Riverfire: War is not entertainment

fireworks

Riverfire 2016

4.30pm 2x ARH Tigers and 2x MRH 90 Taipan from ARMY Aviation Oakey performs a 15 minute display in the South Brisbane and Town Reaches of the Brisbane River.

5.15pm 2x ARH Tigers and 2 x MRH 90 Taipan from ARMY Aviation Oakey performs a 15 minute display in the South Brisbane and Town Reaches of the Brisbane River.

What are ARH Tigers?

The Airbus Helicopters Tiger is a four-bladed, twin-engined attack helicopter. Tigers have been used in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali. TO KILL PEOPLE.

Fires Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles. TO KILL PEOPLE.

Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System guidance kit for use with the ARH’s 70mm FZ unguided rockets was successfully trialed in 2014. TO KILL PEOPLE.

Aside from this they’ve pretty much been a dud and huge waste of money (much like the current government).

These are different helicopters, but still they are made to do stuff like this.

What are the MRH 90 Taipans?

Designed to carry troops to war zones. TO KILL PEOPLE.

They’ve also been plagued with problems and a huge waste of money (much like the proposed same sex marriage plebiscite).

5.40pm 1 x FA18 Super Hornet from RAAF Amberley performs a 10 minute display in the South Brisbane and Town Reaches of the Brisbane River.

7.04pm 1 x FA18 Super Hornet from RAAF Amberley performs fly over to mark the commencement of Sunsuper Riverfire.

What is the FA18F Super Hornet?

This fighter jet has air combat capability for both air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground weapons. TO KILL PEOPLE.

The sound they produced would have been in excess of 100dB, up to a level high enough to cause pain to humans, which would definitely cause pain to animals whose ears are more sensitive.

It is made by Boeing one of the world’s leading manufacturers of arms. TO KILL PEOPLE.

Imagine being in a war zone and hearing these planes fly overhead perhaps firing missiles which are aimed at your location. TO KILL YOU.

These were presumably used by the RAAF when they ‘accidentally’  bombed Syrian troops in Syria. An incident which serves to drag Australia further into war with Syria and therefore its ally Russia.

These planes have also had their fair share of problems and been a waste of money (like locking refugees up on remote islands).

These are probably not the same planes but this is what war planes do. TO KILL PEOPLE.

7.05pm Sunsuper Riverfire Fireworks Commences
7.26pm Sunsuper Riverfire Fireworks Concludes

While fireworks aren’t military they cost a lot of money and create unnecessary noise.

The Queensland governments own website says this about the noise caused by fireworks.

Noise from fireworks can cause distress, especially as fireworks can sound like gunfire. The noise can also cause tinnitus and deafness, or aggravate a nervous condition.

People who suffer from asthma can experience discomfort and epileptics can experience seizures following fireworks displays.

When frightened by fireworks, horses and dogs have been known to injure themselves and others by running away, potentially causing accidents and damage to property.

Brisbane residents and animals have to deal with this noise especially those who live in inner city areas.

Inner city dwellers also have to also contend with road closures and crowds of firework frenzied visitors.

The wildlife seemed to disappear in New Farm on Saturday night.

The $16 million Riverfire spectacular reportedly featured 11 tonnes of fireworks and 300,000 – 500,000 people lined the Brisbane River on Saturday night.

And the whole thing only lasts for 15-20mins.

The environmental effects last longer however, the metal particles which give the fireworks their color can linger in the air for days.

This article from The Conversation goes into more details about the environmental costs of fireworks.

Our prettiest pollutant: just how bad are fireworks for the environment?

The bangs and fizzes of fireworks are rapidly replacing the chimes of Big Ben as the defining sound of New Year’s Eve celebrations in London, while around the world, city landmarks are becoming stages for increasingly spectacular pyrotechnic displays. Since the millennium, the popularity of fireworks has even extended into back gardens, where smaller fireworks or sparklers are lit up at the stroke of midnight.

Fireworks are great fun. We all enjoy guessing the colours of the rockets before they ignite in the sky, hearing the explosions echo off nearby buildings, or writing our names in light with hand sparklers.

But there is an environmental price to pay. Firework smoke is rich in tiny metal particles. These metals make firework colours, in much the same way as Victorian scientists identified chemicals by burning them in a Bunsen flame; blue from copper, red from strontium or lithium, and bright green or white from barium compounds.

There is more smoke from potassium and aluminium compounds, which are used to propel fireworks into the air. Perchlorates are also used as firework propellants; these are a family of very reactive chlorine and oxygen compounds, which were also used by NASA to boost space shuttles off the launch pad.

