Thrive Film Offers Unique Perspective on Our World Situation
Filmmaker Foster Gamble’s movie, “Thrive,” covers a wide variety of topics from “free energy” to UFOs and conspiracies. But does it offer anything constructive? A professional philosopher takes a look at the controversial film.
Last November I encountered a documentary entitled Thrive: What in the World Will It Take? I came across it online by accident one weeknight and starting watching out of curiosity. Since it was after 11 pm I’d intended to watch just the first 15 minutes or so. The film checks in at around two hours and seven minutes, and two hours later I was still glued to my computer. The next day, I ordered a physical copy of Thrive.
There are aspects of this film that will strike some as “New Age-ish” or cultish. It has garnered critics of quite different stripes. Some accuse Thrive of being just another elite-controlled blind alley, full of Illuminati symbolism. Others with a more scientific-technological bent accuse it of promoting pseudoscience, or trafficking in “conspiracy theories” (yes, that allegation again—see also here). While no film can cover every possible angle in two hours and seven minutes, this one covers quite a bit of ground. I cannot speak with authority to every topic it presents. But on those topics where I have some expertise, the film’s findings are mostly congruent with mine—mostly—and suggest some possible new lines of investigation.
Thrive is the product of Clear Compass Media, founded by one Foster Gamble and his wife, Kimberly Carter Gamble. Yes, he is a scion of those Gambles—of Proctor & Gamble fame. To many, of course, this is itself a red flag; I have acquaintances who refuse to watch the movie for this reason alone. Gamble tells us he broke with the worldview of his elders when he was an undergraduate at Princeton, aware of the amount of suffering in the world, and also aware that as an heir to the Gamble fortune, he could do with his life essentially what he pleased!
He recently told The Daily Bell how he spent the next 40 years working out the best answer he could find to questions like, “With all our resources and all our technology, why are so few of us thriving?” Thrive became his answer: assembled quietly over a long period, featuring interviews with experts in many different fields, and with little advanced publicity except just prior to its release this past November (11-11-11 was its release date—another red flag, for those inclined to see it as such).
The film divides into three parts. Part One—“Chapter One”—is entitled “The Code.” It presents the thesis, startling at first glance, that all natural self-sustaining systems—from atoms to galaxies and everything in between including living things—manifest a specific pattern, a doughnut-shaped vortex known in geometry as a torus, a unique configuration managing the flow of matter, energy and information into, through, and out of the system. Moreover, Gamble works to assemble evidence that ancient peoples—the Egyptians, the Chinese, and the Aztecs, to name just three—appear to have figured out that the torus was significant.
Gamble then contends that a number of modern scientists and technologists, beginning with Nikola Tesla, stumbled onto this. The result was the beginning of ‘free energy’—a notion generally dismissed as contradicted by the laws of physics, especially thermodynamics, and therefore impossible. But who was Tesla? He is one of the more enigmatic figures in the history of technology. Best known for having invented the alternating current and for his public spats with Thomas Edison, he was a giant among the founders of modern electrical engineering. Although not as well known as Edison, whose work relied on the direct current, Tesla’s ideas provided the basis for wireless communication and radio. So what happened? Tesla—who apparently had an odd, obsessive personality by anyone’s standards—found his funding pulled by none other than JP Morgan. Some said he was showing signs of mental illness. He rejected Einstein’s theories, holding that “space could not be curved because it can have no properties; only material bodies in space can have properties.” He later claimed to be working on a direct-energy weapon. One of his ambitions, he said, was to create a flying machine that would run on a power source not requiring propellers, wings, ailerons, or an onboard fuel source. Neither line of research—we are told—ever went anywhere. But after his death, Tesla’s papers were confiscated by the federal government and deemed top secret. It was alleged, even then, that his ideas had advanced to the point where, if applied, they would put leviathan energy companies like Westinghouse out of business.
