A friend sent me a link to ‘Zeitgeist – The Movie’ and said I should take a look. I did. It’s worrying stuff.
Why? Because it reveals that far from helping us transcend our historical tendency to control, distort and manipulate the ‘truth’, the internet is accelerating this process and ‘Zeitgeist – The Movie’ is a perfect – and frankly scary – example of how.
In her podcast a few months ago, Nancy Williams quoted someone defining truth as ‘information about which there is no serious dispute’.
It’s not important who it was. What matters to me is that definition has been burrowing around inside my thinking for the last couple of months… worrying me.
Why? Let’s consider that definition carefully. Truth is information about which there is no serious dispute.
That means, first and foremost, things that people agree on.
But it means more. The definition also includes things that people can’t be bothered to dispute. And things that people aren’t able, or allowed, to dispute. This is chillingly familiar in our experience of the 20th century. After all, it’s the first principle of controlling information applied by any government – good or bad.
And this is where we return to Zeitgeist (without even critiquing its content, as Ed Winston does brilliantly here). The first problem for me with this kind of internet documentary is that it is propaganda – a single-viewpoint-communication designed specifically to produce an emotional response.
The second problem is that it is streamed into our homes in a way that is hard to dispute. 2hrs of powerful and seductive visual and sonic experience, a relentless flow of information designed to dissuade the viewer from stopping, considering, researching or challenging. We know this to be true. It’s how television works – and why advertisers pay so much money for TV companies to deliver your uncritical, stupified brain to them for marketing.
Zeitgeist The Movie vs. Ed Winston’s puny little text site for the minority of viewers who are interested in disputing the information. No contest
All of which, rather worryingly, according to our definition, makes whatever Zeitgeist has to say effectively true.
Funnily enough, at the level of its content, the fact that our capitalist culture is founded on, and fuelled by, greed, corruption and moral bankruptcy comes as no surprise to me – and if this video actually helped people come to that realisation (in the same kind of way that Eckhart Tolle does in his amazing new book ‘A New Earth‘) I’d be encouraged by it – and encouraging about it.
But it doesn’t, because it’s about conspiracy and conspiracy is always couched in disempowering ‘us v. them’ terms, setting us up as ‘the manipulated’ against them, the ‘manipulators’. It’s a victim story we find powerfully familiar and comforting – materially and spiritually. Other people doing stuff to us.
Why do we enjoy conspiracies so much? Perhaps Zeitgeist shows us the answer to this. Maybe its because belief in a wicked ‘them’ allows us to believe in an innocent ‘us’. It’s not our actions that have brought about the meltdown of our global economic systems or the destruction of the global ecosystem. It’s theirs! Theirs and those of their evil conspirators!
“International bankers sought to bring about a condition of despair, so that they might emerge the rulers of us all”.
Forget ‘international bankers’. How much of your own life is shaped by it? Where, exactly, in your pursuit of wealth, your dreams of fame or success are you so different? When are we going to climb out of the ‘win-lose’ trench?
The big scary conspiracy stuff is just a way of focusing the destructive greed and corruption of capitalism away from ourselves into some kind of external ‘other’ that we can make into a scapegoat for all that’s wrong with our world. It’s never been any different, whether we’ve pointed our fingers at heathens, Jews, Communists or, more recently, financial speculators. Our continuing unwillingness to take personal responsibility is probably the biggest barrier to our evolution – and Zeitgeist just an example that unwillingness.
Remember this definition for the internet age: truth is information about which there is no serious dispute – and as the wholesale swallowing of Zeitgeist proves, truth is becoming that which nobody has inclination – or the faculties – any longer to contest.