Remember when Martin Luther King Jr. led nonviolent protests, when Malcolm X rallied for civil rights by any means necessary, when Black Panthers read the laws to cops in the street, when affluent white men and women made bombs to make points, when the indigenous began to scream again in native tongues, when anti-war protesters and feminists set fire to the symbols that oppressed them? Remember when things just didn’t sit right and the youth got up and did something about it?
I don’t remember it either, because I am of a generation whose perception is clouded by massive daily doses of media and technological distraction. Activism today is more digital than tangible. And with more access to information and organization via the Internet, what will the masses do when they want a change? What will we do when we realize the myths we were raised on no longer serve us? I tracked down fellow Brooklynite and Zeitgeist film (and now movement) creator Peter Joseph, whose 2007 documentary became the most watched video on the Web, to explore new activism and his provocative ideas on the impending revolution.
Why do you think money is the most troublesome myth we live by today?
Peter Joseph: The monetary system has become a vehicle for division and totalitarian control. Our world is currently run by a small group of dominant men in high positions of those institutions, which are most dominant in society—business and finance. The life blood is money, which is, in fact, an illusion that now has little relevance to society and serves as a tool for manipulation and division along a kind of social organization that guarantees elitism, crime, war and social stratification. In a monetary-based system, the major industry concerns are profit and competitive edge, rather than the well-being of humanity. The monetary system is now an impediment to survival rather than a means of facilitating individual existence and growth. The imaginary tool [money] has outlived its usefulness.
In order to change things fundamentally, you have to look at root causes. People primitively think that competition, greed and corruption are “hardwired” elements of human behavior. This is totally illogical and false. Competition in the monetary system guarantees corruption in society on every level, for the basis is “us against them.” No laws will ever stop insider trading, collusion, monopoly, labor abuse, pollution, planned obsolescence or the like, for it is based on the premise of taking advantage of others for profit. In today’s culture of profit, we do not produce goods based on human need. We do not build houses based on population needs. We do not grow food to feed people. Industry’s sole motivation is profit.
Is there hope for revolution or at least a reevaluation of how we operate as a capitalist society?
Peter Joseph: It isn’t capitalism really. It is monetaryism. The whole system must go. Yes, most people are fully indoctrinated and are too conditioned to see beyond their established environment/values. I think the “revolution” will be one of global proportions. However, it will not be like anything that has occurred before. I really do not know the path, but I see it as inevitable. Either the world learns to work together and share resources, or we will destroy ourselves.
Activists throughout history have tried everything from non-violent protests to pipe bombs to fight for change. What are your tools for activism?
Peter Joseph: Our model is based on Ghandi and MLK Jr. True change comes from peaceful non-cooperation with those institutions that are inhibiting progress. It is the only thing that has ever worked.
As many activists of the ’60s learned, murder and incarceration are very real results for dissidents and leaders of social change. What do you think will happen if people just stop participating in the monetary system? What would that look like?
Peter Joseph: In the end, I don’t think the state stands a chance. No army can stop the masses if the numbers are large enough. Think about it this way: If 51 percent of Americans stopped paying income taxes, the state wouldn’t be able to prosecute them. They couldn’t even afford to prosecute 150 million people. So it is based on the numbers. Power in numbers.
Do you think religious people or religious congregations understand your message or could be helpful in spreading awareness about social transformation?
Peter Joseph: While I have been critical of established religions, I feel, deep down, that the religious ideal is born out of human cooperation. The golden rule, if you will. A resource-based economy puts into practice everything these great characters have stated. From Jesus to Buddha to Krishna… they all preach human reciprocation. We feel the religious community, if they are at all authentic in their tradition’s values, will see our model as a most profound spiritual pursuit.
What can individuals start doing to affect change now while still protecting their family and basic needs?
Peter Joseph: Educate yourself. Society is contained and held together by parallel values. Our current values need to change. For example, people need to stop supporting the selfish ideals perpetuated by industry. Our values are only helpful if they are supported by the external world. This is a powerful issue to consider. Each one of us is faced with the emotionally complex reality of being “wrong” all the time. We have to accept this and welcome change.
It is also important to see government, as we know it, for what it really is: a self-preserving institution, where the public is always second to state interests. While I suggest people do their best to influence this beast, it should be known that the focus of government is to preserve existing systems, not to change them. This is why The Zeitgeist Movement is a “social” movement, not a political one. Politics is an outdated method of social organization. We should be working to elect ideas, not people.
In the end, we know where we need to go, but to get there it is going to be a spontaneous unfolding, I think. I cannot foresee the future, but I do know it will happen, in part, by people rejecting the system, while advocating a new direction. I hope for a smooth, logical transition… but history doesn’t support this pattern. The first step is to join us at thezeitgeistmovement.com and help by sharing information.