I flipped on the car radio the other day just as some new age guru was discussing why he thought that so many people don’t have a lot of money these days:
Host: There is not lack of resources?
Guru: There is not. We will always be able to create more. And we don’t need to know how or why. I see poverty as being this incredibly dangerous disease. I mean, how many horrible things are happening in the world today because of poverty? How many crimes are being committed? How many people are being killed or injured?
Host: Because of the belief in a lack of resources?
Guru: Exactly. If we all believe that we can create whatever we need as we need it that would go a long way to stopping crime, stopping oppression, theft and many other terrible things that happen in this world.
So apparently, according to this guru, we can imagine resources into being. This is precisely the sort of delusional thinking that John Michael Greer has warned will show up when oil and food start to get scarce. It’s also the same feel-good philosophy that Barbara Ehrenreich critiques in her book Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America.You can find this cult of positive thinking on all sides of the political spectrum, both left and right. And it has, apparently, survived the 2008 economic meltdown in which it played a big role.
But the Nobel Prize for delusional thinking, however, should be awarded to Foster Gamble (of the Gamble family half of Proctor & Gamble) for being the auteur behind of one of the most bizarre documentaries I’ve ever sat through, Thrive What On Earth Will It Take? You can watch Thrive in its entirety on YouTube via the link. And if you’re a connoisseur of so-bad-it’s-good cinema and conspiracy theories, you really should take a look at this thing.
Most of the film takes place on a kind of interview studio/spaceship inspired, perhaps, by the one Carl Sagan deployed in Cosmos. But unlike Sagan, Gamble is not one to let inconvenient facts like the laws of thermodynamics interfere with all that free energy we can just will into existence. The central thesis of Thrive is put forth by an outsider physicist (sporting a sort of new age mullet) who explains that there’s a form, resembling an oversized and transparent jelly doughnut that, when combined with one of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic shapes, can create energy out of thin air. Or, at least, that’s what I think he said. Confirmation that this jelly doughnut energy thingy works is delivered by UFO abductees who witnessed (during anal probe sessions?) spaceships using the jelly doughnut energy vortex to fly around the galaxy. Further confirmation comes from crop circles, Nikola Tesla and a montage of perpetual motion machines.
Of course, oil companies, international bankers and Freemasons have stomped down their collective jack boots on the free energy generating jelly doughnut. David Icke, British sportscaster turned reptilian conspiracy theorist, is brought on to flesh out the geopolitical segment of Thrive. This segment culminates, for me at least, in the amazing revelation that seed companies are working on a spermicidal corn to control the human population.
Along the way we hear from Indian GMO activist Vandana Shiva and Deepak Chopra, which probably explains this disclaimer at the end of the film:
Personally, I’m thanking my lucky stars that Kelly and I ended up on the cutting room floor of a 2012 doc that came out last year, but that’s another story.
So how does Gamble suggest we fight off the evil bankers/one world government? Thrive concludes in the same way a lot of more mainstream environmental documentaries end these days, with tepid suggestions about shopping for organic food, buying recycled yoga mats, “organizing” and switching to credit unions.
In a blog post entitled “Merlin’s Time,” John Michael Greer sums up what I wish mainstream eco-docs would conclude with (Thrive is so outre that, as a work of unintentional conceptual art, it should just stay as it is). Greer says that what we really we need to do is,
learn, practice, and thoroughly master a set of unpopular but valuable skills – the skills of the old appropriate tech movement – and share them with their neighbors when the day comes that their neighbors are willing to learn. This is not a subject where armchair theorizing counts for much – as every wizard’s apprentice learns sooner rather than later, what you really know is measured by what you’ve actually done – and it’s probably not going to earn anyone a living any time soon, either, though it can help almost anyone make whatever living they earn go a great deal further than it might otherwise go. Nor, again, will it prevent the unraveling of the industrial age and the coming of a harsh new world; what it can do, if enough people seize the opportunity, is make the rough road to that new world more bearable than it will otherwise be.
In that new world we’ll have to grow and fry up our jelly doughnuts from scratch and they won’t fly us around. Neither, thankfully, will they be made with spermicidal corn syrup.