Peter Joseph, Zeitgeist Movement founder on Innagural Zeitgeist Media Festival
LA Local Music Examiner
Tomorrow in LA the Innagural Zeitgeist Media Festival (ZMF) launches on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11; the main event out of approximately 70 happening concurrently worldwide, all thanks to the son of a mailman and a social worker from North Carolina, Peter Joseph. Joseph, who was forced to drop out of his conservatory school when he was unable to afford the tuition, is the founder of the controversial “Zeitgeist Movement,” which seeks to shift our social system into a more sustainable paradigm. The man behind the movement continues to focus on media-related expressions, including music composition, performance, and film production, as in his award-winning Zeitgeist Film Series, all focused on affecting society for the better. He has lectured around the world on the topics of social sustainably and has been featured in the New York Times, Russia Today, TedX, and many other outlets. Amid the millions of details he had to attend to in preparation for tomorrows inagural event, the philanthropist and social revolutionizer was kind enough to indulge us a few questions about his vision and his mission.
What inspired your first Zeitgeist film?
A few years prior to the creation of “Zeitgeist” the a/v/percussion performance piece, I went through a personal transformation. Something happened after 9/11 that forced a social awareness.
It forced me to move from a position of general docility – accepting my trivial labor roles; accepting a broken politcal & socioeconomic system; accepting the irrational religious influence that plagues social operations; working to maximize myself regardless of the wellbeing of others – to a place of social consciousness.
So, what became the first “film” was really a catharsis at the core. It was a documentary on one side, full of verifiable data, but the true meaning was in its artistic gesture and power to open up ones sense of obligation and hence alter values.
When did the idea of creating an event out of the Zeitgeist film series first occur to you?
Well, this isn’t the right question. Even if The Zeitgeist Film Series didn’t exist, such a contextual event could still have occurred. The term Zeitgeist should not be restricted to its association with myself, my films, or anything else. The meaning itself, as the defining values of a culture in a period of time, is what demands the initiative of this festival given the incredible role the arts have in changing cultural values.
Zeitgeist roughly means “the spirit of the age” and refers to the simplest essential qualities that illustrate, define or embody an era. What ideas or qualities do you consider part of the modern zeitgeist?
Greed, Fear, Division, Envy, Violence, Egotism, Vanity, Superstition, Materialism & Deprivation.
These are the most notable issues that persist, all of which are reinforced by the mechanism of the Social System. On the other hand, in the background of the above dominant values, rests the real yearning of the species: to find our true “place “in the physical reality; to understand each other without condemnation; to realize the connection and unity that is inherent; to see what actually creates true personal/social reward and contribution.
These are the values that have yet to be brought out/emphasized within the social system and that is what needs to be changed.
What is your personal goal for the inaugural ZMF main event?
[Creating a] value shift for the [core] audience and those [novice seekers] who will come to learn about the nature of the event, opening the door for more of such expressions.
Enabling future artists who would otherwise feel their identity is too fragile to show social concern (ego/status) to come forward and begins to understand their social role. The Arts and Media today influence the values of people more than any religion or any political philosophy. It holds the real power to change the world and it is about time they took their responsibility seriously rather than regurgitating the same – often placating – gestures that only perpetuates the same outdated, destructive values.
How did you put together the Festival lineup?
Team Effort & Random Chance. The event created itself with an influx of artists showing interest. The goal was to gather those who have the courage to express themselves without fear, while hopefully opening the gate for other artists who would not feel comfortable otherwise. We hope to expand each year with larger, more famous acts.
What is you favorite part about being a human being?
What little serendipities and signs let you know you’re on the right path and what is the hope you see for humanity – i believe you must not think us a lost cause – that inspired the Zeitgeist movement?
The growing support and the slow awakening that is occurring across the world. I’m not a martyr; I’m not “humanist” either. Despite my intent, I have no long term emotional stake in the outcome of society in the end as the human species exists in the fraction of a blink of an eye with respect to cosmic time and the vastness of the universe that spawned us upon this speck of dust called Earth that sits in the middle of sea of space and time that is unimaginable to us. There is no fight. Meaning is more or less created by us and only us and THAT is what makes us so special, paradoxically. The more we learn about the laws of nature and extract/define whatever temporal “meaning” we can from that fleeting, always emergent/changing moment of insight, the more of a chance we have of understanding our “place”, if you will, and there is no greater feeling that knowing how you fit within the whole. This is why traditional religion still is what it is. it is a desperate attempt to create that “place”, even if dead wrong. That understanding is also what will allow for our sustainability, survival and hence prosperity over generational time.
So, more tangibly, the amazing possibilities for the species to flourish via our modern scientific understandings is too profound to not employ and the backwards, outdated system we endure today is just an insult to life itself. I will not stand for the misery it continues to unnecessarily create and I hope others begin to share that drive.