Terrific, but toxic

Fireworks can lead to substantial air pollution problems. There are well documented examples from cites around the world. In Spain, metal particle pollution from Girona’s Sant Joan fireworks fiesta can linger in the city for days. Across India’s cities, the annual Diwali fireworks cause pollution that is far worse than Beijing on a bad day.

Guy Fawkes is regularly the most polluted day of the year in the UK, although scientists from King’s College London have found that pollution from bonfires – the traditional way of marking Guy Fawkes – is also a part of this mixture. Fireworks can have significant effects on air pollution in enclosed spaces, too. In Germany, tests have shown how goal and match celebrations with flares, smoke bombs and other pyrotechnics can fill football stadiums with high concentrations of airborne particles.

And of course, what goes up has to come down. Fireworks that fall to the ground contain residues of unburnt propellants and colourants, while particle pollution in the air eventually deposits on the ground or gets washed out by rain. Some of this finds its way into lakes and rivers , where percolate has been linked to thyroid problems, causing limits to be set for drinking water in some US states. This is a major concern for lakeside resorts and attractions that have frequent firework displays.

Researchers in London have collected airborne particles from Diwali and Guy Fawkes. These were found to deplete lung defences far more than pollution from traffic sources, suggesting a greater toxicity. Across India, Diwali fireworks have been linked to a 30% to 40% increase in recorded breathing problems. Like New Year’s Eve, fireworks are a relatively new phenomenon at Diwali.

Traditionally, Diwali was celebrated with the lighting of ghee burning lamps – but this changed with the opening of India’s first firework factory in 1940. An Indian court petition is demanding better public safety information and restrictions on the sale and use of fireworks – but this came too late to limit the smog caused by this year’s celebrations.

Playing it safe

Some simple steps can be taken to reduce our exposure to firework pollution. For one thing, setting them off in enclosed spaces is a very bad idea, as are hand-held sparklers. Positioning crowds upwind of fireworks displays is another obvious way of reducing their negative health impacts.

Yet fireworks are already the largest manufactured source of some types of metal particles in the UK atmosphere. And the proportion of pollution from fireworks will only increase, as huge investments are made to reduce other sources of urban pollution. Particle filters are present on nearly all modern diesel vehicles and factory emissions across the developed world are continually being tightened – but firework pollution remains unchecked.

Perhaps the best way to tackle the pollution caused by fireworks is not to have them at all. But this seems rather extreme (not to mention a lot less fun). The high-precision, controlled displays that we see at international landmarks on New Year’s Eve demonstrate the great innovation of the fireworks industry. It’s time for this innovative approach to be applied to reduce the environmental impact of fireworks, so that we can continue to enjoy the excitement of displays for years to come.

Author: Gary Fuller.

A Statement from Omid’s Family

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Omid’s funeral notice in Iran

Omid was an Iranian refugee who set himself on fire in Nauru on 27 April. He died in a Brisbane hospital on 29 April. Omid’s funeral was held in Iran yesterday, 20 May. The following is a statement from his family:
“Our hope is gone! Omid is gone forever. He was only 24. “Omid” means “hope” in Persian. His father named him Omid because his birth gave hope, excitement, and life to his small family.

As a child, Omid was so sweet and cute. He loved animals very much. He had built up a small shelter in his house where he kept his pets; they were just like his close friends.


Our Omid had it all: warm, friendly, always smiling, witty, and athletic ability. He was a lifeguard and saved a couple of children. Those kids still come to visit us. His friends describe him as a trustful, amiable, warm, and lovely fella. He was happy and joyful; full of life. It was impossible not to laugh when he was around.


Omid had a catchy slogan that everyone remembers: all his goodbyes were followed by this: “Chakeretam, Nokaretam”, a saying in Persian which implies: you can always count on me for everything. “Chakeretam, Nokaretam”, coming from his mouth, with a broad smile, while he was holding his cap with one hand and tapping your shoulder with the other hand.


There is no word that can express how bitter is his loss for us. Our Omid is gone, our hope is dead; so unbelievable, so sudden! We were counting on him, like always, like what he was saying every time; counting for better future, counting for sweet coming moments.

Omid was doing well, enduring hardships for better future. What happened to Omid’s hope? Who has taken his hope? Who has taken our hope, our Omid? Who has made the life so bitter for him? We lost our Omid, our hope. Who has made the life so bitter for us? The endless bitterness . . .”

