Social Pathology, 2010 Lecture, The Zeitgeist Movement, TRANSCRIPT FULL Below.
Social Pathology Peter Joseph 2011
March 13th 2010, New York City
By Peter Joseph
I’ve entitled this “Social Pathology.” I decided to use the metaphor of disease to describe the current state of social affairs and the trends it foreshadows and perpetuates. I was first introduced to this idea of relating social state to a cellular state by a man named John McMurtry who wrote a book called “The Cancer Stage of Capitalism.” The rationale is pretty simple. Just as human beings have to deal with pathogens invading and harming their life system so too does the social system we all share. Of course, these societal diseases are not generated by ways of physical germs or the like.
Rather, they come in the form of presupposed principles of preference cultural “memes” that transfer from one to another based on values and hence, belief systems. These “memes” or patterns of perspective and behavior are what eventually result from or comprise the cultural manifestations around us such as the ideas of democracy Republicans, Democrats, the American Dream, etc. In Chapter One we will examine the symptoms and hence diagnose the current stage of disease we are in.
Then in Chapter Two we will establish a prognosis meaning what can we expect from the future as the current pathogenic patterns continue. And finally, in Chapter Three, we will discuss treatment for our current state of sickness and this is where the concept of a Resource-Based Economy will be initially examined. However, as an introduction to this I am first going to describe what I call the “invisible prison”. This is the closed, intellectual feedback system that consistently slows or even stops new socially altering concepts from coming to fruition. [It] stops progress. Let me explain.
The social order, as we know it, is created out of ideas either directly or as a systemic consequence. In other words, somebody somewhere did something which generated a group interest, which then led to the implementation of a specific social component, either in a physical form philosophical form, or both. Once a given set of ideas are entrusted by a large enough group of people, it becomes an institution.
And once that institution is made dominant in some way while existing for a certain period of time that institution can then be considered an establishment. Institutional establishments are simply social traditions given the illusion of permanence. In turn, the more established they become the more cultural influence they tend to have on us including our values, and hence, our identities and perspectives. It is not an exaggeration to say that the established institutions governing a person’s environment is no less than a conditioning platform to program that person with a specific set of values required to maintain the establishment.
Hence, we’re going to call these “established value programs”. I have found the analogy of computer programming to be a great way to frame this point. While there is always a debate about genetics and environmental influence which Roxanne Meadows will go into at length later in the program it’s very easy to understand in the context of values meaning what you think is important and not important that information influences or conditioning is coming from the world around you. Make no mistake, every intellectual concept which each one of us finds merit with is the result of a cultural information influence one way or another. The environment is a self-perpetuating programming process and just like designing a software program for your computer each human being is, advertently and inadvertently programmed into their world view.
To continue the analogy, the human brain is a piece of hardware and the environment around you constitutes the programming team which creates the values and perspective. Every word you know has been taught to you one way or another. Every concept and belief you have is a result of this same influence. Jacque Fresco once asked me “How much of you is you?” The answer is kind of a paradox for either nothing is me, or everything is me when it comes to the information I understand and act upon. Information is a serial process, meaning the only way that a human being can come up with any idea is through taking in dependent information that allows that idea to be realized.
We appear to be culturally programmed from the moment we come into this world to the moment we die and I’m not going to drill in it much more than that. However, consequently, the cultural attributes we maintain as important values are most often the ones that are reinforced by the external culture. I’m going to say that again. The most dominant cultural attributes maintained are the ones that are reinforced by your environment. If you are born into a society which rewards competition over collaboration then you most likely will adopt those values in order to survive. The point is, we are essentially bio-chemical machines.
While the integrity of our machine-processing power and memory is contingent, in part, on genetics the source of our actions come fundamentally from the ideas and experiences installed on our mental hardware by the world around us. However, our biological computer, the human mind has an evolutionarily-installed operating system with some seemingly difficult tendencies built in which tends to limit our objectivity and, hence, our rational thought process. This comes in the form of emotional inclinations. You know, I’m sure many people here have heard the phrase “Be objective!” No human being can be fully objective. That’s one of the important things I learned, actually, from Mr. Fresco.
Therefore, there’s a very common propensity for us humans to find something that works for our needs given the social structure, and then to hold on to it for dear life regardless of new conflicting information which might rationally expect a logical change to occur. Change tends to be feared, for it upsets our associations. And, by the way, when it comes to maintaining income in the monetary system, you see this propensity in full force which I will talk about a lot more later.
Therefore, any time someone dares to present an idea outside of or contrary to the establishment programming the reaction is often a condemning of the idea as blasphemy or undermining, or a conspiracy, or simply erroneous. For example, in the academic world investigation often becomes confined to self-referring circles of discourse: closed feedback loops which assume that the foundational assumptions of their schools of thought are empirical and only these experts, as defined by their established credentials are considered viable authorities therein often dominating influence over the public opinion.
This is a doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis and please excuse my lack of Hungarian pronunciation but he was a physician who lived in the mid 1800’s who performed childbirths. Through a series of events, he realized a pattern that there was a relationship with the transfer of disease and the fact that the doctors of the times never washed their hands after performing autopsies. The doctors of the time would handle dead bodies in the lower elements of the hospitals and then they would go up and they would perform childbirths without washing their hands.
So, this doctor, realizing this pattern he started to tell his colleagues about this. He said “You should wash your hands before doing this before performing any type of surgery or childbirth especially after handling a dead body.” He was laughed at. He was laughed at and ignored. He published papers and they were dismissed and ridiculed. And after many years of trying this issue, he was finally committed to a mental institution, where he died.
It was many years after his death when Louis Pasteur developed the germ theory of disease that his observations were finally understood and people realized what a horrible mistake had been made. In the words of John McMurtry, professor of philosophy in Canada “In the last dark age, one can search the inquiries of this era’s preserved thinkers from Augustine to Ockham and fail to discover a single page of criticism of the established social framework however rationally insupportable feudal bondage, absolute paternalism divine right of kings, and the rest may be.” In the current final order, is it so different?
Can we see in any media, or even university press a paragraph of clear unmasking of the global regime that condemns a third of all children to malnutrition with more food than enough available? In such an order, thought becomes indistinguishable from propaganda. Only one doctrine is speakable, and a priest caste of its experts prescribe the necessities and obligations to all. Social consciousness is incarcerated within the role of a kind of ceremonial logic operating entirely within the received framework of an exhaustively-prescribed regulatory apparatus protecting the privileges of the privileged.
Methodical censorship triumphs in the guise of scholarly rigor and the only room left for searching thought becomes the game of competing rationalizations.” People tend not to criticize the social order because they are bound within it. We are running a thought program which has been installed on our mental hardware which inherently controls our frame of reference.
To use a different analogy, it’s like they’re in a game and the idea of questioning the integrity of the game itself rarely occurs. In fact, members of society often become so indoctrinated by their socially acceptable norms, that each person’s very meaning is framed by the dominant established value system and the interpretation of new information is consciously, or even sub-consciously, prefiltered to be consistent with their prior biases. Now, this basic idea understood let’s hone our focus and briefly consider this mind-lock phenomenon as you could call it in the context of economics specifically, market economics.
Actually, a more accurate term at this stage would be ‘economic theology’. For, as this presentation will explore the majority of people on this planet not only have no idea how they are being affected negatively by the market economy at large, they actually, on average hold a steadfast commitment to its principles based on nothing more than the traditional indoctrination. I got an email once that said to me “If you’re against the free market, you’re against freedom.” (Laughter) And naturally, I shuddered at this state of mind control that the dominant established orthodoxy has successfully imposed. Of course, this is how power is maintained and has been maintained by the dominant established orthodoxies since the beginning of time. And the trick, again, is to condition people so thoroughly into the established value systems, that any thought of an alternative is inherently ruled out without critical examination.
And to show how deeply pervasive this phenomenon is you will notice that virtually all the activist organizations in the environmental, social, and political movements of the day always exclude the market system itself as a determinant of harmful effects. It doesn’t even occur to them. Instead, they focus on individuals and certain groups or corrupt corporations and while it is needed in a per-case basis to target problematic areas it avoids the mechanism which is essentially creating the problem.
This is the fatal flaw of what’s happening in the so-called activist community today. And, as will be firmly and clearly established over the course of this presentation the greatest destroyer of ecology; the greatest source of waste and pollution; the greatest purveyor of violence, war, crime inhumanity, poverty, and social distortion; the greatest generator of social and personal neurosis mental disorders, depression, anxiety; and the greatest source of social paralysis stopping us from moving into new methodologies for global sustainability and hence progress on this planet is not some government. It’s not some legislation. It’s not some rogue corporation or monopoly or cartel.
