Monday, February 20, 2012

Zeitgeist: The Movie -- the good and the bad

Zeitgeist: The Movie starts out with a well-placed psychological analysis of the connection between war and religion, and with an impactful video of missile-launchers playing the sound of the drums in the orchestra. There is a lot to like about the analysis and style of the film especially in Part I, but unfortunately the film goes downhill from there, and Part III's analysis has fundamental problems.

The movie correctly emphasizes that the Gospel story of Jesus Christ is heavily influenced by earlier religious myths of Egypt, Greece, and Persia [see here ]. The film states that the Bible is an "astrotheological literary hybrid," and explains Christianity as starting as an astrological cult that borrowed heavily from the Greek myths of Attis and Dionysis and the Persian myth of Mithras. The idea that the story of Christ is psychological more than historical agrees precisely with Jung's claims that Christ is "more God than man."

Jung, however, would claim that the astrological story and the story of Christ are both images of the same universal archetype. Christianity has certainly been used extensively to further the purposes of the existing power structures, but power will use anything that is politically expedient. Part of the reason that Christianity has remained relevant for so long, Jung would argue, is that the story of Christ's life provides the most refined image of the archetype of the Incarnation--the synthesis of human and Divine, conscious and unconscious--so far, at least within Western culture. Remember, however, that Jung believes the Christ of the Gospels to be more God than man. Jung believes that a greater psychological impact is attainable by an Incarnation experience more fully rooted in empirical history than is the Christ myth.

From here, the film goes downhill for me. Al Franken's book The Truth (with jokes) convincingly tells about all the warnings the Bush administration had about the possibility of suicide bombers using commercial planes [here's a blog post making the same point]. For all the scientists who claim that the planes "could not possibly" have caused that kind of building damages, the fact is that most of scientific truth is established through experiments, and very few experiments have been performed involving the demolition of 100 story buildings, let alone crashing planes into them! The Bush administration certainly lied again and again to use the event to further their military goals--the point the movie makes about terrorism providing an "enemy image that unites a society" is pure gold--but for me the evidence points against the probability that the US government was involved in the destruction of buildings.

The way in which the third part of the film equates the Federal interest rate to slavery is fundamentally flawed. This article says it well, "Instead of offering critical perspectives on the structures within society that cause oppression and poverty, the general view [of the film] is society as it stands is benevolent and this benevolence is subverted by problems in the sphere of circulation." Concentrations of influence and capital are increasingly being accumulated within financial institutions at this time, and so concern about them is appropriate. However, change is achievable only by confronting social relationships as a whole. Eliminating interest rates would only stagnate the economy, would result in more suffering for the poorer half of the population, and would not move toward a solution. As Huxley wrote, "life is a whole and that desirable changes in one department will not produce the results anticipated from them, unless they are accompanied by desirable changes in all other departments."

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