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[TZM Orientation Guide] — (2 of 24) Overview

(2) Overview

“Neither the great political and financial power structures of the world, nor the specialization-blinded professionals, nor the population in general realize that…it is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on earth at a “higher standard of living than any have ever known”. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary and henceforth unrationalizable as mandated by survival. War is obsolete.”

-R. Buckminster Fuller[3]

 

About

Founded in 2008, The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM) is a Sustainability Advocacy Group which operates through a network of Regional Chapters, Project Teams, Public Events, Media Expressions and Charity Operations.

 

TZM’s activism is explicitly based on non-violent methods of communication with the core focus on educating the public about the true root sources of many common personal, social and ecological problems today, coupled with the vast problem solving and humanity improving potential science and technology has now enabled – but yet goes unapplied due to barriers inherent in the current, established social system.

While the term “Activism” is correct by its exact meaning, TZM’s awareness work should not be misconstrued as relating to culturally common, traditional “activist protest” actions such as we have seen historically. Rather, TZM expresses itself through targeted, rational educational projects that work not to impose, dictate or blindly persuade – but to set in motion a train of thought that is logically self-realizing when the causal considerations of “sustainability”[4] and “public health”[5] are referenced from a scientific perspective.

However, TZM’s pursuit is still very similar to traditional Civil Rights Movements of the past in that the observations reveal the truly unnecessary oppression inherent in our current social order, which structurally and sociologically restricts human well-being and potential for the vast majority of the world’s population, not to mention stifles broad improvement in general due to its established methods.

For instance, the current social model, while perpetuating enormous levels of corrosive economic inefficiency in general, as will be described in further essays, also intrinsically supports one economic group or “class” of people over another, perpetuating technically unnecessary imbalance and relative deprivation. This could be called “economic bigotry” in its effect and it is no less insidious than discrimination rooted in gender, ethnicity, religion or creed.

However, this inherent “bigotry” is really only a part of a larger condition which could be termed “Structural Violence”,[6] illuminating a broad spectrum of “built in” suffering, inhumanity and deprivation that is simply accepted as “normality” today by an uninformed majority. This context of “Violence” stretches much farther and deeper than many consider. The scope of how our socioeconomic system unnecessarily diminishes our public health and inhibits our progress today can only be recognized clearly when we take a more detached “technical” or “scientific” perspective of social affairs, bypassing our traditional, often blinding familiarities.

The relative nature of our awareness often falls victim to assumptions of perceived “normality” where, say, the ongoing deprivation and poverty of over 3 billion people[7] might be seen as a “natural”, inalterable social state to those who are not aware of the amount of food actually produced in the world, where it goes, how it is wasted or the technical nature of efficient & abundant food production possibilities in the modern day.

This unseen “Violence” can be extended to cultural Memes[8] as well where social traditions and their psychology can, without direct malicious intent, create resulting consequences that are damaging to a human being. For instance, there are religious cultures in the world that opt out of any form of common medical treatment.[9] While many might argue the moral or ethical parameters of what it means for a child in such a culture to die of a common illness that could have been resolved if modern scientific applications were allowed, we can at least agree that the death of such a child is really being caused not by the disease at that point, but by the sociological condition that disallowed the application of the solution.

As a broader example, a great deal of social study has now been done on the subject of “Social Inequality” and its effects on public health. As will be discussed more so in further essays, there is a vast array of physical and mental health problems that appear to be born out of this condition, including propensities towards physical violence, heart disease, depression, educational deficiency and many, many other detriments – detriments that have a truly social consequence which affect us all.[10]

 

The bottom line here is that when we step back and consider newly realized understandings of causality that are clearly having detrimental effects on the human condition, but go unabated unnecessarily due the pre-existing traditions established by culture, we inevitably end up in the context of “Civil Rights” and hence social sustainability.

This new Civil Rights Movement is about the sharing of human knowledge and our technical ability to not only resolve problems, but to also facilitate a scientifically derived Social System that actually optimizes our potential and well-being. Anything less will create imbalance and social destabilization as the neglect of such issues are simply a hidden form of oppression.

So, returning to the broad point, TZM works not only to create awareness of such problems and their true systemic roots; hence logic for resolution, it also works to express the potential we have, beyond such direct problem solving, to greatly improve the human condition in general, solving problems which, in fact, have not yet even been realized.[11]

This is initiated by embracing the very nature of scientific reasoning where the establishment of a near empirical train of thought takes precedence over everything else in importance. A train of thought by which societal organization as a whole can find a more accurate context for sustainability on a scale never before seen, through an active recognition (and application) of The Scientific Method.