It’s not some flaw of human nature. It is, in fact, the economic system itself at its very foundation. The market system, monetary system, free market capitalist structure, whatever you want to call it is not only the source of some of the greatest social problems we face today it is also setting us up for what could be called the terminal stage of this disease where the pathogenic social value cancer has mutated and multiplied to a point where we are now faced with nothing less than the death or collapse of modern civilization as we know it.
Now please understand I’m not a doom’s day theorist. I’m not here looking for general knee-jerk emotional reactions to say it’s the end of the world. It doesn’t take a genius to see where the trends are going the trends that the media won’t talk about and given the pattern of political, economic and environmental negligence and abuse we are on a collision course, which I will explain as we continue. Are there solutions to these problems?
Yes, there are. But they are so far outside of the status quo and a threat to those in power, both politically and economically that they are just outright dismissed as irrational and absurd. The self-appointed guardians of the status quo won’t even hear it because it’s far outside of their reference and identity. Here’s a few examples of some of the things that are currently happening. And there’s many more. These are just a few that have popped up in the mainstream media. This is where The Zeitgeist Movement comes in. I’m really sorry to say we can no longer rely on government institutions to steer us in the right direction. Every government on this planet is locked into an economically-oriented social program which is self-serving, unsustainable and destructive to one degree or another.
The possibility of a smooth transition into a new enlightened social design which does not have the negative by-products which I’m going to talk about is extremely limited given the options made available in the current order: meaning the legal system, the political system, etc. Likewise, we can no longer endure the profit-driven ethos of the corporate and financial powers which control all of our precious resources on the planet resources we all need for survival. Society today is sick and the illness permeates all life systems within it and I see The Zeitgeist Movement as the immune system of the social world, if you will. [applause] Thank you. Chapter one: Diagnosis.
Before I begin this analysis of the social condition we need to first consider the problem of value and cultural relativism. People today tend to think that their ideas are equal to others’ ideas regardless of supportive information. This obsession with opinion has created a frame of reference for so many people today which has no physical referent where evidence becomes inconvenient and ultimately, people think that everything is equal. And you get this argument a lot. I’m sure you’ve all experienced this. It’s a very, very specific point.
Everyone is not equal in their opinion. It’s impossible, as quaint and convenient as such a concept might seem. The ultimate question becomes “What actually deserves belief?” What is important to everyone on this planet and how do we maintain our well-being, both personally and socially, in a sustainable way? What is the indisputable common ground which can all be agreed on in a world of Christians Muslims, Capitalists, Socialists, Atheists, Anarchists Scientologists, Republicans? What can we all agree on? Well, here’s one thing that’s universal: being healthy versus being sick. Being healthy is a preferred value preference, you could say. Normal versus pathological states hence healthy versus diseased states provide an incontrovertible value basis for all individuals and societies.
Virtually all people in all societies prefer to be alive and healthy, last I checked. There is no cultural relativism about whether having good food to eat staying away from cancer, or having unpolluted water to drink is a good value to have. Therefore, our analysis of the health of society is not going to be based on GDP consumer price index, the state of the stock market, economic growth unemployment levels or employment levels, free trade agreements or any other commonly referenced economic attribute used to claim that society is “improving” or “growing”. Instead, we will examine things that actually matter such as rates of disease, poverty social capital, trust conflicts, corruption, planetary depletion, pollution murder rates, life expectancy, educational performance imprisonment rates, drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, etc.
These are things that actually matter. So let’s begin. Contrary to popular belief evidence now shows that our early human ancestors which predate the Neolithic Revolution really didn’t live in a state of perpetual conflict and extreme scarcity as many anthropologists, early on, had assumed. In fact, Hunter-Gatherer societies were a very unique arrangement immersed in both a restrictive yet self-regulating environmental paradigm. Before the advent of agriculture, there was very little control over what was available: You didn’t have agriculture. You couldn’t control the environment.
So, what happened is a natural balance was in order. And the societies themselves seemed to reflect this balance by having, in fact, non-hierarchical, non-competitive leaderless social structures. In fact, it has been found that their value systems their social values were essentially based on equality, altruism and sharing. And they literally forbid upstart-ism, dominance aggression and egoism. We know this today because of anthropological research done on remaining hunter-gatherer societies around the world such as the Piraha . . . out of Brazil.
Amazingly it appears (and this is an important point for anyone that tells you that the current system is natural) that for well over 90% of the human species’ existence on this planet as we know it we were within social organizations that did not use money that did not have hierarchy, and they even had “counter-dominance strategies” where the majority would work together to shut down any individual that was trying to gain power and control. Pretty much the reverse of what we have today. The Neolithic Revolution changed all of that. It provided human beings with an ability to control their environment more intently. The sustenance of life could now be cultivated essentially at will.
Now, while this advent would appear as a profound benefit to all it also introduced some pesky social problems as a result of conditioning attributes which we still deal with today. In the view of anthropologist and Professor of Neurology at Stanford University, Dr. Robert Sapolsky “Hunter-Gatherers have thousands of wild sources of food to subsist on. Agriculture changed all of that, generating an overwhelming reliance on a few dozen food sources. Agriculture allowed for the stockpiling of surplus resources and thus, inevitably, the unequal stockpiling of them stratification of society and the invention of classes. Thus, it has allowed for the invention of poverty.”
Since this dramatic change in the structure of human society the creation of imbalances has continued and social stratification and income inequality are now staples of the modern world, as we all know. In fact, many who are unfamiliar with human history would probably consider these attributes again to be part of some natural human order. It’s so pervasive today. We have gone from food cultivation, to commodity bartering to gold exchange, to metal-backed certificate exchange to fiat currency. We went from a system with values reflective of true natural processes to a system of values based on certificates of ownership traded for income on their own, virtually… I would say not even virtually, completely decoupled from physical resources. And we have come from a world based on necessity and social drive for preservation and sustainability to a world based on strategic manipulation pointless materialism and an obsession with property and ownership.
In the words of historian, philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau “The first man who, after enclosing a piece of ground took it into his head to say “This is mine” and found people simple enough to believe him was the real founder of civil society. How crimes, wars, murders how many misfortunes and horrors would that man have saved the species who pulling up stakes or filling up the ditches should have cried to his fellows “Beware of listening to this impostor. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the Earth belong to us all and the Earth itself, to nobody.” Moreover, scarcity is now a driving force for commerce.
In our system, scarcity equals profit. The less there is of something, the more it can be valued in terms of money. In other words, abundance is a negative thing in a profit system. In the words of anthropologist Marshall Sahlins “The market industrial system institutes scarcity in a manner completely unparalleled and to a degree nowhere else approximated where production and distribution are arranged through the behavior of prices and all livelihoods depend on getting and spending. Insufficiency of material means becomes the explicit, calculable starting point of all economic activity.”
Likewise, I would like to point out, as a simple aside that the money supply in America, at all times has less in value than the outstanding transactions required. In other words, there isn’t and never will be in the American money supply or most other money supplies on the planet enough money in existence at any one time to cover the outstanding transactions within the economy. Money is created out of debt, through loans. And interest is charged for those loans whether it is government bonds or a personal home equity loan. If every single debt was called in right now in our economy there would be an enormous amount of money that is literally impossible to pay back in domestic currency.
This is a central reason why stratification and inequality is literally built into our system: the inherent scarcity of the money supply itself. Imagine that. In this system, bankruptcy isn’t some irregular by-product that negligent people just happen to stumble into it is an inevitable built-in attribute. It’s a game of musical chairs. I hope that’s clear. In the words of economist Bernard Lietaer a great quote “Greed and competition are not the result of immutable human temperament. Greed and fear of scarcity are in fact being continuously created and amplified as a direct result of the kind of money we are using.
We can produce more than enough food to feed everybody but there is clearly not enough money to pay for it all. The scarcity is in our national currencies. In fact, the job of the central banks is to create and maintain that scarcity. The direct consequence is that we have to fight with each other in order to survive.” That last sentence really defines so much. “The direct consequence is that we have to fight with each other in order to survive.”
