Wednesday, 20 May 2009

ZEITGEIST 2 ADDENDUM - by Peter Joseph

Official video torrent - http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/
Zeitgeist: German ~ "the spirit of the age and its society"


Below are my notes of significant or interesting points made in this elucidating (and highly recommended) 2 hour documentary from 2008. (Famous) quotes I particularly liked are in “blue italic”, verbatim, and my own thoughts annotate in [bold red].

Part 1 – Money as debt and control system.
Part 2 – Confessions of an 'Economic Hit Man', Globalisation, Terrorism?
Part 3 – Failings of the current system and an alternative.
Part 4 – How the universe really works, summary, action.

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The monetary system is the biggest, and most unquestioned forms of faith. A misunderstood institution.

*** 0h6:50 - Part 1
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who believe they are free." (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - d.1832)

According to "Modern Money Mechanics" (by Federal Reserve):
[http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Modern_Money_Mechanics.pdf]

National Debt:
US government buy (paper) money from the Fed in exchange for (paper) bonds (AKA securities). (only 3% of money in circulation is physical currency)

Money then deposited in a commercial bank. Which has an 9:1 fractional reserve obligation; $10M deposit allows $9M of extra loans to be made by that bank. (while 10% must be kept in reserve)

But that $9M is new money that can be deposited, enabling further money creation. So $10M deposit => $90M new (thin air) money, increasing the money supply by $100M overall.

Greater money supply reduces overall value of currency: Inflation.
Overall 96% devaluation in 94years (since setup of current Federal Reserve).

*Money IS Debt*

In 1835 the national debt was cleared by shutting down the old Fed, because it was controlling the government.

Debt always has to be repaid with *Interest*, so banks will always demand back (and receive) more money than they create; more than exists!: Thus more money/debt *must* continually be created to stop the system breaking. Thus, inflation is inherent.

Foreclosures and repossessions are inherent too.
[ Sub-prime mortgages aside, statistically, I suppose, there will always be some unlucky people, in that sense the banks always win. Because of this reductions in employment due to automation and recessions are big wins for banks]

Q. Who are you working for? A. the banks.
Economic slavery requires people to feed and house themselves. (Regular slaves need more looking after, more expensive)

The World Bank & IMF extend this control system to entire countries...



*** 0h21 - Part 2
Confessions of an economic hit-man (John Perkins)

"There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation.
One is by the sword. The other is by debt."
(John Adams 1735-1826 - 2nd president of US)

Big loans to a small country (with natural resources) inevitably go to big (American) industry to build expensive infrastructure.

This benefits only a few of the richer citizens, leaving the country unable to pay back the loan (with interest). Instead bigger loans are taken, or internal control/ownership of resources is sold out to big foreign industries. (or relinquished for political support on the world stage).

Specific examples of economic attacks:

(x) Dr Mohammed Mossadegh - Elected Iranian president 1951-53
Nationalised Iranian oil, so citizens benefit fully from it's exploitation.
1 CIA agent (Kermit Roosevelt, Jr) managed to corrupt country and overthrow him in a coup d'etat and reinstalled the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, as dictator, co-operative with foreign business.
[Operation Ajax - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Ajax]

(x) Jacobo Arbenz Guzman - President Guatamala 1951-54
Implemented land rights policies to benefit the people.
Seen as communist threat in US.
Toppled by US government (CIA).
[Operation PBSUCCESS - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_PBSUCCESS]

(x) Jaime Roldos Aguilera - Popular Pressident Ecuador 1979-81
Oil money for the people.
(John Perkins attempted to corrupt him)
Died in plane crash. (assassination)
2 key witnesses to investigation died in car accidents.

(x) Omar Torrijos - President of Panama - 1968 1981
(John Perkins attempted to corrupt him)
Negotiated back control of panama canal.
Wanted reparations for military damage by US.
Died in plane crash (after being handed a bomb)

(x) Chavez - Venezwala 2002
Coop attempt: apparent insurrection in the streets (staged by CIA). Was withstood by president through popular support.

