The Agora National newspaper - Interview with Peter Joseph
Matt Berkowitz: What were your aims with the creation of Zeitgeist: Moving Forward?
Peter Joseph: Zeitgeist: Moving forward is an audio video media communication attempt to relay, in a relatively entertaining and emotionally striking fashion, some critical notions regarding human development, survival, and prosperity. I suppose it is safe to say that this film is a supportive data document for The Zeitgeist Movement and The Venus Project, for it’s presenting a train of thought that is absolutely in accord with both groups. However, on another level, it is still a stylistic continuation and exploration of society as related to my prior two films, Zeitgeist: The Movie, and Zeitgeist: Addendum. As of now, the Zeitgeist film series will even continue after Zeitgeist: Moving Forward.
MB: How did the production and composition of this 3rd film differ from that of Zeitgeist: Addendum?
PJ: The production and creation was more substantially expensive due to the complexity of the form used and the extent of the research. Moving Forward has a very large amount of intricate animations and live action. This is coupled in with the documentary content itself. I started this idea within Zeitgeist: Addendum at the very end, and essentially this new film picks up with the same idea but expands it tenfold. Also, the number of interviewees is of a more traditional documentary approach, meaning many more people fill in the blanks, as opposed to a largely narration driven documentary which was consistent with the other films. Even though the narration is underlying the entire film, interaction amongst the dozen or so interviewees is a large stylistic change from the prior films.
MB: You have included a refreshing diversity of personalities in the new film. What were your experiences with them? Were there any highlights that you'd like to mention?
PJ: Due to my interest in preserving the novelty of this film and the time of this interview, I would prefer not to discuss the people involved in the work. However, I will note that I made a great many new friends and there are some wonderful thinkers in public health that are not getting the attention they deserve. Generally speaking, my interview approach was not to impose any type of ideology on the interviewee, with regard to my personal views on what changes of society are needed. I simply gathered each expert’s material and found that the trains of thought offered by these individuals in isolation are consistent with the type of holistic social change that I consider important.
MB: What’s next for The Zeitgeist Movement? Will there be any major movement events on an international scale for the near future other than Z-Day 2011?
PJ: That depends on the public reaction and the support. I want to reiterate that the goal of The Zeitgeist Movement is not to create a centralized type of organization. The goal in the intermediate sense is to get the information out there about what it means to live on this planet from a scientific basis—how that relates to our survival—and hope that each group can absorb this information, see the logic, and begin to initiate their own interests on behalf of the movement itself without the need for any type of overarching centralized dictate. So, in other words, while there certainly is a place for the movement to work en mass with immunities such as our annual Zeitgeist Day (Z-Day), there is an even more important need for the independence of each chapter to work on its own accord. Now, that understood, I do have other ideas besides Z-Day, such as a more artistically driven awareness day for media—which we currently call the Zeitgeist Media Project—but this would be a live event(s). If it works out, there would be two Zeitgeist-related events per year, which would exist on a global scale. One is highly intellectual. And one is for communication and the generation of social capital and affection for the idea itself.
MB: From your own experience, what has achieved the highest success rate in terms of which concepts you first discuss with people in trying to introduce the movement? Obviously, certain angles tend to provoke emotionally loaded responses that confound the communication.
PJ: That is a very difficult question because it depends on the type of person you’re talking to. What I mean by type of person is the nature of their affiliations and where their values reside with regard to society. On one side of the spectrum you have what I consider to be a largely irrational group which fears any type of change whatsoever and uses rhetoric with regard to our work as “Marxist” or “Communist”—and then suddenly they deviate and think that anything that has to do with some type of central planning will automatically turn into a totalitarian dictatorship. On the other side of the spectrum you have people who are more environmentally conscious who see that culture is only as good as nature, meaning it doesn’t matter what you think about human behavior or human nature—if we run out of resources and pollute the planet to such a degree, we will simply die, making all the debate over culture and power and social systems will become moot, to say the least. Given that, I tend to approach most people with the latter angle, because even if they have strong political views, you can usually break them down enough to see that we are destroying the planet. So, the environmental aspect is the most critical point anyway, so that is the best tactic as well. But again, some people are extremely blind, especially in the West. There are so many levels of social and ideological distortion that it’s a wonder how the human species has survived at all. I say that not from a position of arrogance, but from the position of recognizing the necessity for physical referents for all ideas. For example, you might meet somebody who has nothing else to talk about except “freedom”, yet you tend to find that they have no idea what that word even means or how it relates to anything with regard to their behavior. If you step back far enough, from an environmental standpoint, we have no freedom. It doesn’t matter how free you think you are you cannot step up on a wall and violate the law of gravity. It doesn’t matter how free you think you are, you cannot just stop eating and drinking water, and think you’re going to survive. It doesn’t matter how free you think you are, if you get poisoned as a child through, say, pesticides, your brain will malfunction for the rest of your life, most likely inhibiting many forms of behavior that you might think you have the “freedom” to overcome. So, it is going to take a revolution of thought and an absolute change in the majority of the world’s frame of reference to come back in line with the simplistic natural order which most native cultures in early societies had an automatic intuitive sense about. Society today is extremely de-natured.