The consequence of these mechanisms is, again, extreme social imbalance and hence, social stratification. With this understood, let’s now consider the state of income inequality within the world. In 2005 the jolly folks at Citigroup put out a memo to its wealthiest clients in regard to the state of what they called the “Plutonomy” and the opening summary on this is very, very clear. “The world is divided into two blocks: the Plutonomy and the rest. The US, the UK, and Canada are the key Plutonomies economies powered by the wealthy.” A Plutonomy is defined as a society where the majority of the wealth is, of course, controlled by an ever-shrinking minority.
And as such, the economic growth of that society becomes dependent on the fortunes of the wealthy minority and not the rest of the people. Keep that in mind. They then go and ask the question “What are the drivers of Plutonomy?” They state “Disruptive technology driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation capitalist-friendly cooperative governments an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation *cough* SLAVE LABOR *cough* [Laughter] the rule of law and patenting inventions.
Often these wealth waves involve great complexity exploited best by the rich and educated of the time.” The basic point of this document is the understanding that the average consumer is essentially meaningless to the equity markets. For the super-wealthy, trading amongst themselves account for the state of the economy overall. They state “In a Plutonomy there’s no such animal as ‘the US consumer’ or ‘the UK consumer’ or, indeed, ‘the Russian consumer’.
There are rich consumers, few in number, but disportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the ‘non-rich’, the multitudinous many but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.” They continue “This is why, for example we worry less about the impact of high oil prices on aggregate consumption. Clearly high oil prices are a burden for most parts of our communities. However, without making any moral judgment income inequality, being what it is just makes this group less relevant to the aggregate data. The conclusion?
We should worry less about the average consumer say the 50th percentile, what they’re doing when that consumer is (we think) less relevant to the aggregate data than how the wealthy feel and what they are doing. This is simply a case of mathematics, not morality.” You’ve got to hand it to them for being honest. Now, before I go any further, let me clarify a bit. Plutonomy, as the Citigroup documents describe and these are very long-winded documents is of course the state of extreme imbalance, so extreme in certain countries that the investment community has little regard for the average person’s consumption habits.
In other words, the preference mutation has occurred as a result of the financial incentive system where the consumption patterns of the general population become nearly obsolete in the interest of the wealthy where they, the wealthy elite, the Plutonomy, can now just trade amongst themselves and forget about the lower classes. In other words, so much money is being moved around between the rich that the public consumption patterns are nearly irrelevant. This, of course, makes sense when you think about the methods used to gauge health of the economy which are supposed to be relating to everyone.
GDP is basically calculated by how much money people spend or make on a given good or service. So, using the example of net worth if you have the top 1% controlling 35% of the financial wealth in America with the next 19% controlling 50% leaving the bottom 80% with 15% you have 20% of the American population controlling 85% of the money. And this is what Citigroup figured out. This very small section of the population is what actually powers everything. What this means is that the financial system has little incentive, inherently to care about the actions or well-being of 80% of the public.
And since we all know that the financial system is the most powerful influence on most governments in the world especially the US government, you begin to see that the only concern the ruling class has with regard to the majority of the population is merely to keep us complacent enough so a backlash does not occur. And I’m not projecting this. Citigroup makes us very aware of this, explicitly, when they state “We see the biggest threat to Plutonomy as coming from a rise in political demands to reduce income inequality spread the wealth more evenly and challenge forces such as globalization which have benefited profit and wealth growth.” But, don’t worry, they are not too concerned.
“Our conclusion? The 3 levers governments and societies could pull on to end Plutonomy are benign. Property rights are generally still intact taxation policies neutral to favorable and globalization is keeping the supply of labor in surplus acting as a brake on wage inflation.” They summarize: “The heart of our Plutonomy thesis: that the rich are the dominant source of income, wealth and demand in plutonomy countries such as the UK, US, Canada and Australia countries that have an economically liberal approach to wealth creation.
We believe the actions of the rich and the proportion of rich people in an economy helps explain many of the nasty conundrums and fears that have vexed our equity clients recently such as global imbalances or why high oil prices haven’t destroyed demand. Plutonomy, we think, explains these problems away and tells us not to worry about them. Secondly, we believe the rich are going to keep getting richer in coming years. As capitalists (the rich) get an even bigger share of GDP as a result, principally, of globalization. We expect the global pool of labor in developing economies to keep wage inflation in check and profit margins rising good for the wealth of capitalists relatively bad for developed market unskilled/outsource-able labor.
This bodes well for companies selling to or servicing the rich.” Sorry to pull you through all of that long-winded text but I hope it settles in what people at the top are really thinking about behind the financial system. And they are likely right. The rich are going to get richer. The current economic decline that we are in now really doesn’t mean anything to the top 20%. It’s the 80% that continue to suffer. But hey, who cares? Evidently the top 20% power the economy anyway and I’m not even going to go into what this means in regard to our naive assumptions of democracy in the modern world. In fact, in the words of former Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis (I believe is how you pronunciate it) “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both.”
Now, I bring all of this up as an introduction to what we are going to talk about in regards to social health. Coupled with this, however, I think a few stats should be digested. In 2007, chief executives of the largest 365 US companies received well over 500 times the pay of the average employee. In many of these top companies the chief executive is paid more in one day than the average worker makes in a year. The Wal-Mart family, which is about 6 people, the Waltons has a combined fortune estimated at about 90 billion dollars in 2009, according to Forbes. The combined wealth of the lower 40% of the US population is only $95 billion.
Also, the highest paid jobs on the planet are in fields of trading and investment, occupations which have no meaning whatsoever. [They] create nothing. They are pointless to the state of society in the natural world. In 2005, the average annual “take home” pay for managers of the top 26 hedge funds, aka gambling casinos was $363 million each! Compare that to the average medical doctor which makes about a $150,000 a year and the biological research scientists, which are looking for cures and treatments for diseases which makes only about $68,000 a year. You get the point. Income inequality is here.
It is growing, and it appears to be unstoppable when you look at the mechanisms of the financial markets and the culturally accepted reality of tremendous wage differentials among different fields. So now, we present the question. What does this mean to our health, to our well-being? Ground-breaking research by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Picket of the UK in the area of social inequalities in health and the social detriments of health has given us some profound realizations about what it means to have a society based and driven by inequality. To summarize this ground-breaking research, the common view that social problems are caused directly by singular material conditions such as bad housing, poor diets or lack of educational opportunities is being overturned.
The idea that more wealthy societies do better than poorer societies in regard to health in general, is not the case. The social problems abundant in rich, highly-stratified countries are largely caused by the scale of material differences between people within society itself. The problem is not absolute income, but rather the problem of relative income. If you compare groups of people with the same income in different countries you’ll find that those in more unequal countries do much worse than those in more equal countries with the same income.
It appears to be a psycho-social phenomenon. Inequality seems to make countries socially dysfunctional. And as based on measures of societal health, crime rates, and well-being it is safe to say, as you will see me point out that really our current structure is nothing more than a social failure. Life expectancy. On this chart we see a specific set of wealthy countries. I apologize for those that can’t read this in the back. I’ll do my best to point out what is going on here. Basically, the Y-axis you see is life expectancy and the X-axis is income inequality going from left to right, low to high. Life expectancy bottom to top of course, low to high.
As you can see in this, Japan has the lowest amount of income inequality but with a staggeringly high life expectancy. While Singapore, trumping only the United States in this particular set of countries analyzed, which are mostly wealthy countries has the greatest income inequality and the regression line in the middle shows clearly how the patterns moving from lower inequality to greater inequality reduces the life expectancy of all of these countries. Drug use.
We see the United States as having the highest level of inequality based on the sample set while also being within the top 4 of countries with the most illegal drug use: US, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK. While in the lower echelon you have Japan, Sweden and Finland which have the least amount of inequality and the least drug use. Greece is in there too. It’s the trends that are important here. You can see the clear regression line. I want to expand on this particular one. The reasoning for this: There was a study done in 2002 with macaque monkeys. In the study, 20 monkeys were observed and analyzed in regard to social hierarchies that developed in different circumstances noting which animals were dominant and which were subordinate. The result was that the monkeys that had become dominant had more dopamine activity in their brain than they had exhibited before they became dominant, while the monkeys that became subordinate showed very little changes in their brain chemistry.
In turn, after teaching the monkeys how to administer cocaine to themselves through levers, it was found that the subordinate monkeys took in much more cocaine than the dominant monkeys. In other words, it’s a form of self-medication. Let’s continue onto mental illness. Mental illness is much more common in more unequal countries. Once again we have the US at the peak of mental illness. We have Japan at the lowest echelon. As you can see from this chart, mental illness and inequality are very much correlated. A quick glance at SSRI antidepressant drug visits to doctors’ offices among adults 18 years of age or older in the United States from 1995 to 2002 shows a clear trend of growing dependencies on antidepressants.
