Since July, Cardiff has been home to its own chapter of the controversial social cause the Zeitgeist movement.
Inspired by the Zeitgeist documentaries by Peter Joseph and the Venus Project concept of social engineer Jacque Fresco, the movement started in 2008 and has divided opinion across the globe.
Though the group’s beliefs in sustainability and equality are shared by others, some of its aims - getting rid of money, government and social classes - as well as its references to a “new world order” have seen it labelled by some as utopian, communist and a religious cult.
The Cardiff chapter will celebrate the movement’s third annual Z-Day tomorrow with a talk at Cardiff Arts Institute featuring activist Charlie Veitch.
“The key aims of the movement are to make a resource-based economy, a humane method of scientific governance and an end to social classes,” explains Vivak Shori, a former call centre manager living in Cardiff Bay, who has followed the movement for two years.
The Cardiff chapter was started by construction administrator Martin Andel after he was inspired by the Zeitgeist films. At a recent group meeting at CAI, he tells me the purpose behind setting up a local group was to raise awareness and share information between people ahead of a day when the movement has a stronger voice.
More than 400,000 people worldwide have signed up to the Zeitgeist website so far, with more than 21,000 in the UK. The Cardiff group estimate more than 50 people have attended weekly meetings so far, although the highest number for any one session has been 20.
When I ask what the Zeitgeist movement would do if given power in Cardiff, Vivak suggests: “Maybe we would completely upgrade the city. We might keep City Hall and the National Museum because of their historical value, but everything else could be redesigned along the lines of Jacque Fresco’s circular city designs.”
The group recently got involved with new Cardiff environmental network CF Hub, but attracted criticism from members of other groups who accused Zeitgeist of using the network’s meetings and Facebook page as a recruiting board.
“We share the same goal as groups like Transition, and we are trying to offer Zeitgeist as an umbrella for them to communicate under,”explains Martin.
Vivak adds: “What the Transition movement is doing is vital, but they are just doing patch work and they don’t come up with a solution.”
He believes the movement has changed his life: “I am far more relaxed now than five years ago, and have become far less materialistic. I used to drive a BMW, now I don’t own a car. The Zeitgeist movement gives you a better understanding of how things work.”