(x) Iraq demonstrates the escalation through levels of action taken to control a country:
1. Corruption (economic hit men)
2. Assassination (Jackals)
3. Invasion (Full Military)

Saddam Hussein (had been employed in an attempt to assassinate a previous leader). He was so paranoid, he could not be assassinated, so invaded in 90s.
Left in power after invasion, thinking he would be brought back in line (without his military), already being the type of dictator usually installed.

Reconstruction work (from invasion) given to big US companies (another aspect of the profitability of war).

[Of course there was then the highly dubious 'evidence' for the 2003 invasion. Perhaps one should watch "W" (2008) for what was going on there. Was almost certainly about securing oil supplies when it should have been about human rights. But I think US/UK citizens would actually support that anyway, perhaps many even realise this already and deliberately turn a blind eye, as they stand to benefit greater economic stability.]


Citizens of countries that historically built empires at least knew they were doing so. Those in the [west] are unaware of this clandestine empire, where there is more slavery in the world than ever before (economic slavery).

"Corporatocracy" are the contemporary Emperor (unelected, unanswerable, etc).

Heads of business tend to move back and forth into government (democrats and republicans):
e.g. Dick Cheney retired from Halliburton (big oil) during the 2000 presidential election, receiving $36M retirement, then $400k 'compensation' while in office. e.g. Bush family oil business.
[Tony Blair now works for JP Morgan Chase (which controls assets of $2.3 trillion)]

Business often forges policy and hands it to government to implement.
[Evidence all the (bad) copyright laws and such coming into force, across the world, as desired by recording industry. This industry is orders of magnitude smaller than oil, finance and retail, and it has had so much influence over policy. UMG's (25% of market) revenue was €4.65Bn (2008); $390Bn for ExxonMobil (with only 3% of world oil production)]

There is no explicit conspiracy (no meeting up to plot). They are all just trying to maximise profit (regardless of social and environmental cost).

+ 0h41 - This is "Globalisation"

Put a country in debt, then impose 'Conditionalities' or 'Structural Adjustment policies':

(+) Devalue currency => indigenous resources become much cheaper for foreign industry.
(+) Expense cuts (social programs: health , education)
(+) Privatisation - sell national services to foreign businesses.
(e.g. Bolivian government sold water company to Bechtel; price hikes caused civil unrest and nullification)
[Presumably the inspiration for "Quantum of Solace" 2008]
(+) Trade liberalization - local economy undercut by [subsidised] imports. (e.g. Jamaican farming)
(+) Allow sweatshop factories &/or environmental destruction.

It is admitted that only 40% of IMF & World Bank projects succeed (so they increase poverty overall). But industrial profits have always soared.

e.g. In 2000, 50% of Ecuador's budget was debt servicing.

World Bank is American: USA has veto power over World Bank (because it owns most of it's money).

The "Free Market" itself is a global empire.

51 of the worlds top 100 economies (by GDP) are private corporations.
[Data used in video is outdated (2000); Exxon (now biggest) stated $164Bn vs 2008 revenue of $390Bn (though oil prices have rocketed recently): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companies_by_revenue
Puts it above Greece (at 26). Now 50 of the top ~110 economies are corporations]

47 of the 51 companies are US based.
[I make it 14 of the top 51 companies head-quartered in the US: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companies_by_revenue
but the film probably means, operating in the US, therefore having legitimate influence over US policies]

Then there's the World Trade Organisation to consider too.


+ 0h49 - 'Terrorists':

"Al Qaeda" was originally the name of a US database for the Mujahideen; supported by the US in the 80s against the USSR expansion into Afghanistan. (The name is only used for US propaganda)

68 American killed by terrorist acts (2004) => $162Bn global war on terror. [one part of total defence budget]
2 times more Americans die of peanut allergies.
450'000 Americans died from coronary heart disease => $3bn on research

Now 1M people on terrorism watch list.

