The Zeitgeist Movement can now boast over half a million members across over three hundred countries; in 2009 it was a quarter of a million members. Peter Joseph, the founding father of the movement, has recently released his third movie, Zeitgeist: Moving Forward (as written about by Fouad Al-Noor on Wessex Scene), and in mid-March the celebration of ‘Zeitgeist Day’ will begin across the globe.
The Zeitgeist movement advocates the abandonment of currency based society in exchange for the establishment of the resource based economy first suggested by Jaques Fresco, pioneer of The Venus Project, ideological forefather to Peter Joseph and former member of the Ku Klux Klan.
This last qualification of Fresco may be deemed an irrelevant Ad Hom assault by some and there are those who will believe Fresco’s imaginative claim that his membership in the Klan (as well as the White Citizen’s Council) was part of an elaborate infiltration to convince them to change their minds about race hate.
The very least one could argue that this says about Fresco is that he has inclines towards the fanciful. Included in this notion of the resource-based economy is the jettison of private property in exchange for what Joseph refers to as ‘strategic access’ which is tantamount to communal property; democracy, which Joseph states is an illusion, in exchange for a technocracy whereby the ruling class would comprise of technical experts in control of their relevant domains; and eventually labour.
Joseph states that we are already technologically capable of the mechanisation of most jobs executed by human labour and that, due to the nature of the resource based economy, we can look forward to a world where we do not need to work, where houses are built in a single day and we can enjoy a 95 per-cent reduction in crime.
While the quixotic ideas of Joseph may still appear perturbing, they are vanilla compared with the frightening conspiracy theories that have been perpetuated by the Zeitgeist movement in the past. The very term ‘conspiracy-theory’ would have Joseph’s followers pulverising their molars, embittered that their ideas are being shrugged off as grassy knoll theories.
But neither their bruxism nor their semantic dispute can purchase legitimacy for the absurd and odious notion propagated in Zeitgeist: The Movie that not Al Qaeda but the Bush Administration had orchestrated the internationally seismic events of 9/11 to justify the invasion of the Middle East – all under the guise of a war on terror in order to accomplice economic gain. This idea is of course completely without substantiation and the attempt to absolve the true murderers of three-thousand people has been subject to much ridicule. Although he refuses an all out retraction it should come as no surprise that, with the systematic dismantling of such claims, Joseph has moved away from them and ideas such as these are absent from ‘Moving Forward’.
Joseph paints a grim and accurate picture of the perils of continued defilement of the environment and excessive consumption of natural resources. However, Joseph piggybacks this global threat with the notion that we should map out every single resource on the globe (which, of course, every effort to do so is already being made), abandon concepts of private property and then have the state distribute resources where they are needed. At one point in the film Joseph adopts mock indignation at how people could possibly brand his doctrine communism or socialism.
The lady clearly doth protest too much: whatever your stance on these two ideologies it should be clear that in fact Joseph’s Zeitgeist Movement is ideologically extremely close to both and a denial of this is unsupportable. Joseph attempts to discriminate between them by claiming that communism, like capitalism, assumes that natural resources are not finite. Not only would this claim hardly distinguish the movement from communism but it is not true. Communism and capitalism and every other economic doctrine assume the scarcity and value of some resources over others.
Similarly, Joseph preempts the ball-busting naysayers when he begrudges the label of ‘utopianism’. However, a clip of Jacques Fresco (from 1974) at one point in the movie states that in a resources based economy, “it would take ten years to transform the surface of the Earth into a second Garden of Eden”.
At the end of the film, Joseph indulges himself with a somewhat masturbatory dramatisation of the day when everybody realises he is right in perhaps the ultimate vindication. The anchor-woman announces that amongst the massive protests, “shockingly there has been no violence” and we see a board room full of three-piece cage wearing oligarchs stubbing out their cigars in despair.
Joseph claims that he can create a world without poverty, a world essentially without crime and a world without labour in which we are entirely free to pursue our destiny (Joseph has previously stated that employment is ‘forced slavery’). Whatever way you cut it – this is utopianism. Joseph completely disregards the quintessentially human properties of self-interest, desire for freedom and competitiveness in his concoction of the ideological equivalent of the delusional phenomenon Dr. Ben Goldacre describes in his book, ‘Bad Science’ as – ‘pill solves complex social problem’. It seems that in his state of denial Joseph has provided us with a rather neat summary of the Zeitgeist movement.
This utopianism is more harmful than mere wish thinking. The concept of utopia and its pursuit has been devastating throughout history. It follows almost by definition that it is near impossible to find an instance of great evil without there being an underlying paradisiacal motive. If you believe that there is a way to attain heaven on Earth for the whole of mankind then almost anything is justified in its pursuit. It is not hyperbolic to bring up at this point Stalinism, Maoism, almost all other despotisms and genocides of the twentieth-century and more recently – Jihad.
Despite my insistence that this is not hyperbole you may still feel that alluding to the greatest evils of the past century is sensationalist but, while I do not for a second suggest that we need be as concerned about the Zeitgeist movement as we do about these examples, these are the logical consequences of utopian thought. Joseph preaches that we will be delivered if we follow him and if we do not then we are destined for apocalyptic repercussions: war, poverty, starvation and the disintegration of civilization.
Amongst the detritus there are some issues we must take seriously. Environmental concern, disgust for corporate greed and the justice of property distribution are matters of incredible importance but these are far from new societal concerns and Peter Joseph’s cult has nothing to offer us with regard to their resolution.