A Leaderless Movement

There is a popular demand within the Zeitgeist Movement: Horizontality, meaning the group's ability to participate in decision making both locally and globally. We all want to participate, and rightly so. From the outset, the movement declared itself as a leaderless one, without hierarchies. So why is it so difficult to achieve this? Isn't the way to go, obvious?

To answer, we need to understand the context of the statements, and define how any movement can function without leaders.

Social DNA

Like living organisms, social dynamics are also governed by certain unwritten rules, but are implied in the way society works. But first let's clarify the long abused term "zeitgeist". The word zeitgeist refers to the cultural and intellectual climate at a particular time in history; it is the original material from which the societal structures, which end up determining the human collective action and the effect they have on the environment and society, are built.

'The Zeitgeist Movement' refers specifically to the intention of guiding the zeitgeist towards change, transforming it into a different train of thought. Some might imagine this to be a certain set of crystallized ideas (like circular cities, or specific designs in the movies, or sustainable farming); but instead we could define it as a completely different way of thinking, with which we seek to replace the current one. In other words, we seek to repair the social DNA into something that generates a healthy, efficient, sustainable, peaceful and eco-friendly society.

Out of the features mentioned above, the one that is most often ignored is 'sustainable'. The issue comes not from people's intentions, but from their ways of seeking change. I will use a biological metaphor to explain why should we seek to repair the social DNA, rather than the intermediate structures in order to get a long-term change.

Like organisms, societies tend to replicate themselves, always emerging and re-emerging from the zeitgeist (the intellectual and cultural climate in a given time). People beliefs create social structures such as central governments, schools, universities, factories, currency. In turn, these structures generate a social dynamic that ultimately will have an impact on nature, and that also includes us, human beings. Here we begin to see how society operates very much like a cell or body, which, from DNA, generates structures: enzymes, proteins, ribosomes and many other things that help you survive in a given environment.

Earth's Cancer

When a cell's DNA is corrupted, it only seeks to perpetuate it's own cell type, over the welfare of the whole organism, reproducing itself over and over again. This is called a cancer cell. This cell invades its surroundings, consumes the local resources, and moves on to start using the resources elsewhere. It's method is so efficient that it ends up being present throughout the body (this is called metastasis), until finally the individual dies, killing the oncogenic cell as well.

Usually there is a certain cell type which becomes carcinogenic, and the current medicine is attempting to isolate and target this specific cell group only, in order to allow the remaining healthy cells to follow their natural path. But our society is in a much more advanced disease state, and if we probe the social DNA, we see that it is almost entirely corrupt, and is generating carcinogenic characteristics in virtually every place on the planet. To say that we are plowing our way to extinction is not an exaggeration.

Focusing on intermediate structures (banks without interest, self-sustaining farms, demands for transparency, or to provide funds for "green" projects) really is ineffective, and insufficient in the long-term analysis, because in the same way as the healthy cell, this new structure will serve a determined life cycle, but will not be able to replicate if it fails to inject itself in the social DNA. It will simply be suffocated by the diseased structure, as with cancer.

This explains some of the talk in the past about the 'phases' of the Zeitgeist Movement, as it would actually correlate to the necessary changes in the structure of people's values. From there, their own thinking would subsequently generate healthy structures. However, this would only be perpetuated if the entire organism (or at least a great portion of society) heals.

The Zeitgeist Mutation

Here is where the Zeitigeist "Movement" comes into play, as a sort of 'immune response', created to help repair our social DNA, 'healing' the root cause of the problems around the globe gradually, in all people. It really should be expressed as zeitgeist mutation or change. In order to do so, critical mass is paramount, so a communication and activist group is something that consumes fewer resources, and has the greatest extent possible in the entire globe, always preserving the core objective. This is what defines the fractal nature of TZM where, regardless of scale (global, regional, national, urban, and personal), it reflects exactly the same train of thought, this new way of thinking: The global application of the scientific method to environmental and social benefit with a long-term perspective.

From this fractality, it follows that this is a movement without leaders or hierarchies, in other words, information must defend itself, regardless of the person acting as transmitter. This is the kind of true horizontality we are looking for, which is referred to in many TZM documents and media. The ability of any individual to influence within not only the organization but in the zeitgeist, the global, social DNA.

What if we want to change the organization? The Zeitgeist Movement is not an organization, such thing doesn’t exist. This confusion its related to the cultural baggage that we are part of. TZM is defined by its goal, to transform the social DNA, culture, values and mindset of the people to, once more: The global application of the scientific method to environmental and social benefit with a long-term perspective.

As expected, understanding this requires a learning curve, and within a society with as poor a level of communication as ours, this simply is not quickly understood. So the goal of healing the society has been sidelined in some of the social groups who feel a strong identification with the Zeitgeist Movement, from which beautiful projects with beautiful results emerge but, given the conditions of the current society, are unsustainable if this significant critical mass around the globe is not previously achieved.

Ultimately this is your decision, do you want to work to create temporary welfare or create the unshakable conviction that will perpetuate uninhibited sustainability and well-being?


