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Interview: Peter Joseph on the David Pakman Show - New Human Rights Movement

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It's really great to be joined today by Peter Joseph, the founder of The Zeitgeist Movement and author of the new book which I have here 'The New Human Rights Movement.' Peter, it's so great to talk to you. I really enjoyed going through most of the book over the last week or 10 days or so, and I think to get our audience into what you're tackling in this particular book, I'm sort of left with the idea of looking at individual problems from a structuralist perspective or a broader perspective than we otherwise might. Is that a good way to assess the general idea of this book? Yes, that's a pretty good encapsulation. And when you started writing this book, tell me how you approached the problem. Was it that, in your time researching individual topics, you decided hey, there's a broader issue or a broader perspective we can look at? Did it come in the opposite direction? Did you enter with one particular issue, like for example poverty or hunger, both of which you address in the book? I would say the motivation to approach it this way is taking a good hard look at what we've done as activists throughout time. The activist community tends to be far more localized in their views, they separate themselves into different schools so to speak, you have the ecological activists, the social activists and so on. And after spending a lot of years as an activist myself looking at the world's problems, I realized that there was a strong lapse of any kind of social psychology, anything that related to sociology itself, denying effectively the long-standing social science, the biological science, the psychological science, the sociological science, the ecological influences and that synergy that really defines us as human beings and ultimately defines the state of the world. So I'm trying to take a social science perspective with this book, and I think if people understand it - and that is why its called 'The New Human Rights Movement.' Obviously this subject could, given the context of structuralism as I call it, you could apply it to a lot of different things, but I wanted to hone in on activism for the 21st century. So that's the motivation, to get people on board with more of a social psychology perspective of what needs to happen, to understand yourself and the predicament of the world and how to change it. Maybe to give our audience an example of one issue that you tackle in the book we could talk a little bit about poverty, and I think we all can probably imagine the people we know, who approach poverty from you know: "This is sort of the way things are, despite our system, poverty is an inevitability. It's always there, it's always going to be there." And you take a different approach which is: poverty is an optional and also direct result of the systems that we've chosen. So, can we start with the conversation around poverty and how you approach it? Yeah, it's disheartening to see how passive people have become about both domestic and international poverty. Poverty is, in the words of Gandhi, "the worst form of violence." Systemically speaking, it leads to so many different detrimental outcomes, whether you're dealing with mental health, whether you're dealing with interpersonal relationships, whether you're dealing with physical health. And if you look closely poverty and its encapsulating system, overarching system reference which you call socioeconomic inequality (which is what I address throughout the book a lot), poverty is an externality of our system, an externality of market capitalism, it's an externality of the economy. Within that particular context, it's a great starting point because I think everyone has experienced poverty on some basic level, whether vicariously, watching the Global South and the complete destitution that still exists there today as an issue of post-colonialism which is something to point out as well. I mean, I don't want to get too spirally here but I think it's important to point out that people have this great mythology about where poverty came from and people say "Well, we've just left people behind in capitalism" and so on. The people in the Global South, in Africa, Latin America, Asia and so on that are still in destitute third world poverty, are not there because they've been left behind, they're there because over the course of time they've effectively been robbed. And that's something that isn't given enough gravity of course in the intellectual circles as to why these things exist, which makes you kind of upset when you hear people talk about how we've advanced poverty on this planet without talking about the fact that the reason poverty exists is because of the social system's incentives at the same time, over the long term. But to be more specific to your question, poverty is both a cause and an effect in terms of epidemiology. In social science research, people refer to poverty as a "root" of something, for example, families in poverty are known to create children that have lower IQs. The brain function doesn't develop as well. There's reductions in the amygdala and the hippocampus. Literally, you're creating brain damage through the synergy of poverty and deprivation, that's just one example. But it's also known as an effect too. That's why it's addressed in the book as such. I refer to it as a negative externality. For those familiar with economics, an externality is something that happens outside of the purview, the reference point of what economics recognizes. So pollution is a negative externality for example, as is poverty. And that's a pretty radical thing for me to say because as you've pointed out, most people have not perceived it that way. But when you look at the amount of wealth on this planet, in material terms - I'm not just talking about money - but even if you look at the money, it's pretty staggering, you know. We all know about the inequality statistics, I won't go into that. Poverty could easily be resolved both through financial means and through efficient use of resources with modern methods. But we don't do it because of the way the economic structure is organized, its incentives, its procedural dynamics you could say. And that is, of course, a big subject in the book, and I really hope people will begin to understand moreso that poverty is really just a