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Interview: Peter Joseph on RT: Wealth Illusion, Structural Violence & The Fear of Truth (2014)

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RT America Presents The dictionary defines Zeitgeist as the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era. And even though the 21st century has forced humanity into so many different fractured elements, there's an inescapable need to unify, to ensure a future for our species. It's with this in mind that the Zeitgeist Movement was formed: as a collective call to challenge the global status quo. And next month on October 4th in Los Angeles the organization will host its 4th annual Zeitgeist Media Festival, which has traditionally brought together artists, activists and musicians to enthusiastically embrace the solutions to the global problems we face. Earlier today I was joined by the founder of the Zeitgeist Movement, Peter Joseph. I first asked him why the themes of his festival are an integral to the revolution of consciousness. [Peter Joseph] Activism has been the cornerstone of ... development, social development, experimentation, technological development, all of these things have interweaved, all the great scientists of the past, that have made massive contributions have also been free thinkers and great artists. From Arthur C. Clarke, who had basically invented satellite communication was also, as you may well know, one of the greatest non-fiction writers and quite prolific in his view of the future world, to Albert Einstein who played the violin and Nikola Tesla. There is a deep-seated experimentation in art needless to say as you well know, and that bridges open-mindedness, that bridges creative thought, experimentation, courage of course, which is something that's long lost in our world when it comes to be willing to risk your identity, risk your reputation to do something different, experiment. So the Zeitgeist Media Festival in a lot of ways is a parallel to our intellectual day, Z-Day as it’s called or Zeitgeist Day, which occurs in March of each year, which is a very intellectual day, highly organized as far as trying to present solutions to global problems. Very heavy, often depressing, as you might understand considering the state of the world, and so we try to balance it in the fall of each year with the Zeitgeist Media Festival. It’s an inspirational type of event and I encourage anyone out there to come out if you’re in Southern California. - I’m really sad I’m missing it this year because it really was such an amazing event when I was there; it was incredible. I encourage everyone to definitely check it out if you’re in the area. And let’s talk about the Zeitgeist Movement as a whole Peter. You famously created those three mind-blowing viral documentaries breaking through some of those most dominating myths that keeps humanity stunted, which spawned an international organization pushing for an alternative future. Briefly talk about what the Zeitgeist Movement is all about. - Sure. The Zeitgeist Movement is a global sustainability advocacy organization and what that means is we deal with three primary issues: public health, ecological sustainability, and social stability. And clearly all of those intertwine in a systems context. And I’ll just jump to the end realization. If we alter our basic socioeconomic system, the underpinning of everything that we do - we can call it market economics, we can call it capitalism, we can even go deeper to address the actual foundation of what those words and what this system actually organized out of - if we take that and we modify it a certain way, we can resolve all of the major problems we have in the world today. From poverty, to the propensity towards conflict, to the growing and developing mental illness, to the huge lapse of public health, to these enormous flaws. We don’t need to live this way anymore if we simply obtain the type of efficiency and industrial practice that we’re now capable of doing through technological development. And that’s the big realization. And if anyone wants to learn more about that they can read the book that’s been written that's free online called 'The Zeitgeist Movement Defined' or they can go of course to the Zeitgeist Movement’s website and see hours and hours and hours of lectures and general media on this subject. But I would add one more thing, is that all the problems we see in the world today are not going to be resolved within the framework of the current socioeconomic model. It’s a very bold statement, but that unfortunately is the conclusion that’s drawn by the Movement with an immense amount of supporting evidence, and until we start to address this core source base root problem, we have a lot of running in circles to do unfortunately. - Right, you’ve said that activist groups fighting for their respective causes working within the framework of that system is failing. - Right. - It’s basically because they’re merely patching the problem. It’s mostly fruitless unfortunately. Explain the difference between categorical and systems thinking and how people CAN take effective direct action. That’s a great polarized qualification: categorical thinking versus systems thinking. I’ll jump deep just for a moment, you know, we evolved with a 5-sense perception and we are very tangible. we want to palpably understand and perceive but it’s also very limited. We think categorically. We identify things by objects and