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Peter Joseph on The Big Picture RT - Can We 'Design' Our Way Out Of Civilizational Crisis

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The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann As runaway global warming continues to accelerate along with the gap between the rich and poor, there's a sense among many that our civilization is in crisis. What could be causing this crisis and how do we move beyond the broken status quo and literally design a better future? Those big questions are at the heart of social critic and activist Peter Joseph's new book ‘The New Human Rights Movement: Reinventing the Economy to End Oppression.’ Peter is also a filmmaker and the founder of The Zeitgeist Movement. He joins us now from our Los Angeles studios. Peter Joseph, welcome to the program. - Thank you Thom, I appreciate you having me. - Great to have you with us. First off, what kind of questions are you trying to answer in this book? - I guess the core activist questions of why the world is the way it is, why we've been banging our heads against civil and human rights for many centuries now if not millennia, why we end up with 48 million slaves still in the world today by UN standards - more slaves at any time in human history - and while we're on a collision course with nature which nobody seems to be actively trying to really detour. We have little policy adjustments here and there, the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Accord, but are we really going to see an end to this negative trajectory that we've been seeing on multiple levels? So, the book attempts to do just that. - So why do we have these situations Peter? - Okay, well fair enough. At the heart of it all it comes to our economy. We have an economic system that was birthed in the Malthusian period. That's the period of time between the Neolithic Revolution up until the Industrial Revolution around the 18th century. So you go back about 12,000 years ago and we had a kind of geographical determinism if your people are familiar with cultural anthropology, it's a very unique field. And when we started agrarian society we developed property and ownership, we developed capital and the means of production, labor specialization, regulation and government, law enforcement, and eventually we gave birth to what we know today as the market system of economics, which has been fluid throughout this entire period of time. We call capitalism today something separate as though Adam Smith invented this in the Enlightenment but really it's just another kind of variation on the same theme of a society based upon scarcity, based upon competition between parties and groups, based upon exploitation, which leads to dominance and oppression. And as we found out in the 21st century and the mid-20th century starting this trajectory, we are now in complete ecological crisis because our entire economy is based on consumption. So long story short, we have an economic mode that's entirely outdated. And I really appreciate your introduction where you mentioned the word design, because at the heart of our progress as a civilization is design. It's our ingenuity, it's our ability to do more and more with less and less and less. Efficiency and design, that's the true wealth: our strategic use of the environment in order to make an amiable culture that isn't constantly at war with itself, where it gets what it needs, it doesn't exist in deprivation and so on, and that's what the book attempts to arc through. So I walk through the history of economics, I walk through to where we are today and why the general activist community, the libertarian community, the false dualities between the state and government need to be moved past. There's a great deal of mythology; people talk about crony capitalism as though that's kind of a real thing, as though we should focus on corruption, when in truth the whole system is foundationally corrupt! It's foundationally opposition-against-opposition type of structure and a consumer-based structure. Those two things put together is a completely caustic reality, and until we override this system and start to design out all of these problems, focusing and amplifying what has actually improved our lives, we're not going to get very far as a civilization, as the trajectories show. - You talk about cultural anthropology. Peter Farb was probably one of the most brilliant cultural anthropologists certainly in my lifetime. He's passed away now but his book ‘Man's Rise to Civilization,’ which chronicled 34 first contacts with Native American groups back in the 1600s, points out that with one exception, one single exception, none of those societies were organized the way that you're describing. In fact in all of those societies, the people with the greatest, the most highly elevated position, had the lowest amount of power. The Potlatch society: that you gained status by giving things away rather than accumulating. - Absolutely. - People who acquired more and more and more were viewed as mentally ill and ultimately expelled from societies. - Yeah. - And there's theories about how those evolved but how do we get from here to there, if that's desirable? - Well I'm glad you brought that up, that there are pockets of civilization that have lived differently. Native American cultures, aboriginal cultures, that have basically been weeded out over time unfortunately due to the power system that we know as capitalism. And I want to just point that out before we move on that it's a great testament to the variability of human nature. We've been peddling this argument, at least mainstream academia, has peddled this argument that this system that we have now is a representative of us, in our most core state, and we compete and we fight and some win and some lose. And that's completely debunked by examples that you just said not to mention advancements in neuropsychology and other things that complement all of that. Now, in terms of how we actually move forward there are five major transitions that need to occur to take this from where we are today to a new system that actually respects itself, that doesn't thrive on competition and oppression. First we have automation. The rise of automation is extremely powerful and it's not something that should be belittled or looked at as some kind of sci-fi fantasy. We should look at this for what it really is and that's the alleviation of the core attribute of the civil rights battle going back to Egyptian slavery, going back to union busters. Labor has always been the core edifice of oppression and exploitation. That is a well-established phenomenon. And with automation we're able to now move past this. We're able to now realize that we're not only more efficient with the application of automation but we can actually alleviate this core woe that has kept people, this group-istic problem at hand, kept people at odds with each other, the haves and the have-nots. So labor, human labor to automation, is the first