Tales of a chapter coordinator for TZM
I spent more than an hour today in discussion with someone in the Movement about their idea of what was missing from TZM's advocacy. I'll refer to this person as "Speaker A".
This long dialogue was prompted by a lengthy blog post Speaker A wrote based on his ruminations on transition steps towards an RBE. From the hints dropped in the first 15 minutes of conversation about "how do we get more people interested?", or by statements like "this is where I lose a lot of people after they agree to the idea of an RBE", it was clear to me Speaker A was stuck and it was having a negative impact on his experience as a coordinator. His underlying desire (I noticed) is for people en mass to come into a working understanding of TZM's train of thought and hence facilitate some larger group action in making things better, sooner than later. But as with all grass-roots volunteer efforts there are steps to creating any sort of group action. And the first, most overlooked step is there being enough people that are both aware of what the actual problem is and what the actual solutions are.
The "what" of his argument is secondary to the over-arching dynamic I was experiencing in this extended discussion. It could be ANY idea, so let's take a look at the structure of what happened because it can be applied to many situations...
Speaker A had an idea. The idea, he felt, was novel and missing within the understanding of everyone in the Movement and wanted our feedback during this meeting. Along with the trouble such epiphanies usually precede, what seemed lost on Speaker A was that he was given feedback from the group, and lots of it!
At the end of 90 minutes Speaker A thanked the group and said he'd be looking forward to our feedback. I made a half-joking/half-serious statement that "you've been receiving feedback for an hour and a half, how much more do you need to move forward or move on from this idea?" He said he'd still like feedback, written or spoken, over the next few weeks and that this topic was probably long from finished in it's discussion. (insert sigh from me)
The point I want to express is a distinction between feedback and agreement. The main element that kept the discussion going for so long was that Speaker A was not receiving "agreement" from the group and hence did not acknowledge what the group was trying to say as valid feedback to his idea. In effect, I felt that anything that was not seen as "agreement" was not acknowledge as valid "feedback" during the course of this discussion. And this is a common trait in the world of argument and something that wears people down whether intended or not.
I bring this 'agreement vs feedback' distinction up because it's a staple behavior exhibited by detractors and antagonizers from within the Movement itself. Or sometimes by someone that honestly doesn't understand the subject matter but is earnest about wanting to make a difference in the world. It's more problematic when the person does understand the subject matter but still exhibits this behavior.
When the person making a claim (or putting forth an idea) is not receiving "agreement" from the group, and then they persist and persist, and sometimes get louder & louder about their idea - all the while still waiting for feedback, then that person has lost sight of his ability to reason in this area.
Let's be honest here: Someone who asks for feedback, then is waiting to hear "agreement" so it can register as "valid" as far as feedback goes has fallen into a mind-lock of their own opinion on the matter. From what I've seen, people go after agreement like this so as to kickstart a political process of group manipulation by majority vote. And then uses the "argument of numbers" to justify an "argument of authority" as the basis for being right.
What I witnessed was a series of logical fallacies playing themselves out. A few of them being:
Argumentum ad numerum (argument or appeal to numbers). This fallacy is the attempt to prove something by showing how many people think that it's true. But no matter how many people believe something, that doesn't necessarily make it true or right in and of itself.
Argumentum ad nauseam (argument by repetition). This is the fallacy of trying to prove something by saying it again and again. But no matter how many times you repeat something it will not become any more or less true than it was in the first place. Of course it is not a fallacy to state the truth again and again; what is fallacious is to expect the repetition alone to substitute for real arguments. Repeated statements are perceived as more valid than novel ones because repetition imbues the statement with familiarity, which can create the illusion of being true.
Circulus in demonstrando (circular argument). Also known as Circular Reasoning. This occurs when someone uses what they are trying to prove as part of the proof of that thing. Circular arguments often appear in debate and are not always easy to spot, but are illegitimate arguments. The best strategy for pointing out a circular argument is to make sure you can state clearly the proposition being proven, and then pinpoint where that proposition appears in the proof. A good summing up statement is, "In other words, they are trying to tell us that X is true because X is true! But they have yet to tell us why it's true."
