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The view from Venus

Jacque Fresco designed a society without politics, poverty and war. Will it ever leave the drawing board?

Photo: Patricia Lois Nuss, License: N/A, Created: 2011:09:28 14:15:30

Patricia Lois Nuss

Venus Project creator Jacque Fresco says he's designed a model society that could exist without money, politics, poverty or war

Photo: Patricia Lois Nuss, License: N/A, Created: 2011:09:28 13:33:40

Patricia Lois Nuss

An interior shot of one of the Venus Project houses

Photo: Patricia Lois Nuss, License: N/A, Created: 2011:09:28 13:29:21

Patricia Lois Nuss

Models and images of Jacque Fresco's vision for the Venus Project

Photo: Patricia Lois Nuss, License: N/A, Created: 2011:09:28 13:25:13

Patricia Lois Nuss

One of Jacque Fresco's Venus Project models

Photo: Patricia Lois Nuss, License: N/A, Created: 2011:09:28 13:56:25

Patricia Lois Nuss

Jacque Fresco and Roxanne Meadows have dedicated their lives to the Venus Project

Photo: Patricia Lois Nuss, License: N/A

Patricia Lois Nuss

Jacque Fresco and Roxanne Meadows in front of their home on the Venus campus

Photo: Patricia Lois Nuss, License: N/A

Patricia Lois Nuss

Roughly 7,000 technicians would be required to run the world in the risk-fraught transition to this new society, though Fresco fears that humanity may not recover from the resulting violence. “I may get shot,” Fresco says. “Somebody might project that I’m the anti-Christ.” Yet after the battle is won – ideas, not weapons, should prevail – the allocation of resources would be a fully automatic and equitable process accepted by the citizenry. By then, residents of Fresco’s cities would have been conditioned out of any lingering greediness and competitiveness left behind by the monetary system. “Kids have no bigotry or prejudice,” Fresco says. “Every move you make, every word you use, you were taught.”

Jacque Fresco was 13 years old when the Great Depression began. The precipitating event – the crash of the stock market in the final days of October 1929 – occurred less than 10 miles away from his home at the corner of 67th Street and 20th Avenue in Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst neighborhood. It was in his small flat that the young Fresco would convene his friends to discuss Darwin, aircraft design and, according to the late futurist Jack Catran, “the indignities of suffering through another impoverished northeastern winter.”

New York was hit especially hard by the Depression. Immediately following the stock market crash, there was a wave of suicides in the financial district; clerks of one hotel reportedly asked potential tenants whether they planned to use their rooms for sleeping or jumping. By March 1930 there were 50,000 meals being served in the Lower East Side’s 50 bread lines on a daily basis. By 1932, half of the city’s manufacturing plants had closed, and one out of every three New Yorkers was unemployed. Thousands were sleeping in empty lots. It was during that period when, while swinging on a bar at a playground, the young Fresco fell over and split his lip. “I held it together, and ran to the nearest doctor,” Fresco says. “The first thing he said is: ‘Your father working?’”

Fresco eventually paid the doctor by building several cabinets for him. Fresco’s father, an agriculturalist born in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey; Fresco’s father was born nearly 43 years before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire), was laid off almost immediately after the onset of the Depression. His mother Lena, who emigrated from Jerusalem, was a stay-at-home mom who took up freelance sewing to make money – besides Fresco, there was an older brother and a younger sister to be raised. Fresco rarely talks about his family. “My parents were ‘normal,’ meaning fucked-up by society,” he says. “They knew nothing. I looked at them as children, pissants.” He held that viewpoint of other adults as well: After all, they were the ones responsible for an economic structure that made no sense. “I looked around, and the stores had everything in the windows … whatever people would need,” he says. “But [people] had no money.” And he has a point. Whatever the causes of the Great Depression – it is still a matter of active debate among scholars – it certainly wasn’t for lack of physical resources.

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