issues such as poverty, corruption, pollution, homelessness, war, starvation and the like appear to be "symptoms" born out of an outdated social structure.

While intermediate reform steps and temporal community support are of interest to the movement, the defining goal is the installation of a new socioeconomic model based upon technically responsible resource management, allocation and design through what would be considered the scientific method of reasoning problems and finding optimized solutions.

This “Natural Law/Resource-Based Economy" (NLRBE) is about taking a direct technical approach to social management as opposed to a monetary or even political one. It is about updating the workings of society to the most advanced and proven methods known, leaving behind the damaging consequences and limiting inhibitions. which are generated by our current system of monetary exchange, profit, business and other structural and motivational issues.

The movement is loyal to a train of thought, not figures or institutions. The view held is that through the use of socially targeted research and tested understandings in science and technology, we are now able to logically arrive at societal applications that could be profoundly more effective in meeting the needs of the human population, increasing public health. There is little reason to assume war, poverty, most crime and many other monetarily-based scarcity effects common in our current model cannot be resolved over time. The range of the movement's activism and awareness campaigns extend from short to long term, with methods based explicitly on non-violent methods of communication.

The Zeitgeist Movement has no allegiance to country or traditional political platforms. It views the world as a single system and the human species as a single family and recognizes that all countries must disarm and learn to share resources and ideas if we expect to survive in the long run. Hence, the solutions arrived at and promoted are in the interest to help everyone on Earth, not a select group.

The Zeitgeist Movement Defined

The Zeitgeist Movement Defined is the official, representative text of the global, non-profit sustainability advocacy organization known as The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM).

This tediously sourced and highly detailed work argues for a large-scale change in human culture, specifically in the context of economic practice. The dominant theme is that the current socioeconomic system governing the world at this time has severe structural flaws, born out of primitive economic and sociological assumptions originating in our early history, where the inherent severity of these flaws went largely unnoticed.

However, in the early 21st century, these problems have risen prominently, taking the consequential form of increasing social destabilization and ongoing environmental collapse. Yet, this text is not simply about explaining such problems and their root causality - It is also about posing concrete solutions, coupled with a new perspective on social/environmental sustainability and efficiency which, in concert with the tremendous possibility of modern technology and a phenomenon known as ephemeralization, reveals humanity's current capacity to create an abundant, post-scarcity reality.

While largely misunderstood as being "utopian" or fantasy, this text walks through, step by step, the train of thought and technical industrial reordering needed to update our global society (and its values) to enable these profound new possibilities. While this text can be read strictly from a passive perspective, it was created also to be used as an awareness or activist tool. The Zeitgeist Movement, which has hundreds of chapters across dozens of countries and is perhaps the largest activist organization of its kind, hopes those interested in this direction will join the movement in global solidarity and assist in the culmination of this new social model, for the benefit of the whole of humanity.

Read more at Zeitgeist Movement Defined: Realizing a New Train of Thought

Discussion

Dante Monson

Dante is personally concerned, after watching one of the movies, that the Zeitgeist movement does not seem to offer much governance alternatives. Dante would like to understand better what these governance proposals could be, and its approach. Currently Dante is concerned that with its current approach, ideas of the Zeitgeist movement could lead to a centrally planned, technocratic mode of governance built on its use of technology. In other words, not towards a peer governance, peer property and peer production approach.

Dante says : "I remember that there is some criticism of the monetary system, which I personally understand and share what concerns a central bank, debt and interest based fiat currency. I remember and notice through a web search that some people relating themselves to the movement seem to prone a "moneyless society", yet at the same time prone a resource based management system for allocation of resources.

From my own point of view, the use of measurement units as vectors in resource allocation information systems, can correspond to certain kinds of currencies.

I yet need to understand in the latest Zeitgeist Movie ( 2011 ) what their proposals are for such information systems, information systems which can use measurement units which from my point of view can be understood as a form of currency. Who would control or choose what metrics to use ? Can each individual choose and enable its own choices for participation in transactions ? "


Further comments by Dante in a message to S. regarding the third movie of the Zeitgeist Movement ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z9WVZddH9w ) :

I would say I would like to go further then what I currently decipher and seem to understand from the Zeitgeist and Venus project movements.