Did Tesla’s work open a door to what is being called ‘free energy’—energy derived not from fossil fuels or other such sources but created through channeling those forces flowing through natural systems? A number of supposed ‘free energy’ innovators came along: Adam Trombly, John Bedini, John Hutchison and Eugene Mallove. Their work was suppressed by the government—often violently, their laboratories raided and burned. Mallove was found dead in the garage of family rental property in 2004, the victim of a homicide. While court testimony suggested he’d been killed by a disgruntled former tenant, this was not conclusively proved and the case continues to be suspicious. ‘Free energy’ advocates, as we noted above, are dismissed either as deluded or as frauds, the physics equivalents of circle-squarers and palm readers. Now maybe this is true. I don’t know. But if so, why suppress them? Why not just ignore them? If their equipment violates the second law of thermodynamics it won’t work, plain and simple, and there is no need to suppress it unless they are defrauding others who have invested in a company or something. I’d not heard of them before I watched Thrive. When work is suppressed, one is left with a sense that someone has something to hide. One is tempted by one of my favorite questions: “What are you afraid of?”
Gamble explores the curious phenomenon known as crop circles, in order to explore the speculation that an extraterrestrial civilization learned to use ‘free energy’; that is how they were able to cross the gulfs of space. Conventional science dismisses these, too, as hoaxes; again, I profess no special expertise here, but I did know there are thousands of these circles all over the world. A few have indeed been faked, and the faked circles do not display the symmetry and intricacy of the majority of crop circles, nor the fact that they just appear overnight with no footprints or other signs of human presence found in the vicinity even on rainy nights. The patterns evident in crop circles, argues Gamble, manifest the same “Code” seen in natural, self-sustaining systems: messages if we can learn to read them?
When I was in my teens I went through a phase of fascination with the UFO phenomenon. I sought out the most reliable writings I could find, such as those by the late J. Allen Hynek, an astronomer who began as a firm skeptic, studied the phenomenon, and gradually came around to the view that something was going on that science had not explained. I never took sides on what I thought UFOs were. The popular view, of course, is that UFOs are spaceships from extraterrestrial civilizations, although some Christian authors see them as manifestations of demonic beings that have been here as long as we have. What is clear from the hundreds of sightings per year is that while the majority are cases of mistaken identity of prosaic objects, such as aircraft or satellites in orbit, and others are caused by rare atmospheric phenomena such temperature inversions or ball lightning, there is a residual minority of cases—perhaps not even 1 percent—that cannot be explained in such terms. These are not necessarily so-called “close encounters” nor “abduction” cases of high strangeness, though a few are. These are cases where those whose occupation involves trained observation with an eye to detail—pilots, police officers, even astronauts, sometimes many at once—claim they saw something they couldn’t identify. A few have been tracked on radar, sometimes initiating maneuvers that seem to defy physical law. In some cases there appears to have been physical evidence such as bits of unknown alloy or patches of radiation-burned grass, indicative of a real physical phenomenon.
If UFOs are physical craft of some sort, wherever they are from, then what powers them? It’s a question bound to arise. Foster Gamble may seem to be reaching, but he alleges: (1) that the federal government has known for decades that UFOs were a real, physical phenomenon; (2) their mode of propulsion is beyond the capabilities of our present technology, utilizing an energy source for which the disk shape, a modified torus, is perfectly suited (this shape gave rise to the term flying saucer); that (3) if their reality is granted, questions about what this mode of propulsion is and how it works are bound to arise; and (4) in human hands, it would render all present corporate energy giants—oil and electric companies, etc.—instantly obsolete. Gamble intimates that these craft are not supernatural, and that Tesla and the ‘free energy’ advocates were on the verges of discovering the same processes, of powering engines without fossil fuels or other conventional sources.
Whatever one thinks of the UFO phenomenon, who might be motivated to suppress knowledge of unconventional sources of propulsion, and why? Here begins “Chapter Two” of Thrive: “The Problem.” Gamble’s results intersect so closely with my own in my book Four Cardinal Errors that I found his account riveting. He did what I’d taught myself to do, which is follow the money and ask, cui bono? For example, J.P. Morgan had a monopoly on copper wiring used for electrical lines. Morgan recognized that Tesla would soon be able to transmit electricity without copper wires. So he made sure Tesla was defunded and blackballed.
