The Big Dismissal

--2 years, 5 websites, 100's of meetings, creation of many chapters, assistance with continuous projects, and a "self-directed course in economics, behavior, science and language that would make my college professor cry"-- later...   And I imagine it'll never end..

Even so my actions continue in support of making a positive impact on the Pale Blue Dot.  I came across a random blog post that criticized TZM specifically around the Townhall meetings, ending with a change in opinion about TZM..  It was the typical play --  Usually starts with kinda liking what we said.  Then didn't get an answer to her transition question (well, not one she liked!), then got frustrated and did the classic BIG DISMISSAL:  "We're a cult. We don't do anything.  It's just the same old shit.  When are we going to take action?.."

From my experience this reaction is fairly common.  And since I was at work with a minute to spare, I replied with the following:


Definition of Cult from Wikitionary: “A group or doctrine with religious, philosophical or cultural identity sometimes viewed as a sect, often existing on the margins of society or exploitative towards its members.”

Usually the pejorative form is meant… I can assure you that my efforts to help webcast and speak at the Town Hall meetings in Los Angeles have nothing to do with that. I don’t worship anyone, there’s no church, and I exploit no one, and neither am I exploited. I volunteer, in my spare time, as I can, because I see the necessity of moving towards a different social model.

TZM is simply a group of people embodying the ideas of natural law and the necessity to base society upon such. This includes things like ‘dynamic equilibrium’. We recognize the biosphere (or world) as a single, holistic system. And needs to be considered as such through a systems-approach to management of our resources. We advocate the application of the methods of science to our social concerns (aka problems) and recognize the cancer-stage the economic system is in. Acting very similar as a physical cancer to the social system host (us).

There are more than enough technical possibilities available to us (current and real) to create an access abundance on this planet for the world’s people, starting with what we call Lifeground needs. Since about 80% of the world lives on less than $10/day and about 3 billion living in varying degrees of deprivation. This leads to a social value problem which is far behind our technical abilities.

So what we talk about isn’t radical, it’s not new, it’s just not in the thinking of most of the world. TZM has organized into chapters to embark on impacting social values globally so the possibility of a sustainable society even exists. There’s is no guarantee, just a group of concerned people making an effort.

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Notes from a Townhall

As of this writing, I've helped put together 2 Townhall events with the Los Angeles chapter.  I arrived home last night just before 1AM, feeling wiped out, but also with a sense of accomplishment.  Tonight surprised me.  Our plan was to give more time to the Q&A and shorten the time of the presentations and speaking.  I turned my cellphone off and forgot about the time.  The audience dove in with their questions.  Some great ones tonight too.  After what I thought was "a little while" I leaned over and asked Jordet what time it was.  And he kind of lip-sync'd the words to me making hand guestures of 10-or something.  We were supposed to complete at 9 o'clock.  I guess the fact that it was that late wasn't registering so I asked him like 5 times because I wasn't getting it "what time is it?!?"

Anyway, we all got our wish, the audience had an extra hour for Q&A.

To rewind the evening a little, putting this all together took a team of people.  From scouting the location, working out a deal, finding people to help with the technical (lights, sound, webcast), someone taking pictures.  Plus keeping track of who's showing up (are they on the RSVP?, did they just show up?), etc..  A whole bunch of items.  The hardest I'd say has been the webcast.  A note for anyone wanting to do that: DSL will only barely get you by with the lowest quality stream possible since the bandwith is fairly low.  If your'e in a place with a slow connection (400Kbps or less), you're going to have limitations, and possible dropouts.  Cable modem or better will set you up nicely, and a DV camera will do just fine.

I often think of what the experience is like for someone new, who doesn't really have any idea what the Movement is about, and they walk into a Townhall as their first experience.  My hope is that they found value in the evening (and I think most did), and for some I could really see that frame of reference changing in their facial expressions.  People were engaged in the subject matter, some taking notes, and most listening intently to what we were all saying.

I do encourage other chapters to explore the possibility of having this kind of event.  It takes getting to understand the wide array of subject matter from economics, philosophies, technology, the different sciences, logical fallacy, sociology plus others.  Because it will all come up when there's a group asking questions, especially from different backgrounds.  That's the benefit of having a few people on the panel.  But this all takes time, and there are also a great number of alternatives within reach of most chapters: dvd's, local events, fliers, postcards at a shop, etc. are also all effective.  Along with being part of the larger, global events (ie. Zday).

It always amazes me what a group of volunteers can accomplish when the spark of collaboration has ignited.

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Chapter attendance: Size & Focus

If you are coordinating a Chapter and you're frustrated with meeting attendance, a good question to ask next is, "What expectations am I having?"  If you're having expectations, you're measuring "what should be happening" against something else. And it would be helpful to identify “What are you using as a measure?”  If you're wondering why the attendance isn’t higher, or why people aren’t responding to your efforts, or things are just quiet, remember, that IS feedback.  And it's time to apply a combination of adaptability, learning, or trying-something-new.  It only takes a couple of people to make huge impact, and though large group attendance is exciting, it also brings with it other problems if you don’t have the organization structure in place to support it.  A room full of people with no direction is not a chapter meeting.

I want anyone who’s struggling with attendance (or chapter size), as some kind of measure, to ponder what drives the need to have 200 people show up to a chapter meeting? Or you’re not being successful to ask yourselves "Does group size matter if few people have a firm grasp of what TZM is advocating?"  If you answered 'yes', then TZM's goal is not being realized.  The issue is not about chapter size; it's about how effective you’re being in communicating the ideas to other people, that’s the fundamental premise here.

