Power of TZM: Our Message
When I think about the world, and how we interact with it, I often wonder not just at the surface assumptions, prejudices, rallying cries, slogans, mottos, and platitudes (eg., We Are the 99%, Mo' Money Mo' Power, The Audacity of Hope), but on the underlying ideas that support them. Now, don't get me wrong, a clever quip or inspiring phrase delivered at the right moment can be inspiring to a supporter, or devastating to an opponent, but what any great and powerful social movement is really made up of is presuppositions.
A presupposition is an often unspoken declaration of the supporting logic for a fact. It is a powerful fallback tool for those in a debate of ideas, and articulating ours is essential to the effectiveness of TZM.
In order to argue for any point and convince people, one must really deal with a multitude of ideas. This is a topic I hope to expand on in future articles, but it is at least my belief, and I think many people would agree generally with me on this, that when we communicate, convince, advocate, argue, and even report on, it is ideas that are the true medium of discussion and the parameters of definition. Ideas on how this forum is run, for example, compete with each other for the result you are reading right now. Ideas on white supremacy and other forms of racism have been battling with the ideas of equality for all mankind for much of human history. What makes a movement like TZM powerful, however, are the incredible ideas and presuppositions that say, "Look, many things can be discussed, but at the end of the day we believe in a few things that we are just not willing to argue about." For instance, the Zeitgeist Movement does not believe that people are inherently competitive, or that war will always be a part of human society. It is the very strength of these suppositions that allow us to move forward with, and think eloquently about, many of the problems that plague our society today.
For this reason, I am offering (in full admiration, membership, and support of the Zeitgeist Movement) the idea that our movement should state our presuppositions loudly and clearly in a Charter, in a clear area of the main website, and as a "barrier to entry" for members. This would accomplish a few vital factors in supporting something that we all want to see gain more traction as both an idea for the mainstream and a force in the world of progressive thinking.
A Zeitgeist Charter: Why Is This Important?
Defining a movement as a block of ideas, I have noticed a few factors that tend to make said movement less effective. A lack of these characteristics stalls the movement's incorporation into the mainstream of human consciousness, and can be a detriment to the strength of the ideas presented. Even the best intentions, without an effective form, can lead to the rejection, destruction or obsolescence of a group. I have tried to outline a few of the ways that a Charter might help these problems here:
An agreement on what all Zeitgeist Members believe would allow for less conversation on a number of important topics that absolutely should not be open to discussion. I know the progressive bones in our bodies are inherently somewhat reactionary to this censorship-esque idea, but if you consider the gain/loss scenario, what this accomplishes greatly outweighs the negative attributes of not letting anyone say anything. Now we already censor some ideas and opinions, because as a Movement for us to be open to anything would be to defeat the purpose of believing in something. Our forums are moderated and our articles are reviewed for good reason. It is simply the act of clearly and concisely stating what our members believe, at a core level, that is lacking. In other words, as a movement, what are we sure of and what do we all agree on.
A Charter would also allow us to more effectively articulate our positions to both like-minded groups and people in opposition to our ideas. I have found in my lengthy discussions of Zeitgeist-esque ideas, that many people agree with all the basics of the Movement, but pick apart some strand philosophy or other argued in its forum or in the videos. Instead of battling straw men and eating red herrings in these debates, pointing to some basic presuppositions would allow for a more articulate point of view to emerge, and less haggling over the details. An appropriate metaphor might be that our movement, like the spear, is a tool we have designed to help us accomplish our goals. A Charter would be parallel to sharpening that spear, and hence would allow us to accomplish our goals more effectively.
When we think of movements around the world, from grassroots activism to fascist regimes, a bonding characteristic that lends many of these movements power and the ability to be effective is the basic ideas that they end up standing for. A Charter would give us clear, visible, simple ideas to advocate, coalesce around, and even evolve if need be. One pitfall is a profusion of many complex ideas that sometimes are at odds with each other. Simplicity would lend a hand in smoothing out some of these very well-intentioned differences that might arise but be at odds with each other.
