June 25, 2012

Zeitgeist vs. Austrians - Intro

A sociological phenomenon has transpired ever since the movie Zeitgeist Addendum came out in late 2008. The movie sparked a movement which took the name Zeitgeist to identify itself. The movement offers solutions as to how we can improve our society and in essence create a stable, peaceful society where no one has to endure unemployment, poverty, hunger and war. This would mean you have to declare all the worlds resources as the common heritage of all people and use the scientific method for social concern. It means you have to share. It's called a "Resource Based Economy."

That was a message that seemingly struck a (nervous) chord with some people. A certain group of people. On YouTube, a popular video and movie watching website, many videos were uploaded directing critique against the message of the Zeitgeist Movement. After the release of Zeitgeist Moving Forward these monodies not only continued but intensified as well. I was quite flabbergasted to see that these people belonging to this group, all basically parroted the same thing. I am talking about supporters of an "Austrian Economy."

Austrian economists are an unusual bunch. While they label themselves as libertarians upon further examination their views are quite extreme and potentially dangerous. (I'll elaborate in future posts.) Basically they want to let the free market reign over society in its purest form. They want to abolish the State so that only 'actors in a free market remain.' 'Austrians' are generally speaking advocates of laissez-faire policies. Most importantly, the whole rationale of human thought lies within the market place in this doctrine.

After some internal deliberation it became quite clear to me why these people confronted the Zeitgeist Movement (of which I'm a member) and the Venus Project so vehemently. A resource based economy and an austrian economy are diametrically opposed. It's like holding a positive and a negative charged magnet close to each other. And seeing how many Austrians came running over to Zeitgeist videos on YouTube more or less like economic versions of Jehovah's Witnesses and telling us how mistaken we were (to put it diplomatically), I wonder who's negatively charged.

"You're a Statist!" "Central planning can not or has ever worked!" "It's the State's fault, they give power to monopolies!" "What about the economic calculation problem?" "This is NOT the free market." All "mantras" from the Austrian School of Economics. Of course Austrians oppose Zeitgeist because the latter wants to do away with the free market. That's something that gives them instant headaches. Maybe even more fascinating is the psychological, sociological and cultural factors that lie beneath this clash of ideologies.

I've had some discussions with 'Austrians' and I think it's time I put it here on my blog and display my thoughts on this matter. There are many matters to discuss and expand on. This here is just an introduction. More to follow.

June 22, 2012

Forest Boy "Inspired By Zeitgeist Movement" - A Rebuttal

By Ben Mcleish, published June 17, 2012

If you happen to order fish and chips at any point tomorrow in the UK, amongst the greasy second-hand newspaper used to line the take-away box, you might catch sight of a bent corner of an article by Damien McElroy of The Telegraph on the mysterious story of “Forest Boy”, a young man named Robin Van Helsum, a 20-year old from Hengelo in the Netherlands. Van Helsum ran away from home many months ago, and then concocted a story that he had been living with his father in a forest. Heart-breakingly, his father, who was not with him, actually died in the interim without knowing whatever happened to his son.