MB: I know this is probably the last thing on your mind right now, but, do you foresee yourself releasing more “Zeitgeist” films in the future?
PJ: Yes. At the end of Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, a particular scene emerges which will actually be the beginning of the fourth installment. However, this fourth film will not be a documentary at all—it will be a completely live action communication of what life in a resource-based economy would feel like, the problems, and lifestyle that would arise.
MB: Although The Zeitgeist Movement intends to remove the need for leaders and hierarchy, many people still have a programmed inclination to view yourself as a leader. How do you deal with this at this point?
PJ: My position on leadership is utterly rational. It doesn’t work. While at the beginning of anything there have to be initiators, which largely serve the role as leaders in a cultural respect, leadership potentialities are always detrimental from the angle of social sustainability. The Zeitgeist Movement will fail if anyone is looked upon as a leader. And that is my biggest concern. If someone is coming to me constantly for guidance about their work, I know immediately that they don’t understand what we’re doing clearly enough. As I stated earlier in this interview, a holographic nature for the chapters of the movement is critical for the survival of the movement. There is a big difference within a leader and a coordinator. A leader has the built-in assumption of complete knowledge and guidance. A coordinator is someone who assists with projects and meetings on behalf of a group for the sake of simplicity. The coordinator is not someone who knows more than someone else—because, again, the goal is for everyone to know everything needed equally. At that stage, everyone becomes the leader and no one is the leader. Obviously, disputes are natural as we live in an emergent world, but the foundation of a resource-based economy and hence The Zeitgeist Movement is extremely clear cut—so much so that a child could understand it and they often do so better than any adult!
MB: Our local chapter here in Vancouver has had tremendous success promoting downtown on a weekly basis with our Zeitgeist Vancouver tent set up, engaging the public in thought-provoking conversation, disseminating DVDs, flyers, buttons, and more, to the general public. It seems that if every chapter were to be doing this frequently, the potential for spreading awareness would exponentially increase. While it might seem self-evident to some, others need more direct suggestions on the most efficient ways to promote. Referencing the previous question, if the public were to hear directly from yourself what you thought were the optimal ways to be active, what would you offer as advice?
PJ: In January 2011 I’m going to experiment with a once-a-month town hall style meeting in my area and encourage all other chapters to do the same. Apart from the things you suggested regarding flyers, DVDs, and the like, which is great, a direct social engagement of the public is needed. I reference this based on the success overall of the American Civil Rights Movement. It’s one thing to give out information, and it’s another to open the door to people to become a part of it and to voice their views. So, this will be the next trend hopefully. It would be dynamic if across the world once a month on the same day hundreds of chapters all interfaced with the public. It would be unprecedented.
(Editor's note: It seems this question was slightly misunderstood. Our weekly events downtown do engage the public and allow for constructive dialogue - meaning anyone gets to voice their concern. The upside of this approach is that it is open to anyone and directed at unsuspecting passersby, rather than a closed townhall-style meeting which only people with previous knowledge of the movement would attend. There is place for the latter, no doubt, though our approach has yielded wonderful results in Vancouver.)
MB: This is a more personal question. How have you changed as an individual since the release of Zeitgeist: Addendum? Anything in particular that you’ve learnt / realized / discovered, etc.?
PJ: Overall, I have simply become more focused on issues that have an operational function. There is a great deal of noise in the system and while I am intellectually curious about many different fields, I realized that life is short, and that now I center myself as much as possible on those subjects that have immediate relevance to what is happening today. That aside, I still maintain self-preserving mental health patterns of behavior such as musical work on the side, another level of self-learning, which is also important for each of us. But, overall my sense of change has been fluid and likely the most critical subject I think about is the nature of communication.
MB: As ambitious and far-reaching as the aims of The Zeitgeist Movement are, it’s extremely difficult to argue with the reasoning behind the movement’s tenets. What do you think the most difficult hurdles will be that the movement will face, both in the short-term and long-term?
PJ: If The Zeitgeist Movement is unable to mount the general apathy of ambiguity and distortion of the general public and in turn the gatekeepers of the mainstream media, a powerful storm of oppression and disdain will emerge shortly after. This will be countered by a failing social system driven by an economic set of protocols that are simply unsustainable. I challenge anyone to describe a type of social system that is accountable for the Earth, applies human study to education for the sake of understanding how we work, and seeks sustainability of production and distribution—hence peak efficiency and the preservation of Earth’s resources—and not fall back and realize the train of thought that comprises the foundation of a resource-based economy. Nothing we describe is of a novel origin. Technological unemployment isn’t something that The Zeitgeist Movement or The Venus Project has magically come up with as an “excuse” for removing the labor system. The need to manage resources on this planet in a total sense just like you would manage inventory in a supermarket is not some invention of The Zeitgeist Movement and The Venus Project. The need to preserve resources on a finite planet as opposed to exhausting and wasting them for the sake of GDP is not some opinion of sustainability... so, the question isn’t if the system will work and be implemented, the question is how much bullshit and how much destruction is going to occur before such a system is implemented and the world comes together for the greater good.
Thanks very much, Peter, for everything that you do.