Finally, when we send someone into the public sphere to advocate for our Movement, they need to have a baseline from which to attack the debate. It is no secret, and I don't think I am pandering to anyone, when I say that our movement is way too big, and our ideas are too powerful, not to have been taken seriously in the public arena. I want people in the media, people in politics, and people in all spheres of influence to pay attention. Therefore, a proponent of our views to address the media would benefit from having a Charter to refer to, in addition to a clear and articulate Train of Thought to refer to when expressing our ideas in a way that like-minded (and maybe even open-minded opposition) people can view and say, "Wow, that guy really knows what he's talking about, and also convinces me to look into this further." Peter Joseph can only appear so many times, and with a Charter, getting into and articulating our positions on local media outlets, other grassroots movements, alternative news forums, and even the mainstream debate would be much easier and more effective.
As I look at movements like OWS and even The Venus Project, both of which I highly respect and support wholeheartedly, I think that many of the aforementioned problems exist and could be addressed by a Zeitgeist Movement Charter. I love the spirit, as many of us do, of occupying public spaces, proselytizing on the benefits of technology, demagoguing the selfishness of Wall Street, etc., but we all know that one of the huge problems with OWS, after it entered the mainstream public discussion is that even its most basic ideas were not agreed upon, or simply and articulately stated. For fans of politics, one can see the same effect working to eat the Republican party from inside because of its "Big Tent" approach, which brings together marijuana legalization libertarians, white supremacists, televangelists, Mormons, Catholics, Anti Gay-Rights groups, Log Cabin Republicans (they are pro-gay), neo-conservative global war-wagers, and the tea party (government always sucks, with overtones of racism), among other equally ridiculous and opposing ideas. Sorry for the run on, I just love the irony.
Suggested Characteristics of a Charter
As we formulate and ratify these ideas, eventually we should correspondingly link to the reasons we believe them. These links should be organized, in the form of some 'body of knowledge' for those who don't agree with a specific idea to do further research. It would also lend members a direction to point toward in support of a contentious Charter item. (Examples I can think of might include: The Overpopulation Question, The Sustainability of the Financial System, etc.) I would love to have a large database extending from our charter that easily organizes the large and important body of statistics out there that support TZM ideas. Obviously this database would have to have a complex review and update process (maybe a Wikipedia-like member contribution system?), but just thinking about this project makes me more and more excited about our movement and the things it could achieve. Just as a brainstorm, other characteristics of the Charter I think might help our message, I've listed below:
- Simplicity and Clarity
- Accessible Remote Factual Support Per Issue (for the reasons listed above)
- Resistance to Unnecessary Proselytizing and Overreach
- Open Mindedness and The Ability to Absorb Other Like-Minded Movements
- Requirements to Be in Agreement for Membership
- Amendability and Archival
The last suggestion is that in order to recognize that all things are in a constant emergent state of flux, although we hold our beliefs high and strong, if necessary there should be a process (albeit difficult) to change or amend the Charter to maintain its viability. A transparent archival system (recording the evolution of the charter, saving the changes, and allowing anyone to see them) would prove another strength of TZM: the emergent nature of our ideas and our ability to evolve. And, if need be, it could help in demonstrating that we should not be held hostage by beliefs that we have rescinded or evolved, much as Einstein considered his contributions an improvement on the work of Newton, as opposed to a replacement. Appropriate factual support would also be required for the modifications.
As the Zeitgeist Movement gains notoriety and influence, I believe that ultimately a "statement of beliefs" like this would help us weather the slings and arrows of opposition, public opinion and perhaps the most powerful obstacle to change: the inherent inertia of tradition and close-minded institutions in our culture. I see no reason why, with some group process in place, we can't form a Charter or Set of Beliefs that all members can agree upon, and that could elevate The Zeitgeist Movement to a more powerful and effective group of an already amazing set of ideas. Of course I welcome any and all additions, refutations, and general commentary by other participants. Thanks!