words and subjects, and we tend to organize our sense of causality categorically in a very narrow or I would say truncated frame of reference. And this has permeated just about every major social facet from the way we think about the legal structure to the way we think about economics of course. Even of course as you mention activism which everyone seems to really mean well, they really want to resolve problems, they're going to their state legislatures to try and get legal legislation in place to say stop climate destabilization, stop the resource overshoot that is dramatic (it’s been estimated we’ll need 27 more Earths by 2050 to meet demand of the 9 and a half billion people coming), and I’m sure you’re very aware of all the other social and ecological issues that pertain to this. And these resolutions are trying to use a system that, in the interpretation of the Movement in which the "systems" awareness, is actually flawed in and of itself as well; is actually completely vulnerable to the wrong propensities, which is essentially the nature of the market system and its influence to stop this type of interest in efficiency, preservation and sustainability. Efficiency, preservation and sustainability are the enemies of the current socioeconomic system. Now that’s a slight deviation. Systems thinking, which I’ll jump to in more of an intense manner, has to do with the largest causal technical reality you can conceive of, which wasn’t in our awareness in early evolution. It was all purely tangible. It took the scientific method to come forward, to start to realize say for example dynamic equilibrium: to look at a forest, and instead of cutting the whole thing down and realizing that it’s not regenerating fast enough based on the consumption of it, to actually to be able to measure this, to be able to measure the planet, to be able to measure energy consumption versus resource availability. These are basic fundamental sustainability and efficiency aspects that you’ll see throughout, anyone that's involved in the technical sciences. And sadly enough our social system doesn’t have any of those qualifications built in. The legal system - I’ll throw that one out there as a final point as again this contrast between categorical thinking and systems thinking - the legal system is explicitly based on the idea of humans' "free will" and their "decision" as though there’s no other influences, to make this or that choice that may or may not be socially offensive. So when we throw people in jail, is that a solution to anything? And statistically speaking most people that go to jail come out with a higher propensity to commit more crimes. So clearly it doesn’t work in the long run, and it’s obviously not addressing the system consequence and anyone that you talk to in the basic public health sciences will tell you that the leading cause of crime and violence is deprivation. What’s the leading cause of deprivation? Social imbalance, inequity. So if you want to stop a lot of these huge negative tendencies and violence and aberrant behavior, the best solution at this point is to reduce dramatically class inequality, and give people what they need to limit deprivation. So there’s a good example. - Incredibly enough I found the most amazing statistic that exemplifies exactly what you’re saying. Right now Peter, there are 356,000 Americans with severe mental illnesses in prison. That’s 10 times the amount than in state psychiatric hospitals which is an incredible statistic. How does that play into the concept of structural violence and how much of the current system necessitate that crime and poverty? - Well there’s a few angles on that. You can compare countries that have different levels of class imbalance and then compare their public health outcomes. I encourage people to read-... there’s hundreds and hundreds of studies on this issue. There’s one book called 'The Spirit Level' by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett that I encourage you to research, which comprises the majority of this research. And what they find is that there’s a massive increase in mental illness, there's a massive increase or I should say decrease in education levels, a massive increase in violence, The vast majority of negative public health attributes increase in societies that have massive wealth imbalances. So in America which has-... Well, as a one brief aside, it is noted that due to cost efficiency in the state, they pretty much cut all mental health services in the 1970s and decided that the prisons would be the new mental health facilities. So that is a point of influence, but that of course is a deeper, excuse me, a more shallow link in the chain, that leads to this. Clearly all of the imbalance and shame and inequality, which has a deep emotional impact, generates all of these factors; statistically proven, it’s not a conjecture. So anyone that questions that should go out and look into this. If we don’t take a systems perspective, nothing gets resolved; we run in circles. Even the criminal propensity; everyone’s obsessed with criminal politicians and corruption. The analogy I use is that you can stomp on the ants that come out from under your refrigerator and keep stomping on them and spraying them and trying to get rid of them, or maybe you can remove the spoiled produce or food that’s behind the refrigerator that’s actually causing them to come. And that’s what this society doesn’t do. It doesn’t resolve any of its problems