Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Zeitgeist Movement

The Zeitgeist Movement

I have been asked by one of my acquaintances to render my opinion on the Zeitgeist Movement. Pursuant to their request I offer the following.

I will not berate anyone who believes in the lofty ideals that this group claims to promote, I question their pragmatism in attaining their idealistic goals. If I had a magic wand that could make things happen as they present them in their videos and literature, I would be inclined to wave it right now. I am no fan of the status quo, but massive, radical universal changes in society seldom if ever results in positive results. I am bereft of even one example in history where a populist Utopian group, which is what the Zeitgeist Movement is, has ever delivered a net positive benefit once their theories are implemented. To the contrary history is rife with examples of  horrificshameful, and grotesque abominations from those who promised heaven on earth.

However, when you come down from the fuzzy emotional high of the Zeitgeist Movement Guide, the Where We Are Now, and the Where We Are Going videos you must soberly ask yourself, "What are the implications of this movement's ethos?" Let’s take a look at just the first four…

1. Conserving all the world's resources as the common heritage of all of the Earth’s people.
How do we define a “resource”? How do we define “conservation”? Who will establish these definitions? How will conflicts be resolved when someone disagrees with these very basic definitions? If I ask 10 people to define these things, I will get 10 different answers. Ants do hive mentality exceptionally well! Humans do not…so well.

2. Transcending all of the artificial boundaries that separate people.
Again the ideal sounds wonderful; it is the implementation that gets messy. Which are “artificial” boundaries and which are “real” boundaries? Are the walls of your home a real boundary? One might say “No, you built that boundary.” While others might argue, “Yes, that wall is the boundary of your privacy to which you are entitled.”

3. Evolving from a monetary-based economy to a resource-based world economy.
This appears to conflict with #1, people spend and waste money like mad even in the most resource destitute nations on earth. Take a look at the Saudi family, the Sultan of Brunei, or the Cali cartel in South America. How do we “conserve” the “common heritage of all the Earth’s people” when those who have ready access to the resources decide they want to “over utilize” the resource taking what belongs collectively to those who have little access to the resource? As an example, fresh water is not equally distributed around the planet. The Great Lakes are a vast wealth of fresh water, how do we ensure that people in sub-Saharan Africa are not cheated of their share?

4. Reclaiming and restoring the natural environment to the best of our ability.

First we must establish that humans are unnatural, otherwise anything that we do becomes by definition natural as well. I think termites are destructive and methodically wreck havoc on forests with machine like precision, but I would be hard pressed to convince anyone that they are unnatural. There is a vast and deep chasm between what constitutes ecologically responsible behavior and Neo-pagan Druidism.

It seems to me that any one of these first four ideals establish the grounds for global warfare more than anything resembling the placid, idyllic future the Zeitgeist Movement envisions. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic about the future of mankind, because I am not. It is said that the wise learn from their mistakes; however I believe that those we revere as brilliant remembered best the lessons of history and choose not to repeat them. The true genius learns from the mistakes of others.
I hear the Zeitgeist Movements’ visionary promises of efficiency, plenty, and equality. I see the Great Leap Forward and at a cost of 30 to 40 million lives.

I hear the Zeitgeist Movements’ call to promises of efficiency, plenty, and equality I see 
the killing fields of Khmer Rouge.
I hear them convincingly explain how they have finally figured out how we as a species can all work together in freedom, peace, and prosperity… after 4.3 million years but how many times have we heard that before? The Sumerian, Macedonia, Egyptians, Persians, Chinese all had, at least for a little while, 
civilizations that were unparalleled and seemed sure bets. Even an illiterate nomadic boy from the steeps of central Asia devised a simple and highly effective plan for making us all one happy family and nearly succeeded. He mounted his horse in the east and as he rode west he (and 200,000 of his best friends) killed the men and impregnate all the women.
One of our species long standing handicaps is that our greatest causes lose sight of their affect. Perhaps, it is hard wired in our genome, maybe it’s our left hemisphere seizing the reigns, or maybe it is easier to become a monster than to confront the suffering you have loosed upon those you only wanted to help.

I have all the respect for Zeitgeist’s ideals, and their bravery for speaking out in a time when so many are apathetic the suffering of their fellow man. I understand their wanting to somehow fix these hapless, hopeless, and sometimes horrific creatures…we…Humanity. We are beyond doubt irrevocably broken at our core, but before they put on the mask and surgical gloves to remove our afflictions… they should remember that far more important than the hope and promise of panacea is the duty to do no harm.
As for myself, I believe that there are other less radical more prudent paths to that bright future we all seek. My paths are not as glamorous as the photos depicting the Movements vision of an ultra-modern archeology society. However, I feel confident that by virtue of being less radical experimental, and theoretical pose a better chance of success and moreover pose less risk that in our tinkering we do not , as Peter Gabriel would say, shock the monkey. We are very fortune, in that we have the ability to change when our survival depends on it. We are cursed because we rarely recognize when extinction is looming at our door. We are fools because we jump to absurd action when Chicken Little shouts, “The sky is falling!” We are noble because as we have strived to lived boldly together on this unique pretty blue sphere, we envision a better place for those who will come after us, and then we will lay our burdens down, we return to the ground from once we rose. Therefore, since my time is short my efforts will focused on tangible returns that produce positive outcomes in the earthly realm of small judiciously chosen battles and leave the grandiose and potentially harmful to the Zeitgeist Movement. However, I wish them well in their bid to create the visionary world of The Jetsons.