Focus

TZM’s broad actions could be summarized as to Diagnose, Educate and Create.

Diagnose:

Diagnosis is “the identification of the nature and cause of anything.” To properly diagnose the causal condition of the vast social and ecological problems we have today is not merely to complain about them or criticize the actions of people or particular institutions. A true Diagnosis must seek out the lowest causal denominator possible and work to source at that level for resolution.

The central problem today is that there is often what could be called a “truncated frame of reference” where a shortsighted, misdiagnosis of a given consequence persists. For instance, the traditional, established solution to the reformation of human behavior for many so-called “criminal acts” is often punitive incarceration. Yet, this says nothing about the deeper motivation of the “criminal” and why their psychology led to such acts to begin with.

At that level, such a resolution becomes more complex and reliant upon the symbiotic relationship of their physical and cultural culmination over time.[12] This is no different than when a person dies of cancer, as it isn’t really the cancer that kills them in a literal sense, as the cancer itself is the product of other forces.

Educate:

As an educational movement that operates under the assumption that knowledge is the most powerful tool/weapon we have to create lasting, relevant social change in the global community, there is nothing more critical than the quality of one’s personal education and their ability to communicate such ideas effectively and constructively to others.

TZM is not about following a rigid text of static ideas. Such confined, narrow associations are typical of Religious and Political Cults, not the recognition of emergence that underscores the “anti-establishment”[13] nature of TZM. TZM does not impose in this sense. Rather it works to make an open ended train of thought become realized by the individual, hopefully empowering their independent ability to understand its relevance on their own terms, at their own pace.

Furthermore, education is not only an imperative for those unfamiliar with the Train of Thought and Application Set[14] related to TZM, but also for those who already subscribe to it. Just as there is no “utopia”, there is no final state of understanding.

Create:

While certainly related to the need to adjust human values through education so the world’s people understand and see the need for such social changes, TZM also works to consider how a new social system, based on Optimum Economic Efficiency,[15] would appear and operate in detail, given our current state of technical ability.

Programs such as the Global Redesign Institute[16], which is a digital think tank that works to express how the core societal infrastructure could unfold based on our current state of technology, working to combine that technical capacity with the scientific train of thought so as to calculate the most efficient technical infrastructure possible for any given region of the world, is one example.

It is worth briefly noting that TZM’s advocated “governance” approach, which has little semblance to the current manner of governance known today or historically, originates out of a multi-disciplinary bridging of various proven methods for maximum optimization, unified through a counter-balancing “Systems” approach that is designed to be as “adaptive” as possible to new, emerging improvements over time.[17]

As will be discussed later, the only possible reference that could be considered “most complete” at a given time is one that takes into account the largest interacting observation (System) tangibly relevant. This is the nature of the cause and effect synergy that underscores the technical basis for a truly sustainable economy.

Natural Law/Resource-Based Economy

Today, various terms exists to express the general logical basis for a more scientifically oriented Social System in different circles, including the titles “Resource-Based Economy” or “Natural Law Economy.” While these titles are historically referential and somewhat arbitrary overall, the title “Natural Law/Resource-Based Economy” (NLRBE) will be utilized here as the concept descriptor since it has the most concrete semantic basis.[18]

A Natural Law/Resource-Based Economy is to be defined as: “An adaptive socio-economic system actively derived from direct physical reference to the governing scientific laws of nature.”

Overall, the observation is that through the use of socially targeted research and tested understandings in Science and Technology, we are now able to logically arrive at societal approaches which could be profoundly more effective in meeting the needs of the human population. We are now able to dramatically increase public health, better preserve the habitat, while also strategically reduce or eliminate many common social problems present today which are sadly considered inalterable by many due to their cultural persistence.

Since the dawn of scientific recognition, this general reasoning is nothing new in gesture and various notable individuals and organizations, past and present, have alluded to such a scientific re-orientation of society on one level or another. Notable examples are Technocracy Inc., R. Buckminster Fuller, Thorstein Veblen, Jacque Fresco, Carl Sagan, H.G Wells, The Singularity Institute and many others.

Train of Thought

Likewise, many such figures or groups have also worked to create temporally advanced technological applications, working to apply current possibilities to this train of thought in order to enable new efficiencies and problem solving, such as Jacque Fresco’s “City Systems”[19] or R. Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House.[20]

Yet, as obviously important as this applied engineering is, it is still critical to remember that all specific technological applications can only be transient when the evolution of scientific knowledge and its emerging technological applications are taken into account. This makes all current applications of technology obsolete over time.

