Zeitgeist Update

This is a (near) verbatim copy of a MOQ Discuss forum post of mine from a month or so ago.

I caused some offence last year when I dissed Zeitgeist (2007) without having seen this Zeitgeist Addendum (2008). I have since seen this version too. It is pretty comprehensive and on the money 😉 as you say.

I still have my usual “non-conspiracy / cock-up theory” take on this.

The facts are facts and they’re not new – as old as economic empire building itself – just that the world has shrunk to a village. When your (national) industries are backed by (national) governments, backed by clandestine organizations and military might (which otherwise have good “security” – static-latch – reasons to exist). ie this process is a natural outcome of two myths (memes, as I call them).

(1) the myth that progress depends on competition (only) – too simplistic a (Newtonian action / reaction) view of causation.
(2) the myth that the value of progress is measurable with numbers (like money) – too objective a view of value.

The conspiracy is in those myths, and in the ignorance of the fact that they are memes we take for granted. Two kinds of ignorance – one called skilled-incompetence in management, a kind of plausible-deniability, and another simply convenience of the individual, a pragmatism based on the wrong “calculations”. Most of us wage slaves do value the benefits too, and we have to rationalize – look-away from – the cognitive dissonance inherent in that.

Organizations of (mostly) moral men often make immoral decisions, because the decision-making process is immoral. Seeing the SOMist meme as the conspiracy is the key. The cock-up is that we really do know this and still allow it to dominate. The primary solutions for me are education towards this kind of individual enlightenment, and free, wise, open governance of all national and transnational institutions – which are after all generally comprised of such (moral) individuals.

What I distance myself from is the conspiracy theory agenda, when people point at long-standing cabals of evil people as the “cause” of the problem (reptiles in the boardroom, etc) – mercifully this film does not itself do that, but some of the hangers-on are that kind of whacko. We are all slaves to competition accounting – bigger numbers equals better – the tyranny of numbers – incentives we can count and compare quantitatively – we are slaves to SOMism. (Words like scam and fake don’t help matters for me, there are many levels of “illusion” in the reality we value.)

As the film says … the so-called human nature of competitive greed, is nothing more than a cultural meme driving behaviour – “received wisdom”, not real wisdom. The prevailing wisdom of economics is “autistic”, “neurotic” a “mental illness”. Also as the film says (as Pirsig said) – there is nothing evil about the applied science of technology, on the contrary its a tool we can use when we act on an understanding of “what is good”.

Probably the only contentious point for me is the idea of a class-less society – no elites of any kind. If we ever reach that vision as a static global state, then maybe. But, I can’t see how we can ever evolve to that state, without some conservative institutions and processes that defend and preserve real, enlightened, wisdom … otherwise the simplest memes simply continue to dominate … some “management” is necessary. Clearly we need checks and balances against institutions that exist on tradition alone – proper philosopher princes, not the Platonic kind – we must not be naive about what it will take.

But individual choices are easy to make if taken wisely, that’s the point. Like, it might not actually be wise if we all acted at once on all of the recommendations at the end … but the intent is in the right direction.

Thanks gav. I’m glad I watched that again.

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