I mean no personal disrespect to Mr McElroy in the following paragraphs – indeed, my long-haired opponent and I even share a Scottish prefix, so who knows, maybe we’re related in some distant way. I’ll be sure to check at my next family reunion.
No – my disrespect here, if there is any, is for his fact-checking, and his present ability to reason and employ logic, or even Google, to inform a very wide readership about current events and important issues and trends in a correct way.
I’ll link you to the online version of the story, (and I mean “story” in the real sense of the word) rather than attempt to locate the grease-ridden version of it tomorrow. Of note particularly here is the article’s overarching attempt to characterise what is claimed to be one of the “inspirations” behind Forest Boy’s disappearance: The Zeitgeist Movement (what we shall abbreviate to TZM.)
Amongst various assertions, whose sources must be fictional or non-existent, are the claim that he “was inspired to travel to Germany by the teachings of the far-Left Zeitgeist movement that aims to destroy market capitalism”.
TZM is not “far-left”. Far-left covers the end of the political spectrum associated with violence, terrorist acts, direct action and even classicide. Not only is TZM not far-left, it is also explicitly non-violent and doesn’t even recognise politics as any kind of solution. Try and vote for us – go on! You won’t have much luck. It’s like trying to define invisibility on the colour spectrum.
As for the assertion that we aim to “destroy” market capitalism (from the sub-headline, no less.) The author knows what he’s doing here – this is a weasel word designed to make you think that this organisation is some out of control violent threat to humanity. And if this is not a conscious judgement by the author, it’s even worse, for it betrays carelessness probably brought on by the pressure to have to publish quickly. That and pandering to your right-wing audience, of course.
Yes we are opposed to the monetary system. And we spend hours explaining why. Amongst the permutations of this system is “market capitalism” – although the author doesn’t explain what he might mean by this term. He ought to, given that even economists disagree as to the meaning of the term, or even if we’re in fact IN a market capitalistic society (an attribute which varies by country, and even regions within countries). Never mind all that exactness and pettiness though – the authorthinks he knows what his readership might think it means, and that’s what matters, right?
This violent overture is perhaps a clue to why the author then decides to make his most laughable error (in my opinion) – that the movement was founded “in Germany” by Peter Joseph (who has, as far as he has told me, never lived in Germany, although he is what some would call an Italian-American; so if you scroll far enough out on Google Maps, Italy is pretty much in the same place as Germany. Put that in the final copy, Damien…right next to that advert we’re selling!)
The continued references to the popularity of the movement in Germany (which is true), and the reference of being based in Berlin quietly smuggles in ideas of “radical national socialism”, and cuts off logic at the root. Certainly a possibility for a nationally-focused paper.
Or, should we give the author a little more credit, it’s perhaps down to the German name. In which case we have just given him less credit, for it would betray no research whatsoever. Or perhaps, someone told him – in which case, it should have been researched and proven.
The article also maintains that the movement is based on “four films” should actually be welcome news to Peter himself; for this would mean that he has indeedalready finished his fourth film, a non-Zeitgeist branded one called “Beyond the Pale”, rather than having barely begun the arduous task of producing it. What a relief.
It would also be news to most of the TZM membership, since our understandings are based on the model of a Resource Based Economy (again, we’ll abbreviate to RBE), which are expressed in two of Peter’s films (the newest of which came outafter the existence of the Movement.)
By that same logic one could also argue that TZM is based on Future By Design, a biographical film of Jacque Fresco that dwells little on the social model of an RBE; it will also thus be “based” on The Venus Project’s excellent Film “Paradise or Oblivion” which references Buckminster Fuller in its title. Perhaps it’s also based on the excellent collage “Owned & Operated” because a small portion of that film discusses the movement’s focus and efforts.
In fact if we are based on anything, we are based on the understandings of what technology can do and does do for humanity if used in life-enhancing ways – not the militaristic wanton destruction of the environment and each other (both of which, I should not have to add, we need to preserve in order for humanity to survive and live in what Martin Luther King jnr might have called “the good society.”)
Also – nowhere in our materials do we propose to “go and live in a forest”. A cursory and un-lazy look at any of our materials will make this clear. And so when the author makes the claim that [t]“he fantasy forest existence [...] could be closely related to the eco-warrior teachings of the Zeitgeist campaigners” one must only assume that the author is either genuinely unsure about the link – or that none exists and he was missing another paragraph to flesh out the article. I know what my “money” is on.

And while we’re on this point, note another bonus smuggling in of violent language, with the term “eco-warrior”. Not only is it violent, it’s not even trying not to be a cliché – and an author’s greatest downfall is cliché. But re-treading the same old steps comes so naturally in this piece, one must marvel at it as a feat on its own merits.
Overall this is a short-sighted, shallow and false representation of what the movement spends its time advocating. It is not surprising, though – we are used to, and indeed expect, misreadings of our tenets; misreadings which are themselves a product of a closed-logic system of “capitalism vs (in this case) far-left socialism”, “good vs evil” (especially in the media) – over and over, the dualism of indoctrination.
Ladies and gentlemen – make it your personal tool set to rationally research everything you read, even if it is a harmless little piece about a kid who got horribly lost. The same bad judgements that plague this piece are the same bad judgements which led a dutch boy to think that TZM somehow requires we return to the jungle we have only just emerged from, instead of perhaps visiting the lovely people at Zeitgeist Netherlands and, without a price tag or any other requirements other than some time spent, developing his understanding of what we actually advocate.
Perhaps then he would not have been absent when his father left this world; a man who died not even knowing whether his son had outlived him or not.
A man who died in the truest sense – alone.
Happy Fathers Day.
(Copied from the Zeitgeist Movement UK website.)