Therefore, what is left can only be a train of thought with respect to the underlying causal scientific principles. TZM is hence loyal to this train of thought, not figures, institutions or temporal technological advancements. Rather than follow a person or design, TZM follows this self-generating premise of understanding and it hence operates in a non-centralized, holographic manner, with this train of thought as the origin of influence for action.

Superstition to Science

A notable pattern worth mentioning is how the evolution of mankind’s understanding of itself and it’s habitat also continues to expand away from older ideas and perspectives which are no longer supported due to the constant introduction of new, schema altering information.

A worthy keyword to denote here is superstition, which, in many circumstances, can be viewed as a category of belief that once appeared to be adequately supported by experience/perception but can no longer be held as viable due to new, conflicting data.

For example, while traditional religious thought might seem increasingly implausible to more people today than ever in the West, due to the rapid growth in information and general literacy,[21] the roots of religious thought can be traced to periods where humans could justify the validity and accuracy of such beliefs given the limited understanding they had of their environment in those early times.

This pattern is apparent in all areas of understanding, including modern “academia”. Even so-called “scientific” conclusions which, again, with the advent of new information and updated tests, often cannot be held as valid anymore,[22] are still commonly defended due to their mere inclusion in the current cultural tradition.

Such “Established Institutions”, as they could be called, often wish to maintain permanence due to reasons of ego, power, market income or general psychological comfort. This problem is, in many ways, at the core of our social paralysis.[23] So, it is important to recognize this pattern of transition and realize how critical being vulnerable really is when it comes to belief systems, not to mention coming to terms with the very dangerous phenomenon of “Established Institutions” which are culturally programmed to seek self-preservation rather than evolve and change.

Tradition to Emergence

The perceptual clash between our cultural traditions and our ever growing database of emergent knowledge is at the core of what defines the “zeitgeist” as we know it and a longterm review of history shows a slow grind out of superstitious cultural traditions and assumptions of reality as they heed to our newly realized benchmark of emergent, scientific causality.

This is what The Zeitgeist Movement represents in its broadest philosophical context: A movement of the cultural zeitgeist itself into new, verifiable and more optimized understandings and applications.

Hence, while we certainly have witnessed vast and accelerating changes in different areas of human awareness and practice, such as with our vast material technology, it appears our Social System is still long behind. Political Persuasion, Market Economics, Labor for Income, Perpetual Inequality, Nation States, Legal Assumptions and many other staples of our current social order continue to be largely accepted as normality by the current culture, with little more than their persistence through time as evidence of their value and empirical permanence.

 

It is in this context that TZM finds its most broad imperative: Changing the Social System. Again, there are many problem solving technical possibilities for personal and social progress today that continue to go unnoticed or misunderstood.[24] The ending of war, the resolution of poverty, the creation of a material abundance unseen in history to meet human needs, the removal of most crime as we know it, the empowerment of true personal freedom through the removal of pointless-monotonous labor, and the resolution of many environmental threats, including diseases, are a few of the calculated possibilities we have when we take our technical reality into account.

 

However, again, these possibilities are not only largely unrecognized, they are also literally restricted by the current social order for the implementation of such problem-solving efficiency and prosperity stands in direct opposition to the very mechanics of how our social system is operating at the core level.[25]

 

Therefore, until the social system tradition and its resulting social values are challenged and updated to present day understandings; until the majority of the human population understands the basic, underlying train of thought technically needed to support human sustainability and good public health, as derived from the rigor of objective scientific investigation and validation; until much of the baggage of prior false assumptions, superstition, divisive loyalties and other socially unsustainable, conflict generating, cultural hindrances are overcome – all the life improving and problem resolving possibilities we now have at hand will remain largely dormant.

The real revolution is the revolution of values. Human society appears centuries behind in the way it operates and hence what it values. If we wish to progress and solve the mounting problems at hand and, in effect, reverse what is an accelerating decline of our civilization in many ways, we need to change the way we think about ourselves and hence the world we inhabit.

The Zeitgeist Movement’s central task is to work to bring this value shift to light, unifying the human family with the basic perspective that we all share this small planet and we are all bound by the same natural order laws, as realized by the method of science.

This common ground understanding extends much farther than many have understood in the past. The symbiosis of the human species and the synergistic relationship of our place in the physical world confirms that we are not separate entities in any respect and that the new societal awakening must show a working social model that is arrived at from this inherent logic if we expect to survive and prosper in the long term. We can align or we can suffer. It is up to us.

 

Footnotes for “Overview”:

[3] Critical Path, R. Buckminster Fuller, St. Martin’s Press, 1981, Introduction, xxv

[4] The term “Sustainability”, generally defined “as the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sustainability) is often today commonly referenced/understood within an Environmental Science context. TZM’s context extends farther, however, including the notion of Cultural or Behavioral Sustainability which considers the merit of belief systems in general and their less obvious causal consequences.