and, to add one more punchline to that, it’s not profitable to resolve any problems in this society. If peace and sustainability and efficiency, these are things that if achieved, create a nice equilibrium where little action is required. And that is again the antithesis of what our economic system demands, especially at this stage. Given the unemployment, it needs problems in order to keep persisting with GDP, employment, growth, etc. - I just don’t understand why people can’t see the link between that structural violence and the millions of deaths, hunger, poverty, inequality-... - I will add one more thing since I don’t want to pass this up; it’s a very dramatic statistic. In one of the more seminal works in structural violence in 1976, public health authors figured out that back then there were 18 million deaths that were caused a year. I suspect it’s much higher now. 18 million deaths a year. And that’s what, 34 years later? That’s about 700 million deaths that have been caused unnecessarily. That outpaces the deaths of every dictator, every war in the 20th century. This is-... I mean we talk about terrorism when people are freaking out right now over ISIS. And, as you know very well, the statistics of any American or any in the West dying of terrorism is about as nominal as you can get. We’re not focusing on the car death epidemic that’s a true public health issue. We’re not focusing on people that simply die of mere allergies and trying to help them to avoid these types of things or get them into some type of medical condition where it doesn’t happen. The spectrum, the relativism of - the distortion of this relativism - is truly mind numbing. If anything, anyone, people walk away with this interview is really stop to think about what you see in the media as important, and then ask yourself statistically, what is really important to public health? What is really important to reducing human suffering? and what you see in the media is just a big dog-and-pony show for ulterior motives. So I’ll stop at that. - Yeah, it is amazing. I mean the fear-mongering, the 9/11 fear-mongering still today and, I mean it’s basically- it’s very obvious that the military industry complex needs this manufactured enemy continued. First it’s Al-Qaeda, then it’s ISIS, what’s next? It’s always going to be something Peter. Let’s talk about how capitalism of course is unsustainable, predatory, and you say it’s a contradiction unto itself. But you also say it’s not the source of the problem, it’s merely a symptom. Elaborate on why. - You usually get a labeled really rapidly when you start to criticize capitalism, given the decades of propaganda and the kind of educational bias you have in traditional educational circles: high schools in America and the West. And it’s assumed that if you’re not for capitalism, which they block out as a particular socioeconomic ideology (again in this truncated framing, they don’t look at the system reality of how it emerged) they assume that you’re a either Marxist or a communist; these things instantly go into people’s minds. The first thing to point out is that it’s completely narrow to even to decide that type of fact because capitalism is a symptom of a larger deeper problem that has happened in our socioeconomic understanding, which goes back in my view, at least in a formalized sense, to a man named Thomas Malthus who was hired by the British East India Company to do the first global survey of resources. And basically Malthus said that humans... humans multiply exponentially while resources are acquired or regenerate geometrically. So in this ethic he said there are always gonna be more people than there are resources, there are always gonna be poor, and there are always gonna be people that are basically gonna have to die for the benefit of the rest of the world. You couple that in with a century and a half later when Darwin comes around, writes a very profound book about basic evolution. It was quickly bastardized by the more militant interests in society that said “Oh! This proves everything that we thought all along: social Darwinism, survival of the fittest.” We live in Malthusian society, we now have social Darwinism that says only the strong survive. Boom! You have the entire basic ethic of war instilled right into the model, and you have the entire basic ethic of capitalism instilled right into the value system of the social architecture that says: there’s not enough to go around. Therefore some will have to compete, well everyone will have to compete, and some are gonna lose tremendously and some are gonna win tremendously, and it’s all natural. Let’s just let it happen. And that’s clearly the state today with the 100 billionaires, the 100 billionaires right now that can resolve global extreme poverty four times over, and the 3000 other billionaires that have now emerged. And we’re gonna see that number increase through time, with 43%, up to 46% based on some estimates, of the wealth of the world owned by 1%. This is considered a virtue in the deep-core ethic and which is also deeply and atrociously offensive and wrong. Now the final thing I’ll add is this contradiction that’s happened throughout the evolution of capitalism itself. Capitalism defends itself as being a scarcity-focus system, right? It says: What? But there's scarcity! We have to - it comes this Malthusian premise - there’s not enough to go around. And some people distort this to say there's "infinite" wants, that