This is all to support the establishment against growing domestic/international anti-American sentiment.
The true terrorists work in the highest positions of government, finance and business.

Before 1980 Afghanistan produced 0% world opium. 40% by 1986 (after US backed war). 80% by 1999.
[unknown accuracy, Wikipedia states that poppies were traditionally grown]

Taliban destroyed most opium fields in 2000. Since US invasion (planned before 9/11) production has broken records; 90% of world's heroin now comes from here.
[2006 figure - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taliban#Opium]



*** Part 3 - 0h54:40
"The best that money can't buy"

(based around) Jacque Fresco - [self appointed] Industrial Designer and social Engineer.

"Greed and Competition are not the result of immutable human temperament... greed and fear of scarcity are in fact being created and amplified... the direct consequence is that we have to fight with each other in order to survive" (Bernard Lietaer - Founder of the EU currency system)


Corruption (moral perversion) is a direct result of a monetary system. Human welfare is 2nd to Profit.
(-) Serve: Dumping of toxic waste.
(-) Grey Area: Large retailers displacing small local business.
(-) Subtler: Automation replacing human workers.

So it's hard to trust people under a monetary system; they may be acting against your good for their profit. Industry does not care about people, it can not afford to, by design.

All governments: communism, fascism, democracies are just as corrupt; their societies are still run by business.

"We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both" (Louis Brandeis - Supreme Court Justice 1916-39)

McCain and Obama had largely the same major campaign contributors: big business. (they have effectively been vetted as acceptable)

Politicians can solve nothing, because they are not trained or empowered to do so. Technology is always the solution. (They are elected to maintain the system, not bring in changes).

+ 1h07 - Technology is the *only* thing that has brought improvements to everyone's lives (not politics, religion or money; false institutions)!
[I would say that money systems are a technology and have brought improvement by encouraging cooperative behaviour. Politics seems largely arbitrary, hindering as much as helping. IMHO it should only exist (in a free market) to mitigate/legislate against immoralities that are otherwise economically favourable. e.g. uphold human (worker's) rights, prevent pollution, etc.]

Efficiency, Sustainability and Abundance are anathema of Profit. Scarcity is it's main tool. (diamonds are burned at the Kimberly diamond mine to maintain the price)

[I've noticed that mobile phones, TVs, etc never get super-cheap, they just get better for the same price; to maintain business models and profit margins, obviously.]

Ergo, it is impossible to have a sustainable world of abundance, with technology developed to maximum efficiency (under the current system).

[I would argue that it's not necessarily advantageous, in the long run, to perfect technologies. Taking too long getting the most out of one paradigm could just be wasted effort, or at worst slow development to the next paradigm. After all, evolution doesn't breed perfection, it selects for any solution that works, however bizarre or marginal.]

Human nature? Or human behaviour??:

Greed is no more natural than wearing clothing!

It's going to take the redesign of our culture and values (to get rid of greed, crime, elitism, hatred, etc), and will have to be related to the 'carrying capacity' of the Earth, not some political/religious notion [ideology] of the way the world ought to be.

[Talking about 'Carrying capacity' is pretty telling to me; it implies a limited imagination of technological advance: At the moment it is widely accepted that for the entire human population of the world to live to the standard of westerners would require about 3 Earth's worth of space and resources... But that's if using only contemporary technological solutions. Everyone could eat as excessive a diet as Americans if agricultural productivity continues to rapidly increase (beyond apparently limits imposed by the total amount of arable land): e.g. GM crops, vertical (multi story) farming, lab grown meat, etc.]

+ 1h15 Venus Project - a “Resource Based Economy”:

Directly interested in personal well-being. Whereas at the moment, if there is a problem in society, it won't be fixed unless money can be earned form it.

Difficult to talk about this because the public is not sufficiently well informed of the current state of technology.