In my view the video aptly questions what I perceive as current mainstream vector systems maximizing addicted control.

( control of interdependencies through , for example, centrally controlled vector protocols such as fiat central bank debt with compound interest , and various so called "Free Markets" using such vector protocols )

YET...

I do not hear a distributed alternative in their discourse. No, what I hear in the discourse of the movie is some suggestion for a technocratic, centrally planned and controlled set of vector protocols.

This third official Zeitgeist Movement documentary seems to suggest some "central control / Mainframe" ( 2h03min ), and also suggests ( at 1:49:12 ) that " nature is a dictatorship " ... They also make an emphasis on "science". Does their suggestions mean that "science" can help better go along living with such dictatorship ? Who ultimately defines the vectors used in the resource based management ? To my knowledge, Science still requires humans to think about it, and decisions for metrics in the management of our resources can still be defined by humans. My impression from the video at some point was that they seem to suggest that "because science can take care of it", there is no more need for politics or economics... ? ( note : there is a specific excerpt I remember and which which I try to relocate underlining this point )

I am not sure how they define dictatorship in this context ? In terms of "human societies", I view "dictatorship" as defined by one agent having control on all the others. I do not see "dictatorship" as synonymous with fully distributed, networked systems at every levels of abstraction , including at the level of the vectors whom agents may choose to use or create when wishing or needing to participate into interdependencies - hence enabling networks of individuals to freely join or leave systems, create systems, create specifically defined alliances or synergies between parts of systems, or avoid interactions with other systems if they wish to.


---


Hence, my own personal and hopefully shared alternative aim for defining "Transaction Contract Networks" , aims at facilitating the implementation and use of distributed libre/free and open source set of tools/architectures, which themselves can empower for every agents to choose or create its meta-protocols, which themselves aim at enabling every peer agent / every individual human being to be included equipotentially ( http://p2pfoundation.net/Equipotentiality ) , based on its own preferences and potential for agreements with other peers, even if these preferences would be socio-culturally induced. ( note : the video seems to suggests that there is no freedom, because of the influence of socio culture on our choices ? )

By enabling a potential for open data ( or private encrypted data within transaction networks who choose for it ), I want to enable for each peer a broader overview, from which to build new choices, access and contribute to potential collective emergent intelligence.

With the aim of such broader overview enabling the access for each peer to make choices beyond the restrictions of our socio cultural conditioning, through the abilities of our combined capacity for imagination and creation - which is one of the human traits.

Hence "ReQuest" ( http://cashwiki.org/en/ReQuest ), or as we mentioned more recently in some conversation, some kind of "semantic operating system" - with hopefully such distributed meta-protocol, ontology creation for each human peer to choose and create from, is for me an important way of expressing an alternative to centralized planned protocols.

I look forward to continue promoting and hopefully using such ever evolving tools together.

update 2014 : https://github.com/automenta/netjs

Zeitgeist 3 and the Commons

Stefan Meretz:

"So, what is the film about and what has this to do with commons?

The movie is full of informations. One has to concentrate enormously to follow all facts and statements (especially for non-english watchers reading the subtitles is hard). The movie has four chapters:

  1. »Human Nature«,
  2. »Social Pathology«,
  3. »Project Earth«,
  4. »Rise«.

In all parts the film is made very US centered. I want to focus on certain chosen aspects. I recommend reviews of Franz Nahrada, Andreas Exner und Tomasz Konicz (sorry: all in german), which point to important critical points in a striking way, but also name the positve aspects. Critique of science and technical fetishism, patriarchal view (pay attention to clichéd background images of »family« etc.), shortened notion of money (money=debt) etc.; praise for questioning the system and radically breaking with exchange, money, market, state and politics. The movie easily and clearly distance from the »management left«, which is biased in the swamp of the old, although they basically strive for the same.

