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The value of the individual within the zeitgeist movement

(Text from the speech at the Townhall Meeting in Amsterdam. August, 2011.)
(Republished from blog.thezeitgeistmovement.com)

limpidus, limpidusdotorg, seth lievenseHello everybody. It’s great to see so many people gathered here with interest in the ideas of the Zeitgeist movement. It’s great to see such awareness of a need for fundamental change. The need for an economy that is sustainable, provides in abundance and actually takes care of us. Not only am I happy to see you here, but I’m also very grateful for Ben McLeish and Gilbert Ismail to share their findings with us here tonight. May this result in a fruitful debate in the end.

I myself have been active with the Zeitgeist Movement for eight months of which six as Dutch chapter coordinator. A lot has changed in this small period. When I came across The Zeitgeist Movement a lot had happened already. A group of like-minded people had gathered themselves through the internet, set up a forum and stability was found after an initial bumpy period. A lot has changed since still.

With the release of Zeitgeist: Moving Forward a wonderful thing happened in Amsterdam. People were starting to meet up in the physical world and organized the premier and other screenings of the movie. Someone took initiative to set up meetings throughout the country, hoping for regional chapters to be, just like Amsterdam. Work-groups started developing, a translation team, design team, IT team. Where internet fora represent predominantly males between the ages 20-30, the physical world gave the movement diversity. It was great to see all walks of life, all ages and to see a better male-female ratio developing. We are still young and a lot needs to happen, but I’m proud to have met the many individuals that have taken us to where we are today. And it’s most rewarding to see not only the movement, but these individuals themselves grow. I would like to thank everyone within the movement for their support and trust over these months.

As we are growing, the growth demands organization. How though do you organize a movement loyal to a train of thought? How do you prevent new hierarchies and thus power to develop in a per definition decentralized organization that works bottom-up? What is a coordinator and what is a leader?

This is an often discussed topic within The Zeitgeist Movement and tonight I would like to share my thoughts on this with you and offer a practical approach to dealing with this.

For the next ten minutes I will talk about the importance, the value, of the individual within the movement after which I’ll conclude with an appeal on YOU to make the difference.

As a movement loyal to a train of thought there is no goal, but a direction. We are not loyal to a plan, but to ideas. No Venus Project, or not even per se an RBE. It is the most logical at the moment and an ever developing collection of ideas and understandings. It’s a way of thinking that clears the path for science and experience for approaching the many problems our society faces today. Is it because we are so green? No. Nature dictates a sustainable way of living. Is it because we are so pro-equality? No social science has shown the quality of life improves for ALL with less inequality.

It comes from an awareness of how our society works -or better, doesn’t- and an awareness of the possibilities of today. No utopia, no idealism, but proven methods to face today’s problems.

Awareness comes with an effort of the critical mind to explain the environment around us using this scientific approach. It is from this awareness that a different mentality and lifestyle can develop. It is from this awareness that we will find each other in a common direction, in a new value set, towards a more humane, truly sustainable, socioeconomic society. This process takes time and an effort and is above all an intrinsic process, bringing us back to the individual.

As a movement -above an organization – it is then not possible, nor desirable, to give a stamp of approval over what solutions are ‘correct’ and which aren’t, what ís Zeitgeist and what is not. This prevents filling out this train of thought and claim the ‘right’ ideas and thus creating a power structure and thus power.

Permeating this train of thought no individual can thus speak or publicize in the name of Zeitgeist. Something nor Peter Joseph nor the international coordinators do.

This understanding can be hard to accept. Alpha male behavior, how long someone has been around or a ‘better’ understanding in awareness could clear the path for a way of thinking as the way of thinking.

Monetary reform, the actions of Greenpeace or even addressing someone’s non-social behavior in public contributes to realization of this other socioeconomic society. The loss of this understanding creates a window for false dichotomies and with it a new exclusive right on THE truth. Let’s always be vigilant for that.

This supposed freedom of the individual often evokes fear. Someone with a lesser understanding or any ‘fool’ can then claim to speak for Zeitgeist! Ideally however we find each other in a growing awareness through argumentation and a critical open mind. It is therefore always important to remember we stand for a direction, not destination. A shift to a new collective consciousness, a new paradigm in which our environment constantly gives us new experiences and knowledge to work towards this. Things are not always ideal though.