human beings, given their own free interests, would want everything, which is another completely ludicrous social projection. So it defends scarcity as its reasoning but then what does it do? It goes out and it promotes infinite consumption. Because consumption is what drives the entire thing. Consumption is what keeps the money moving between all the major actors. If you have less consumption, it’s like the gas pedal on a car. If you have less consumption, you have more unemployment, you have reduced growth. So it’s completely schizophrenic, do you see my point? It’s insane. - That’s amazing. You just broke it down pretty well Peter. But of course a common protest about it is that human nature is competitive, you know. I keep hearing this over and over again and I wanted you to address that. - Sure. Human nature IS competitive, when it needs to be. Human nature is many things; our neural plasticity is unbelievable. If there’s anything that neurological science has shown us in the past 50 years is that our ability to adapt and change is absolutely incredible. And to quote Stanford neuroscientist and anthropologist Robert Sapolsky, “Our nature in part is not being particularly restricted by our nature.” And this is profound, and what I think what happens in this system is people think it’s human nature because it’s all they see. And there’s what I call a primal provocation. If you have this Malthusian socially-Darwinistic basis over the society and you’re born into it, it’s constantly pinging that element of your nature that is aggressive, that does look out for itself, that drives self-interest in this tribalistic need to disregard the well-being of others. So there’s no mystery as to why people are continuing to behave this way, but to confuse it with something that is considered to be empirical to our condition that is inescapable, is absolutely ridiculous indeed, and any qualified neuroscientist will tell you the same. - Of course more common objections to this line of thinking is that the Zeitgeist Movement is just repackaged Marxism, and it’s gonna turn into some technological tyranny. How is it different, how can it maintain people’s agency, ownership, control over their lives while establishing a civil rights imperative? Well, back to my prior point, there's that knee-jerk reaction to Marxism which tends to happen by people that don’t even know what Marxism is/was! They see that little encyclopedia blurb that they basically read in high school and they think they understand what happened in that historical period of time. I’ll address that one briefly. Anyone that says it’s Marxism or communism, needs to remember that communism and Marxism were based on a moral philosophy. Marx talked about a lot of things, some of it actually very cogent and proper and right, but he also proposed solutions that were very much erroneous and very unscientific. And if you read the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels you’ll find it has absolutely NO comparison to what the Zeitgeist Movement promotes. The Zeitgeist Movement - back to my original statement - it’s about public health, it’s about social sustainability, excuse me, ecological sustainability which is social sustainability, and social stability and all of that I would say, is really about social sustainability. And when you put this train of thought together - there’s that term "train of thought" - you have a ground-up realization based on the evidence that exists of what actually makes a working society, what actually will assure future generations- which we by the way share the world with. We don’t just share the world with the 7 billion people we have right now, we share the world with our kids and our grandkids, we have to keep that in mind. And the more we are irresponsible, the more it hurts everybody in the future just as much as it hurts everybody right now. And this type of awareness has no resemblance to communism in any facet, it’s just that knee-jerk reaction that people have. As far as the freedom neuroses ... As far as the freedom neuroses that people have, that’s a knee-jerk reaction once again, to this propaganda of the market that says that people are free, and they can achieve and they have infinite social mobility. First of all, you need to debunk the fact that there’s no real freedom in the market complex whatsoever. It is structurally coercive. It is a coercive system that puts certain people in power in a completely dictatorial manner, as a system consequence, a system orientation that deeply separates owners and workers - this is the core characteristic - and in that equation there are very limited options the farther you go down on the stratified ladder. And if you’re like the majority of people that exist in this lower platform, your freedom is so incredibly restricted, your health options are so incredibly restricted, and has been proven by statisticians, the ability for social elevation has been increasingly limited as time has moved forward, as this system has compounded itself. So I ask people that question: What freedom are they expecting? See, it’s really a loss of creativity. They only know what they perceive and what they feel and they’ve been brainwashed to think that walking into a store and choosing between 40 different types of cereal is freedom, while they have two political parties that pretty much ignore everything the public says to begin with. This isn’t freedom, and I think when people research the