form of violence coming down from our social system, doesn't need to exist and we should work to change it. And Peter, some people will hear what we've talked about so far and they'll say, listen, you're criticizing the capitalist system, and you know, some people are poor in capitalism but if you're alluding to communism, EVERYbody's poor in communism. How does someone like you, who has such a nuanced and detailed knowledge of these issues, start to break through those sort of knee-jerk reactions from some who would no doubt have that reaction when hearing what you've outlined so far? What's the best path in to a productive conversation with someone who reacts that way? I think the first step is to start to expose the mythology the Western world has ascribed to when it comes to historical communism. Historical communism as practiced in the Soviet Union was a particular niche, a particular kind of central planning, a particular kind of authoritarianism. And when people say this, they automatically create a false duality between capitalism and then this other supposed ideal of what communism is or was or was supposed to be. And what it is or was or was supposed to be in terms of communism or socialism or Marxism - any of those terms that people want to throw out - it's extremely counterproductive because there's very little critical analysis or historical understanding of what actually happened with those social systems or social approaches, not to mention the grand ambiguity. To even talk about what socialism means today is to define it about ten dozen different ways, as I think you know. So, I step back from that and I try to take a train of thought perspective as opposed to a polarized one. Just because something isn't market capitalism doesn't necessarily mean it's communism, so you start from that position. And then you start to outline what it is in society that's actually created the advancement. And I wouldn't say things like economic growth because that's a contrivance of market capitalism, but what has actually improved people's lives? What are the mechanisms that have led to higher standards of living, to reduced child mortality, to the current alleviation of poverty that's been slowly, slowly getting a little bit better over the course of the past 60, 70 years? And the answer to that is the application of design efficiency and technology. And, as I get to the end of this book, I hone in on those specific points that have actually underscored the benefit of our economic efficiency: benefited of us, in our public health and so on. And I isolate those from the market, and I want to encourage people to develop a new system that harnesses those issues, harnesses the amazing efficiency we've achieved as human beings, as intelligent thinkers, as opposed to this archaic system that is lost in what's called the Malthusian period. It's lost in this Malthusian, Machiavellian highly scarcity-driven world. So I apologize, I've deviated a bit from your question. When people approach me with the communist duality, I pretty much just have to stop them and begin a long explanation that what they're referencing is a false duality to begin with, and that if you really want to get down to it, here's the train of thought. Here are the attributes that have defined our society and made it better. Why can't we simply amplify these attributes without any of these ideological stigmas and interference? And sadly enough, stigmas and labels and interference has been a great way to dismiss a lot of these ideas over time, so it's unfortunately a current that we have to walk against still in the 21st century. Let's pause there with Peter Joseph, founder of The Zeitgeist Movement, author of the new book 'The New Human Rights Movement' and we'll pick it up in part two with the concept of scarcity which you've spoken about a lot and is interesting to me so we'll follow up there. We're continuing our conversation today with Peter Joseph, founder of The Zeitgeist Movement, also author of the new book 'The New Human Rights Movement.' We started getting into, Peter, this concept of scarcity. And I want to talk about that in the context of market capitalism. In many more micro ways you point out in the book, for example with food production and hunger, that the concept of scarcity and lack of resources to meet the needs is essentially a contrived result of how we've decided to allocate resources. And you point out in great detail in the appendix to the book, how not only food production and hunger could be solved with current resources and technology, but so could clean water and energy. Let's maybe start and focus on food production and hunger. Would you call this a decision that has been made effectively by global society not to solve the problem of hunger? Well that would inch into a kind of a conspiratorial view which I don't subscribe to with any of this. What I think it is, it's a cultural unfolding that goes back hundreds of years, to before the late 18th century and the start of the Industrial Revolution, what some people call the Great Divergence. Scarcity has been with society in a very visceral way since the Neolithic Revolution 12,000 years ago when we emerged from hunter gatherer tribes that had a fairly abundant amount of resources and a completely different type of lifestyle. And then once settled agrarian society happened it set a kind of geographical determinism so to speak, something other theorists call cultural anthropology if anyone wants to look that up, it's very fascinating. And it set the framework for what we see as the market economy today. You have property, you have capital, the means of production, you have labor specialization, jobs, you have the need for regulation, government, protection, law, and so many other attributes like that which codified the system we have at the moment. And within that is the fundamental foundation of the assumption of universal scarcity. And it's become a political term because of if you believe in anything other than a scarcity worldview, then suddenly you can't justify the rampant competition that we see. Suddenly you can't justify eight people having more wealth than the bottom fifty percent of the world. Suddenly you can't justify all of this imbalance. And that's why scarcity has to be reevaluated in a very, very serious way. And going to the food part, we throw away half of our food right now on this planet, roughly, almost. Half of the food produced on this