The most common type of disorders of course are anxiety and depression. A psychologist by the name of Jean Twenge did an interesting study which proved that Americans are much more anxious than they used to be. A survey of college students from 1952 to 1993 across 52,000 students found that students today were more anxious than 85% of the population at the beginning of the study, meaning 1952. By the late 1980s, the average American child was more anxious than the child psychiatric patients of the 1950’s.
As far as depression, a study called “Time trends in adolescent mental health” found that in Britain depression among people in their mid 20’s was found to be twice as common in a study of 10,000 or so people born in 1970: 10,000 people study, twice as common in 1970 as it was in 1958. It also found that in general, psycho-social disorders affecting young people have risen substantially over the past 50 years. In Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain 1 in 10 are deemed “mentally ill” in a year. In the UK it’s 1 in 5, and in the US it’s 1 in 4. Across entire populations, rates of mental illness are 5 times greater in the most unequal countries compared to the least [un]equal. Now, of course, I know what you’re saying “What about genetics?” I think Richard Wilkinson summed it up very well. “Although mental illness can be affected by changes in the levels of certain chemicals in the brain nobody has shown that these are actually causes of depression rather than changes caused by depression.
Although some genetic vulnerability may underlie some mental illness this cannot by itself explain the huge rise in illness in recent decades. Our genes cannot change that fast.” And let’s move on to the idea of trust. Another word for this is social capital. Social capital is defined as an attitude, spirit or willingness of people to engage in collective civic activities hence, there’s a strong trust-relationship. As you can see in the chart, those that feel they can trust one another are much more common, naturally in societies that have less inequality. This of course is beyond obvious, as I’m sure many would agree. Naturally, with greater inequality, people are less caring of one another.
In fact, mistrust and inequality, I think, reinforce each other. Now, this point is probably enough for a one-hour lecture in and of itself: What is a society if people cannot trust each other? It’s important to realize that the idea of friendship and the notions that couple in with friendship which is ultimately a quality of trust is a characteristic completely opposed to the competition mentality and the economic theories of self-interest we see today. Empathy, reciprocation, and cooperation equates to good health while suspicion, fight, competition always equates to high levels of stress and hence destruction.
As we’ll talk about in a second, stress is one of the deadliest killers that we know of. It’s a secret killer. And living in a society where you have to look over your shoulder and where you have to fight for everything that you have; where you have to question virtually every transaction given the initial assumption that the person might be trying to pull one over on you for their own betterment; the fact of the matter is, we thrive socially on trust and cooperation provably by health standards. And social structures which create relationships based on inequality inferiority, and social exclusion are inflicted with the greatest deal of social pain and neuroses. Let’s move on to educational scores. This one’s very interesting. Not only do more unequal countries have worse educational attainment kids are more likely to drop out of school, as well. Interestingly, class distinctions and their effect have become very obvious in this regard.
For example, a study was done in 2004 where they took 321 high-caste Indian boys and put them with 321 low-caste Indian boys and they were given a task of solving a certain problem. The first time they did this, the caste relationship the social status, was not announced to these children. They had no idea who was around them. And you can see the caste unannounced (low caste) actually beat the high caste. The second time they did it, the results were dramatically skewed as the lower caste did much worse than before while the higher caste did better. This is psychological. It’s a psycho-social inferiority-superiority relationship that has been repeated many times in many cases through other studies which has the exact same consequence. People are greatly affected by their perceived status in society. When we expect to be viewed as inferior, very often we perform as such.
Homicide Rates As you can see, the United States blows everything out of the water when it comes to homicide rates. And obviously, if you look at the regression trend homicide rates are naturally more common in unequal societies. In fact, violence itself is probably the most established attribute of social inequality over any of the things that we’re talking about in these examples. James Gilligan, who was a prison psychiatrist for 25 years and he is currently director for the Center for Study of Violence at Harvard University, had this to say about his experience dealing with violent criminals to the extensive length that he has: “The prison inmates I work with have told me repeatedly when I asked them why they have assaulted someone that it was because ‘he disrespected me’. The word disrespect is central in the vocabulary, moral value system and psycho-dynamics of these chronically violent men. I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated disrespected and ridiculed and did not represent an attempt to prevent or undo this ‘loss of face’ no matter how severe the punishment.
For we misunderstand these men at our peril if we do not realize they mean it literally when they say they would rather kill or mutilate others, be killed than live without pride, dignity, and self-respect. They literally prefer death to dishonor.” It’s really easy to see how class relationships and hence income inequality, can translate into feelings of humiliation loss of control, disrespect, and ridicule. When someone loses their job, it’s often demoralizing. They say “Oh, my husband’s unemployed.” And that’s a demoralizing thing “Oh, he’s… unemployed…” After all, the very nature of class is hierarchical.
In other words, the upper class really looks down upon the lower class, historically speaking. And to be looked down upon is essentially humiliating. Therefore, it should be no surprise why the US has the largest number of homicides in the world, given its extreme income inequality. And this leads us to rates of imprisonment. The trend is very acute as well. Obviously as we can see imprisonment rates are much higher in unequal countries. The more unequal the country, the more people in prison. However, what is interesting about this reality is that it doesn’t just relate to rates of crime, which of course is more prevalent in unequal societies but it also has to do with the punitive attitudes toward the so called “criminal elements of society”. In other words, the more unequal the society the harsher the punishments are for a given offense.
And hence, more people are put into prison for longer periods of time than they are in more equal countries. Since 1984 the state of California has built one new school and 20 new prisons. As an aside, for those out there who think the prison system might serve some therapeutic rehabilitation role in the modification of human beings and human behavior I would like to refer back once again to our prison psychiatrist James Gilligan for his perspective. He states “The most effective way to turn a nonviolent person into a violent one is to send him to prison. The criminal justice and penal systems have been operating under a huge mistake; namely, the belief that punishment will deter, prevent or inhibit violence when in fact it is the most powerful stimulant of violence we have yet discovered.”
Now, here’s a very interesting one: Social Mobility. Social Mobility has to do with the class relationship that you have upon your birth and how easy it is for you to move up out of that class or lower than that class during your life. In other words, if you’re born into poverty, how much of a possibility do you have to become wealthy? As you can see by this chart, the United States home of the “American Dream” has the lowest mobility rate of all the countries in the sample set. There are very high odds that if you are born into poverty, you will stay in poverty.
Likewise, if you are born into great wealth you will stay wealthy most likely for the rest of your life. And if you think about it, it’s really a form of class segregation. This reality can be blamed, in part on the very mechanisms of our financial system which keeps the lower classes poor and the upper classes rich, deliberately. As a quick example of this, which I’ve stated before but I think it’s a very important example if you have one million dollars and you put it into a C.D. at a bank at 5% interest, you are going to generate $50,000 a year simply for that deposit. You are making money off of money itself, paper made on paper nothing more, no invention, no contribution to society, nothing.
That being denoted, if you are a lower to middle class person who is limited in funds, which must get an interest-based loan like most people, to buy their home or use credit cards then you are paying interest to the bank which the bank is then using, in theory to pay the person’s return with the 5% C.D. Not only is this equation outrageously offensive, due to the use of interest to steal from the poor and give to the rich but it also perpetuates class stratification by its very design keeping the lower classes poor, under the constant burden of debt while keeping the upper classes rich with the means to turn excess money magically into more money with zero labor or social contribution.
This is only one mechanism, by the way, which is used to make sure these class attributes or class segregation, is maintained. Infant Mortality Very simply, more high in unequal countries than less unequal countries. Obesity [is] naturally higher in more unequal countries. Teenage birth rates [are] higher in more unequal countries. Innovation: I love this one because it’s a total slap in the face to all those party-line-toting market-enthusiasts who seem to think that the competitive-based incentive system of seeking profit translates into new innovations for the common good. I’m sorry to say, that isn’t the case whatsoever. Using the measure of patents per million, Finland, Sweden and Ireland trump the United States when it comes to invention.
And finally, let’s take a look at an aggregate summation that was compiled of the many points we have just examined. This chart shows Life Expectancy, Math Literacy, Infant Mortality Homicides, Imprisonment, Teenage Births, Trust, Obesity Mental illness (drugs/alcohol use), and Social Mobility. As you can see, in the United States with the highest level of stratification, we are the absolute worst. And just to make sure you understand this analysis clearly here is a chart showing absolute income of the same thing you just saw. As you can tell, there is no pattern. There’s no trend regression line. Here they are, side by side, so you can see how viable this information really is.