Movement they’re gonna understand what true freedom actually means. And that’s the freedom not to be held down to a slave job (which is what it is at this point in time). The vast majority of occupations in this world are not necessary and counterproductive to human health, and actually having freedom away from the property system, which is another point we can talk about, a different point of this address, to actually have the freedom to get away from the property system and to move around and not have the "liability" of ownership. And that’s a very radical term, that goes completely contrary to this consumption/materialistic vanity-oriented society, but I really believe that the true freedom of our future will be NOT having property, NOT having ownership, having access! We promote an access society in the Zeitgeist Movement where people have access to everything that they need, not hoarding property and value arbitrarily in this archaic system we have now, which is destroying the planet and human psychology. - And let’s talk about mechanization. You mentioned how technology is destroying the market system as well. How? Because it seems to me like technological innovation is constantly creating new markets. - That seems to be what’s happening. The defense, the Luddite fantasy defense, is that we have displaced labor in proportion to creating new jobs. This is absolutely absurd. In 1929 they actually wanted to put a halt - during the Great Depression - they wanted to halt (this is in Congress), halt technological development, because they were so terrified and were so shocked by what was happening by the early stages of mechanization back then. They literally tried to pass a law that said no one can apply or create any more technology that relates to labor. If you can imagine that. Now if that isn’t a telltale sign of what was in store. Now there has been dramatic improvement in the goods and services which is based on technology, not capitalism. If I hear one more person say to me that: “Oh, capitalism created your smartphone” or “capitalism did all...” No, capitalism is a delivery system and a financing system of its own creation, and there’s no other alternative to using this system in the world today. It’s only technology and technological innovation that has created these things; capitalism is just along for the ride at this point. So that out of the way, technological unemployment is the core driver of all unemployment in the world, if you take a system perspective. Forget policies of government and all this stuff that seems to come into play, our monetary policy and injections to give big business more money so they can hire more people. All of that is completely superficial in again that categorical narrow thought. It’s actually the movement of technology, the development I should say of technology, throughout time that has changed everything! that has moved every single labor role. And the big thing now is that technological development is exponentially increasing faster than the human mind can redevelop to gain new occupations. And then the big question becomes: Why do we need new occupations? Why can’t we reach a point, which we already really have, where we have such an incredible range of activity within what we’ve developed, and progress itself becomes actually enduring what we’ve already generated in living life, as opposed to this neurotic need for so-called "progress" which I could talk about the neuroses of that word at great length as well. Punchline being is that this exponential increase in technology will create more cost efficiency for corporations, it will become cheaper to automate over time, and they will, one way or another, because the basic ethic of profit-seeking corporations, displace human labor over and over again. What does that do? That removes purchasing power from the society and that entire cyclical system is going to slow down on its own accord. It’s called the contradiction of capitalism. It’s one of the strongest, and it’s going to happen and you’re going to see a lot of loss of growth over the course of time, inevitably because of these conflicting incentive structures. So I hope that make sense. - Right. And what’s so, I guess the biggest tragedy of all is that America is one of the most overworked countries, people are just working so hard to try to achieve this unattainable American goal. Or people put money as the highest attribute of worth, I mean the most important attribute here. What’s the first step in the shift of this warped value system Peter? How can we start this? I think it already is happening but I mean, I just... Yeah... Going back to that point about what it means to be successful in this, this basic social value orientation we have, that’s been distorted by advertising that we value each other based on our perceived success because of materialism. There’s a great shift that’s happening amazingly enough and it’s a system pressure that’s generating this, and people are finally starting to be offended by the gross excess lifestyles of the world. They see the climate destabilization, the resource overshoot, they see all the social problems, the tremendous wealth imbalance. And all of that glory that used to be being super-wealthy as the sign of success, that is starting to dissipate. That is to me a very powerful marker, because that implies that it’s really about balance in the world that is going to create a high level of social respect and integrity. People