planet with all the energy and hydrocarbons gets trashed because of inefficiencies in the pipeline and a general belligerence of western culture at the same time in our gratuitous materialism, our lack of consideration of what's really happening in the world. That's an unfortunate phenomena culturally in western society is we're, we're blocked off. Anyway, so you have that already, that we have the potential to feed the entire world, we produce enough calories to feed the world more or less, two times over. And then you have the applied technology that isn't being utilized, systems-based technology, the incredible efficiency possibilities of vertical farm systems, of engineered permaculture, of all sorts of advanced means. For example if you localized food production, and say, I'm in Los Angeles, and we could localize all of our produce if we wanted to, eliminating the fact that the average American meal travels about 1500 miles before it goes to your plate! Think about that. Because of this horrid work of globalization, which is about exploiting labor in far distant lands along with resources. So, we can do it with what we have today and if you applied advanced technology that we have under our belt but is not being funded or subsidized or invested in to the degrees that are required, we could easily create a total food abundance on this planet. I can continue with the other... - Well what I was gonna say, to stick with this example, just to sort of see it through so people can understand sort of your thought process with something like this. What you're saying will make a lot of sense to most people who are listening to or watching this interview. And it will also seem like something that we should be taking more seriously as a society, as a human race. But what's the first step in starting to unwind the system we have? We can do it through this issue of hunger just because we've been talking about it. How do you start? What's step one? And we talk a lot, you know, I'm reminded of campaign finance reform. Everybody talks about campaign finance reform, we've gotta fix how we finance elections, here's ten different ways that it could be done. Great! Our decision makers are in because of the system that got them there. Why would they change the system that got them there? We're already at a sort of impasse. So how do you start working against such an establishment-incumbent system to make positive change? Well at the core you need a galvanized community that wants it, let's point that out first of all. And without the educational work that needs to be done, such as why the book was written, to see the potentials, you can't get very far. People still believe in general scarcity as the politicized symbology it is that justifies an unequal world that we have and we're not going to get very far. But in terms of technicals as I mentioned briefly in what I said prior, localization of food coupled with advanced automation, technology we already have, we could easily create local the amount of food that's required without the need for transport. I'm big on that. I think-... I always maintain a global consciousness in terms of recognizing the world as one systemic whole, but at the same time there are good reasons to localize and to make things regionally specific mainly for the saving of efficiency, transport efficiency, energy efficiency, and of course, distribution efficiency. So if it was me and I was in a position of policy, what I would do is create large automated agricultural systems, specifically vertical farms or other potentials but we'll just go with that one. Those have tremendous efficiency potentials because they can be built in industrial urban areas, and they use very little water, resources and nutrients to produce very high quality produce. And you put those along the coast lines of Los Angeles, wherever you are, you can put them anywhere ultimately and irrigate to them. And then you basically do not import anything anymore! You make it a basic localized mandate to create local food. And if you do that, you're gonna solve the poverty problem by extension, then eventually, you make it free. Once the automated systems are in place, you quote “socialize” it. I use that almost tongue in cheek, but in the most traditional sense today the term "socialization" means to make it publicly available without the need for exchange. And if you had a system doing that with minor subsidization along with the technical efficiency that would maximize the efficiency output along with reducing the amount of labor required, you could do it. And you would end poverty region by region through that approach. Whether we're talking about the poverty or hunger example or more broadly because you talk about so much in the book, our criminal justice system, incarceration is another area that you write about significantly, are most people sort of thinking too micro, even about solutions? For example, Universal Basic Income. This is something that, you know, economist Richard Wolff for example talks about as "It's something that would make sense within the current system but it's not going to change the system we have to one that makes more sense." How do you balance micro-approaches to fixing symptoms of our current system versus activism towards changing the system more broadly? Balance is an interesting word. I'd say it's more of a progressive pattern that pushes towards larger system changes through more micro-steps. So Universal Basic Income is a step towards the acknowledgment at a minimum that the system we have is inefficient in its distribution. That's something that just needs to be just blatantly plastered everywhere. The reason we have inequality is because the system is simply inefficient. That stands in the face of all those people that say "Well, markets are the most efficient system we have ever had!" Actually, you couldn't possibly come up with a more wasteful and inefficient system than what we have today. So Universal Basic Income coupled with creating industries that become “socialized” once again, through advanced technological means, are two steps that could lead us to transforming this society in an incremental way. And I want to point out, since you brought up Universal Basic Income, because I know a lot of people that are big into this and it's been on my mind, there's one big flaw with Universal Basic Income and this kind of in-system solution, and that comes down to what's been termed by other historians as capitalist contradictions. What's happened since the 1970s specifically is the credit expansion in the West has been outrageous. It's because there's so much debt produced in the system that people can't keep up, wages have stagnated. So in order to keep money moving in this kind of cyclical consumption economy that we have, you have to give people money! And what has been done with that is through credit expansion. 