The trend is very clear about the ramifications of inequality in a given country or social environment. As a final point on this topic of inequality and its consequences I want to bring up a study called “The Whitehall Study” which was in 2 rounds stretching over I believe about 60 or 70 years. Professor Michael Marmot of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College of London was the director of these studies. He used the British Civil Service System as the subject group and they found that there is a gradient of health quality in industrialized societies which is not simply a matter of poor health for the disadvantaged and good health for everyone else.
Something else was happening. Remember, this is the UK, which has socialized health care. So everyone, essentially, has equal access to the same amount of health care. They found, regardless of this, that there was a social distribution of disease as you went from the top of the socio-economic ladder to the bottom. And the types of diseases that people would get would change on average. For example, the lowest rungs of the hierarchy had a 4-fold increase of heart disease-based mortality compared to the highest rungs. And this pattern was to a certain degree irrespective of access to health care.
This is just one example, by the way. There is a gradient of health problems that emerge that cannot be explained by absolute income. And it, in fact, goes back to the stress response if you go into it and research these points. Even in a country with universal health care the worse a person’s financial status and position in the hierarchy the worse their health is going to be on average. In other words, people in higher socio-economic positions those higher in the pyramid, live longer, enjoy better health and suffer less from disability while those of lower socio-economic status die younger and suffer the greater burden of disability and disease.
This comes in the form again of a gradient meaning that from the higher upper class, straight down to the bottom class each successive step down, or up, the socio-economic ladder constitutes a respective quality change in a person’s health. The bottom line is that there is a great deal of statistical data that screams that living in a more equal society is more healthy and productive for about 99.9% of the population. It is only those at the very tip of the pyramid that could be considered unaffected by the disease known as social inequality. Equality benefits everyone, in other words.
Now, given this reality it begs the question: What is the actual psycho-social cause of these issues? What are the most dominant mechanisms in place that continually support class division and the neuroses and sickness it generates? We really don’t have to look very far for a viable possibility. The cultural programming wing of the market system is the advertising industry which serves to perpetuate the consumption values that you see around you. However, it goes much deeper than that. It goes much deeper than just getting people to buy things for a specific company’s profit. The fact is, the values of materialism and consumption are of dire importance to the operation of the world economy.
Without those values the system would falter and let me explain why. At the core of the economy as we know it lies the unalterable requirement for constant perpetual, cyclical consumption. In other words, the entire basis of what we refer to as “economic growth” which in turn is translated into things such as Gross Domestic Product which are supposed to be measures of social progress and the like is nothing more than human beings constantly and perpetually buying and selling over and over and over again. If human beings do not buy things companies and stores cannot afford to pay their employees.
If an employee cannot be paid, then that employee which is also the consumer cannot go out and spend the money they receive from employment back into the system to perpetuate the cycle. If people do not constantly spend their money the entire economic structure, including the entire labor system would completely collapse. Given this reality, the highest priority of any corporation or, in fact, any government that cares about its economy is to make sure the public has an immediate interest to constantly consume.
It is interesting to point out that America was originally founded on a certain degree of a Protestant work ethic a Protestant world view, where thrift and savings were actually dominant values back then. Since that time, advertising agencies had to switch their arguments from utility-oriented angles to those engaged in for emotional appeal and status enhancement. Americans now consume twice as much as they did before the end of World War II. As an historical note one of the leading figures in this American value “hijacking” is a man named Edward Bernays. Bernays is most famous for his book called “Propaganda” which was bought by many people, including Joseph Goebbels.
He was hired by all the major corporations many decades ago to help influence the public into buying things very simply, that they did not need. A new world of neurotic associations such as materialism and “conspicious consumption” to quote Thorstein Veblen was unleashed during this time and has grown and mutated dramatically. Today, human needs have become utterly perverted by the imposed, suggested wants generated by the consumption-provoking mechanism of marketing and advertising. The more dissatisfied and unhappy a population is the better it is for advertising agencies and corporations. Consumerism feeds on a form of inferiority and self-consciousness.
And that translates, very literally, into identity and social status. Amazingly, the indoctrination is so powerful that consumerism is regarded by most of society as reflecting some kind of basic human interest as though it’s a reflection of human nature. This of course is baseless. In fact, our neurotic need to shop and consume is actually a reflection of how deeply social we are and how influenced we are by the social programming and status orientation of possessions and appearances and everything else that’s been pushed upon us. On this note, I’m now going to begin a transition to the next section of this presentation and to bridge that I want to make a point that not only does the status-generated consumption patterns of most of the public, especially in America cause a great deal of social stress leading in part to many of the problems we have just analyzed; [but] the propensity for constant cyclical consumption which, again, is required for the entire world economy to function is also outlining trends which show a clear path to severe environmental problems and the continual breakdown of civilization as we know it as we destroy all of our natural resources through this idiotic act of conspicious consumption to fuel GDP.
Part Two: Prognosis The prior points made about the well-being and quality of life issues associated with social imbalance is a big issue. However, to be fair, just because there’s a propensity for an overweight, violent, diseased, mentally-disturbed selfish, untrusting, illiterate population does not necessarily translate into the consequence of social collapse, as we are beginning to see. We are going to move on, putting the basic well-being of humanity aside for a moment, and focus on the mechanisms of the social system itself and the larger order problems that are being generated.
Okay, here’s the deal. One of the most critical things to understand which without a shadow of doubt proves the unsustainable nature of our current social system and how it is on a collision course with nature, is this: Due to the way money, and hence the market system functions we are locked into an incompatible paradigm where two mutually exclusive operating principles one, the need for constant consumption or infinite growth collides with an unyielding, finite planet and hence, the physical laws of nature. You simply cannot have an infinite growth of commerce and hence consumption, in a closed system such as the planet Earth. For all those that don’t fully understand this, let me explain more.
The planet Earth is basically a closed system when it comes to its resources. All the minerals and energy deposits that we currently use have rates of cultivation that dramatically exceed the lifespan of the human being. For example, oil and fossil fuels in general took over a 100 million years, easy, for them to come about. The same goes for our mineral resources. The 4,400 mineral species out there today took outrageous amounts of time to be created. The diamonds that we find today took over 3 billion years to be created. Given this environmental reality, it would seem painfully obvious that the most important aspect of any Earthly society would be the preservation of the Earth’s resources, right?
It would seem, in fact, that the entire basis of any economic structure would have, as the number one priority the preservation of the resources of the planet. Why? Because once it’s gone, it’s gone. For example, even at this stage of scientific inquiry we cannot take a tire, which contains probably 6 or 7 gallons of oil and convert it back into combustible fuel. So instead of having a logical system of resource-management where we actually monitor the Earth’s resources and try, as the human species to strategically orient our use of these precious finite elements we came up with something much more interesting.
And it’s called the Infinite Growth Economic Paradigm. In our current system we grab as many resources as we can. We throw them into anything that we think someone will buy and we try to manipulate each other into buying these things from us for profit. In fact, the entire basis of the free market ideology is using and exchanging as many resources as possible as fast as possible, to generate as much money as possible which in turn is used to exploit more resources over and over again. We’ve created a global money and profit-driven structure which consists of a circular exchange protocol where money must move from the consumer to the employer to the employee, which is the consumer again; and the only way that could sustain this pattern to keep people employed the only way to keep people eating, to keep GDP up or the stock market up is through the mandate that goods and services comprised again of our finite resources and energy are constantly and perpetually used and sold ad infinitum regardless of purpose, utility or respect for what we actually have. I couldn’t possibly come up with a more destructive manner for organizing society.
And the sad thing is, people don’t see this whatsoever. They have been conditioned into ideologies. Capitalism, Communism, Socialism, well, guess what? Any social ideology, specifically economic, which does not directly relate to the resources of the planet in its doctrines explicitly meaning the attributes of our environment which actually sustain our lives is an inapplicable and thus irrelevant social ideology. Case in point [is] oil and fossil fuels. We live in a hydrocarbon economy, as I’m sure you all know. Our entire economic structure, meaning production, distribution food cultivation, transportation, etc. is entirely based on energy from fossil fuels. There are 10 calories of hydrocarbon energy in every calorie of food currently consumed in the industrialized world.