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Tue, 04/10/2012 - 1:42am | I'm Zeitgeist member, and I (Score: 2 Interesting)
Bakari45's picture


Karma: 1

I'm Zeitgeist member, and I definitely think a resource-based economy is a viable solution to the world's problems. But I must be honest, and say that I don't think the concept of the leaderless movement or organization is going to help build TZM. Leadership means taking responsibility and setting direction (along with membership base) for action. Though leadership can be misused (this is clear), that mainly happens when an organization is structured in a way that keeps members from having a true voice and responsibility in the decision making process—in many ways this is what occurs in this movement.

For example, let's be honest, though Peter Joseph says he's not a leader of TZM, he clearly acts and makes decisions like a leader. There also seems to be a loose group of people (I'm not sure whom) in TZM who make decisions about the way this website was developed, what national and international events will be held in the name of TZM, and even how the organization (which according to you is not an organization) will be structured, or not structured. I'm sorry, but I don't see how this organic process is working in TZM.

Last year for example, I attended the Media Festival in LA and I was disappointed that many members showed up from across the state and even some from around the world, but there was not one internal meeting or gathering for TZM members to discuss the goals, direction, or even the state of the movement. I have no problem with cultural expression and such, but I wondered how do you invite members of the movement to attend an event and not organize a place for them to at least meet and get to know one another more directly. Do cultural presentations does not build a movement, it merely gives the movement expression.

I can definitely understand that TZM as a movement is (should be) made up organizations and people who support the objectives of a resource-based economy. But I cannot understand not building bonafide organization with goals and objectives. In Peter's most recent podcast, for example, he alluded to how there were less Zeitgeist Day events around the country/world than in the past. We didn't hold the event here in Sacramento, though we did last year, and it was mainly because we lack organizational thrust in our area. When members don't meet, set goals, take responsibility, and build membership capacity, their can't be growth—not even organic growth. Growth requires the laying seeds and nurturing what is produced, not blind faith that it will happen on its own.

I am all for trying new ideas and paradigms, but this concept of organic growth inside TZM is an illusion as far as I can see. I'm open to discussing it, but I simply don't see it.

Tue, 04/10/2012 - 10:00pm | Bakari45 you are right, (Score: 2 Insightful)
Andrés Delgado's picture

Andrés Delgado

Karma: 1

Bakari45 you are right, however TZM is not within the main site or the official events announced in there, while those are pretty important to gain momentum, the true zeitgeist movement is what we get every time a new person understand this new global, scientific, sustainable paradigm so deeply that he or she commits to this change we all advocate.

Let's say at some point the website is down for an entire year and we can not fix it... Let's imagine what would happen if we have a real control over the internet and every chapter MUST 'survive' on its own. Then what? Is that the final of TZM. I'm afraid it might be the end of what we think about TZM but the rise of its trully essence.

The thing is THE ZEITGEIST MOVEMENT is still being created, we didn't reach to the point where we can say 'ok, we have critical mass, now we can do gigantic things', we are in a morula stage where we must replicate ourselves in order to create a trully organism capable of doing bigger things.

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 8:01am | The basic characteristic of (Score: 1)
Tue, 04/10/2012 - 10:41pm | Hi Bakari45. I'm new to the (Score: 2 Underrated)
Andy Cantwell's picture

Andy Cantwell

Karma: 1

Hi Bakari45. I'm new to the Zeitgeist Movement and I fully understand your comments in relation to feeling that it may be lacking in some direction, but I feel that's kind of the point. We're all being encouraged to become leaders in the sense that we need to be more responsible for driving the change we want to see in the world, and TZM could be the dress rehearsal. You said that you were disappointed that there wasn't a Z-day in Sacramento this year, but did you try to organize one, or did you just wait to see if somebody else would? We could all spend vast amounts of time debating about how to make the world a better place, but unless we actually try to make it a better place what use is the debate? In my opinion the main reason that Peter Joseph seems like the leader of the movement is because he is the public face of the movement at this time. There already appears to be a perception outside TZM that this is some sort of science based religious cult, and I don't think it would be sensible to encourage that belief any more ourselves. I think PJ looks a bit isolated and in need of some other people to take some of the media attention away, otherwise the cult accusation will persist, and in time he could become more of a target than he has already made himself. My fundamental point is that we can all lead in our own unique way, whether that be on a global scale or just in our neighbourhood. We all need to demonstrate individual responsibility, because for me that's the most important quality in effective leadership. Lead by example.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 5:42am | I agree completely with this (Score: 2 Insightful)

Brett Matthews

Karma: 1

I agree completely with this and I think some of the loose ends were carved out in the comments. We shouldn't advocate hierarchy, but allow natural leaders to manifest and direct change. But, our "leaders" aren't going to elicit a following or faction, but help to communicate good ideas that others can learn from and then apply and implement in their circle of influence. So in a sense we should all be leaders and followers.

Thu, 04/12/2012 - 7:52am | As always, I completely (Score: 1)
Wed, 05/30/2012 - 12:17am | Sorry guys about just (Score: 1)