will look at each other and say: “Wow, that guy is completely self-sustaining, he lives in absolute equilibrium with his environment. "His footprint (in other words) is the lowest I’ve ever seen!” That is a hero; that is the highest level of status. As far as how this transition works, that type of value system has to come into play. And I think again, it’s on pace. Then concrete projects need to be set in motion; I'm talking about building. As difficult as it is, you have to start to build this type of ideology, well excuse me, this type of society, it’s not really an ideology. You have to build this framework, and show people what’s possible to expand that creative realm, and then they’ll start to realize that they can do this. And I advocate virtual building projects. I have a project called the Global Redesign Institute. The Movement has it; I actually have a few of these projects, I'm going to organize into an offshoot of the Movement over the course of time, dedicated only to technical construction, to show the world what’s actually technically feasible and a lot can be said on that issue. As far as transition step-by-step, we have to get away from this “labor for income” system. I propose what Martin Luther King proposed: a universal guaranteed income. And I say that people should start to chop the wealth of the top one percent and start to give it to the rest of the population at this point as a form of wealth distribution. Ooh, a lot of people hate that, we got the socialism, I can hear them yelling at me right now. But what else do we do at this stage? We have to have some type of resolution to stop this type of increase in poverty and destabilization, and that type of idea is not irrational. And I think that any billionaire out there with any type of social consciousness should be doing this themselves. As I stated earlier, the top 100 billionaires out there can resolve extreme poverty four times over. I mean that’s incredible. And there’s numerous other statistics that show how much more capable they could be if this type of resource, a monetary allocation, was done to the general population. That aside, universal guaranteed income would raise the standard of living of the vast majority of humans in America and on the planet if it was applied, removing an enormous amount of public health stress. You would see an absolute [de]crease in violence, you would see an absolute [de]crease in mental health disorders, you would see an absolute [de]crease in just about everything that relates to general public health concerns, if we did that. Then as another step (and I could go on and on, so you stop me when you want me to), you start to create technical applications in local cities for food production. Localized food production through automated means, not financial means, we’re not financing corporations. You take the city government, and you get them to build hi-tech food creation systems through aquaponics and aeroponics- it’s in the book, that’s 'The Zeitgeist Movement Defined.' I outline this specifically because of the power of this; traditional our agriculture is over and it’s a massive detriment given how much water it requires. 70% of worlds water - we have a water shortage in California - 70% of the world's water is going towards traditional industrial agriculture, and only about a 10th of that would be required if we were to do this through advanced means that are out there right now. So you make food free! You give it away through technical means again, not subsidization. And then you begin this transition, where you go step-by-step to making things free for technical reorientation. Eventually you're gonna hit a halfway mark, where you've offset all the labor displacement, excuse me, all the income displacement because of unemployment, by these free mechanisms, and of course universal guaranteed income. And if you follow that train of thought which I’m gonna stop here, you can do a step-by-step process. Now, will corporate and the corporate in the state government (which of course is a corporate institution), will they facilitate or want that? Of course not. And that’s where the massive necessity for global activism towards this type of technical resolution is required, and that’s why I recommend people to look into the Zeitgeist Movement. It’s not an easy question; I wish I had a complete plan but there are too many factors that come into play. But we have to do something because everyone’s lives are at stake. - Right, I mean, if we don’t want a bloody revolt, a bloody revolution, we need to start really acting here Peter, because the old guard is not gonna give up this old system without a fight and without a lot of deaths, and it’s time for us to step up to the plate really for the future of humanity. Thank you so much Peter., everyone check it out. Incredible to have you on as always. - Thank you Abby, it’s an honor, thank you. - Thanks so much Peter.

Video Details

Duration: 29 minutes and 21 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Russia Today - Abby Martin
Director: Russia Today - Breaking The set
Views: 137
Posted by: ltiofficial on Nov 6, 2014

Abby Martin interviews the creator of the Zeitgeist Movement, Peter Joseph, covering everything from the upcoming Zeitgeist Festival in Los Angeles on October 4th to economic and societal solutions to global problems ranging from environmental destruction to mass inequality.

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