This is M. King Hubbert, a geologist and interestingly enough, a technocrat. M. King Hubbert predicted in the late 1940’s that the United States would peak in its oil production in 1970. Of course, he was ridiculed, laughed at, and scorned by the scientific establishment. And unfortunately, he was right the US did peak in the 1970’s. In fact, some studies now show that global oil discoveries have likely peaked around the same time. The exact date is debatable, but it doesn’t change anything. Before I go any further, I know some of you out there are saying “How do we know that these statistics are accurate? How do we know that the research institutions are unaware of existing oil supplies that go undiscovered? And how do we know if the oil corporations themselves which contain the data, are not lying to simply boost their profits?” These are good questions, but there is no question about the decline in the United States.
We do import over 70% of our oil now. And as far as the global peak, all you really have to do is look at the drilling patterns of the major corporations to see that almost every major oil company is desperate to find new oil reserves and they have gone almost everywhere legally possible to do so. The oil on this planet, which took 100 million years to generate regardless of what you believe about depletion rates is going to run out, one way or another. It is an unsustainable practice. And I won’t even go into the obvious dangers associated with burning fossil fuels in regards to its environmental effects which we’re all hearing about today. As an aside, it is not at all irrational or hasty to consider that the peak oil issue just might have something to do with the fact that the United States which consumes 25% of the world’s energy while having only 5% of the population has the largest permanent military bases in history situated in the Middle East with no evidence whatsoever of ever leaving this region. Obama has already stated that he is going to leave 50,000 troops in the Middle East, indefinitely.
This is the guy that got the Nobel Peace prize as we continue in the Middle East to probe and agitate countries which contain, guess what, the majority of the remaining recoverable oil on this planet, such as Iran. Give it some thought. And if you take a moment to consider that peak oil and its relationship with the economic system and geopolitics might be relevant to the US involvement in the Middle East you’ll tend to find the world starts to make a lot more sense. In the words of M. King Hubbert “We are in a crisis in the evolution of human society. It’s unique to both human and geological history. It has never happened before and it can’t possibly happen again. You can only use oil once. Soon all the oil is going to be burned and all the metals mined and scattered. This is obviously a scenario of catastrophe but we have the technology. All we have to do is completely overhaul our culture and find an alternative to money. We are not starting from zero. We have an enormous amount of existing technical knowledge.
[It’s] just a matter of putting it all together. A non-catastrophic solution is impossible unless the society is made stable. This means abandoning two axioms of our culture: the current work ethic and the idea that growth is a normal state of life.” [Applause] He continues in a paper he wrote in 1981, called “Two Intellectual Systems: Matter-energy and the Monetary Culture”. Hubbert writes “The world’s present industrial civilization is handicapped by the coexistence of two universal overlapping and incompatible intellectual systems: the accumulated knowledge of the last four centuries of the properties and interrelationships of matter and energy and the associated monetary culture which has evolved from folkways of prehistoric origin.”
You simply cannot have a society operate based on this necessity for constant growth to maintain, ironically, stability. We have at our disposal a tremendous number of alternative energies and infrastructure possibilities and sophisticated manners of implementation which could reduce our reliance on fossil fuels dramatically paving the way to a world that would have zero reliance on hydrocarbon energies at all. Unfortunately, you are not going to see this anytime soon for the economic paradigm we live in sets up another serious problem that we need to address and I simply call this “Establishment Paralysis”.
Given our tremendous reliance on hydrocarbon energy at this stage of human evolution people, when hearing about the obvious problem of depletion naively brush it off under the assumption that the establishment is actually preparing for a transition out of our dependency on hydrocarbons. Or better yet, that the establishment can actually afford to create a transition. In order to understand the difficulty of moving out of our current established energy paradigm we must first realize that from a financial standpoint there is very little motivation to move into a new system.
This is the very nature of an established institution in the monetary system. The fact of the matter is an exorbitant amount of money (I know this will sound strange to many of you) an exorbitant amount of money is going to be made on the scarcity of energy and in fact, the collapse of society itself. Our economic system is predicated on making money on the way up and making money on the way down. Those in power referencing back to that Citigroup document I talked about have a propensity to care more about the short term short-sighted financial benefits of running out of energy than they care about the pivotal life-supporting attributes that it provides. If you look back at history, you see that the concern over depleting fossil fuels has been talked about for a long time.
And many scientists in the 1960’s and 70’s felt that by the year 2000 we would have an entirely different energy infrastructure. Why didn’t that happen? Why is it that the Reagan administration ripped off the solar panels from the White House that Jimmy Carter had installed? Why is it that the US government sided with big oil so the electric car would be squashed in the United States? The answer of course is that our profit-based system sets up a natural defensive propensity to stop anything if those changes find the prior establishment to be obsolete. This is likely the most caustic attribute of our current situation. The knee-jerk propensity to stop productive change for the sake of preserving market share and profit for select groups.
Think about it. If you start a company, you hire employees you generate income. What have you done? You’ve created an institution which yourself and your co-workers rely on for their income and hence survival. Therefore, you will do what you need to to protect yourself and your life-sustaining company. It is providing for your standard of living. In other words there is a built-in short sightedness. And this survival element, which is only operational in our current profit-oriented system is what is stopping needed change from coming to pass.
I could probably ramble off many examples of new advents that have been pushed to the side because they are either too efficient or too sustainable for the market system to absorb or simply money can’t be made continually off of them. It can’t perpetuate the system or it puts an industry out of work. It puts people out of work. There is a human element to this. So there’s a natural attribute where people say “This is probably better for society but I need to make money now. I can’t think about the transition let’s just push this aside for now.”
That’s what’s happening over and over again. It’s not that they are “bad” people. This is what this system has created. Simultaneously, let’s remember that the market system requires constant problems. In order for the public interest and consumption to be maintained problems in cultural influence is required. The more problems there are, the better the economy, generally speaking. In this system it is inherently “good” for cars to break down. It is “good” for people to get cancer. It is “good” for computers to become quickly obsolete.
Why? More money. To put it into a sentence: Change, abundance, sustainability and efficiency are the enemies of the profit structure. Progressive advancements in science and technology which can resolve problems of inefficiency and scarcity once and for all are in effect making the prior establishment’s servicing of those problems obsolete. Therefore, in a monetary system, corporations are not just in competition with other corporations they are actually in competition with progress itself. [Applause] Thank you. And again, this is why it’s so difficult to have any form of change in a monetary system.
You simply cannot have a social convention where money is made off of inefficiency, scarcity and misery and expect a quick incorporation of new advents that can relieve these problems. With that understood, let’s get back to the energy problem. The final issue I’d like to point out is this: Apart from the fact that there’s a great deal of money to be made by the select few, as the majority suffers; apart from the fact that the established energy institutions have little motivation to forgo their profitability to alter society’s energy mediums is the very harsh reality that due to the outstanding debts, globally right now the Earth is essentially bankrupt as hilarious as that is.
There is likely not going to be enough money to change anything. I want everyone to think about this very critically. As exciting as the potentials are for renewable energy in the fields of solar, geothermal, tidal, and wave (potentials that have been documented thoroughly that will far exceed the global energy consumption by thousands of percent) we still have the serious problem in our current structure of financing the infrastructure to make this transition. How do we transition into a new infrastructure where every single government on this planet, every country, owes money to someone else where they’re seeing a systemic breakdown of bankruptcy starting to occur in Europe?
In the US, it’s just a matter of time. Given the current state of affairs and the urgency of renovation especially with peak oil, how could we possibly afford to make a transition to these renewable energies before the scarcity of oil begins to shut down due to excessive oil prices because of supply and demand? One study by a leading expert in Sweden predicts by 2030 the world will be using 10 barrels of oil for every new barrel discovered or extracted. That’s really not that far away. How can we expect the United States with over $12 trillion worth of debt, barely able to cover its interest payments to other governments with state bankruptcies occurring near depression level unemployment, cutting social programs (we’re already selling off infrastructure to foreign countries) how can we expect to afford to move into a new infrastructure? I’m using energy as just a singular example. There’s many other problems we have to deal with. In 2008 the executive director of the International Energy Agency stated that it would take $22 trillion in investment to update the global energy supply and infrastructure by 2030. 22 trillion dollars! Where’s that money going to come from?