In chapter »Human Nature« a lot of time is used to argue against genetic determinism, against »being inhered« of nearly everything: crime, alcoholism, laziness, overweight, poverty etc. Regarding this question the stupidity seems to be boundless in the USA. This does not mean, that such debates do not occur in Europe, but they are not so primitive and need more effort to justify a genetic determinsm. The movie brilliantly decodes the economic interests behind such arguments: prison as profit system which »lives« from jailing more and more people; health care as system which only profits from steadily suffering and sick people, a system with no interest in real »healing« etc.

However, it is shortsighted to change genetic determinism with a kind of an environmental determinism: It ought to be the environment which makes all that which is imputed to the genes. Allegedly the sciences have recognized this clearly, but due to ideological reasons it is not conceded. However, also the environmental determinism is an ideology, is a reduction, and blinds out, that humans are producing the conditions themselves under which they live and suffer. Simply to walk on the »other side« of the dualistic determinist view disimproves the situation.

Indeed, it is the socio-economic system which has to be changed (where humans in a new »environment« should change in a better direction, that’s the hope). However: Who should do this if all are »victims of the culture«? There is an unlogical answer: the scientists. Why should they be excluded from the environmental determination? What enables them to gain insights which are denied for others? The background of this position (which is heavily critized in the above mentioned articles) is the idea of a »neutrality of sciences« and a notion of »the scientific method«, which is dead dangerous. If someone owns »the method« then s/he — completely unscientific — takes off from others, justifies a higher status, legitimates authority and, finally, elitism. Actually, this has not be necessary, but in the movie it is and therefore has to be criticized (surely in more detail than I do here).

On the other hand, the alternative to determinism can not be scientific relativism, where in some way all are right and not right at the same time — depending on what one wants to see as »science«. But this too would only be a dualistic repulsion, which is right in criticizing »the scientific method«, but can not serve as an own fundament of relativism. Dogmatism and relativism are only two sides of the same coin, of the same reduction. Contrary to this, the notion of truth has to be defended which, however, requires for each scientific object an own adequate approach. Method and object are not separated from each other as »scientific methodists« claim, and the method is not »subjectively relative« as »postmodern relativists« assert, but the method depends on its object, is related to this object and is only valid in respect to this object.

Chapter »Social Pathology« shows the intellectual roots of modern market paradigm with John Locke and Adam Smith. In detail this is interesting (i.e. regarding Locke, that private property should leave »enough for all«). However, the history of capitalist market economy is not only a history of ideas, but a real history of the qualitative transition of an agrarian-mechanical to an industrial way of production — which is not addressed in the film. Then at some point big industry and monetary system »are there«, and then systematically produced imbalances, waste of resources und inefficiencies are criticized.

The way of unmasking capitalism aa an inefficient system of production of vital goods is excellent, although the systems ideological self-attribution always claims the contrary. The monetary system is described as systematically producing over-indebtedness and inflation inevitably heading for a collaps, because the state cannot create money from nothing to compensate exponential growing debts. The backlink to real economy as well as money being value and (fictious) capital is, however, too narrowly considered. Overall, notion and concept of »economy« are maintained, but the »scarcity-based market economy« is criticized as »anti-economic«. »Scarcity« is debunked as social form of commodity production, which has nothing (or only a little) to do with the »nature« of limited goods. »Scarcity« is made, it is not »there«.

In Chapter »Project Earth« the Zeitgeist alternative of a Resource-Based Economy (RBE) as a »true economy« is presented. The starting point is as simple as true: Humans need things for their living which they produce by using resources. The consumption of resources when producing goods has to be adjusted to the regeneration ability and limited availability of resources to allow for a good living for all humans on earth — today and for future generations. In order to achieve that, the resource stock of whole earth has to be mapped in order to be able to make scientifically reasonable — and not politically driven — decisions about the structure of production. It is annoying that exactly at this point the german subtitles falsely speak about »commodities« (instead of goods), but this does not touch english listeners.

