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2010-03-18 — Imagine — Globes

Thursday, March 18, 2010


by Tzaela Kotler

Money is an outdated concept that should be discarded, the world will be based on resources and not based on profits, anyone would be able to live anywhere they want and do whatever they want without having to work. The machines will work and engineers will govern, not politicians. Welcome to the future. Or not.

It's eight thirty in the evening on a sweaty Wednesday in March 2010. A good time to change the world, and at "Sub Kutz Scholarship" restaurant in the Florentine district, 25 young people who are determined to do so have gathered. A young woman named Spring, with fluorescent green dyed hair, takes a seat, Dor with with the wild hair sits down beside her, Tom Levy, the ponytailed redhead settles down, and, fashionably late, some fresh "India veterans" arrive slowly and are received with smiles.

Ophir Avigad, 23, opens the meeting and asks each person to introduce himself or herself and describe why he or she came here, to the place from which the message of the revolution will begin to spread. Shay says he is searching for the future, Oz is determined to do things more important than the daily routine, others say they just came to listen, while Joab with the thick sideburns humorously concludes "I'm here to meet girls."

Relax, it's not an audition for the next season of "Big Brother" or some other TV reality show. The youth of the Israeli branch of the global Zeitgeist movement are interested in reality itself. The ideological basis of the movement is a transition from a money-based economy to a resource-based economy, and in other words: a world without stock certificates, money-notes or coins in people's pockets, and without any financial interest. The monetary system, they claim, is not adequate for our times and harms humanity. Money is actually rolling debt, and the democratic model does not really allow freedom. According to their method, the answer for a corrected, civilized society lies in science and technology - and then there will be no more poverty, social gaps and wars. All that technology and science need to do is disconnect from commercial considerations, and provide access to the resources for all human beings, taking into consideration the environment, using renewable energy, and using advanced technology to manage and distribute the resources to enable abundance for everyone.

Sounds delusional? Not to over a thousand Israelis that are members in the movement and operate cells in Tel Aviv, Haifa and soon in Jerusalem too, and not to nearly 400 thousand activists around the world (see map on next page). The future, as has been widely laid-out on the movement's Web site, is designed around cities drowning in wild greenery, in round structures emerging from the sea, in clean and efficient transportation, and egg-shaped cars; images that seem to have been taken from a movie, and not coincidentally. The Zeitgeist Movement (Zeitgeist is 'the spirit of the times' in German) indeed started with the film created by the American activist Peter Joseph in 2007, that swept millions of viewers and fans across the World Wide Web. The film, with a conspiratorial nature, dealt with the sources of religion and the economic system, and raises questions regarding the interests that drive the global economy and world politics.

In light of this success, Joseph created a sequel in which he connected with Jacque Fresco, a 94-year-old scientist and industrial designer, who has conceived, created and is focused, over the last several decades, on the Venus project, conducted in Florida. The Project, in which Fresco himself resides, is a kind of a prototype for a city in a utopian world, that can exist provided that money, politics, property and the legal system will exit the equation of our lives. "The Venus project is different from all the models that existed before it," says Roxanne Meadows, Fresco's partner. "It's not similar to socialism, communism or fascism. Power is in the hands of the mass of humanity, the hindrance is that not enough people are familiar with the Venus project and are aware of it."

When, to your opinion, would the vision be realized?

"Maybe when a sufficient number of people lose their jobs and lose their homes, they will sober up and realize that the political leaders can not solve problems. Then they will start looking for other, alternative solutions".

"People will not buy houses"

It is easy to dismiss out of hand the highly alternative ideas offered by the members of the movement. Most people live their daily routine, and prefer fewer shocks in their lives, whatever the cost. The world that the young people gathered in Florentine yearn for, who on last Saturday marked, for the first time in Israel, ZDAY, the global Zeitgeist Day, is built for internalization. "In the Venus Project there is no property," says Yuval Katz, 25. "This concept is difficult for a person who grew up in the existing system to understand, and it sounds distant. People will not buy homes, because there would not be money, they just would choose their home and they would also be able to replace it when they would like to switch to a another home, based on their wishes. Because there would be no meaning to property, there will not be the desire, familiar to us today, to own the biggest and most expensive home. The demand would be for a house that would be appropriate for the person at a specific period, whether in the city or the village - whether a house suitable for the artist or the engineer. There is plenty of land, and there will be an abundance of housing."

Who will build the buildings? Who will pave the roads?

"There will be machines that would construct the buildings, and humans would oversee the process. This is what actually happens today - I stand on a roof in Tel Aviv and see tall buildings being constructed mostly by machines. The technology already exists and there is no need to invent it, so to a large extent we already are in the Venus Project. The problem is that it's simply expensive for the owners of the companies and there are commercial interests, so it does not materialize. To a large extent, the machines have already liberated us, it is us who have not liberated ourselves. "

It's all good and beautiful, but what would be the incentive for future engineers to put their mind to future developments and innovations if their actions would not have any economic horizons?

"The classic answer to that is open-source software. We see that today people contribute and develop something new for the benefit of humanity. Most people who study for a doctorate in mathematics, for example, know that a financial reward does not await them at the end, but they study the subject anyway."

Who's going to manage this society? Politicians? Mayors?

