Tour of Duty: Coming Back Into the Real World Once the War is Won, or Lost
War is a devastating thing. It makes people do silly things. The soldiers who fight for governments generally have a pretty hard time coming back to the normality of life from the brutality of war. PTSD for example, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is one thing to consider. For those of you who don’t know, PTSD is a “severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma.[...]may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one's own or someone else's physical, sexual, or psychological integrity, overwhelming the individual's ability to cope.” 
Pretty frightening stuff. Who would put themselves through that? Well, in some ways, we all have, here at the Zeitgeist movement. If you have been part of any radical, alternative lifestyle or community of any sort, you’ve no doubt shared similar, granted MUCH more mild, experiences of PTSD, when adapting back into the reality of it all.
Think about that time you went back to your job after seeing the Zeitgeist film for the first time. For some of us it was a pretty crappy day right? Granted, most of our experiences wouldn’t be as horrific as the cruelty and carnage of battle, but still, the feeling of being misunderstood, detached, lonely, can be quite the same when your whole perspective of reality is shifted so dramatically. Money, now once thought a virtue and benefit of life, is now the epitome of evil in your eyes. Corporations to which you subscribed a part of your identity are now seen as vapid holes of greed and profit, and politicians you once ... No wait, let’s face it, those guys you’ve NEVER respected.
So like the soldier back from war, you cannot undo what has been done in your mind, and you find your creed and some solace in others who share your scars. You find other like-minded people because facing the reality of it all is simply too much.
You find a Zeitgeist Chapter...
...and it’s wonderful. You are surrounded by people who get you. They see what you see. They know what you know. They are here to talk about it and share it with you for as long as it takes to understand. …But what about when the PTSD wears off? What happens when you start to normalize again and begin to get a grip on things? Analogies aside, what happens when just being part of a movement, and simply advocating one system above another, just isn’t enough?
What happens when you realise that sitting in meetings isn’t enough to make a change, and you have to face the reality of your life?
Now don’t get me wrong; not all soldiers and not all Zeitgeist creed suffer from these problems. Some of us just shrug it off and say, ”Yeah I get it,” and go back to our 100% renewable-energy-cruelty-free-super-duper-solar-powered-commune, and think nothing of it. I commend those people; they learnt the right way and the easy way!
But what about poor average Joe? What about that guy who loses sleep, bottles anger and loses his grip, knowing he’s just a cog in a wheel of consumption he now despises? These people cling to whatever they find. And that’s generally the coordinators and these chapters. We forget sometimes that the people we meet at our periodic Zeitgeist meetings are not our immediate neighbours. They are not our immediate families, and not even really in our friendship circles we know and love.
Our meetings are really just information points. Like at a shopping mall. You get the info, then you go do actual stuff with said info. (Sorry, bad analogy I know.) And it can be dangerous to think of it otherwise. Specifically, this movement is in an educational phase. It always has been, and probably will be so for a few years to come. So it stands to reason that these people might just be looking for more than the just answers after a little while, or even straight away; they may want solutions. The problem there is, a lot of the people organising meetings simply don’t have all of the answers. Neither do the Zeitgeist films, really.
And let me clarify that: Sure we have answers, just not practical ones that you can do right now. We show concepts and ways the world COULD be. Most of the answers come naturally through other movements, communities and social groups that are already functioning, with or without the Zeitgeist movement being a part of them.
Now this isn't me demoralizing those in the movement; not at all. I am clarifying our part in something that is bigger than us. We are a small part in the change of the consciousness of all humanity, a spark that hopefully creates a fire. We are that. You cannot, and this movement cannot, be all of the answers. We are not the fire itself. The whole world will take care of that once it starts coming to terms with our existence as a species.
So with this in mind, we need to maintain a certain level of integrity, humility and friendliness if we are ever to spark the minds of people who have choices to make. If we don’t handle this movement with some responsibility and consideration of newcomers, we’ll have made the choice for them.