As an example a city of the Venus Project is presented, which has been designed following engineer-optimized concepts. Well, I don’t want to live in such a city. At this point the alleged »neutrality of sciences« break through, which find itself decoupled from humans needs although the film continiously emphasizes that all is about satisfying human needs. Do we see here creeping in the domination of the experts view over the people? This would be a dystopian vision, which the Zeitgeist project does not require at all. But actually these circular optimized Venus cities are not at issue, because a societal change towards a RBE would be a gigantic transformation project of existing grown structures into reasonable resource-saving new structures, which start from the needs of the people. The valid idea that infrastructures have to be most effective as possible (therefore the circular form of Venus cities) applied to existing real cities would result in enormous savings without bringing them into such a circular form. From the recources viewpoint a complete rebuilding of everything would be stupid.

Human needs as the driver of a societal transformation are clearly underestimated. Here, we don’t see much trust in the people, which isn’t surprizing if one sees them simply as »victims of culture«. The insight, that separated satisfaction of needs through »consumption« leads to highly contradictory and self-damaging behavior, is partly realized but not used here. If we think reversely by having a societal form allowing for integration of diverse human needs in a process of communicative mediation previous to production, then balanced and substainable inclusion of all needs would be possible. Once the people have a real bearing on their conditions, they will use them. In fact, a »buying decision« is not influence, instead real influence has to bear on production. Basically this is possible in a RBE, because most separating elements are abandoned: money, market, state, politics, domination.

Finally, the last chapter »Rise« is about a possible replacement of current »socio-economic system« (it is rarely spoken about capitalism). Here, »Moving Forward« toils as all others do who want a need-oriented society. This can not be any different. Again, we drastically understand as much the global system called »market economy« has failed: endless resource exploitation, deforestation, hunger (ebery day 18000 children starve), people displacement, climate catastrophe — nothing we not already know in some way. But who can stand this every day without suppressing it or pushing the »guilt« to the victims?

Also this is nothing, which not other active people would bewail, but Zeitgeist draws the only valid and logical consequence: If the socio-economic system did produce all that, then a solution can never be found inside this system. It is not enough to elongate or adjust some levers. Instead, a new way to produce the livelihood has to be brought into the world. This new way of production cannot base on the mechanisms of the old — money, market, state, commodities, exchange. Probably there is some more, including the Zeitgeist-own religious faith in the sciences. However, central points which normally are avoided by »left« approaches are on the table.

The final image of the movie where the ruling class drop their power and the ruled people drop their money is not more than this: an image using the medium of a film. It is art, because other then artistically one can not show this scenario of an end of a society. Every more concrete imagination would be unbelievable. We will see, whether Zeitgeist kann become a global movement. It is not really clear why they rarely exist in Germany. Maybe, because the illusionists who believe, that immanent reforms can save anything are dominant. Despite using unfit means they, however, express the same wish which Zeitgeist represents: May the society become human. What does this has to do with commons?

The simple answer is: Commons are a RBE on a small scale. Simply said, as RBE looks »from above« the commons look »from below«. The RBE is weak answering the question of how people will create truly reasonable and human circumstances — the commons show this in numerous examples on the small or medium scale. The commons are weak answering the question of how the commons principles can be extended on the societal level — RBE is presenting an approach for whole society.

However, and I am quite sure about that, it would come to a serious »clash of cultures«, when anti-monetarist and technique-believing Zeitgeist people bump on monetary ignorant and technically sceptical commoners — very roughly said. This sometimes happens yet within the commons, .i.e. if »digital« meet »natural« commoners.

But why shouldn’t this become exciting provided that one is willing to learn from each other?" (http://www.keimform.de/2011/zeitgeist-and-commons/)

J. Andrés Delgado

Jan 29th, 2014. The Zeitgeist Movement publishes their new orientation guide. While still presenting some flaws and missing some specifics, they present the new proposed economic model as a distributed system more aligned to the commons, also it touches somehow the governance model and suggest three (undeveloped) projects to move forward in that direction.