The Zeitgeist Phenomenon

Posted to Subscribers on 30 January 2011


Dear Subscribers,

Several of you have urged me to "promote" the new Zeitgeist film, "Moving Forward." It doesn't need my support; it had over a million views on within three days of being uploaded to the server. I was not a particular fan of the first two films and I'm afraid that though there are many useful and thought provoking ideas in this latest one, it still lacks something important. There is a six-part interview of Peter Joseph on Watching the interview provided more context for viewing the film. He is very bright, very interesting, and really passionate about what he does. So, what is it that makes me hesitant? Before taking up that topic, let me underscore what is marvelous about this exceptional young man. First of all, he has an amazing grip on the big picture. Secondly, he is out of the box, somewhat. What he has to say about all aspects of the economy — exploitation of resources and labor, consumerism, elitism, debt, moral bankruptcy, and obsolescence of a system too broken to fix — are relevant. In this film, he inaugurates a concept not advanced in his previous films, this is a proposal, almost a demand or at least a cry, for a system based on resources, sustainability, and use of modern technology. This part of the film might be provocative for those who are new to the concepts as well as those who are afraid of change, but he is hardly the lead thinker in this arena. What justifies the time spent watching "Zeitgeist: Moving Forward" is the many interviews with pundits who deconstruct some of the myths surrounding societal dysfunction, genes, and even crime. Personally, I think this is the strongest part of film because it addresses the underlying cause of our poor adjustment to both Nature and each other.

Peter Joseph has with this film moved into the ranks of those who cannot be ignored and his influence might exceed that of Hollywood film makers. In "Moving Forward", he has also done a better job of editing and maintaining the focus than in the previous films. In short, he is starting to communicate more clearly and while his frustrations are evident, he does not come across as someone who is anger-driven but rather someone who has moved a bit beyond his own disillusionment and iconoclasm to the point where he is looking at what can be done. While Humpty Dumpty cannot be put back together again, we have yet to come up with a replacement on which there might be consensus. Here is where we see the film maker's youth and inexperience, but my prediction is that this man will rise to the challenge and bring forward something more cogent and appealing in the future.

This film is, however, already a blockbuster. So, as already mentioned, it does not need either an endorsement or push. Peter Joseph has managed to steer very clear of everything that might smack of New Age philosophy so when he looks at the environment, he is seeing resources that can be used by humans. They should be used more carefully so he puts his emphasis on avoidance of calculated obsolescence and other marketing tools of our sociopathic corporate society. He does not generate a holistic view of Nature in which the interdependence between the kingdoms of Nature and synergies of these interdependencies are taken into account. He relies on a Jacque Fresco model of resource management with energy- and food-efficient cities. I hope I never have to live in that world because it is still not a "real" place even if it would be a welcome substitute for slums.

It is hard to say whether or not Peter Joseph is a visionary. At this juncture, I believe he is still using more energy to break up the current system than to evolve its replacement. As such, even though he has attempted in this film to be more constructive, he is still mostly an iconoclast and only very slightly qualified to lead the world into the necessary new future. For instance, while he is out of the box where money is concerned, he is still in the box where oil and natural gas are concerned. Moreover, in sharp contrast to the people interviewed on sociological topics, those he chose for the energy section were not cutting edge.

So why watch this film? To be a successful iconoclast, one must identify the flaws in the present system in order to assure the demise of the systems that are already in a visible state of collapse. In this film, he has taken on the banking system and launched a campaign to see the world differently. He wants a world without inequality, without deprivation, and without violence. He argues for the waste of war. His arguments are economic and sociological, not ethical though this is implied. Peter Joseph is weak on the subject of power and its motivations. Greed and power are not synonymous. He is strong in the analysis of dysfunction and weak in accepting the brilliance of the human spirit. He is strong on the need to utilize resources responsibly, weak in his understanding of agriculture. He managed to produce two hours and 41 minutes of film without referring even once to theology so we do not have to suffer his efforts to dismiss traditional religion(s). He seems to be learning from reviewers and their comments.

In sum, I would say that Peter Joseph and his alter ego Zeitgeist continue to be a work in progress. The man is talented, relevant, and interesting but not yet mature. Whatever his shortcomings, he is a big threat to the status quo and this is the primary reason one might want to watch his latest film.



Copyyright by Ingrid Naiman 2011







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