Below I have listed some of the common mistakes we make as a movement, and some points to focus on when either coordinating a chapter or being part of a chapter.
The ‘Honeymoon period’
I have been attending Zeitgeist meetings for roughly three years, and since the very first day I was there, I was 110% committed to help and get on board to change the planet. I thought I could as well. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, throw flyers up everywhere and just help people WAKE UP.
And if you stick around long enough, you quickly come to realise the futility of it all. People come and go. They get bored. You put hours of communication in with individuals, or you get a hunch that someone is going to be a ‘world changer’, and then *POOF* they are gone. Back to their lives.
Some people just aren’t ready to make a change. And that’s okay. You have to accept that. They may come back; they may not. Just do your best and then let them be. Remember, this is an educational movement. While they all might be there by choice, it doesn’t mean that all attendees are there for the same reasons. Let others learn in their own time.
The Preacher Period (Also known as “broken record” syndrome)
Wake up…. A great little cliché statement used in alternative movements, almost as much as “It’s just the government” and “Those Fucking Americans”.
Telling people to ‘Wake up’ and that things are bad is like telling a fire juggler, “Hey, that stick you have is on fire.” You’re probably going to get smacked in the face or verbally abused for pointing out such an apparent observation. People don’t need to wake up to the fact that things are bad. Most already know it. Some know it and don’t care enough to do anything about it. You are probably just going to piss them off.
That’s fine, though. If you are okay with annoying people, giving a bad name to the movement you advocate, and just generally being a know-it-all douche, by all means, do that. Whether they are ready to accept the information is the crux of holding a diplomatic and humbling attitude. Help people question themselves; don’t help yourself to questioning.
Try to avoid the preacher. Period.
The ‘Monkey see monkey do’ mentality
Consistent attendees are going to leave an impression on newcomers. It’s just fact. They see how we all carry ourselves, and they fall in line to do the same, or they don’t come back. So it is thoroughly important to carry a little responsibility with how you act, what advice you give and how you educate in Zeitgeist meetings. You are there on behalf of a movement over half a million strong, so carry some conviction with your words and actions. If you remain belittling, arrogant, hard-set in your ways and not willing to accommodate to someone’s view on reality, you are either going to upset someone or make someone think exactly the way you do. Who wins in either of those scenarios?
The terrorists win, that’s who.
These are just a couple of simple points I have observed over my years of working within this movement. Perhaps there are more you know, or some of these you don’t encounter. A great idea would be to coordinate a meeting to discuss “chapter etiquette” among regulars to clear the air with what is a good way to carry yourself, and what isn’t.
Now that we have covered all the things we shouldn’t do with our chapters, you’re probably asking yourself, what SHOULD we do? The simple answer to me is: nothing really. Give the information and let critical thinking do the rest. Creating these close-knit, die-hard Zeitgeist groups, believe it or not, is counterproductive to our own lives, and the creativity and alternative communities that could potentially flourish.
We get so caught up in focusing on the problem that we forget to help people find the solutions that are out there. We forget there is a whole big world out there, full of Eco-communes, sharing societies, junkyard warriors and people who do care, that we should be networking and collaborating with, as individuals and at our own pace. Some chapters manage to do it within the parameters of their meetings, some don't have the time, management and efforts to do so. Keep it simple, if you don't. Simply point newcomers in the right direction and let curiosity do the rest.
So next time a newbie asks you, “What can I do?” Think outside of our movement. Tell them to go get to know their own neighbors, and rekindle the true meaning of community. Tell them to search for the solutions people are starting around their area. Little "RBE" endorsed initiatives that are doing the small steps that matter now. Better yet, have a list of alternative groups already out there that your chapter knows and advocates. Hand them that and let them take the solutions at their own pace!
Whatever you do, don’t just sit there and share war stories. It’s good for a short while, but damaging in the long run. Help them think past that.
 Excerpt from the American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.