An example that I took from my long discussion today was that, "The essential problem with current economic system is how money is created, so we have to change how money is created." X is used to argue X.
I realize another thing prompting Speaker A's idea was his expressed desire to find a common point-of-reference when speaking to other groups (such as Occupy supporters) in the hopes of getting them to take a look at what TZM advocates. That's great, but in no way invalidates the need for advocating a sustainable social model. And the whole time Speaker A was coming back to one of the main points of why TZM exisits: Any larger-order idea is going to take a mass awarness, hence educational effort within the society. So if you're going to take that on, why only take it on to accomplish a small step of reforming a piece of the current economic system? Especially when you realize that system is becoming obsolete in creating efficiency, meeting human need, and solving problems when compared to the application of the scientific method to social concerns..
Many torrent files are no longer working right now due to the fact that in 2012 the US government, with support of the RIAA, and similar organizations, took action with the Ukraine government to take down the free, public torrent site known as Demonoid. This site was developed for free as a way to share files world wide. It was breath of fresh air since the developers were able to create a file-sharing site that was (more or less) free of viruses, fake torrents and the usual nasty business that you find on an open, public torrent site. Was there copyrighted content being shared? Yes there was. Was it hosted on Demonoid? No it wasn't. It was a private file-share from one person to another. But regardless, Demonoid itself was targeted and destroyed.
Now what is not discussed is the following: Was there non-commerical media created for free distribution being shared via Demonoid? YES!! Including most everything created by the Zeitgeist Movement (and other public movements) to be shared for free. But it goes to show how Power & Profits don't give shit about you or the benefits of shared public distribution.
The "piracy" argument is the rallying cry to justify these types of actions (aka corporate fascism). The dogma involved with this monetary ideology is simple, effective and widespread. But let's face it, it was a purely monetary motive to kill off this internet resource. And by doing so they removed one of the largest, most used, virus-free, public domain distribution sites in the world. A significant amount of content had been created by musicians, filmmakers, writers, authors, poets, bloggers, etc. and intended for free non-commercial distribution (including some of the files below). This sharing resource is now lost and the content non-downloadable via trackers created with Demonoid. Years of work and resources created through file-sharing by countless volunteers ripped from the web. New trackers will have to be created somewhere else. If you have any of the original torrent files linked below, please re-post & reseed on a new torrent site and send us the link info so we can share it.
Things will only get worse as draconian legislation (i.e SOPA NDAA, etc) work their way into existence from the need of power & profit, which manifest such outcomes in our current economic system. It's one thing to notice the corruption, it's quite different to realize it's systemic. Change the system or nothing will really change.
Often we encounter people (both supporters and critics) that end up in debate about how things should be in the world, what we should be fighting for, or what TZM should be doing instead of activism, or why things should just be plain different. Well, what I can say is that if a Resource-Based Economic Model comes to fruition it will be because enough people know about it, understand what's possible and demand it. What is not realistic however, is the pitfall that often occurs in debate/discussion with an opposing party where they make a TZM advocate responsible for predicting the future and describing in detail how a such large social change is going to happen (i.e. a transition). This is unrealistic, and is a trap that we often fall into when answering questions about what such a social model entails and how it could ever work.
If you identify as a supporter of TZM, then as an advocate for the direction there are some do's & don'ts I've picked up along the way that will help in any conversation or debate about our train-of-thought.
A. Know what the Movement actually claims it can do. It's good to remember that our role is NOT to make an RBE happen, or predict what is going to happen. Often we do not have a good answer on the "how will we get there?" questions. Often the responsibility for providing the 12-step program to an RBE (so-to-speak) is often projected onto us. Yet a change in one's values & beliefs is an internal process rather than an "out there somewhere" phenomena. So the role of the Movement is to spread information on what an RBE model IS and how to get there (aka education, aka activism) as more of a social immune system response. And this is currently done through a myriad of awareness actions & projects.