So long as I may, and want to, fulfill my role as national coordinator I will therefore try to show that every lecture, every publication and every event that gets organized reflects the de-central character of the movement by making those who organize visible. This creates accountability and transparency; it will be their names it comes down to. And so surpasses a lot of the earlier problems mentioned. A YouTube movie can be inspired by the Zeitgeist Movement and an event coordinated with Zeitgeist Netherlands. It will always be the individuals it comes down to though. I would therefore like to thank David van Oudheusden and Gilbert Ismail for organizing this event.

May with this approach also come the knowledge and understanding in the image of a movement of individuals. May this surpass the earlier mentioned fear and it’s consequences of reflecting an others action or ideas on to you as individual in this movement. May this bring hope in our fellow man to correct and educate one another. And lastly, may this also reflect in due credit and empower one to move on.

The strength of the individual is therefore what I would like to end with.

The Zeitgeist Movement is shaped by the actions and initiatives you undertake, the networking you do and the awareness you spread. I often get a tap on the shoulder ‘keep up the good work’. That’s amazing to hear and it motivates. It’s always heart-warming to see the enthusiasm of new volunteers, a sense of homecoming in a certain awareness.

It is however also very passive. I would like you to become more active. What is your contribution? The awareness we spread, the change that happens, depends on YOU.

That might sound like a lot, but it doesn’t need to be.

It can be the one extra line Jos van der Veen (northern coordinator) added to an email with some questions to the Triodos Bank, where he expressed his motivation for changing to this sustainable bank, linking to relevant information. Although they didn’t reply within the 48 hours that their customer service proudly mentions, on the eighth day they expressed their thanks for the attached documentary. Their whole department watched it and was impressed.

When I had just ‘joined’ Zeitgeist and was walking past cinema Studio/K in Amsterdam, I thought, why not get Zeitgeist: Moving Forward screened there?

“Hi, I’m Seth from the Zeitgeist Movement.” (I still remember how weird saying that sounded!) We ended up having the premiere there, along with an organised debate afterwards including some well-known public figures. Proffessor M. Fennema from the University of Amsterdam, political studies. Arjo Klamer, professor Cultural Economy at several Universities. And even Peter Verhaar, founder of the Alex Bank was there. Together with Gilbert Ismael, international coordinator of The Zeitgeist Movement it turned out to be a fruitful debate.

Our simply asking for a monthly Zeitgeist documentary night at Cinema OT301 was answered by enthusiasm and is now a reality. Three individuals in Amsterdam have taken the responsibility of organizing this and when possible combining it with an interesting speaker.

The simple inquiry by David van Oudheusden for usage of a building for meetings now gives the Amsterdam chapter a physical place to come together. Even better is that they share it with the youth organizations of Amnesty International, political parties and other social youth organizations.

Spullendelen.nl, a location-based sharing site, is willing to work with us and make it open source. Now all it needs is people with the knowledge to make it so. Which we lack by the way. Any Ruby on Rails knowledge and interested? Let one of us know.

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Take it with you in everyday life, it’s in the little things, in your lifestyle. Or see the ‘What can Í do?’ on our site.

What are your qualities, how can your job help in this, what networks do you have? DARE to stand for something. In the end, it’s not about Zeitgeist, it’s about the ideas. Spread those. The name need not even be mentioned. (like spullendelen.nl)

It’s the small examples I just mentioned. It’s like that extra line in an email to the Triodos bank. Sure nine out of ten emails will ‘fail’. Don’t let it get you down. Don’t see it as a duty, but just do something every now and then.

I just mentioned the motivating tap on the shoulder, NOTHING however motivates as strongly as the realization that what YOU undertook brings it consequences.

And nothing motivates as much as working on that what has your passion.

“Verandering begint bij jezelf.” Change starts with oneself. An old Dutch expression that has made it through the times. Something YOU do has more consequences than you might think. Nothing empowers so much as knowing life is yours to create.

I would like to end with the following quote of Margaret Mead, for it is profoundly true:
“Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can bring about change. Indeed, for it is all it has ever been”.

Believe… no, know that you make the difference. Know that.

Thank you for your attention.

Seth Lievense

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  1. Pingback: Zeitgeist Nederland 2011: een mooi verhaal en we schreven deze samen. « limpidusdotorg - 29 maart 2012

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