43% of the American population spends more than they actually take in every single year. It's not just because they're flagrantly living beyond their means, they have to keep up! They have to keep up with this system that's effectively moving against them, something in the book I call structural classism or structural bigotry in effect. So, my point being is that when you provide people with Universal Basic Income, what you're really doing is satisfying a built-in inefficiency of capitalism which will actually placate the capitalist system if you don't have a larger view, and I hope people understand what I mean by that. Because you're giving people money that they can spend back into the system which ultimately through the magic of structural classism will trickle right back up to the upper one percent anyway. Well that's the inherent ... impossibility of the system we have. I mean when you look at credit, you would only loan someone money if you believe that in the future things are going to be better for them such that they could pay that back with interest, so on and so forth. If you have a planet of limited resources and size and some at least at this point, hypothetical maximum population carrying capacity, at some point that system is going to fail you, isn't it? Well absolutely, if you're speaking about credit as a general phenomenon, keep in mind, we produce more interest in this system than money. So the debt plus the interest that's created exceeds the money supply of our entire planet, which is basically a recipe for bankruptcies and failures and more oppression of the lower class. There's about $200 trillion right now in outstanding money, excuse me, in outstanding DEBT on this planet, $200 trillion, and there's only about $81 trillion in actual currency, in actual money. So that disparity effectively translates into more repossessed houses, more empowerment of the financial services sector and the banking system because they're the ones that take that physical property, hence the one percent and the elitism that we see today, and so on and so forth. So no, it's not sustainable. It's only sustainable from the standpoint of the acceptance of social failure, acceptance of social inequality, acceptance of social oppression and suffering. And sadly enough, people today have been so indoctrinated into that reality they can't see beyond it, know what I mean? No doubt about it. Now, thinking ahead, it's such a 30,000 foot problem that I think it's difficult for a lot of people to even conceive of that: $200 trillion in debt, $80 trillion in money. What eventually happens? Well you have the boom and bust cycle as it's called, which is really driven less by tangible innovation and so on as is pitched in traditional economic workbooks, and more by just the influx and outflux of money. So you have periods of monetary expansion, whether it's basic interest rates ... being lowered that creates monetary expansion or when there's crises, they do QE and so on. So you have that period of expansion that creates more money into circulation that goes into the production of goods, into the hire of people and labor. And then you build effectively more debt because all money's created out of debt. (I hope you're aware of that, that's one of the central problems underlying the market system.) So all money's created out of debt with interest charge upon it, and you produce two phenomenon. You produce too much debt, you get debt saturation whether it's domestically or internationally, and then you get inflation. So when debt and inflation become too high in the boom-bust cycle, that's when they contract interest rates and that's when you start to see the real structural classism kick in and that's where the failure happens. Again, we accept this failure as though that's just the way it is, as you know. It's really stunning because the amount of suffering that happens on that downturn is truly staggering. During the 2008 Great Recession, there were 500,000 deaths during that block of time due to a lack of medical treatment correlated to the Great Recession, for people that had cancer. There were also about 46,000 suicides across the United States and about 63 other nations that correlated to it as well. So this is a caustic deadly phenomenon, and people don't perceive that structural violence because they're detached from it, you know what I mean? Everyone thinks of violence as you put a gun to somebody's head. There is a whole painful level of violence that happens from a structural imposition, something Johan Galtung called, as I said, structural violence. He's another individual of the Gandhi Institute I think people should look into. If people really realized the violence that is happening through things like the boom and bust cycle, through this debt system, through just the inequality gaming patterns that happen with capitalism and the fact that if you have enough money and wealth, you will continue to get more money and wealth and power. So the social mobility has always been in question. It's much worse today than it ever was and so on. I often say, I fear for the day - I both fear and long for the day, David - where the general population realizes the violence that's happening against them. Because once they perceive that, it's not going to be pretty. The book is 'The New Human Rights Movement.' We've been speaking with the books author, Peter Joseph, also founder of The Zeitgeist Movement. Peter, thanks so much for being on, I've been looking forward to this. Absolutely David, I really appreciate your time. Thank you for the great show, I always enjoy listening to you. Thank you.

Video Details

Duration: 24 minutes and 31 seconds
Year: 2017
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: David Pakman
Director: David Pakman
Views: 37
Posted by: ltiofficial on Jun 10, 2017

Peter Joseph, activist and founder of the Zeitgeist movement, joins David to discuss his book "The New Human Rights Movement". Get the book:

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