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To UNHCR from Refugees on Nauru

NAURU IMAGES

To:

United Nation High Commission for Refugees

From:

Refugees on Nauru

Dated: 12/5/2016

Humble Words of Refugees on Nauru

  1. We are detained and imprisoned for the last three years on this island. We want freedom and freedom is everyone’s basic right. We are like living corpses, we are free in a sense that we can walk, talk and eat but living aimless and hopeless lives which are resulting refugees in mental issues and disturbed social lives.

    19thJuly, 2013 Government of Australia announced this harsh policy to send helpless and vulnerable people seeking asylum in Australia to offshore (PNG and Nauru) and everyone was told that no one coming after this policy is going to resettle in Australia, but same boat and same policy people are living and started peaceful and beautiful lives in community and we are asking what about us?? Do we have to live life without any future?? Are we not that same policy and boat people who are living in Australia community??

  1. The most important thing is refugees are not mentally, socially, physically and economically safe here. Refugees are in conditions here which led them mentally so unsafe and unsound that no one can focus on the daily life. Three years staying away from the family on this small and remote Island and even small more isolated place like in different accommodation sites (because refugees avoid going out in community to avoid any incident) with lots of problems making refugees mentally on risk. Socially we are living our isolated lives for the last three years.

    Local Nauruan people just treat us not more than their source of income. All of us are scared to go outside of our accommodation sites but still we have to go and get our necessities and we faced heaps of incidents which are reported and still pending to be taken action but we can say it for sure there will be no action on those as to date there is none because of the corrupt and lack of law and order. Refugees are economically exploited as the locals Nauruan people know that we are in situation that we need to work and it makes them easy to exploit and disvaluing our skills. We are getting $ 200.00 fortnightly from connect settlement services which is too small and insufficient to get the basic needs as per survey of the stake holders itself.

    Hence to summarize it, it will be like here there is no law, everyone here is trying to disgrace and degrade us. Some are beating us up, and the law makers are pushing us in all these situations instead they know this situation very well. Whoever wants, they just beat us up, take our money, loot our belongings and possessions and disgrace us and if we report it there is no one to take action or follow it up, so we are tired to report such like incidents now because every one is sure that nothing is going to happen and there is one more interesting fact behind so many cases that’s unreported as reporting it could raise another problem which is, if the local Nauruan who is doing something wrong to any refugees is reported, he will make problems for that refugee in future or will beat him/her and there are lots of cases like this.

  1. WHY WE LEFT OUR COUNTRY???

    We left our country because of the security reasons; everyone here had some very good reasons to flee his/her country, which are political, social, religious, deprivation, discrimination and life persecution and threats, So we are facing more not least such like issues here.

  1. Like every person on the planet earth, we want to build our future, we have some future plans, we want to explore and advance our lives but we can’t see any life chances on this remote island. All we are struggling to get our daily life necessities because of the lack of the resources as the government administration is not even capable to look after their own local people. Life is not all about struggling for the basic needs, there is something more important to struggle for like education, career growth, self-esteem, social network, friends and family which we don’t have it here.

  2. We are systemically tortured mentally and physically for the past three years in the name of services. If this system is giving services to the refugees, why don’t they let the world see it? People who fled countries for their lives are giving up under this system in the name of services. Refugees are attempting suicides and trying to take their lives to ease themselves out of this suffering system.

  3. Our health issues are escalating day by day; here is no proper medical care. Everyday there is new viral disease and refugees are suffering from different health problems and because of the lack of medical care we are getting disables day by day. These medical issues and lack of care leaving people in frustration and badly affecting mental states.

  4. What is our sin?? Taking refuge in any country for a life is not a sin!!! Third country (New Zealand) offered to take refugees from Nauru but Government of Australia reject the offer. So what should we understand?? Is it like Government of Australia wants to torture vulnerable people!!! Is it like decision makers playing their dirty politics on helpless people for their lavish interests!!!

  5. Why we are treated so inhumanely??? Why the humanitarian organizations around the world (UNHCR, Amnesty International, US Committee for Refugees) are the silent spectators on the inhumane treatment and harsh policy of Australian Government.

Australia and its Colonial Operations

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by Behrouz Boochani

Yesterday evening an Iranian man wanted to kill himself by cutting his neck. I posted some words about his action but people did not pay serious attention to him. I reported what was happening to him to media and other organisations.

This man claims that an Australian officer beat him and punched him. He wrote a complaint to the PNG police. He was very angry because after a few days he was still not able to access police and put his complaint to them. Yesterday, the officer who punched him was about to leave Manus and his complaint had not been given to the PNG police as he had asked.

