Thursday, November 13, 2008

Zeitgeist Addendum: The Review

Stefan Molyneux from Freedomain Radio reviews the documentary 'Zeistgeist: Addendum.'


Anonymous said...

Though I completely agree with you about the numerous inaccuracies about, and conflations of, economic and political concepts in the movie, i think you have misunderstood the general point the movie is making. You keep saying the main issue over looked in the film is the difference between "voluntary" vs “violence”, claiming the only problem is the (criminal) state, because it interferes with the will of the people, the consumers. But what you forget is that consumers are often manipulated, and that they want what they are made to want. What the film maker is saying, is that the free market economy is problematic because humans can be manipulated or conditioned to want just about anything (see the first film: one family volunteered to be the first to be implanted with ID microchips). Their desires, and wills, their votes, their opinions are manufactured, just like the objects they are conditioned to desire. They are made to voluntarily choose, for example, Wallmart over a local shop, or to hate Arabs, or to sell their one year old car the latest model, because they are constantly manipulated by advertising, seduced by "entertainment", not to mention coerced with false information and fear mongering. The vast majority of the voluntary population is kept stupid, misinformed, distracted, and uneducated.

Although quite awkwardly, naively and over-sensationally, what the film maker is attempting to say, I think, is that the state is not the only one holding the gun, as you claim. The gun is not only held by the state elite, nor even by the banks or corporate sector but is actually distributed throughout the population and the various institutions they participate in. This may seem to be a very radical statement, but it actually resonates with what many very wise scholars and writers have said about the the diffused nature of power relations (Foucault), the irrationality and manipulability of subconscious desires (Freud - Bernays), the manufacture of consent (Chomsky), the culture industry (the Frankfurt school), and this list goes on... Though I agree with you it is not money per se that is the problem, I think the film is right to point out this general logic of self preservation that pervades the world and that motivates people, at all levels of society, to be violent, to be stupid, to be selfish, to be short-sighted. Everyone is holding part of the gun. In the real world, there is no easy way to distinguish between voluntary and violence, there is no big blue circle and no small red circle, like in your graphic representation. Let me explain this by pointing out a logical error you make: when explaining what you mean by “voluntary”, you say, (I’m paraphrasing) “when you want a job you don’t kidnap the boss... when you want something you buy it, you don’t steal it... ...when you go out on a date you don’t beat up the girl and bring her home, etc...” but these examples have little to do with the difference between voluntarism and violence. Think for a moment about what this means: voluntariness and violence are not mutually exclusive concepts. Whether someone buys an item or steals it, the person may do it voluntarily or not, and the person being stolen from may feel violated or not. One can be violent, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and of course, one can also be non-violent, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Ever heard of masochism? Some girls like it violent! And what about the slow violence of conditioning, through which people can be made to voluntarily accept what they would normally not accept? People in power no longer stay in power and increase their wealth simply by inflicting violence in a traditional way, but now work manufacture voluntariness, by manipulating and harnessing the irrational subconscious. We know people can be controlled, and brainwashed when they are constantly kept distracted, when they never have enough time to think, to pay attention, etc (see studies on shock therapy, Naomi Klein’s last book). You forgot to include these various bubbles in your diagram. You seem to claim that if the state was not criminal, or was not corrupt, that everything we desperately need to do would magically get done. Do you really think the state is the only problem, the only thing preventing the human species from overcoming war, famine, and general mediocrity? Perhaps you do not think these things are non-problems, but only effects of human nature. This is a huge topic for debate, but what is important is that the zeitgeist addendum film is trying to bring the debate down to that low level. I think this is good.

My personal critique of the film is his fetishization of advanced technology. He really does seem to get off on it, which is counter productive. It is true, however, that we have the production capacities to create abundance (of life’s necessities, not of all those luxuries we’ve been conditioned to desire). Imagine if agriculture was as automated as a Toyota factory. It would be possible to produce the basic human necessities for the entire human population (actually, the world already produces enough food for everyone). Furthermore, relieving people from work is not something only potheads talk about. Everyone wants more free time. Especially those of us who know what it’s like to work or run a business, and raise a family at the same time. Certainly more free time for everyone, means a better life for everyone, people could pursue things that matter, instead of trying to finding their niche in an ever more absurdly complex world economy. According to those studies on shock therapy, mentioned above, it would also mean the population could be less easily coerced. We could become more sensitive to the world in general, instead of being numbed by entertainment, the speed of business, and the anti-depressants so many now take. We could be more caring. More intelligent. Less depressed. Less cynical. I’m not sure technology, as he presents it, is the solution. But certainly, our “know how”, our knowledge of how-to accomplish things, our creativity, must be tapped and put to work if we want to move forward, and build a better world. Right now, that creativity is put to the service of ridiculous desires, accomplishing useless technological feats. We are wasting an incredible amount of potential, simply because we are all working against each other, instead of together. But most of us, when we have time to think about it, would like everyone in the world to have a fair chance: food, housing, a comfortable family atmosphere, a creative environment to live in, and free time (time is all we have, if we don’t have free time, we are not free!). These are the issues. Not just good vs evil, or voluntary vs violent. You sound like you’ve never heard about the fact that desires are manufactured (see Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, who invented public relations). Given this environment of coercion, what good is a free market?

Dale Asberry said...

I'm also baffled by your response... well, not so baffled considering how you're a die-hard libertarian. Your libertarian beliefs seem to impair your ability to philosophically analyze the consequences of money outside your libertarian views. You clearly get so many things, yet, you fail to truly get money or the power structures it creates. I strongly recommend that you read Carroll Quigley's Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time. As it points out, governments are tools of the incredibly wealthy.

Kudos to anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what you say but, as usual with Libertarians, I find your definition of "voluntary" to be extremely naive.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Two - I wonder... when he was a software salesman... did he sell the best possible product for the cheapest possible price? Probably not.

Anonymous said...

Joe says... The consumer does not want outsourcing! Companies lower prices to sell but only low enough to entice consumers. The fact is that prices could be significantly lower but the profit margin must be increased. Why would consumers want to buy a higher priced product from the Mom and Pop stores?

Mom and Pop stores cannot compete with the lower prices that monopolies provide. Once the Mom and Pop stores are out of the way the monopoly has control.

The motive is humanity. We cannot see each other because of our conditioning.