[5] The term “Public Health”, generally defined as “The science and practice of protecting and improving the health of a community, as by preventive medicine, health education, control of communicable diseases, application of sanitary measures, and monitoring of environmental hazards” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/public+health?s=t) is used in this text as a basis of measure for considering the physical, psychological and hence sociological well-being of a societies’ people over time. This is to be considered the ultimate barometer of the success or failure of an applied social system.

[6] The term “Structural Violence” is commonly ascribed to Johan Galtung, which he introduced in the article “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research” (Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 6, No. 3, 1969, pp. 167-191) It refers to a form of violence where some social structure or social institution harms people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. It was expanded upon by other researchers, such as criminal psychiatrist Dr. James Gilligan, who makes the following distinction between “Behavioral” and “Structural” Violence: “The lethal effects of structural violence operate continuously, rather than sporadically, whereas murders, suicides…wars and other forms of behavioral violence occur one at a time.” (James Gilligan, Violence, G.P. Putnam, 1996, p192)

[7] http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats (Sourcing 2008 World Bank Development Indicators)

[8] Meme: an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/meme)

[9] http://uk.lifestyle.yahoo.com/religious-parents-causing-suffering-sick-kids-says-report-115021612.html

[10] Recommended Reading: The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, Penguin, March 2009

[11] More on this issue will be presented in a following essay entitled “Sourcing Solutions”.

[12] The correlation between human behavior (in this context behavior of a socially offensive nature as determined by the laws of society) and the environmental influence of a person’s upbringing/life experience is now without debate. A related term to note is the “Bio-Psycho-Social” nature of the human organism.

[13] The term “Anti-Establishment” is usually used in a context implying opposition to an existing, established group. Used here, the context is more literal in that TZM itself works to not “institutionalize” itself as a rigid entity but rather be understood as more of a gesture; a symbol of a new manner of thought or worldview that simply has no boundaries.

[14] The terms “Train of Thought” and “Application Set” will be used frequently in this text as they are interrelated. Please see the Vocabulary List, Appendix A, for clarification.

[15] Please see the Vocabulary List – Appendix A for clarification of this term. More will also discussed in Part III.

[16] http://www.globalredesigninstitute.org

[17] See Part III for more on the subject of “Government”.

[18] The term “Resource-Based Economy” can be literally interpreted as ‘an economy based on resources’. This has historically drawn confusion in that one could argue that all “economies”, by definition, are “based” on “resources”. The term itself also has a strong association to an organization called The Venus Project which claims to have originated the term & idea, seeking at one time to trademark the name (http://tdr.uspto.gov/search.action?sn=77829193). The Term “Natural Law/Resource-Based Economy” is considered more complete here not only to avoid such possible associative confusion but also because of the more semantic accuracy of the NLRBE term itself, since it more clearly references Nature’s Physical Law System and Processes rather than just Planetary Resources.

[19] Jacque Fresco, The Best That Money Can’t Buy, Global Cybervisions, 2002, Chapter 15

[20] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dymaxion_house

[21] The inverse relationship of literacy/knowledge accumulation to superstitious belief is clear. According to the United Nations’ Arab Human Development Reports, less than 2% of Arabs have access to the Internet. Arabs represent 5% of the world’s population and yet produce only 1% of the world’s books, most of them religious. According to researcher Sam Harris: “Spain translates more books into Spanish each year than the entire Arab world has translated into Arabic since the ninth century.” It is axiomatic to assume that the growth of the Islamic Religion in Arab Nations is secured by a relative lack of outside information in those societies.

[22] A Nobel Prize for what is known as “Lobotomy” was awarded to Portuguese neurologist Egas Moniz in 1949. Today, it is considered a barbaric and ineffective procedure. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4794007)

[23] The financial support inherently needed in the perpetuation of a given business, “for profit” or even so-called “not for profit”, sets up a dissonance between the business’s sold product or service and the actual necessity or viability of that product or service over time. In fact, the obsolescence of any given product/service, which implies often the obsolescence of the producing business or corporation, appears inevitable as new technical advancements emerge. The consequence is a perpetual stifling of new ideas/invention that will disturb or override those pre-existing, or “Established Institutions”, resulting in a loss of income. A cursory glance at the state of technological possibility today, whilst also considering the question as to why those improvements are not immediately made, illuminates the paralyzing nature of income requiring institutions.

[24] “ZeitNews”, a science and technology website related to TZM is recommended. http://www.zeitnews.org

[25] See Part II for more on this subject.

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