"We currently have the technology and resources sufficient that everyting we have now could be available in abundance without a price tag or submission through employment" [...hmmm???]

"At present we have no need to burn fossil fuels or damage the environment. The alternatives already exist."
(Current paradigm is there to sustain current market structures)

Solar, Wind, Tidal, Wave & *Geothermal*!
We already have abundance. No need for conservation or pricing. (These solutions are being held back because it doesn't fit existing business models of energy companies.)
[It's certainly true that the fluctuating price of oil has stifled investment in renewable (even bankrupting schemes) because the goal-posts for market parity (energy production cost) keeps changing so drastically.]

The battery technology to power an electric car over 200 miles at up to 100mph already exists and has done so for some time.
[Until very recently, electric cars (and batteries) hadn't fundamentally improved since they were superseded by internal combustion engines 100 year ago (so the story goes). I think petroleum powered cars have genuinely been the best available technology. Only recent advances in nanotechnology are making electricity storage quick, efficient and cheap enough (to manufacture) for widespread use in automobiles. Having said that, there's been a profound lack of innovation in electric vehicle technology by the major car manufacturers. All the new motor designs and battery tech I've heard of has come from small, unrelated companies and Universities.]

We should have 'mag-lev' trains instead of aeroplanes:
Fast, clean, fraction of the energy use, New York to Beijing in 2 hours.
(only held back by profit structure and energy patents)

[Pollution from the exploding aviation industry does worry me, seeing as battery power jets are not an option. And I do love the idea of hyper-sonic mag-lev trains in vacuum tubes... but the infrastructure investment (in terms of labour, time and natural resources) would be utterly vast. And it would be entirely inflexible (unlike airline routes) to demand. It's the kind of mega-engineering project that only a communist dictatorship could go through with at the moment. I think a limited number of services like this might come to be, when automated engineering-construction technologies make it sufficiently trivial. But the main reason super quick global transport won't prove popular IMHO is that it will be largely irrelevant: telecommuting, virtual presence and virtual reality close the distances involved near instantaneously, and use practically no energy (as only information is moved over the internet).

All of the other physical engineering visualised is passé-futuristic too; vast monolithic structures, epitomising blade runner esq. dystopian cities before all the grass died and the metal work got dirty. I'm not saying there'll be no place for grand architectural statements, and 'archologies' will probably even be necessary in major cities (as they continue to grow, for new reasons). But the defining engineering paradigm of the future is going to be customisation/variety/novel solutions. Saying that we are going to (or indeed *should*) get all our energy from geothermal, is committing the same fundamental mistake as predicting in the 1950s that we'd "all be living on the moon" by now; the actual reality is always more subtle and diverse than one can imagine, so all sources of power will be tapped to some extent, probably largely decentralised generation (e.g. domestic solar PV, etc), linked together by an internet-like 'smart grid'. Approached by western and developing regions from opposite directions.]


+ 1h23
US industry has a fundamental leaning to fascist dictatorship: when you 'punch-in' in the morning, you enter this world (corporate structure). And you *have to* have a job to live.

The monetary system is in direct conflict with technology:
It requires that people have jobs to earn money, thus preventing technology from freeing people from labouring, despite automation continually reducing the need for humans in the work force. This clash proves the falseness of the monetary based labour system. (companies downsize instead of reducing the working week, so we are justified fearing machines in the current system)

The monetary system will continue to paralyse improvements from technology, and must be overturned.

Virtually all forms of crime are a result of having a money system.

+ 1:27 - US has largest prison population, consisting mostly of monetarily deprived individuals.

"If people have access to the necessities of life without debt/barter/trade, they behave very differently."

[I've been thinking that welfare payments should begin to rise (rapidly). In line with increasing automation raising the level of skill for the simplest of jobs available; there will soon be no unskilled jobs available. In the limit, the only real jobs would be the ones that people want to do out of enjoyment: artists (musicians, entertainers, etc) and a perhaps a small number in R&D.