June 20, 2012

Alive & Kicking

Damien McElroy, a journalist from the British newspaper The Telegraph wrote an article yesterday about a teenager who had ran away from home and surfaced in Berlin. Robin van Helsum apparently had some financial and psychological problems when he left his hometown of Hengelo. The connection is made that the Zeitgeist Movement greatly influenced van Helsum's behavior.

The article by McElroy is shoddy journalism on multiple levels. A quick and easy blame is presented as the main cause for this young man's abhorrent behavior. The article mentions quite clearly that van Helsum had a troublesome relationship with his father and that he was placed in several care homes. That leads to the realization that van Helsum probably already had a dim view of society even before coming into contact with the Zeitgeist films.

For decades now journalism has sometimes pursued the quick and easy blame. 'It's Rock and Roll music.' 'It's violent video games.''It's a movement that suggest we should use technology and science for our societal problems.' But lets get more down to business.

I'm a member of the Zeitgeist Movement and I'm active in promoting it. Last year I was protesting at 'Occupy Amsterdam' with other Zeitgeisters and before that I was at the annual ZDay. I visited a number of gatherings, not all but quite few. The thing is; I've never seen Robin van Helsum at any of these meetings nor have I come across video material where he is recorded attending a Zeitgeist related event here in Holland.
The Dutch Zeitgeist website also put up an article and national coordinator Seth Lievense writes that Robin van Helsum is unknown to the organization and that local members in the Hengelo area also don't recognize him. It's unlikely that Robin is an active member of the Zeitgeist Movement. This bounces the question back to Damien McElroy; 'aren't you making flimsy connections?'

I'm afraid there's more to add to the previous question. McElroy makes a number of errors when he discusses the Zeitgeist Movement, clearly showing he did little fact checking while this should be the first thing a journalist should do;

But friends in his native Hengelo, on the Dutch border with Germany, have revealed that he had been obsessed with the radical Zeitgeist movement founded by a Berlin filmmaker before his disappearance from the town.

Fact; the Zeitgeist Movement was founded by an American citizen named Peter Joseph in late 2008, beginning of 2009 and who currently resides in Los Angeles, California. To the best of my knowledge Peter Joseph never resided in Berlin nor was he even born there. Branding an organization that advocates using science and technology as radical is also prejudiced. We advocate creating a society that would look a lot like Star Trek. Is Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the Star Trek series, a radical too?

The German-based alternative action movement was popularised in a series of films critical of market capitalism. Shot between 2007 and last year, a series of four films inspired a political movement that holds future generations will view Christianity as a fraud and embrace sustainable ecological policies as the basis of the economy.

And here we go again. The Zeitgeist Movement is not German-based! Just because you see the German word 'Zeitgeist' doesn't automatically mean it is a German organization. There are chapters all over the world including Germany but its "headquarters" are in California although it is also largely an 'internet-movement.' To say it is German-based is just plain wrong.
As of now there are 3 films, not 4. Another error. The first film, 'Zeitgeist the Movie' was a personal project by Peter Joseph and has in essence nothing to do with the movement that started after the second film; 'Zeitgeist Addendum.' I know it can be confusing at times but once again, there's plenty of information on the internet and Zeitgeist websites who would have told you exactly this. We also don't claim to be a political movement! Lastly, Peter Joseph made a case against religion in his first film but that doesn't mean we advocate banishing religion. A person is free to believe what they want!

With so many errors in McElroy's article is becomes painfully obvious that the man hardly did any research. Just like Robin van Helsum, shoddy journalism seems to be...[see Title].