Saturday, November 1, 2008

On Zeitgeist: Addendum

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, Zeitgeist: Addendum mostly centers around the 3rd point of the first Zeitgeist, i.e. that the banks are out to own everything, and will stop at nothing to have the whole world under their well-polished leather heels with the power of debt and interest. It waxes overly dramatic at times, drifting into the realm of painfully cheesy for a bit just before the end credits. A lot of the evidence presented is anecdotal, which is a crippling blow to its credibility, though, given the nature of the information being presented, anecdotal is quite likely going to be as good as it can possibly get.

All that having been said, Zeitgeist: Addendum strikes a chord with me. There, I said it. For a very long time now, I've been living with a certain suspicion. Looking at the world around us, people will cheat, steal and kill for little bits of paper. Why is this? Why does it seem that there's never enough of the stuff to go round? Why is it that some people can live lives of obscene decadence while nations starve and die? And what I've been wondering is: Surely it doesn't have to be this way?

And that's basically what Zeitgeist: Addendum is about. Aside from the massive deluge of information regarding the diabolical agendas of powerful banking families, it also puts forward some striking thoughts from a certain visionary/nutter, Jacque Fresco. Visionary because what he proposes is a piece of social restructuring so radically ahead of its time it defies belief. Nutter for pretty much the same reason.

The long and short of what Fresco puts forward in the Venus Project is that money is unnecessary, and that without money, humanity can achieve the supremely pure communism captured in the sentence: "Communism is the complete abolition of private property."

One of the major justifications of the free market economy is the argument that, ideally, competition results in the best goods being produced for the lowest prices, hurrah for the consumer. Now, in case I haven't mentioned this enough times, I live in Malaysia, a nation intellectually crippled by an inferior education system* and the mass delusion that is theism**. This basically leaves us with a large segment of the population being fairly gullible, shallow-minded wage zombies. I'm sure some of you know the feeling. And in the land of the suckers, the marketing executive is king. Add to that the legendary Malaysian work ethic (or lack thereof) and the free market ideal degenerates into selling the most cheaply produced goods for the highest prices possible.

Of course, we see more twisted forms of the free market economy manifesting itself. Destruction of goods to create scarcity to raise prices. Outsourcing to foreign nations, creating a cycle of impossible competition a la Walmart. Planned obsolescence, keeping tech junkies always holding their breath for the next, better gadget, or spending money fixing the junk they'd already bought. Withholding of alternative energy technologies, because a handful of exceedingly rich people still haven't quite squeezed enough out of hydrocarbons And of course, instigating and perpetuating expensive wars against hapless nations who didn't actually do anything other than look like they were going to achieve a measure of economic independence. Always generate demand, always generate scarcity, because that is what keeps prices up.

And that's pretty much the central thesis of Zeitgeist: That the problem is money. In generating money, the banks perpetuate a game which ends in them owning everything. In trying to obtain enough money for ourselves, we are driven to evils, big and small.

What Fresco proposes is that, with money out of the equation, humanity's problems are now simply reduced to resources, and he believes that we DO have the resources AND the technology to keep everybody happy. And in the words of Mr Mulder: I want to believe. I really do.

It is a massive leap, no question about it. Without money, what are your motivations? Why live? Why work? To constantly scrabble for money is such a central part of so many lives, what would happen without it? Bankers and accountants would be out of a job, for a start. So would marketing executives (and good riddance). But then again, in a world without money, what's the use of jobs? Without money, the wage zombie, the salaryman, the white collar warrior is obsolete!

Fresco believes that with money out of the way, new, purer motivations would arise. That people would explore intellectual realms and pursue their passions, not merely to secure a high-paying job, but for the love of knowledge and human endeavour. Not only that, but a purer form of reciprocal altruism would arise, that is, people will do favours for each other, not because they wish to secure a favour in return, but simply because it contributes to the happiness of society as a whole. I think you can see now why I say visionary/nutter.

I've been atheist a long time, and I've seen my fair share of reactions to being told that one's entire belief system, upon which one has based an entire life, is a lie. But money? Destroying the childish myths of the Abrahamic religions was easy by comparison, but this new god, that is, Money, is a different prospect entirely.

If what the Zeitgeist movies say is true, humanity has created for itself a slow, self-destructive spiral of pure avarice. The way out is a revolution unlike anything this world has ever seen: the abolition of money. This doesn't seem to me like something that will happen gradually, like the erosion of the Catholic Church's credibility, but will require a sharp paroxysm of spiritual (and quite likely physical) violence. Like giving society at large a Heimlich maneuver. Sound crazy? I thought so. But keep an open mind. Watch the movie. Think.

*Go ahead. Ask any Malaysian what wonderfully useful things they learnt at school. Besides maths.

** Don't get me started on this one.

2 comments:

daemun said...

wow, sounds pretty idealistic, maybe even a bit naive.

from a conflict theory based standpoint, its easy to see how pretty much anything is used by the wealthy to control the poor and maintain whatever current social stratification exists.

what if you look at money from a symbolic interactionist viewpoint? i think they would argue that money is less of a mechanism of control and more of a symbol or measure of the value of a given person, service, or object in society. even if all the paper and electronic money in the world was to cease to exist, people would have to (and probably want to) find some other measuring stick.

is money always an accurate measure in determining value? of course not, but like any other facet of human culture, "societal value" is subject to a whole host of whims, its fickle as hell. youre probably not going to hear bach or beethoven on a mainstream radio station.

i would argue that even if the major banks are involved in some sort of scheme to make us all slaves to our wallets, money serves a valuable function in society. one of the things i like about capitalism is that anyone can climb the social ladder. anyone can become wealthy, its just much harder for some people than others.

iasonas said...

daemun,

That's the whole point of Zeitgeist:Addendum.
We don't need to have a price tag for services and objects (like we don't have one for the air we breath) because technology has come to a point that can create abundance.
Money was good for a time, a time were we didn't have the technology to create as much energy as we wanted e.t.c. And for that time, money did serve a function in society, but not any more.
As for the ladder, I prefer, and I think anyone would prefer, if there was no ladder, everyone just had anything they needed and focus on more important things than going up a "money-ladder"