Photo by Farrah Johnson

June 10, 2009

The dudes on the bus

Touring anarchists stop in Louisville, pushing propaganda and sipping lattes

Wearing pajama pants and sandals, the two men don’t look like anarchist revolutionaries as they exit the bright green school bus that has been their home for the past few months. But in fact, the pair is on a mission to promote The Zeitgeist Movement, and on this day they are stopping in Louisville to drum up support.

A handful of potential followers and enthusiastic devotees are gathered at a coffee shop in the Highlands to learn more about the movement, which more or less advocates the complete dissolution of government, money, corporations, religion and laws.

Easy enough.

To start, the young men show a propaganda film, “Zeitgeist: Addendum,” which consists mainly of outrageous conspiracy theories. Although some followers admit parts of the controversial film are untrue — like claiming the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were without a doubt an inside job — they say that should not detract from its main message: That money is inherently corrupting and should be eliminated from society. Instead, supporters advocate a resource-based economy where goods are available to all people without the exchange of money or bartering. Several viewers nod in agreement as they sip $4 coffee drinks.

Other radical claims made in the film include the notion that al-Qaida does not exist, and that the modern monetary system is nothing more than a pyramid scheme. In a dramatic climax, the narrator challenges the viewer to take action, boycott every form of establishment and join the movement.

During a discussion following the film, a young man sheepishly admits he is enrolled at the University of Louisville and is considering law school. The group laughs.

Jeff Redmond is the leader of this pilgrimage, although he would not describe himself as such. Originally from Alaska, he bought the run-down school bus in Oregon and began his cross-country journey. After working at Walmart for several years, Redmond took an “early retirement,” emboldening his view of employment as “paid slavery.” The bushy-haired twentysomething with a scraggly goatee converted the bus’s diesel engine to run on vegetable oil, which he usually obtains from restaurants, although he admits that occasionally it’s necessary to obtain the oil through other means (nice euphemism).

“We are out to bring people together and urge them to meet their neighbors,” Redmond says during an interview after the gathering at Ray’s Monkey House on Bardstown Road. “Many of us are unaware of the condition that the world is in right now.”

According to The Zeitgeist Movement website and other online sources, the movement reaches far beyond the path of Redmond’s green school bus. Thousands of Zeitgeist supporters have united on social-networking sites, and nearly 20,000 people have reportedly signed a petition promoting a related, albeit loftier movement called The Venus Project (more on that later).

Casey House is several years younger and conveys a slightly less jaded demeanor than his mentor. Once a college student in California, he dropped out upon discovering The Zeitgeist Movement and hopped on the bus. He greets potential supporters as they take a seat on one of the tattered couches inside the trendy coffeehouse.

“I realized that I was not actually living, but instead just hallucinating,” House explains in his bio on the website www.zeitgeistonwheels.com, created by him and his traveling partner. “I was just lost because of what mother culture had been pounding into my head since I was a child. I had taken the money drug, which got me hooked to the college drug, which made me so dependent on both that I lost sight of who I actually was.”

Then there’s Pip, who tonight became one of two new passengers on the bus. A Louisville native, Pip (who says he no longer uses a last name) discovered The Zeitgeist Movement after a stint in the military, an institution the movement wants to dissolve. His aloof, somber demeanor starkly contrasts his brightly colored tie-dyed T-shirt.

“We believe that implementation has to be from the ground up,” Pip says after the film, referring to the movement’s goal of transforming society to live by new ideals. “It has to be completely grassroots and it should be out to inspire connection, not division. We’re not interested in driving people apart or making them into photocopied repeater drones.”

Without jobs or cash, Pip and his new cohorts say they frequently dig through Dumpsters to find food and clothing. For shelter, members either sleep on the bus or find a place to crash through the website couchsurfing.com.

“The more you gift,” Pip says, “the more it comes back.”

Then there’s Justin Hubbard, another Louisvillian and the leader of Zeitgeist Kentucky, which meets every Sunday at the Brick House Community Center downtown. He too decides to get on the bus, which is heading to Venus, Fla., home of The Venus Project, a bizarre underground movement with lofty goals for the future. Started by 93-year-old Jacque Fresco, The Venus Project proposes overhauling society through, among other things, eliminating currency, government and corporations, while continuing to advance technology. Ideally, the end result would be a world without war, poverty or social classes, one that is brimming with advanced technology and odd, bubble-shaped architecture. The specific blueprint even includes plans for a train that would transport passengers from Louisville to Hong Kong in about two hours.