step which is again being implied through our society right now if you read modern social study on the advancement of technology. Then you have a property-to-access system. We see this new phenomenon having to do with sharing systems, library systems, car systems, house systems. People are beginning to collaboratively share and that's a very interesting phenomenon. And what it implies is that people are less interested in ownership and they're more interested in access. And in truth if you have an access society where people are getting what they need through access as opposed to property and hoarding, you enabled more stuff to be available to more people with less ecological footprint. Less cars being driven around. Obviously that's not good for the market economy. The market economy assumes that there should be one person owning one of everything, that's the highest optimization, and repeat purchases. Create more efficiency, you create more egalitarian structure. The third thing - I'm just going to go through these really quickly - is your proprietary neuroses. We have boardroom people sitting together and they're hoarding their intellectual property, not sharing it, and at the root of course of all of our development is sharing. Whether it's sharing historically from the development of science over the course of time or sharing horizontally. The fact that we invariably are a civilization that is based upon people eventually sharing, through market dynamics. That's what markets actually do. The competitive mechanism eventually leads to sharing, interestingly enough, so that leads to open source. So if we can open source our sectors, open source all major industries, that would be a tremendous step, build in the emphasis of a collaborative system, incredible step. And the fourth one, globalization to localization. We have globalization, the average American meal travels about 1400 miles before it gets to the individual's plate; that's lunacy. We can localize, we can use the advancement of technology to do things in the most efficient way possible in that manner. And the fifth issue has to do with this old idea that you can't have ... can't have an economy without market dynamics and money being exchanged. The idea of Ludwig von Mises: you have to have an economic calculation with this constant preference-assuming exchange, and that's no longer feasible. We have digital feedback that can be stretched across the world to know exactly what we have, again without that kind of proprietary neuroses where people are hoarding their data. And then this is how we can actually create a sustainable civilization: when we can look at all the resources, look at the behavior, and begin to work around this behavior and that would be the fifth and final step. And all of this is detailed extensively far beyond what I'm saying right now in the book, specifically chapter 5 which is the solution chapter. - Yeah. Absolutely. Peter, talk about the Zeitgeist Movement that you started. What is it, or was it, and how does it fit into what you're talking about in this book? - The Zeitgeist Movement was started about 10 years ago, it's a global sustainability advocacy group. It promotes exactly more or less what I‘ve just talked about. The New Human Rights Movement book takes a different angle to it because I'm always trying to use communication in different ways. But it supports a natural law resource-based economy and this is effectively embodiment of that train of thought that I just described, where you're moving from a system that's basically the antithesis of sustainability, the antithesis of preservation, the antithesis of collaboration, to one that supports those values in a design approach. I want to give an example of this because when to talk about this, people- their heads spin, they think you're a Marxist and so on. They think that there's going to be some boardroom that sits around and makes all these decisions. You can have CAD, computer-aided design, computer-aided engineering, through open source connected to metrics across the world that is gauging what people are doing, and people can actively design anything at their computers. And through this collaborative Commons that can be established through modern technology you no longer even NEED corporations, because the open-source mechanism, the ability to actually democratically participate and I emphasize that word democracy. It's very hard to hear people talk about democracy and capitalism in the same sentence because they're completely antithetical. But this is the kind of phenomenon of interaction that we're speaking of: a very autonomous but yet unified global consciousness. So the Zeitgeist Movement promotes that, we've been doing events for about 10 years, and we will continue to do events and hopefully grow that train of thought. I often joke that everyone's in the Zeitgeist Movement whether they know it or not, because as the term "zeitgeist" defined, it's basically the ethic of a species, it's the defining characteristics and values of a species, and we're all contributing to that with our everyday behavior one way or another. But yeah, people should look into the Zeitgeist Movement as well. - Yeah, the spirit of the times. We have just 30 seconds Peter. We're seeing the rise of democratic socialism around the world as a real force. How do you interpret that in light of what you talk about the book? It's a great step forward but I don't think it's enough because rarely do people that speak of democratic socialism actually get to the heart of the root structural problems that I just spoke of: a society based explicitly on scarcity, an infrastructure that's still oriented around competition. You know we can have cooperatives, I'm all for all these different things we could do to revise the financial system: complementary currencies, again cooperative corporations and so on. But until we realize that the system is fundamentally unsustainable, it's fundamentally competitive and oppressive. It's like a river Thom. And we can put up barricades, we can put up dams to try and hold the natural flow, the natural logic back of what this system is, or we can work to change direction and create an entirely new system, which is what I really hope for and what I bank on because I don't think the piecemeal things that we're seeing, even if successful, will really overcome what we're facing right now. - Brilliant! Peter Joseph, thanks so much for being with us tonight. - Thank you Thom, I appreciate it.

Video Details

Duration: 12 minutes and 7 seconds
Year: 2017
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Peter Joseph
Director: Peter Joseph
Views: 2
Posted by: ltiofficial on Jul 20, 2017

What’s causing this crisis? And how do we move beyond the broken status quo and literally design a better future? Those big questions are at the heart of social critic and activist Peter Joseph's new book, "the New Human Rights Movement: Reinventing the Economy to End Oppression."

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