B. Know your science terms. This is part of knowing the material enough to be able to defend it in a conversation with a compelling degree of consensus to back up what you say. If you're going to make claims about a technical attribute, or specific technology or trend, you must have some data to backup what you're saying. Using the reference of "Peter Joseph said this", or "Jacque Fresco said that", or "Buckminster Fuller said such & such" is not data, it antagonizes the cult of personality and allows people an easy way out to shut you down and dismiss the information.
C. In scientific terms, an RBE model is a hypothesis supported by Inductive Reasoning. This is important because it's important to know to WHAT degree we are responsible for proving the claims we make to the public. We are not responsible for directly proving an RBE can work. We will only "know" it will work once we see it action through observation. Therefore, what we ARE responsible for is showing that the Premise of an RBE is solid, that such a model can work.
This model is based on component ideas. For Example: NASA scientists were not responsible for showing that the very first rocket launch was going to work before they launched it. They were responsible for showing what the components ideas of the rocket were and that the overall idea of the rocket appeared solid before they launched it.
D. Be willing to define your terms. This may be something that you do early on in any conversation. Part of your responsibility for showing that the Inductive Reasoning is solid involves defining your terms when addressing observations of the current system, i.e.:
what we mean by "not sustainable"
Defining what IS sustainable
Defining what is "progress"
How do you get to "what is sustainable"?
A. Whenever an advocate get hits with a question they cannot answer they sometimes respond the wrong way by saying something along the lines of "Do you own research!"... If you have to tell someone else to do their own research, YOU are the one that has not done enough research yourself. Never tell the other person that they have to take the initiative. That is not the responsibility of the other person (or group) when you're debating TZM's train of thought.
If you're not prepared to answer a question, at least be willing to take the challengers contact info and say "I will look into that and get back to you." Saying "I don't know" is one of the best things you can do, because it helps show your level of honesty and it keeps the channels of communication open.
B. Do not go unarmed with your information resources. Be prepared to have citations to backup what you're saying. The new TZM Orientation Guide has many links & footnotes to data sources, references, journals & statistics, etc to backup the observations and proposals made.
C. Do not simply make claims about an RBE along the lines of "there will be no government and no laws". This is incorrect and confusing. You might have heard someone like Jacque Fresco (of the Venus Project) make a statement to this effect, but meaning something very different from the fanciful surface impression one will often interpret. You may want to make distinct that a "law" is presently used as a deterrent to certain behaviors in society. In contrast, as with TZM's train-of-thought, the aim is to reduce the propensity for police, prisons and laws through a system's approach to social operation and problem solving.
Or similar if you state there would just be "no military". Again, this is confusing and hard to think of in today's world. Rather, the aim would be that military would evolve into non-violent, problem-solving applications: rescue, research, engineering, natural disaster relief, etc..
D. When using the term "artificial intelligence" be aware that this is a youthful technology that has yet to see a widespread, practical application in our social landscape. What Peter [Joseph] is talking about when speaking about modern technology, especially computer systems used in industry today, is that he's referencing the current state of computing, not some projection of A.I. He also presents what difference there could be by having the current state of computing working in application today rather than the cost-limited, non-integrated, stratified application of technology that we currently have.
E. When talking about "abundance" be sure to define your terms. We are talking about strategic access abundance through a "non-monetary limitation" in providing for human needs. This is where thinking in Systems* can help.
Even with these tips, I generally don't go into debate since our current use of debate tends to be a battle for dominance with someone being right and the loser being wrong. I find little use for such means as tool for changing one's values or the values of others. I want to thank Christopher Gray (aka Tanoro) of the Louisana Chapter for presenting this conversation at a USA Chapter meeting which this blogpost is based on. To further your understanding of the Zeitgeist Movement's train-of-thought, please download and read Part 1 of the new TZM Orientation Guide. Your own personal understanding is of this direction, coupled with your ability to communicate it to others, is where the value shift takes place, and then grows from there..
*In this context the word "Systems" is used to refer specifically to self-regulating systems that are self-correcting through feedback. Self-regulating systems are found in nature, including the physiological systems of our body, in local and global ecosystems, in the earth's climate, and in human learning processes.