Gamble proposes, as have I, that wealthy and powerful extended families—my term for them is the superelite—have been working toward global domination for several centuries. As an heir to the Gamble fortune, he would surely be in a position to know if this is true. Long time readers of my work know one of my key premises: in any population exists a minority that is drawn to power—and has no qualms about murdering those who get in their way. This minority recognized, centuries ago, the potential of central banking and of fiat money, and so set up central banks throughout Europe. They saw this country’s tradition of liberty as a threat, so they targeted it for destruction on several fronts. We are living in the aftermath. Those who can control both the amount and the flow of money can wield economic control even within “capitalist” nations; “capitalism” itself becomes an instrument of the move to world government.
The superelite’s long term goals had to ensure that advancing technology would further a more centralized world. They could not have common people in small, self-sustaining communities going around on their own. Fossil fuels and enormous power grids have been the obvious choices. Extracting fossil fuels, refining them into consumable products ranging from plastics to gasoline and much else, distributing them to the masses, all require massive, expensive facilities, run by teams of experts, all run from central locations. For the same reasons, they had few qualms about nuclear power, although Japan has learned of its dangers the hard way.
Matters of unintended consequences including (but not limited to) environmental impact seemed to require the involvement of government, bringing corporate and governmental worlds into the same centralized orbit. The result was a technocratic system in which “capitalists” gain massive profits, privileges and power while “socializing” problems and losses. All the while, of course, tax-exempt foundations created by the super-wealthy poured millions into “social science research” that was really about social control: what moves the masses? What will keep them pacified? What will keep them entertained? What will change their values? The same was true of education: how do we produce and maintain a mostly docile population that will accept the jobs made available and obey authority? What can be put in food and water, moreover, that will further the goals of social control even more while guaranteeing massive profits for food and drug companies? Think of high fructose corn syrup, MSG, aspartame, and other substances known to be unhealthy and in some cases even carcinogenic but which remain in mass-produced food and beverages despite massive regulation of the food marketplace. Or realize that America’s masses now ingest more drugs—of the legal and prescription kind—than ever before! Roughly every fourth television commercial you see is for a drug. Ask your doctor if Cialis for daily use is right for you! One of the upshots here is that Americans have become the sickest and most obese, the most drugged, the least healthy, and the most mentally lethargic of all advanced nations in the world. Small wonder we are not thriving!
The question I am most often asked—in emails, letters, interviews, etc.—is “What can we do?” This brings us to “Chapter Three” of Thrive: “Solutions.” Here, frankly, Thrive seems to fall short. While proposing to be about solutions and not just problems, there was little in this section that seemed new. Scenes of small communities using windmills to generate power don’t cut it, and furthermore, seem out of accord with the ‘free energy’ discussed at the outset. A walk through familiar Austrian-school economics principles which have been taught for years without much effect on the power system. So what can we do?
“The Problem” is massive. I very much doubt that the various grassroots freedom movements are capable of bringing down the superelite. We are too unfocused, too scattered and disorganized, oftentimes suspicious of one another (sometimes with justification), and in general cannot begin to command the resources of the leviathan banking families who have ruined our government and might well be ruining the planet. Moreover, too many of us have brought knives to gunfights, so to speak. The superelite obviously cannot be reasoned with; sadly, neither can most of the masses! They may grouse about taxes, but the majority still basically trust authority and supposed expertise. For most of the American public, the problems here are too remote from their day-to-day concerns, not entertaining enough, not sexy enough, to warrant that much attention. The pseudo rationalist segment of the general public will sneer conspiracy theory and turn away. Again: what can we do?