From Marshall Brain's Singularity Summit 2008 Talk: Rate of job creation appears to resume at a decreased rate after each recession [graph]. Also, employment lags financial market recovery. Productivity is shooting up 2.5% per year (in US), but compensation (pay) only rising by 0.7%, meaning that wealth is being increasingly concentrated. As soon as Bipedal robots reach near human intelligence 1/2 the current jobs will disappear. I reckon on most retail (and warehousing) jobs disappearing sooner, with RFID tags on all merchandise negating check-out clerks (and simple robot automated warehouses already taking off).]
Removing monetarism will not remove all incentives; people will still make art for enjoyment, [science out of curiosity], strive to reach for the stars.

A resource based global economy would not be perfect, just a whole lot better than the current one.



*** Part 4 - 1h32
"My Country is the world... and my religion is to do good."
(Thomas Paine 1737-1809)
[A philosophy I share]

The social values of our society is fundamentally the result of the collective ignorance of: Emergent and Symbiotic aspects of natural law.


+ Emergence - When uninhibited, all systems naturally change fluidly. There are no static, imperial truths. Therefore everyone, however intelligent they may be, will find all of their understandings swept away eventually.

Being proven wrong should be celebrated (not considered the worst kind of failure).
[This is perhaps the main reason children's rampant learning is stifled by adulthood; once society fully instils in them the fear of being wrong, trying new things becomes dangerous territory.]

People maintain the current (flawed socio-economic) system by ostracising individuals whom behave differently.

It's time to change! (monetary system)

(Theistic) religions pose barriers to personal and social growth. (preaching adherence to absolute beliefs, as opposed to logic and new information)

Lacking understanding, (early) people made God in their image [to fill the gaps]. The foundational myths of contemporary religions are themselves emergent culminations [of astrology and ancient mythology. See part one of the original Zeitgeist movie.]

Religious belief has caused more conflict and division than any other ideology.

+ Symbiotic (relationship of life)

All systems are arbitrarily invented divisions of reality. This systematised, divided thinking, is where the illusion of 'free will' comes from. Everything is actually connected!

Success relates to how well we connect to the environment around us.

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality" (Dr. M.L. King Jr)

Seeing everything as you (yourself) is to have Unconditional love (for we are all everything simultaneously).

+ 1h45 - "We are one species. We are star stuff harvesting star light" (Carl Sagan)


+ Summarising:
(.) Our true problems in life are technical, not political.
(.) "Weapons of Mass Creation" (i.e. not mass destruction, e.g. a globally constructive Manhattan project)
(.) 1h48 - Fractional Reserve policy is slavery through debt, because it is impossible for society to be free from it.
(.) Free trade uses debt to manipulate entire countries into slavery.
(.) Competition (the primal basis of capitalism) by it's nature rules out large scale collaboration (for the common good).
+ Action: We have to stop supporting this system.
It has to fail. People have to loose confidence in their leaders.

(0) Reject divisionary propaganda (we are born into).
(1) Expose the Fed Cartel [US only] – Boycott: Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America.
(2) Turn off television (corporate news) - use new internet news services, and protect the internet. [Net neutrality, etc]
(3) Do not join the military. Soldiers fight for corporations, not freedom.
(4) Get off-grid.
(5) Reject the political system (2 parties supported by the same ppl).
(6) Join the movement:
Declare all natural resources as common, inform people of the true state of technology, and work together rather than fight. [i.e. the Venus project]


[(0) goes nearly without saying: religions are obsolete, nationalism is largely abhorrent. That's why I quite like the UK, as it is generally complacent and practically atheistic.

(2) “Boing Boing” et al FTW! Though I do watch a bit of channel 4 news when eating dinner.

(3) Not going to happen anyway!