While the debates fly between parties and their advocates, while heated political discourse flares between family, friends and co-workers; let's also remember that many things are going to remain the same after the election... For example: Prison rates will increase, inflation will continue, cancer rates will rise, pollution will worsen, stripping of natural resources will continue, wars will be waged, average reading levels remain low, water scarcity increase, social stratification increase, unemployment increase, waste & landfills grow, financial bubbles burst, major media conglomerates keep you exposed to filtered news, decline of the world's oil resource, Trillions in lobby money influence governments, and the myth that participation in the falsely derived duality of red & blue every four years is meaningful*..
Why do these conditions persist? If one takes the broad view it becomes evident that they are systemic outcomes... aka. produced by the social system itself.. Ask yourself this question: What are the overarching, established systems of social organization?... The largest one I find is presupposed as a given (like the law of gravitation) and put forth as "without alternative." I'm speaking of the monetary system in this example. And the set of values that is reinforced by our system is to 'accept & support' (usually without question) establishments that are perceived as presupposed (i.e. church, state, banks, nations, money etc.)
So if it is found that there IS a connection to these outcomes and the systems we're in (social & economic systems); then the causal mechanisms to such unwanted outcomes will remain unnoticed, undiscussed and unconsidered. Therefore; what is it you expect to really change after November 2012?
A change of personality every 4 years is not change, it is establishment self-preservation of the way things are.
Someone wrote me asking my view on an organization that pushing for a 4-hour workday. This member emailed me a link to the TZM blog that speaks about it (click here) Their specific question had to do with having TZM take up the cause of promoting a shorter workday...
Upon reviewing the materials I started writing a response and it turned into a blog post... So here goes:
As part of a transition strategy I can see how a reduction of work hours comes into play, not as premise (aka "the end itself"), but rather as an outcome of other monetary reforms which remove the mechanism of interest and stop the growth/consumption model. Slowing the need for consumption to increase GDP, reducing the need for human labor (i.e. automation), stopping the debt/inflation machine known as the "monetary system"... None of which I see in the work of the organization presented in the organization's website..
The other thing that jumps out at me is this claim: "The reduction in work time will be financed by increases in productivity. "
While the profit system is at play this is an assumption of largest order. The trend of technological unemployment is the displacing human labor faster than markets can find new employment for that labor, on the basis of 'cost effeciency'. Corporate charter (for the most part) is to exist at the profit of the shareholder rather than the hired help.. You may see altruism in pockets, but the reinforced behavior is the self-maximization of gain at the expense of "other". Along with the physical problem of cyclical consumption that is still cycling in the background. More can be said, but I'll leave it at that for now...
There is a thought exercise that one could engage in (which is purely a form of play on my part, rather than from any academic source): And that would be to break down the logic of our system from outcome to causality...
Cause of most negative retroactions in society that we deem persistent? (i.e. crime, poverty, poor health care, etc)
- There is a correlation of these problems in the economically wealthy countries in regards to economic stratification (aka income inequality). Finding this one might next ask:
- What makes a society stratified?
Class is an outcome of the market system, as implemented. By money being made upon money itself (interest earned on deposits) by taking in usury on those that cannot afford their means (aka loans/credit) who make the interest payments..
This inequality is built into the structure (or could be called "structural classism")
How do you address such a structure problem?
Find it's root. In this case it's a systemic problem..
What comprises "the system"?
belief, agreements, ways of thinking, doctrines etc. that keep the social order in place.
How do you address a value system that supports an established order?
Big questions like this are outside the scope of an email, but I hope you get my train of thought...
Mandates within the system will probably do little (as shown historically) to instigate such sweeping changes. It's going to take a combination of pressures on the system, on people, and certain failures of held doctrines to get people into problem-solving mode that is uninhibited by ego-associations (aka one's identity).
If I remember correctly Peter touches upon these topics in both his (very short) TEDx talk and also at more length in a couple of lectures. I can't get the show to link but go to http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/btr-tzm-global-radio-blog/id334102952?mt=2 and listen to 10/27/2010 "The Transition".
In the end, if you're going to go for a global mass awareness campaign (as this proposal states), why stop at patchwork, just go all the way and address the root-cause while you're at it....