Let me clarify that this does not rule out a chapter being stagnant!  As in: no activity, website out of date, chapter purpose diffused (i.e. promoting other causes).  That is a different issue altogether.

As chapters our goal is to get RBE information out to the public

Initially, as a new chapter, this will be accomplished through passive activism (i.e. leaving a stack of postcards in shop or restaurant), then street activism and perhaps tabling.  Then it will grow into larger events for the public (lecture, Zday, etc).

Some might think that everyone who “signed up” to their chapter’s website will somehow come to every meeting and be active.  They might come out once but then not show up again.  As the one-meeting phenomena continues it can create the perception that people are dropping off, or create the “no one wants to do anything” mentality.  What's happening here is a filtering process that will create a core team.  And the kind of core members you will attract will depend on how 'relevant to the information' and organized you are.  As a chapter grows, a core team of about 7-10 people that have a good understanding of TZM's tenets and the ability to communicate these ideas to someone new, will show robust activity in their results.  As the chapter becomes larger, you may develop several "core teams" working in different areas of expertise to engage the public (Bannering, speaking events, media events, screenings, etc)

But at the end of the day: It takes only ONE person to do awareness activism, you will just cover more ground with a team.

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Honoring the Spirit of ZDay

ZDay is about introducing people to The Zeitgeist Movement who are unfamiliar with the information.  Also possibly generating media attention to your local chapter and TZM through participating in the global effort.

I hope your chapter is honoring the day in with the appropriate goal in mind. If you are a well-informed TZM supporter and/or a chapter coordinator, I hope you are either hosting a ZDay event in your local community or doing street activism in your local community to increase awareness in your region. If you are traveling to another chapter’s event, I hope you are going to volunteer and not simply to be a participant.

If you are going to merely socialize with other TZM folks you are not really honoring the day in the way it is  intended and you may be occupying a seat that could have been used for someone new to this information.  This is an awareness day for the public and all efforts help in that regard.

An awareness event in your local area requires a minimum of one person - you!  Which eliminates many reasons for not doing something this weekend where you reside. If you have not secured a venue for this weekend, no problem. You can still spread awareness by doing street activism that might include handing out TZM business cards you’ve created, passing out flyers, handing out free dvd copies, or just sitting somewhere with a catchy sign and engaging others in conversation and wishing them a Happy ZDay (natural conversation starter). You could even passively distribute info among community boards in grocery stores, coffee houses, bars, libraries, schools, or community centers. Or you could even hold a private screening in your home and invite friends and family who have never really learned what you do for the movement.

As great as it is to network with other TZM activists, this weekend is the time to actively participate in what we are about: Awareness activism, because we are not a social club, we exist for a specific purpose.

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Persistence of Top-Down ideology in a Bottom-up Movement

The most recent description of how The Zeitgeist Movement works was expressed by Peter Joseph, founder of the Movement, in his September 29, 2010 radio address about the Internal Structure and Processes of the Movement itself.

As things have evolved and the chapter structure has emerged over the past couple of years I’ve noticed the persistence of a particular mindset which I see, partly, as a projection of political and corporate structures onto a social movement, and in part as a fear some have come to develop that we have to enforce "safety" or "redundancy" to protect against corruption.  For the most part, TZM’s chapter organization mainly exists as a communications structure.  While global efforts (such as the theatrical screenings of Zeitgeist: Moving Forward and annual Zday Events) come from what you could call the “top” (the global coordinators), the interaction and creation of ideas in the public domain start from the bottom and go up.  An example would be when someone has an idea, like doing a lecture or creating a project (i.e. Ben McLeish’s lecture or the Banner Project.)  These get created from what you would call the “bottom” and then spread upwards to the top.

Ideas, projects, or events that show value or merit to TZM and its direction are picked up by other people.  Feedback is given, usefulness is self-evident, and ultimately they’re brought to the attention of the global coordinators either through results or feedback from others.

So communication flows both ways.

What TZM chapters are NOT:  A power structure or political hierarchy where the top dictates how the body (aka “the bottom”) will work.  There are no paper proclamations, dictates, mandates or orders which are imposed on the chapter structure or its members.  To create such things is to create the need for "enforcement" that does not work in a volunteer movement.  To consider one’s self a member in the movement is an expression of “Yes, I support these ideas and the direction advocated.”  Hence compliance is not something that needs to be imposed.  Cooperation is created around shared values and collaboration from common action.

An unfortunate situation that comes up from time to time is that there are people who claim to support TZM, call themselves members, and self-appoint to create such mandates, dictates and paper proclamations that ultimately would need imposition on the movement itself if implemented.  Honestly, I see no good to come from having to “impose” upon others in a volunteer movement.  Sadly, this is an example of how someone does not understand the Movement’s structure.  And if one’s ego runs amok this can spell disaster for the efforts of any member, coordinator or group to produce positive results in participation or understanding from the public.  I imagine this translates to many walks of life, not just this social movement.

My hopes and efforts are that people come to an understanding of what it means to take on the responsibility as an advocate/coordinator/member. One way to express this responsibility: To create the structure where people can contribute, participate and create social awareness of what TZM is about at a relatively high level (as ‘noise-free’ as possible).

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