Do you really think that we’re going to get away with just randomly printing more and more money in the central banks and expect no inflationary repercussions or debt collapse repercussions? Remember, all money comes into existence from loans. There has to be an initiator. Every single dollar in all of your wallets is owed to somebody by somebody. And this again leads us into the heart of the disease: The economic monetary-based system or “The Game” as I like to call it (because that’s all it is that’s all it ever was) a game and we can change the game anytime we want. We just need to convince those who are winning the game to put down their pieces for a moment and ask themselves if the game they are playing is really going to reward them in the long run.
In a report coming out of the AFP, there’s growing evidence that the current rate of our resource exploitation indeed has a time frame. The report states: “As it is, humanity each year uses resources equivalent to nearly one-and-a-half Earths to meet its needs.” Says the Global Footprint Network, an international think tank: “We are demanding nature’s services using resources and creating CO2 emissions at a rate 44% faster than what nature can regenerate and reabsorb. This means that it takes the Earth just under 18 months to produce the ecological services humanity needs in 1 year. And if humankind continues to use natural resources and produce waste at its current rates we will require the resources of 2 planets to meet our needs by the early 2030’s a gluttonous level of ecological spending that may cause major ecosystem collapse,” the report said.
I want to point out that people hear that and they have a Malthusian notion. They think that our consumption patterns are somehow inherent and they are not going to change. I read a statistic recently, and for my new film I’m going to do a huge section on waste attributes of certain industries. And what I’ve come to find is that of all the production that is done on average 75% is waste. 75% is waste. Of all the materials that are created, put into circulation and taken out 90% of those end up in landfills I believe within 6 months. This isn’t about some natural human thing that we are doing. This is about the social system’s obsession with constantly consuming for the sake of economic growth.
In an analysis done by the IRRC, by 2025 it’s predicted that 2/3 of the world will experience water scarcity. Two thirds of the world, by 2025. Many seemingly wealthy countries are already turning to desalinization processes. In turn, over 1 billion people are starving on this planet. Do you, with everything that we have discussed think that any of these things are going to get better given our current financial crisis? And again, in case you haven’t figured it out, the problems of water scarcity and food scarcity is indeed 100% economic. There are many types of desalinization processes which could take salt water and convert it into clean water in all of these poor countries. But guess what?
No one has any money to implement these types of solutions in poor countries. The same goes for food. We’ve gotten to a point with scientific invention that we don’t even need arable land anymore which, by the way, is eroding at a rate of about one inch a year due to the abusive agricultural methods that are being utilized. And please note, it takes about 500 years for fresh topsoil to emerge. Hydroponics and aeroponics, alone, if applied correctly, could provide for all the world’s people, without the wasted water resources and the excessive need for nitrogen-based fertilizers. In fact, you could build these facilites on the land that is depleted in stories. You could have sky-scrapers of organic food production on an industrial level. But once again, who has the money to do that?
And on an extremely enraging and sad note the more we experience social breakdown the more human exploitation, crime and abuse will occur. While here in America we think that slavery was abolished many decades ago the fact is there are now more slaves in the world than any time in human history given the definition of slavery. However, this time it doesn’t come from owning people it is simply the globalization attribute of exploitation for cheap labor. I’m going to stop here as far as talking about the negative attributes inherent in our system along with the ongoing social collapse which I personally can’t see an end to for a very long time if at all, frankly, until we move into something more sustainable.
The personal and private debts, for example, are so high right now that it’s going to take another number of bubbles to burst before any type of so called stability is going to occur. Anyway, before I go on to the final section of this talk which is essentially an introduction to the Venus Project and a resource-based economy, let me summarize by saying that the monetary paradigm economic structure is the basic, systemic source of the majority of the world’s problems we have around us. In this system, if this cancer is allowed to grow unabated spreading its malignant propensities across the globe, utterly decoupling from the natural world and the carrying capacity of the Earth destroying the finite resources we all share we are on pace with nothing less than something that no one can even consider, of a collapse. And I’m not talking about waking up one day and there’s nothing anywhere. It’s not like that. It’s where slowly it erodes to a point where the values and the culture and the awareness becomes so distraught and so confused that the levels of quality of life become justified.
When you start to accept less and less. It’s going to slow everything down to a crawl. And invariably there will be some dramatic accents of severe problems, especially when it comes to the energy crisis that is looming. Something radical has to be done. We are approaching a terminal stage. Part 3: Treatment There are two angles to consider when attempting to resolve these problems. The first is the mentality of the culture, as we discussed before the cultural programs. And the second is the actual structure of social operation. As noted earlier in our discussion, these two attributes are deeply interlinked.
However, regarding the first issue of cultural conditioning as a movement we need to employ what I call “Social Therapy”. Social Therapy refers to adjusting a society’s values changing the value programs. We must have sustainable values in order to have sustainable practices. I would suggest that the first program that needs to be uninstalled from our mental hardware is the social distortion that generates conspicious consumption pushed forward by the corporately-aligned advertising agencies. The value orientation of having more and more stuff regardless of their utility or function, is an unsustainable ideology inherently, on a finite planet. Consumerism and materialism again are sicknesses culturally created to perpetuate the cyclical consumption needed to fuel the market and labor system. This is precisely what The Zeitgeist Movement is trying to do.
We can’t do anything until people understand the need for this direction which is why we are here, right now; which is why this is being webcast; which is why those involved in the movement are diligently working not to create infrastructure yet, but to try to get these values out there. We’ll address the movement’s directives in the second half of the program. Beyond that, as far as the actual structure of society I’m afraid we require nothing less than a complete and total revision. And this is where The Venus Project again comes in. I’m going to run down 5 of what I consider to be the central attributes required to move into a resource-based economy. 1. We must move from a growth economy to a steady-state economy. The cancerous consequences of the infinite growth paradigm must be stopped before it’s too late. In the final analysis, given our technological ingenuity at this stage we propose the absolute elimination of the monetary system itself.
There’s no reform possible to stop what this system is doing. The scarcity and waste we see around us is created by us not some intrinsic process of nature or some Malthusian, inherent tendency. The need of money is no longer relevant and is extremely detrimental, in fact. Second, we must move from a primitive, competitive invention-oriented system, work system, to a collaborative system. Not only are all goods produced in our current society inherently inferior due to the need to maintain a competitive cost-basis in the market place but the competitive system also generates massive amounts of corruption.
Yes, I agree, the incentive to compete does produce some improved goods and services to a certain degree, but that positive is utterly overshadowed by the planned obsolescence, the inherent planned obsolescence and the general environmental indifference generated by the necessity to stay ahead of someone else. As an aside, imagine for a moment if the top engineers of the major car companies, rather than competing got together and decided to collaborate on making the best car possible at a given point in time. Imagine if we established an incentive system that pulls people together to create the best rather than compete and produce inherent inferiority. Think about that. An open-source world where all lines come together and produce goods so everyone can benefit. Think about that. The progress would just be unbelievable not to mention it would save tremendous amounts of resources. For there would be no longer a need to duplicate perpetually. You don’t have 2 companies making the same thing anymore. It’s a form of preservation if they work together.
Third, we have to move from our piecemealed, dispersed, industrial methods to a central, planned system of streamlined functionality. Is it me or is it absolutely insane that we import strawberries from Brazil or bananas from Ecuador or water from Fiji when all of these things could be produced locally? As Jacque Fresco would describe in regard to his city systems everything is as self-contained as possible. As another example, consider the general routes of production. From mining the materials, to creating the preliminary components to assembling the components, to distribution. And there’s a constant move of transportation to go from one place to another wasting tremendous amounts of energy.
Give that some thought for a moment. Think about if you streamline all of the actions of society. Think about how fluid things could be and what that actually means. Now, to extend this point, in a talk I did called “Where are we going?” I described a ground-up global approach to a network organization which is, in fact, a resource-based economy. And I described why the parameters are what they are. I don’t have time to go through all of it, but let me give just a quick run down of the reasoning for those that have never even considered any other social system outside of what we know today. Very simply, the Earth is a system and must be treated as such.
There are resources all over the Earth, and therefore you must have a system that can monitor these global resources within a global technological infrastructure. Therefore, we have to have a feedback system which has to be global in nature coming from the carrying capacity of the Earth which is the starting point of all industrial decisions. The first step in this: We do a full survey of the Earth’s natural resources. You can’t make intelligent decisions if you don’t know what comprises the attributes of those decisions. We must first understand the full range and capacity of the Earthly components in order to derive inference as to our capabilities.