This system and these companies, Broadspectrum and Wilson Security do not allow people access to the PNG police, they do not pass on our complaints either. Any staff member who commits a crime is assisted by these organisations and, I believe, the Australian government to leave Manus without going to court.

Remember the officers who raped a local Manusian woman. They were flown out of Manus and were never questioned or charged, or taken to the PNG court. Remember those staff members who helped Joshua to kill Reza Baratti? They were also flown off Manus and never returned to face court.

I, myself, had a suspicious accident when a basketball board fell on my head. I wrote several requests asking to access the PNG police so they could investigate. Again they did not pass on my request or allow me access to the PNG police.

I want to say that all of these happenings are because of colonial thinkings. Australia is exercising colonial power in and against PNG. We can see this too in Australia’s reaction after the PNG Supreme court hearing.

Australia does not want to accept the Supreme court order. Only in a colonial system can you commit a crime and not go to court.

Australia continues its colonial system against Aboriginal people in Australia and now also in PNG.

I believe that yesterday was a very important day because we understood clearly how the Australian government is ruling its prisons in Manus and Nauru under a colonial system.

 

Don’t use Kids to Protect Borders

Australia a Gated Community

As so called Australia looks back on Mother’s Day and the fun we had with our kids here’s some videos of kids and mothers on Nauru, people under Australia’s care. These kids should be enjoying their childhood but instead they are living in a climate of depression, despair and fear.

This video was made by a refugee on Nauru.

This video I made with pictures from Nauru

Comment: Pro-uranium social media campaign’s #epicfail

by Jim Green

The Minerals Council of Australia launched a pro-uranium social media campaign on Wednesday. By that afternoon the twitter hashtag #untappedpotential was trending but ‒ as an AAP piece picked up by SBS and others noted ‒ contributors were overwhelmingly critical.

Nearly all contributors offered thoughts such as these:

“A week away from the #Chernobyl 30-year anniversary and Minerals Council begins propaganda trip on the #untappedpotential of uranium. Huh?!” said Twitter user Jemila Rushton.

“We need to better harness the #untappedpotential of solar power”, tweeted Upulie Divisekera.

“#untappedpotential to put more communities at risk of nuclear waste dumps,” Ace Collective said.

“We concur that uranium has much #untappedpotential … for disaster, cost and time blowouts and proliferation,” Anglesea After Coal said.

No doubt the Minerals Council anticipated the negative publicity and is working on the basis that all publicity is good publicity. But what the MCA didn’t anticipate is that in recent days the uranium price has fallen to an 11-year low. Mining.com noted in an April 20 article that the current low price hasn’t been seen since May 2005. The current price, under US26/lb, is well under half the price just before the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and under one-fifth of the 2007 peak of a bubble.

Mining.com quotes a Haywood Securities research note which points out that the spot uranium price “saw three years of back-to-back double-digit percentage losses from 2011-13, but none worse than what we’ve seen thus far in 2016, and at no point since Fukushima, did the average weekly spot price dip below $28 a pound.”

Mining.com notes that five years after the Fukushima disaster only two of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors are back on line, and that in other developed markets nuclear power is also in retreat. The last reactor start-up in the U.S. was 20 years ago. The French Parliament legislated last year to reduce the country’s reliance on nuclear power by one-third. Germany is phasing out nuclear power. The European Commission recently released a report predicting that the EU’s nuclear power retreat ‒ down 14% over the past decade ‒ will continue.

China is a growth market but has amassed a “staggering” stockpile of yellowcake according to Macquarie Bank. India’s nuclear power program is in a “deep freeze” according to the Hindustan Times (unfortunately the same cannot be said about its nuclear weapons program), while India’s energy minister Piyush Goyal said on April 20 that India is not in a “tearing hurry” to expand nuclear power since there are unresolved questions about pricing, safety and liability waivers sought by foreign companies.

Even if all of Japan’s 50 reactors are included in the count, the number of power reactors operating worldwide is the same now as it was a decade ago. Zero growth despite the endless rhetoric about a nuclear renaissance.

A decision on two planned reactors in the UK could be announced in the next fortnight and the price-tag for the reactors explains why nuclear power is stagnant worldwide and why the Minerals Council is talking about uranium’s ‘potential’ rather than its current contribution to export revenue and employment. The total price-tag for the two planned reactors is A$45 billion. If the project proceeds, the industry will be hoping it doesn’t go three times over budget, as reactor projects in France and Finland have.