(4) I desperately want to do this anyway. With solar PV following an exponential price/watt improvement trend, it'll only be a couple of years until a roof full of panels is an indisputably good investment. Electric power (ground source) heat pumps and series hybrid (range extended) electric cars too; gimme, gimme! The distributed energy revolution is coming, and none too soon.

(5) Personally I've always voted Lib Dem (Labour's been more Tory than the Tories for the last decade, who have been left without any sensible unique policies). The UK political system is not too bad; Wasteful, but not massively corrupt.

(6) I'm not at all convinced of the feasibility of this 'project' any time soon. Don't get me wrong, I think we should be consciously aiming towards something like this; a peaceful society where nearly everything is free (much like Ian M. Banks' "The Culture": http://www.vavatch.co.uk/books/banks/cultnote.htm). ]

5 comments :

  1. I personally cannot see how a resource based economy can function without some ultimate controller - essentially turning your resource based economy into a worldwide totalitarian communism.

    I suppose my feelings come from my fundamental disagreement that a monetary based economy is in any way bad. We have already seen massive automation in our industries, but we have not seen the loss of jobs/increase of unemployment, despite massive increases in population.

    Now, if we get to a technological singularity state whereby machines can perform 50% of the jobs of humans (assuming these machines are our servants), This will drive down the price of all the products that they will produce until those people who have had to race to the bottom in order to be able to compete against the machines (on the job market; machines will still have a maintenance price, energy cost etc.), will be able to afford these now massively lower cost products. The situation resolves itself adequately under a free market situation.

    On the subject of the monetary system causing stifling of technology - Surely large firms want more automation - there is little that low level employees can really do to stop such a monetary/efficiency incentive. The only people who have the power to stifle technology would be the governments, using the threat of force, to "save the jobs". The solution there is not to remove the incentive to improve the technology, but to remove the stifling force, the government.

    I am a free market anarchist, so I very much agree with many of the points made, but also violently disagree with many of them :)

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  2. Wow, some one I don't know read *and commented* on my blog...

    I share your scepticism: that 'resource base' would equate to totalitarian. The Venus Project illustrations even look like something from a totalitarian dystopia flick.

    It's not inevitable that reduced price of goods (from increased automation) will make the price of living affordable for the increasing number of unemployed. Especially as semi-deliberate underestimation of inflation (by government statistics) has led to a significant cumulative reduction in welfare rates. And how does one decide where the poverty line lies in an advanced society?; Merely being able to keep breathing isn't enough.

    I don't think there's any danger of the work force stifling increased automation (the last serious attempts of that nature in the UK, by newspaper printing staff in the 1980s against Rupert Murdock's automated equipment, was an unmitigated failure). Governments get in the way a bit more, but the worst I can think of is the US ban on stem cell research funding).

    The real problem the film alludes to is the conflict of interest companies have in the products they're producing; there's no direct incentive to make items that last any longer than the absolute minimum time to satisfy perception of money's worth (a public perception that grows shorter as device life spans do). No incentive to make ultra cheap products: e.g. I was looking for a HDD based mp3 player with storage of 60Gb last year, 20Gb players were around in 2003 for like £200, so I figured that 60Gb should be, like £50ish by 2008. But no, the *only* HDD player I could find for sale anywhere was a 60Gb iPod for over £300!... It seems SSD technology has given manufacturers an excuse to continue selling the same range of products for the same price tags, and hence the same profit margins. And these are the fairly banal issues, before we get to oil companies lobbying against climate change acceptance, faking evidence, and perhaps buying up patents for alternative energy technologies, then effectively sitting on them.

    I'm far from being against capitalism either, but people need to remember it's only an artificial system, and as such has many pitfalls and exploits that go contrary to it's purpose. I can't see us transcending this paradigm until super intelligent beings are able to look after humanity through cheap altruism alone.

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  3. I share your scepticism: that 'resource base' would equate to totalitarian. The Venus Project illustrations even look like something from a totalitarian dystopia flick.

    www.onlineuniversal.com

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