Abby Martin speaks with Peter Joseph, founder to the Zeitgeist Movement about the philosophy behind the organization, the current unsustainable economic system and the model proposed by the movement for a sustainable future that works harmoniously with nature.

Poverty and Structural Violence

structural-violence-Peter Joseph

If you have inequality, you’re going to have conflict and psycho-social stress caused by relative deprivation. Relative deprivation is insidious and has to do with our social nature and how we perceive ourselves in the social hierarchy. When we see other people doing “better” at a higher class status, it creates tension – unfortunately this is exactly what wealth division is doing in our society.

Take a person and stick them in a poverty-stricken environment, and they develop heart disease which is known to have a direct link to low socioeconomic status. Studies have shown that if you’re just in the existence of low social economic status, the relative deprivation, the way you think about yourself has incredibly inhibiting effects over the way your body and mind works and you will develop high stress levels and cardiac problems.

What if that person with heart disease dies early at 50 because of poverty and low social status? This is a completely avoidable circumstance, which the Zeitgeist movement’s argument.

There’s no reason for anyone to be in poverty, there’s no reason to have massive wealth gaps. This is structural violence, and it has killed more people than any dictator and war combined.

Gandhi agrees, he said “Poverty, is the worst form of violence.”

Constant Consumption


You have all these factors that force economic consumption, which forces resource consumption. The entire façade of market capitalism looks at the earth as one big inventory. At its core philosophical foundation, you can’t have a society of this nature and assume it will ever be sustainable ecologically.

Scarcity and Greed


The economic system we have today is culturally unsustainable because it perpetuates inequality by design. Take a look at the incentive structure: in a scarcity driven world view, narrow self-interest will prevail. If you have a self-interest world view in a scarcity driven society, you’re going to lead to competitive behavior.

Competitive behavior will always develop into power consolidation, like the State, Federal Reserve, or FDA. Massive collusion working for self-interest for small isolated groups of people. If you have these pockets of consolidation and constant interest in competitive advantage, you’re going to have a constant and increasing wealth imbalance.

The market has an inherent propensity to create inequality which people love if you believe in social Darwinism, because everyone walks around reinforced to think that they’re better than everyone else because of all their property and status.

When it comes to public health, inequality is one of the most caustic things a society can generate.


  1. Given that the term “social Darwinism” was coined by the proponents of eugenic forced sterilization of the “feebleminded, alcoholic, and congenital paupers” at the hands of the state, how does that tie into the misconception that free markets and free trade generate poverty?


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