South Australian academic Richard Leaver has neatly summed up the uranium industry’s tiresome rhetoric: “‘Potential’ is one of the most powerful chemicals available to the political alchemist. Any individual, firm or sector deemed to have potential is relieved of a massive and perpetual burden − the need to account for past and present achievements (or, more probably, the lack of them). The history of Australian involvement in the civil uranium industry offers an excellent example of this alchemy at work.”

Whatever the future potential of the uranium industry, it contributes next to nothing to the economy at the moment: <0.2 percent of national export revenue and <0.01 percent of all jobs in Australia. And those figures will fade further into irrelevance with the end of mining and the gradual winding down of processing at the Ranger uranium mine in the NT.

The stagnation and cost escalation of nuclear power contrast sharply with the trajectory of renewables. Driven by sharp cost reductions, renewable energy generation has doubled worldwide over the past decade and renewables now produce more than twice the amount of electricity as nuclear power. The gap is widening every day.

Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Australia.

The Problem with “Zeitgeist”

zeitgiest

by Anonymous

The Zeitgeist Movement is now ubiquitous. Everywhere I turn, I hear alienated youth having dialogue about this phenomenon, and I opened a local free newspaper recently to find an article about college dropouts who drive a bus around the country promoting the movement’s ideas.

There is a of course a great irony in this movement: “Zeitgeist” has all but replaced the fringe-groups discussing September 11th being an inside-job and other irrelevant “conspiracies” (of course the conspiracy industry is reluctant to acknowledge the two greatest public conspiracies: capital and the State). In other words, the anti-political fiction du-jour has had quite the metamorphosis. Alex Jones, one of the entrepreneurs of the conspiracy industry and proponents of “New World Order” “theory” (if ever a word was so bastardized), has been dethroned by Peter Joseph and his hypothetical technological utopia.

Joseph, too, has drastically changed his tune. The first Zeitgeist film was cliché conspiracism, i.e., the Federal Reserve, September 11th, and the New World Order are discussed in intricate, albeit fabricated, detail. These are all favorites in the conspiracist milieus.

“Zeitgeist” has changed this, however. The mostly anglo-saxon, (previously) politically right-leaning constituency that praised Ron Paul as the new savior, has (kind of) done a 180. What do I mean by this? Well, for the uninitiated, the Zeitgeist Movement has now claimed to be the “activist arm” of the Venus Project, a strange organization spearheaded by social engineer and architect Jaque Fresco. Without digressing into an abyss, a brief overview of the Venus Project would be relevant to the discussion: a technologically advanced city blueprint that did away with money, war, environmental degradation, and eventually, they claim, government. Jaque Fresco and Zeitgeist leader Peter Joseph describe these sustainable cities as encompassing a “resource-based economy.”

What would be relevant to anti-authoritarians about such a movement? What should be relevant is the fact that many are co-opting, connoting, or merely associating the movement with anarchism.

An overview of “Zeitgeist” sounds good, and anti-authoritarian. What’s the problem, you may ask? The main problem is that it’s a utopian vision, i.e., the Zeitgeist Movement goes in depth on how the new world will look, but it offers no vision on how to create the new world within the shell of the old. The second problem is essentially an extension of the former: people should not be told what kind of society they should have. It is highly doubtful that anti-authoritarian theory can come from an authority, academic or otherwise. Anti-authoritarian theory is participatory, and if meaningful, is created by a majority. Wherein “revolution” is needed, to remain anti-authoritarian and relevant to a majority of the population, it requires the majority. Otherwise, it risks the danger of becoming a vanguard. But “Zeitgeist” has no mention of how to get from here-to- there.

Troublesome in the dialogue I have heard, as mentioned, is the idea that “Zeitgeist” is anarchism (Johnson, 2009). Anarchism has never preached one way, as does “Zeitgeist” (save for the anarcho-dogmatists). The lack of plurality within the movement and acceptance, of say, primitivists, syndicalists, communists, or other socialists, is not known because it is omitted. “Zeitgeist” also immediately connotes hierarchy since it puts all of its faith in science, hence scientists. Since some will be more apt than others towards science, this could easily give us a new bureaucracy.

The Zeitgeist Movement is not a political movement?