“We hope to travel to The Venus Project in order to further our understanding of the movement,” says Pip. “We’re [here] to inspire people to think and be aware, to ask questions and start their own journey.” 

The Bus

By tracks
tracks Ms. Johnson is a very gifted writer. It will be a pleasure to watch her develope.

hmmm

By breathe77
i stopped reading at this point: "Although some followers admit parts of the controversial film are untrue — like claiming the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were without a doubt an inside job —..." ,,because it imposes the thought upon the reader to not question fallible explanations of the event. i'll have to set this issue down for a few hours or days before i can continue to read this article.

RE:Hmm...

By Sabriell
Hmm... My thoughts exactly after reading this article. I am a member of Zeitgeist Kentucky and have watched and absorbed as much information as I can about this movement as well as the Venus Project and all of Jacque Fresco's work. I shrug this off as an article of falsities, exaggerated first impressions, and overall lack of vision. This article certainly does not exhibit the motives behind our movement. If anyone were inclined, and open-minded enough, they could certainly access these websites and find a world of information about the movement. There are fundamental flaws in our society, in our monetary system, that deserve harsh scrutiny. It is not unrealistic to believe that we can live in a world without war and poverty and be open-minded enough to research other alternatives besides the system that we are currently under. I hope that if any are slightly intersted in this movement they will do their research and find the true meaning behind the zeitgeist movement. I agree with you, breathe77, as far as the comment about 9/11 was concerned. I know that the justification behind those comments were to keep this writer from portraying the Zeitgeist Movement as another one of those crazy conspiracy theory groups. Though I have to say she did an excellent job of portraying us as thus.

Zeitgeist and Anarchism

By Alex
I hope people know that this utopian movement lacks vision, embodies an oversimplified vision of capitalism and the State,and, hence, doesn't necessarily have anything to do with anarchism. Anyone who has studied the historical evolution of anarchism knows that it has nothing to do with proposing bizarre blueprints for a future planet without any specific plan on how to get there. Plus, anarchism has never proposed one vision for a "new" society. In fact, anarchism proposes that the State and capitalism be abolished to be replaced by free-associating federations of communities; the social theory has never offered one vision for the right way to liberty. Any time people talk about specific paths, then it becomes dogmatic. I wanted to mention this because the author of the article connotes that the Zeitgeist Movement is an anarchist movement. As someone who has studied and identifies with anarchist principles, I find this ridiculous. The "leader" of the movement (the fact that it has such a position would suggest that it is anathema to anarchists) is a guy who realized that right wing extremism, i.e., conspiracy nonsense, was loosing momentum. So, he moved to the left of many of his peers like fear-peddler Alex Jones. The result is something sort of analogous to Marxian visions and anarchism. But like the aforementioned theories, this one is a-historical, and has its roots in right-wing ideology (unlike Marxism and anarchism, which have their roots in the left and the labor movement). Anarchism gets such a bad rap due to the misinformation about the ideology. "Zeitgeist" is another unfortunate blow to genuine anti-authoritarians that are serious people, not utopian daydreamers who ignore history and have no plans.

anarchist vs reality

By workingirl
The Brick house is a propaganda machine that is out to indoctrinate young people into giving up their families and education for a bellows full of angry wind. As a liberal minded person I object to the notion that one must throw away every institution from education, banking, military service and the legal system to change the world into some utopian world that will never exist. The truth of the matter is that these self proclaimed anarchists are children of priveledge who have never lived the reality of poverty. I have experienced it personally and have worked hard my entire life to better myself and to give my children every opportunity to be whatever they want to be. Dropping out and quitting is the easiest, cowardly thing to do. So kids, drop out, tune out, lay around, don't work, don't take a bath..........Your mom will clean up the mess!!!!!!!

C'mon, Workinngirl...

By Alex
I agree with you that many people from anarchist milieus come from middle-class, white backgrounds; this is the case with any radical social-theory (after all, working-class poor people are usually just trying to get food on the table and don't have time for leisurely studies). However, you make general statements about people that are interested in anarchism that actually only apply to a very minute amount of people in the movement. Also, in regards to your comments about the Brick House being some kind of Leninist re-education camp: that's just classic red-baiting. McCarthy would be proud. The Brick House is a free-space that gives people with all kinds of different viewpoints a place to express their views; those views don't necessarily reflect the organization. I think the scenario that you create, that the Brick House is out to indoctrinate the youth, is just silly and has no merit.