There are many natural resources to consider on the planet but for now I want to focus on energy again. Since energy is essentially the fuel of society this is a good focal point. So what do we do? We scan the Earth, holistically. Yes, we scan the entire planet listing all relevant energy locations and potentials. The potentials of course, to clarify, are based in part on the state of technology. I don’t want to go into all the techno-attributes of harnessing and things like that. For example, solar technology has dramatic potential at this stage due to the advent of nanotechnology.
We are seeing a possible exponential increase in this potential where really small solar panels could have up to 97-98% efficiency in the radiation that they pull in. Moving on. So, we have this raw data. What do we do? We just rate each resource, based on its renewability, pollution and all the factors that have to do with the act of extraction and everything that goes along with it. It becomes self-defining, based explicitly on the goal of sustainability and maximum efficiency. Those resources that have the most negative retro-actions are given the least priority in utilization. For example, fossil fuels are no longer needed. They are not renewable. They pollute the environment.
Given the tremendous power of geothermal, wind, wave, and solar combined there is, again, no reason to burn fossils fuels at all. Once we realize this, we move to our third point: distribution and monitoring. Energy distribution and infrastructure projects would logically be formulated based on technological possibility and, naturally, proximity to sources. In other words, if you have wind energy being utilized in Asia it’s not likely going to be delivered to Latin America. The distribution parameters would be self-evident based upon the technology and proximity practicality.
Likewise, again, active resource monitoring done through Earth sensors would allow a constant awareness of our rates of use the rates of depletion, the rates of renewal or any other parameter relevant to know. This is pivotal for us to maintain what we consider a balanced-load economy. If the scarcity of any resource is going to occur we will see it far in advance, and we can forecast it and we can make proper actions to adjust accordingly before it becomes a very large problem. This idea, of course, is nothing new. You see this in your ink-jet printer. Your printer has an ink level, comes up to tell you what you have. And just to show you that this isn’t some bizarre idea that’s impossible Hewlett-Packard just recently came out with what amazingly, they called “A Central Nervous System for Earth”.
The first time I heard that sentence was actually out of the mouth of Jacque Fresco, and that’s exactly what they are attempting to do, in a limited sense. They are trying to develop a wireless sensoring system to acquire extremely high resolution seismic data on land. And this is exactly the direction. It’s funny with these things that have been talked about for a long time and people say “Oh, that can never happen,” and we see it beginning to happen in small pockets. All we have to do is scale this out and expand it for the needs that we require. OK, so what do we have so far? We have the locations of our energy resources.
We have the outputs, potentials and distribution qualifiers based on strategic usage. You would survey the public to see what they wanted. Just as someone goes to a store, they say to the salesman “I want this.” They get what they need, and it becomes a statistical point. Therefore, it’s a dynamic monitoring of the consumption rates. And finally, we have a system of active resource monitoring that reports the state of energy supplies, rates of usage, and other relevant trends. I know I’m moving very quickly with this. If you want to hear a more expanded expression of this point you can go online and watch the lecture “Where Are We Going?”
In other words, with this entire concept, we’ve created a system a systems approach to energy management on the planet. The system is comprised of real-time data and statistics. The process of unfolding is based not on a person or a group’s opinion not on the whims of a corporation or government but on natural law and reasoning. In other words, once we establish the interest that survival, and hence sustainability is our goal as a species, which I hope everyone here shares each parameter to consider in regard to resource management becomes completely self-evident from the ground up.
It’s called “arriving at decisions” as opposed to “making” them which is a subjective act based on incomplete information and very often cultural or personal biases. Using this energy model as a procedural example (and I’ll move very quickly. I didn’t realize how long this presentation was. It’s already almost 17:30.) we would compile this information into a computer database management program and this will be a logical means to monitor and have automation systems to correct elements that are problematic. We want to eliminate the subjectivity currently dominant in our society.
This is like a nervous system. There’s no reason to vote on anything. There’s no reason to debate anything in Congress. Moving on to Point 4. For the sake of humanity and efficiency we need to stop wasting time on labor processes that are generated by the market system to maintain employment. We need to move into deliberate automation of everything we can. Given the current state of technology today, there’s absolutely no reason for a waiter to exist in any restaurant. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to work at the post office. There’s absolutely no reason why anyone should be in virtually any factory whatsoever.
I’ve been working on a statistical data set for a project that I’m doing in regard to employment in America considering what percentage of the current workforce could be automated at this stage of technological know-how. Coupled with eliminating occupations that have no social return such as Wall Street, including all jobs that have to do with money. [Applause] As Jacque would describe, our system has no money. There’s no banks. There’s no cashiers. I have recently come to the generalized conclusion which I’m continually working on, but I’m going to throw it out there. I believe 65% of the American jobs could be eliminated tomorrow with the knowledge we have now.
Not trend-projections, which make things cataclysmic but the knowledge we have now. [Applause] But this isn’t just a fanciful notion of, “Oh, we can have more free time”. There’s also a social imperative here. It’s a very critical thing to point out that historically speaking the more that we have moved to automation or what’s called “mechanization” in any industry, the greater the productivity. In fact, productivity is now inverse to employment in many sectors studied which means it is socially irresponsible not to automate as much as possible for it allows for greater abundance and efficiency.
Here’s a chart of the G7 advanced industrialized countries showing how employment in manufacturing has been dropping while manufacturing output has risen substantially. And this particular trend is happening across the board, and why wouldn’t it? These machines don’t need to take lunch breaks. They don’t need vacations. They don’t need insurance. It makes perfect sense. And as a very quick point what you’re going to find is the inexpense of machines.
Machines are becoming so inexpensive now. Technology is exponentially growing at such a rate. In your cell phone you have a little microchip that’s more powerful than the greatest super-computer that existed 50 years ago. And it’s really cheap now. The first great super-computer costed millions and millions of dollars. People aren’t going to be affordable anymore to most corporations. They are going to automate because they can’t figure out a way to reconcile keeping human labor anymore except for ideological things, of course.
And fifth we have to move from a system of materialism and property to a system of universal access. Before this point is dismissed as communist propaganda let’s consider the train of thought. In a resource-based economy, where production is streamlined to maximize quality and minimize waste and duplication the idea of property becomes obsolete and, in fact, detrimental. People do not need to hoard and protect anything. They simply need access to what they need at the time they need it. The best example is the automobile. We’ve been finding in science now there have been tests done of cars that can drive themselves. It’s been tested: satellite-driven automobiles that can navigate very well.
And Jacque talked about this years ago as well, using Doppler radar so cars simply cannot hit another car. These things are coming to fruition. So in the future if you need to go somewhere you call up the car that you need, it comes to you, you utilize it and then, when you are at your location, it goes back and helps somebody else as opposed to sitting in some parking lot wasting time and space for likely 80% of the automobile’s life. This is what we do. We waste so much space and resources… [Applause] We waste so much space and resources with this primitive concept of personal ownership. It is environmentally detrimental and socially inefficient. And by the way, property isn’t an American or capitalist idea.
It’s really a primitive mental perspective generated from generations of scarcity. People claimed legal ownership because it was simply a form of protection. It’s also controlled restriction, in fact. You know, no longer would someone need to live in one place. One could travel the world constantly, getting what they need, as they move along. Anything needed is obtained without restriction. There’s no reason to even steal something and this is an extremely important point. How could you steal something that no one owns? You certainly couldn’t resell it because there’s no money. Right there, you have 95% of all crime gone. [Applause]
In conclusion, as paradoxical as it may seem the more efficient and conservative we become the more streamlined we become the higher the level of abundance we can generate for all of us. Today around the world many people often say “I wish we could live like Americans.” I know you’ve heard this before. Well… no. The contrived, ostentatious orientation and conspicuous consumption patterns of the American culture should be despised by all other countries on this planet. We have 5% of the population… [Applause]
We have 5% of the population and we consume 30% of the world’s resources. It’s insane. In a resource-based economy where we base our production and distribution on physical reference, starting with the carrying capacity of the Earth; where we streamline our labor expression towards things that have a long-term social return; where we get rid of the cancer known as the financial system and start to share our resources in a diligent way working together, avoiding the false values of materialism and consumption pushed upon our culture, we find that we can provide a high quality of life for everyone on this planet while eliminating all of the central reasons for war poverty, destitution, violence, criminal behavior, neuroses.
It would be the dawn of a world we could actually label a civilization. And if that isn’t a goal worth working towards I don’t know what is. Thank you. www.thevenusproject.com www.thezeitgeistmovement.com
-2010, Peter Joseph, The Zeitgeist Movement-