Peter Joseph claims that “Zeitgeist” is not a political movement.(Joseph, 2009). This is a strange statement for Joseph. After all, he is deeming power structures useless and obsolete, wants to abolish the monetary system, dismantle multinational corporations, and, apparently, the nation-state. Not political? It sounds an awful lot like historical political movements that arose through the development of capitalism and the labor movement’s response to it (these are those pesky working-class people that Joseph is reluctant to mention), i.e., Marxism, and anarchism. Perhaps he’s been on the fringe right-wing for so long studying conspiracism (which seems to be not so en vogue these days as evidenced by the popularity of this Zeitgeist thing) that he doesn’t know his history. For a movement to be “political,” it doesn’t require political parties and leadership; political movements can be non-hierarchical and have nothing to do with the state or, like anarchism, be against the state.

One would think that someone who is articulating a framework for overthrowing the State and capitalism would have done some research. Either Joseph is omitting the works of Marx and classical anarchism, i.e., the revolutionary aspects of what is called the Left, or he is simply omitting the history to appeal to a constituency that is of the extremist right. Think about the opposite scenario: let’s assume that I try to sell a scheme to the Left that involves completely deregulated markets, dated ideas like the gold standard, condemn war because it isn’t cost-effective, seek to abolish all taxes and reduce the role of government, but never mention the history of lasaize-faire economics; I don’t think that the left would be as kind, and quickly point out that I am trying to pitch them a rehashed, watered-down version of capitalism.

A-historical accounts are troublesome in any regard. The American “progressive” community is quick to point out the criminal actions of Republican presidents like George W. Bush, but slow, or reticent, to discuss analogous and equally atrocious acts committed by presidents like JFK or Bill Clinton (the conspiracist right-wing is also reticent in regards to the former). For this, the so-called “progressives,” or the “left-of-center,” get nowhere and are not to be taken seriously. The Zeitgeist Movement is comparable in this regard.

Either Joseph doesn’t understand what a political movement is or, worse, this isn’t a political movement; the latter would suggest that the “activist arm” of the Venus Project is really just part of the larger, lucrative conspiracy industry that attracts an extremely alienated working-class to invest money in their pyramid schemes. To say that it is not a political movement would suggest that this is simply just a neat idea that is fun to read about; in this case, there is a vast body of futurist fiction, in which case, whatever one thinks about it, it is at least candid about the fact that it is science-fiction. If the former is true, then the Zeitgeist Movement represents vulgar utopianism.

Joseph and the Venus Project are proposing something radical: they are proposing that humanity, essentially, abolishes the nation-state, parliamentary bodies, and capitalism. There are many assumptions that can be made about the Zeitgeist Movement as such, but I will limit it to these for the moment: (1) Joseph and proponents of the Venus Project believe that they can achieve this new society through reforms (because to my knowledge they do not speak or write about a clash with the state, i.e., revolution); (2) they are coming from an angle that suggests that this will happen when there is a consciousness-shift, i.e., humans are too stupid and greedy to have this society at the moment; (3) they have a naïve assumption, and again, an a-historical stance on what happens to the working-class (does Joseph even mention them?) when they attempt to overthrow the bourgeois state, i.e., fascist private militias, concentration camps, murder of civilians en masse, etc., because they do not speak of revolution as such; or (4) the proponents of this top-down movement do not really view it as something attainable, resorting it to fiction or an interesting idea.

If the first assumption is true, i.e., that a technocratic society sans government and capitalism could be achieved through reform, then this movement is certainly not to be taken seriously. Is anyone really naïve enough to believe that abolishing the bourgeois nation-state and the arbitrary economic system that it resuscitates time-and-time again will be welcomed by the ruling-class ? This is, of course, nonsensical. But, to my knowledge, again, the Zeitgeist Movement has no class analysis, no politics, etc. It is agnostic on everything.

To perceive that this first sustainable city is built somehow, without the capitalists shutting it down any way they can, let us hypothetically extrapolate on the scenario: a city gets built in, we’re assuming, the Western world (because third-world US client-states would simply cut their heads off the second they said they were going to build an autonomous self-sustaining city) that is autonomous, has no allegiance to any government, any monetary system, and is completely off-the-grid. What is the first reaction that the State will have? Well, I would extrapolate that the national guard, Blackwater and other fascist, private militias, the police, the FBI, and probably every military force in the world would invade the city and murder everyone they can; this is if they do not simply drop missiles on the first sustainable city. This is the kind of defiance that the bourgeoisie has not tolerated, historically (see the Zapatista Movement and the Spanish Civil War).