Sadly, most established institutions in the business of teaching and defending liberty are riding their own hobby horses. Some are devoted to Austrian-school economics, which in recent years has drifted from what Menger and Mises originally developed to an anarchism motivated not by a love of liberty but hatred for government. I am not an “anarcho-capitalist”! It took me a while to figure it out, but a “free market” global environment for transnational corporations is quite compatible with colonization of those parts of the world with resources the elites want (e.g., oil), which means destroying local economies and ecologies, and enslaving indigenous populations who serve as cheap labor—putting Americans out of work. “Free trade” via the bilateral trade agreements we have seen beginning with NAFTA and GATT actually hand us over to a de facto world regime of corporate elites—what John Perkins called the corporatocracy (see his eye-opening Confessions of an Economic Hit Man). Other “libertarian” institutes just focus on promoting “smaller government” within Washington, D.C.—a fool’s errand if ever there was one! The “preppers” have better ideas than these. If we cannot bring down the superelite, we can make the choice of getting out from under them and out of their reach—and able to survive when the global financial disaster they are presently engineering finally hits.
A presently visible movement has coalesced around Ron Paul’s candidacy for the GOP nomination. It is absolutely vital that this movement survive if, as seems likely, Ron Paul isn’t nominated. Unfortunately, a large portion of it has already been marginalized by mainstream media, and a lot of its members are going to end up essentially on their own.
We have to rethink and restructure our premises about philosophy, theology, politics, economics, health, and systems: about what money is and the purposes it serves; what markets are, what purposes they serve, and what their limits are; about the left-right political paradigm and who benefits when we are divided; what health is and how to maintain it; and about natural systems and how they operate. This last must become, to my mind, a lynchpin idea.
Taken together, this is an extremely tall order! Ultimately we are talking revamping education from the ground floor up. Much of it, today, will have to be self-education—obviously we’ll never see anything like this in government schools. Its goal will be people who know how to think as individuals, not mindless consumers or obedience followers. We ought to build the study of systems into it, learning about the different kinds of systems that surround us: natural or biological (which would include our own bodies and health), mechanical (e.g., technology), formal and informational (logic, computation, etc.), organizational (corporations, government agencies), economic, planetary, and so forth. Matter, energy and information are constantly flowing into, being transformed by, and then flowing out of systems. It should be clear that systems need energy to sustain themselves: our bodies need nutritious food, our civilization needs energy to sustain its activities. Whatever one believes about climate change, whether it is natural or caused by human activity, it makes sense that we should avoid harming the natural systems surrounding us. We should learn more what energy is, the various ways it can be generated, what can go wrong when systems are misaligned, and what kind of civilization might be possible given an alignment of energy-creation with natural systems instead of processes that disrupt or deplete them.
The best reason for investigating alternatives to fossil fuels, though, may not be climate change if that is what is happening. The best reason is that the use of fossil fuels and enormous power grids to drive our economic system is fundamentally centralizing and thus disempowering to most of us who are compelled to become dependent on these systems. Just ask how long you can drive to work without gasoline. But do you not work to buy gasoline—and groceries, electricity, and so on? Now imagine small, self-sufficient and self-sustaining communities in which you might not even need a car. (One economist whose work enables us to imagine such communities was Leopold Kohr.)
These, it seems to me, are the recommendations the concluding section of Thrive should have communicated but didn’t. I cannot allay suspicions about the film—that Foster Gamble’s may be just another attempt to divert a portion of the freedom movement down a path where it will be neutered. Perhaps we’d expect that Foster Gamble would leave Proctor & Gamble alone, but why would his rich elders allow him to make a film like this? Maybe they believe they have the majority of us where they want us, and allow us to indulge in fantasies of escaping their planned new world order. It is up to us to ensure otherwise—by getting educated not just about them but in the manner described above.
In sum, if portions of Thrive go outside what I can speak to with authority, its results about those areas I do know something about are congruent with mine—for whatever that is worth. I believe the film merits being watched (you can watch it for free online). If we think Gamble gets some things wrong or leaves things out, perhaps we can plug those holes with new information. Speaking just for myself, I’d like to know more about whatever sort of energy is traceable to some of Tesla’s ideas (‘free energy’ is probably a misnomer). What are the viable alternatives to oil, coal, and nuclear power? I’d like to know, one way or the other, whether these alternatives offer promise or just another blind alley. With the variety of ideas & conclusions contained in Thrive, the kinds of discussions it could trigger, to my mind it deserves a place in our present conversation.