"No. Our conception of politics today and the payment of taxes is wrong. The reason we elect representative officials, whether for the state government or a municipality, is so that they would serve us, but it's not what happens. What has the Prime Minister done for you lately? Our taxes do not really return to us. It is not the politicians who build our roads, but rather the engineers who are planning and executing. The politicians may make decisions, but none of them is a professional or a scientist. Moreover, even for basic needs such as water and electricity, taxes and politics do not address our needs. And we all pay for these too."

If we cancel the money, then we would not be required to work for a living. What would the billions of human beings do?

"People do not lack things to do, we all have lots of hobbies, but people forget them because they work all their lives. The Venus Project encourages learning and mastering many areas; a person can learn both music and physics, he or she will have the freedom to do all of these on the road to true self-actualization, and there would still be jobs in society - such as supervising the machines".

But why would we want to work if we do not get rewarded?

"The remuneration we would receive is internal, a feeling that the person gives of himself or herself and as a result society sustains itself. People think it is a naive idea, but the fact is that Israel has tens of thousands of people in non-profit organizations and people get things done and contribute, despite the fact there is no monetary reward. I do not think people will miss the incentive to make money, and in the meantime, until we get there, you can reduce the work hours. "

What does that mean?

"You can see how in plants when new machinery is introduced, which replaces manual labor, they fire half the workers. Why fire? It is possible to keep all the workers and reduce the work hours, to give people freedom. Of course under the model of the Venus Project many professions will disappear from the world because these professions would be superfluous, for example advertising. Then these advertising professionals will perform work that is necessary and needed, and reduce the work burden on others. The media and communication professions will change too, and it is possible to see it happening already today, with the development of the Internet. "

And what about laws, would they all be eliminated?

"Our contention is that in an evolving, developing society there is no need for laws. Laws create negative conditioning, according to studies, and in a society that is truly advanced we should have seen a reduction in the number of laws. The only law I recognize is 'Do not hurt others', in the full variety of all its meanings."

What about wars and conflicts, chaos and anarchy, how do we solve it?

"One of the first things to do is share the wealth, then we will witness a reduction in aggression. Statistically, educated people are less violent, and when the society is more educated the entire society is less inclined to violence. So, first you have to share the abundance, provide food for everyone, and then provide education to all the people who demand it, then, statistically, the rates of violence in society are supposed to decline".

"Money is not correct in our time period"

It is difficult not to hear the words, draw a half smile at the corner of the mouth and establish that these are the words of dreamers that will never be realized. "But once they also claimed that humans would not get to the moon or fly," responds Tom Levy, 20 years old, "and then two people showed up, the Wright Brothers, who were actually bicycle technicians, and because they were not exposed to these limitations they succeeded in their endeavors. It's the same thing today: to a person living in a world full of wars, disease and hunger it seems impossible to live in a world devoid of all these, but this is due to lack of knowledge. Already today there is advanced technology controlled by the elite, there is peace in small pockets, and plenty of abundance in still smaller pockets. We are saying it is possible to deepen these pockets. Money was right for a certain period of human life, but it's not right anymore for our period of time."

"Like everyone else," continues Levi, who is also responsible for the Internet website of the movement in this country, "I became acquainted with the subject after I viewed the first film, which shocked my perception of reality. Then I watched the second movie, where the director succeeds in delivering a large motivation for change and solution. I took that message into my own hands, and simply started to establish every platform I could to join other people who share this vision."

"Many people realize that the present system is problematic," continues Katz. "I do not know of even a single person who claims that our way of life is wonderful. Everyone knows there are problems and that the current system is distorted, but we are not educated to seek solutions. The Venus Project and The Zeitgeist Movement encourage solutions."

"At one of the meetings a request was made that we provide a lecture at an alternative youth seminar," says Ophir Avigad. "We downloaded a presentation from the movement's global website and translated it. We provided a lecture in front of fourty youth, who drank the contents with a passion. After the first lecture we realized it was an excellent tool to convey the ideas, so we turned to Salon Mazal (Information Center for Social Change in Tel Aviv, T. K.) six months ago, and asked to deliver an additional lecture, to practice. Then the idea was floated to lecture in colleges and universities. I turned to the dean of Sapir College, we met, and although he was cynical about the ideas he provided us with a lecture room. We prepared a new lecture, and it was amazing. The students stayed two hours after it was over and asked more questions. We lectured as well at the University of Beersheba, in front of 65 students. In the upcoming Boombamela Festival and in the Activism Festival to be held in May, we will establish an information booth for the movement. My message to those interested is that it is not necessary to be in agreement with the ideas of Zeitgeist, but it is important to recognize them".

"What is special about lecturing to 16-17 year-olds," adds Katz, "is that although they have been quite embedded in the system and its methodology, there is still a portion of them who are used to learning new things. Adults find it more difficult to accept new ideas."

Moses Mankin, 27, who runs the Zeitgeist group on the social network Facebook, addresses the audience of those who raise their eyebrows: "The name of the movement is not that important, and even the Venus Project is not the main point. The main principle is to give a chance, to hear. Our group actually believes in providing a forum for every idea calling for progress, calling for improvement of living and quality of life. If someone has another idea or project that he thinks can do good things for people, why not come and hear him? Even if you think this idea goes against your way of life, it is possible that you may discover a better way. At least listen. " Convinced?