Revolutionary social and political theories that historically come from class struggle in contrary to the development of capitalism are not naïve about this; these theories acknowledge that if revolution is to be successful, i.e., dismantling the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, there must be organized resistance among the majority of people (the working-class) and, an unfortunate matter, a clash with the State (if only in defense). Marx acknowledged the class struggle in he and Engel’s The Communist Manifesto, and believed that the history “of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (Marx & Engels). Further:

Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes. (Marx)

Marx’s acknowledgements are spot-on; it is his techniques on how to have revolution that many believed to be flawed. Marx favored an educated sect of the working-class, what he referred to as the dictatorship of the proletariat, running a transition state which would yield a stateless, classless, society, sans monetary systems (sounds a bit like the Zeitgeist Movement, no?).

Who, on the “left,” was to the contrary? The relevant sect of the early history of the labor movement, and that sect that was, in fact, contrary to Mr. Marx, was that of the anarchists and their respective movements. Without digressing into too much detail, we can give a brief overview as such showing the split in the 1870’s in the First International, or the International Working Men’s Association (excuse the dated, sexist preclusion of women radicals in the name). This was an anti-capitalist, international organization of the working class that was communistic and socialist, but there was a major difference within the organization: those that sided with Marx and Engels, and those that sided with anarchist Mikhail Bakunin (soon to become one of Marx’s loathed rivals). All were socialists, certainly (meaning, simply, they favored the means of production and political power being collectively owned by everyone), but the split came between the authoritarian and the libertarian socialists, the statist-wing and non-statist wing, respectively. Those libertarian-socialists came to represent a revolutionary philosophy that set out to dismantle capitalism, the State, and all other oppressive hierarchical structures; this was the philosophy of anarchism.

So, anarchism is certainly a political movement. Yes, it seeks no political party or major organization to govern the people, and abhors the notion of parliamentary, representative government. But it seeks to put political power in the hands of communities, through whatever means the communities deem appropriate, i.e., direct democracy, consensus, workers council, or even technocracies like Joseph condones. Perhaps this is what Joseph means to say: the Zeitgeist Movement does not seek to establish some kind of political party or organization, but it is certainly a political movement since it seeks to put the political power in everyone’s hands.

An anarchocentric critique of the Zeitgeist Movement doesn’t reject many of the ideas for which Joseph has presented. But there are major fallacies. Joseph has proposed a futurist society that will not appeal to everyone as the end-all solution to our problems. I certainly wouldn’t oppose a community like the one Joseph speaks of existing after a revolution that dismantled capitalism and the State; I utterly condone a pluralistic world with many different types of societies co-existing, as long as they are voluntary, and non-oppressive. Also, as mentioned, this is not something we can achieve, whether technocratic or a society ran according to anarcho-syndicalism principles, through reform, or an unprepared working class. As far as I’m concerned, if the majority of the working class is not participating in the movement, then the movement is not significant.

If the second principle is the case, i.e., they believe that such a grand scheme can only come about when there is a consciousness shift, or further evolution of the human species, well, this would be a simple case of a philosophy which condones some form of idealism and utopianism, and is not rooted in the pragmatic or material world. Comparatively, pacifists might tell the Palestinians to let Israeli aggressors slaughter them or their family, because pacifism is an ideal. Some hardliners would promote this nonsensical idea, while most anti-war activists acknowledge that the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves from aggressors.

This ideal suggests that capitalism is simply outdated; that the power-structures that enslave the working class and prevent them from a life of human solidarity and creativity, and destroys the environment through (Joseph acknowledges this) a profit-driven incentive that surpasses anything else.

Peter Joseph’s Analysis of Capital

This brings me to Joseph’s perception of the global economy. He defines the players involved as employers, employees, and consumers. And his perception is that the problem with these relationships is that capitalism is terribly inefficient. Joseph almost seems to place working-class individuals in the same realm as the bourgeoisie, explaining that they simply cannot reach a compromise. This is analogous to saying that those who run prisons cannot compromise with the prisoners. Those who currently own the means of production need not compromise; they have an army of desperate wage-slaves, ranging from neurosurgeons to janitors. Their job is to buy these wage-slaves labor on the cheap, and collect surplus value. Ironically, the capitalist does not use the means of production that she or he “owns.”

This is an historical critique of capital and private property. Anti-authoritarians have criticized the idea that such an entity exists. Anarchists and libertarian Marxists agree that what one uses, one possesses. So, if a capitalist “owns” a chunk of property and employs 80 wage-slaves who use his means of production daily, the anarchist or libertarian Marxist feels that the wage slaves possess the means of production that the capitalist technically “owns.” A thoughtful critique of private property is missing in Joseph’s analysis.