The Truth

By workingirl
The Brick House is at least somewhat responsible for brainwashing my child. I have lost her. That is neither silly or without merit. My life has been destroyed.

Re: Seriously?

By Sabriell
I have to say that in the many, many years that I have gone to the Brick House Community center, I have never seen anything that you have described workingirl. Even when the Brick House was formerly BRYCC House I've never experienced this. Yes they did bring in what you would call a "liberal" or "anarchist" group (I hate labels) but never have I experienced what you are describing. The Brick House is strictly a community center and like Alex stated does not necessarily agree with the views of some of the collectives that use or have used it's space.

Seriously

By workingirl
I never objected to my daughter going to the Brick House, in fact close friends of mine donated money to it. She changed dramatically, and it wasn't until she left her family did I understand where she got the propaganda about Crimethinc and other organizations describing themselves as anarchists. These organizations are pushing kids to quit school, leave their families and eat out of dumpsters. I can't blame other people for her choices, but if she had not gone to the Brick House, she would have not been exposed to this propaganda. If you google anarchists and Louisville the Brick House is the place to go. It has been a year and a half of pure hell.

Sorry About Your Situation Workingirl

By Alex
First off, I'm a parent so I can be empathetic towards your situation. As someone who identifies as an anarchist, I would be willing to try to help you with your situation if you'd like to talk offline (for what it's worth). I can also tell you that anarchism (though no one owns the term) has nothing to do with dropping out of society, i.e., leaving your family, eating out of dumpsters, and dropping out of school (though I gotta admit, this one seems almost justified). An anarchist perspective on the aforementioned factors might be that we shouldn't claim our children as property, food/water shouldn't be commodities, and education shouldn't be authoritarian and dogmatic. If your young daughter came to me and said "Should I drop out of school, eat out of dumpsters, and leave my family?" , if she was asking for my advice, I would tell her it's a bad idea. I would tell her to agitate, write about anti-authoritarian ideas in school, talk to other kids about it, try to form organizations that oppose oppressive power-structures, etc. I would suggest that she let her opposition be known to every "authority" figure in her life, and embrace it. And I would tell her to call out injustice wherever she sees it, etc. These would be some of my suggestions, and that simply dropping out of society doesn't solve a thing. Anarchism is typically about human solidarity, as opposed to selfish individualism. As for Crimethinc., I'm not sure how much you know about the "organization" (it's difficult to even call it that), but it's hard to even pinpoint who exactly "they" are (anyone can claim to be Crimethinc.). There's no formal leadership, or formal requirements for membership. So, it's hard to put the blame on a specific group of people. Since it's so informal and involves no membership requirements, you and I could start a free health clinic tomorrow and say it's a Crimethinc. health clinic. However, we could also go blow up a building, or hurt someone, and say "Crimethinc. is responsible for this." So, I think like your sweeping generalizations about the Brick House, putting Crimethinc. in a box is, essentially, impossible. But one thing that I can assure you of is that anarchists are not a cult seeking to steal young people from their families; abolishing "the family" has nothing to do with anarchism. This involves voluntary association of human-beings, and anarchism is all for this. And I'm genuinely sorry about your situation; if I can help (don't know that I can) I'd honestly love to.

This one seems almost justified

By workingirl
This one seems almost justified. What does that mean?

Referring to School...

By Alex
I was being a little tongue-in-cheek. Look, I'm in grad. school. That's what you do in the capitalist system; you jump through hoops to avoid poverty and starvation. I was referring to an authoritarian, broken system of education. But I wouldn't really advise anyone to drop out of school in the current system simply because there aren't alternatives. I would assume you're referring to high-school. Dropping out of high-school makes things really difficult, so I certainly wouldn't recommend it. And I don't think it's "revolutionary." Sorry for the misunderstanding, and hope it's clear now.

I believe this aspect is

By JoeyEstate
Can't blame other people for her choices, but if she had not gone to the Brick House, she would have not been exposed to this propaganda. If you google anarchists and Louisville the Brick House is the place to go. I believe this aspect is growing everywhere as business owners learn what it is. For example, Phoenix is much more sophisticated in this regards than here in Tucson. I average small business owner is still way behind in their understanding such incidents. Beirut Hotels

The Brick House is at least

By wis3384
The Brick House is at least somewhat responsible for brainwashing my child. I have lost her. That is neither silly or without merit. My life has been destroyed. bahrain