The view from Venus
Jacque Fresco designed a society without politics, poverty and war. Will it ever leave the drawing board?
Published: October 13, 2011
Fresco left home at the age of 14, hitchhiking south and jumping trains as one of the so-called “wild boys of the road.” He returned to New York, only to leave for good at the age of 17 after pamphlets titled “Come to California, Lots of Jobs” were airdropped upon the city. Naturally, he detested the 7-cent-per-hour farm labor waiting for him there, but eventually, he was able to convince the Douglas Aircraft Co. to hire him after he presented some uncommonly advanced designs. His interest in more fundamental societal changes persisted, however, and in 1939, he traveled to the Tuamotus, a chain of coral atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, to observe how the natives lived. He had arrived there after asking the natives in Tahiti which islands were “clean” – that is, without money.
Just as the Great Depression had made the problem clear to him, so did the natives of Tuamotus make clear the solution. When they brought in nets full of fish, Fresco says, the catch was distributed to everyone, himself included. “They didn’t say: ‘You owe me five bucks,’” Fresco says. “They shared whatever they had.” During his first days there (he ultimately spent six months in the Tuamotus), Fresco found a few natives in his thatch hut, rummaging guiltlessly through his things – they had no concept of property – and were more mature about sexual matters than most American adults, even though they were in the nude constantly. “There were no Peeping Toms,” Fresco says. “There were no fetishes. There were no tit-men, leg-men, ass-men, hair-men – they stroked the whole female.”
This experience helped to shape what appears to be Fresco’s core ideological principle: that there is no such thing as “human nature,” and hence, a resource-based economy – the most logical and equitable system he can imagine – would not be imperiled by innate greed. In a country where the richest 1 percent of the population controls 40 percent of the country’s wealth, such a philosophy is met with both skepticism and admiration. According to Patrick Tucker, deputy editor of The Futurist, the conditions that bred Fresco – desperation and suffering wrought by economic turmoil – are likely now producing more radical thinkers like him. “Go out and talk to somebody that’s been sitting in line all night, waiting to talk to somebody about refinancing their home loan so they can stay in their house, and ask them how open they are to the idea of completely reinventing the way we do everything,” Tucker says. “I think you’re going to find a more enthusiastic response than you would at a time when everybody was living under the notion of all boats rising.”
What’s most incredible about Zeitgeist: The Movie is the pace at which it dismantles – or at least attempts to dismantle – America’s sacred cows. Within the span of 74 minutes, the Bible is dismissed as no more than an “astro-theological literary hybrid,” the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are concluded to have been orchestrated by the U.S. government, and the federal income tax is declared to be an unconstitutional creation of a private corporation known as the Federal Reserve. Within six months of its June 2007 release, Zeitgeist generated 50 million views on Google Video. It was during the film’s buzzing aftermath when the film’s creator, Peter Joseph, set out to make a sequel which explored solutions. He heard about the Venus Project, and less than a year later, Zeitgeist: Addendum, the second documentary to uncritically present Jacque Fresco’s vision for the future, was released. (Joseph could not be reached for this story.)
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