Does Joseph think that the property owners, whether the State or private owners, will tolerate him using their land to build an off-the-grid city that is not affiliated with the State or capital? Certainly, he is not this naïve. If he is suggesting that people buy up property to do this, then it is simply liberal reform. This is the same elitist stance that liberals take; they believe that if we simply consume less, eat organic, and ride a bike, we can moralize a morally bankrupt system, i.e., capitalism. I would see little difference if property-owners bought land in bulk to build such cities. Joseph will have to develop his analysis, because it is unlikely that the bourgeois State will allow his utopia to coexist.

Joseph is correct: capitalism is inefficient and will most certainly destroy the planet left to its own cancerous devises. But his lack of class-analysis connotes that he’s never seriously studied capitalist critique. I suppose this is a good thing, that people inherently see the flaws in capitalism, but when one has a platform speaking of these ills as if they happen in a vacuum, I find it quite troubling.

When the words “wage-slavery,” “subordination,” and, perhaps most importantly, “private property” are missing from a critique of capital, it begs many questions, and suggests liberalism and reformism, like the social democrats attempts to create a “green” capitalism.

Zeitgeist’s Value and Optimism

In this essay, I could be perceived as one who has written the Zeitgeist Movement off as conspiracist drivel; mostly I have. However, at the crux of it, there are anarchistic connotations. Who’s to say that this is not prefigurative politics, i.e., the idea of building a new world in the shell of the old? Or, who could argue that, if this truly was a decentralized, non-hierarchical free-space for people, it is not striving to build a dual power structure? Both prefigurative politics and dual-power building are both anarchistic tendencies, and I argue the Zeitgeist Movement could be that.

Also, certainly environmental degradation subordinates the majority of human beings who would not destroy the planet left to their own vices to the miniscule percent of the population of property owners who are destroying the planet. Joseph is addressing these problems, and a majority of his audience is coming from the conspiracy industry that predominantly believes global-warming is a hoax created to perpetuate socialism through carbon tax (no, I’m not kidding). The fact that a constituency who bought ultra-extreme ideology for so long seems to be accepting of the sustainable technocracy for which Joseph is a proponent is certainly less-worse. But is the technocratic metropolis something that can ever be sustainable? Has “Zeitgeist” thought outside the box, or would Fresco’s sustainable city be every bit as alienating as our current “cities?” Further, can we reach sustainability without creating new paradigms? I believe it is doubtful.

I think praxes that explain “This is the way to freedom!” can be interesting; there are certainly other examples of classical anarchists like James Guillame and Peter Kropotkin writing specifically about their ideal communities, or even Michael Albert with his intricately planned “Parecon” idea (whatever one may think of it). I do believe, however, that the rigidity of a plan can alienate anti-authoritarians, and perhaps Joseph should sympathize with all people who are opposed to capital and state; this should be the area on which we focus instead of focusing on our ideal new society. I am not suggesting we should not try to build alternative institutions like co-ops and free spaces for everyone; this is the kind of work we should certainly take part in. But we need not focus all of our time on someone’s specific praxis and ideal about a future society. It is crucial to understand for these ideal future societies to exist, we must dismantle the oppressive authoritarian institutions that prohibit Joseph’s scientific green city, or my ideal communist society. This is where our activism, and certainly our creativity, should focus.

Further, it could be argued that it is wasted effort writing about something so insignificant like Zeitgeist. It is, after all, weak in theory, and seems to come from a film-maker who realized that the conspiracism that made his first video so popular is losing momentum (this is certainly a good thing that the alienated, mostly white males, who patronized the intellectually bankrupt industry of distraction seem to be abandoning it). But it is sort of quasi-anarchistic, and quite popular. This gives libertarians, whether Marxian or anarchist, an opportunity to discuss their ideas with people who may have previously been unsympathetic to anarchism. It can be a nice segue, like “You know, this whole Zeitgeist thing is pretty close to anarchism.”

I am not suggesting that libertarians should be missionaries, always trying to recruit new worshipers. But it is an opportunity to create dialogue, which is of the upmost importance. Anti-authoritarian politics should not be tucked away in a dusty closet. With the popularity of the Zeitgeist movement, this dialogue could happen on a large scale. And that is why Joseph’s work is a significant piece of pop-culture.

References

  • Johnson, F. (2009, June 10). The dudes on the bus. The Leo, p. 10.

  • Marx, K., & Engels, F. (2008). The Communist Manifesto. New York, NY: Oxford University Press

  • Joseph, P. (n.d.). Zeitgeist Movement: Orientation Presentation I. You Tube. Retrieved July 12, 2009 from www.youtube.com