Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I’d heard the word but didn’t really know what it meant – zeitgeist. So I looked it up:

The spirit of the time; the taste and outlook characteristic of a period or generation.

OK, now I begin to understand. My nephew Marcus sent me an email with a link to the movie “Zeitgeist.” I’d never heard of the movie but decided to check it out. For the next two hours it streamed down to me as I sat in front of this LCD, not quite mesmerized, but interested enough to keep watching.

Marcus is a Millennial (a term which I hadn’t heard until recently), also called Generation Y. Millennials are people born between 1980 and 1995, so they are roughly 12 to 27 years old. It figures that I was unfamiliar with Millennials, because while I hadn’t heard of them by that name I knew I didn’t understand them.

I’m old enough to be the grandfather, or even great grandfather, of a Millennial. And I’m rarely in the presence of one. So even though I stay up to date on what’s happening in the world, it figures that I’d be out of touch with how Millennials think, what they like and dislike, how they see life, etc.

I’ve been conscious of this disconnect for some time. When I see them in action, usually on TV, or read about them, I am certain that they are an unfamiliar alien phenomenon. They speak a different language. At a young age they possess skills I can’t conceive of emulating. Someone who can be text messaging while they’re talking on their cell phone while they’re doing homework while they’re listening to music on their iPod is a super being who makes standard multi-tasking seem old fashioned and quaint.

OK, back to “Zeitgeist.” It’s a film with three parts, each part highlighting a different conspiracy. I loved Part One, which shows how the myth of Christ’s birth, life and death repeats a story that was told many times in many places over thousands of years. I assume there will be quibbles about the accuracy of the facts presented, but I don’t care. I loved that they took on the hypocrisy and lies perpetrated by Catholicism and other Christian sects.

Part Two is about how a massive conspiracy was behind 9/11 and other terrorist acts. I’d heard a lot of this before and while I have questions about how the World Trade Center buildings could come down as they did, I don’t buy the basic conspiracy theory.

Part Three is the story of how international bankers are responsible for World Wars I and II, the Depression, the Vietnam War, and more. All for the purpose of making money. I have a problem with this conspiracy as well. I can’t believe so many people could be aware of so much evil over an extended period of time and manage to keep it hidden.

My point here is not about the details of the film and whether I agree or disagree. It is that apparently this is zeitgeist, truth, for today’s young people who will soon control the future. I know I’m extrapolating the views of perhaps a few into a generational conclusion. But if a significant number of Millennials feel this way it is much more serious than the oft repeated lament of old people that the younger generation is headed in the wrong direction.

These 20-somethings, an age traditionally filled with idealism, possibility and hope, are telling us in the starkest possible terms that no leader, group or country is to be trusted, that we have been sold out, that our liberties have been taken away or soon will be, and that it has always been this way.

Conspiracy theories aside, I think there is a lot of truth in the conclusions they have reached. There is too much evidence to deny it. Even though I can’t fully put myself in their shoes (remember, I don’t understand these people) I get the point. One thing seems clear – if they turn their alienation into a movement to reverse the negative momentum, what has been lost can be regained, and a new and better day is possible. If their alienation feeds on itself, the downward spiral will be accelerated and what we love and treasure will be gone.

As the Chinese proverb says:

If we don’t change our direction,
We are likely to end up where we are headed.


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