Monday, January 31, 2011

Critique of “The Zeitgeist Movement”

After watching this whole thing, if I was an instructor, I would have to “fail” this project and send Jr. home with a note to his parents that said, “It is with regret that I had to fail your student. Sadly this was a pass or fail project. This thesis had a few major fatal flaws. Your student shows great promise, please do not discourage their charter. If they can address the flaws and resubmit the thesis will be reconsidered.”

At the end of this lecture the producers address “human nature”. At that point, this very scientific piece moves into the realm of theory. Much of that theory is sound and easily provable. For example, the heavy notion that environment produces behaviors is clearly documentable. (Sadly our court systems are staffed by lawyers and not psychologists. But that is another issue.) Simply factually stating that “if all humans had a better environment they wouldn’t steal or commit homicide” doesn’t make it a fact. This is a sterile discretion that doesn’t address the most basic need of every human. This “need” is on the subconscious mind of most individuals and the conscious mind of more cerebral humans. The question of, “what is my purpose”. This entire system that is outlined is based on the presumption that humans exist only to be “happy”.

“Being happy”, “prosperous”, or fulfilled is not the only reason a society exists. If it were all other cultures would gravitate towards that purpose. In all cultures only one thing is required to sustain its continuation. Not food, resources, or energy. Many cultures exist, somehow, without these. However, no culture, society, or country exists without the ability to reproduce. It is the singular drive of everything on this world from an ameba, to your cells, to your organs, to your body, to your family, to your race, culture, and on up. We will expose ourselves to unreal levels of happiness to reproduce and ensure those new beings are adequately guided into an age where they can then reproduce. Everything is a virus. Removing humans, “nature” is generally a system of controlling and organizing sustainable growth. This is what you never hear, “penguin nature”, “cactus nature”, or “tuna nature” in the context you hear the word “human nature”. Only humans have the ability to resist (temporarily) the forces of natural laws long enough to destroy the rest of the system. And “human nature” refers to anytime we do just that. This thesis completely rejects the human psyche. Prosperous countries have over population problems. People have children because they “want” them. Our governments are more then happy to comply with this want because (as these authors pointed out) They need more consumers. This is known as “symbiotic system failure”. Symbiotic system failure is a situation where two or more processes, if exited alone, would not cause a failure, but together they cause a system degradation. In poor countries, where having offspring shouldn’t be considered because its citizens can barely feed themselves, still there is a population problem. This drive to preserve ones culture and pass on the genetic code to the next generation is undeniable. Immortality is at that heart of every species.

So with the desire to reproduce defined as an “uncontrollable characteristic”, what isn’t mentioned is “who is controlling the system”. Who is writing the algorithm? If we could take a snap shot of this system working perfectly, all to resources are being consumed in a balance and harmony. The one resource that was not considered were people. What happens that next second after the snapshot when somebody decides they want to add a child. To maintain balance, an ideal population size will have to be agreed upon. So let us say the system can handle 1 million new humans every year. Let us say that 1 million and 1 want children. Who gets to decide which 1 happy couple is denied a child? How about when two million people want to have kids. Who gets to decide? What about when somebody decides to have a child in spite of the order not to? This very fact will lead to the feeling of repression and inequality the described system hopes to circumvent. How many Buddhists, Christians, Chinese, Europeans, Africans, original natives should be represented in this ultimate population number. Quickly, and very quickly the wheels would spin off their axles.

Another glaring point that is not even mentioned is the physical truth of life that it is inherently unequal. Every human being is not Albert Einstein nor is every human being “Albert” the very functional but mentally handicapped janitor that works in my facility. Thus not everybody has the same abilities even though they may have the same needs. So how do you address the fact that two people exist. Everybody is going to have to have a “role” in this one world culture. Let us just look at the occupational status. (Keep in mind that time is another most valuable human resource.) Take two people. One pushes turds through blocked pipes at a waste treatment plant, the other sits on a computer writing theological observations while watching TV and waiting for a fire or some other detrimental safety event. The guy pushing turds 40 hours a week will surely wonder his efforts are more laborious and distracting while the other guys spends his time in leisure. The system as described does not compensate for the system as described. Then imagine that the fire fighter gets selected to have a child while the waste treatment worker gets denied.

A computer can not determine many traits. It can not determine how attentive as a parent you will be. What if a mother wants to work and a father prefers to be the caregiver. Who get to be the rock stars, artists, writers, and mimes? How do we determine who marries whom? What about divorce? As the authors of this piece mention, environment is everything. Psychology has shown that there is no more destructive environment for a child then that of separated parents. What about death of a citizen that is untimely. How does one compensate for unexpected loss of personnel to this system? What about the biggest issue on the global scale. Some people will not be happy if other people are allowed to have abortions. I could go on.

The irony of this thesis is that it ads “humanity”, concern, and care to the “things”, “the resources” that provide for humans. However, it treats humans as cold, indistinct, mounds of flesh. Humans are assumed to be non-individuals as moldable as children’s play dough.

It also understates adversity. Adversity is as much of a part of the human element as breathing. Imagine a story where there was no movement, no protagonist, no problems to overcome. The story would be indigestible. A culture like that would breed boredom and lack a feeling of purpose.

In the end, while this is a grand thought experiment, one thing that the authors did that is impossible is they started their “new world” with all the technology and knowledge gained from humanity to date, and moved it to a virgin new world. This world with be “staffed” by likeminded people who were self aware, supportive, and malleable in thought. That is not the world we have got. There are lessons from this plan that are useful in updating the system we have. For that it is to be commended as a body of work.

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