The Gospel is primarily communicated by highly symbolic human lives that operate as “Prime Attractors”: through actions visibly done in love; by a nonviolent, humble, and liberated lifestyle; and through identification with the edged out and the excluded of the world. The very presence of such Prime Attractors “gives others reasons for spiritual joy,” as St. Francis said.
Bonaventure pays little attention to fire and brimstone, sin, merit, justification, or atonement. His vision is positive, mystic, cosmic, intimately relational, and largely concerned with cleaning the lens of our perception and our intention so we can see and enjoy fully!
A privileged escape that’s hurting communities at home and abroad
.. The privilege of digital nomads
The World Domination Summit (WDS) takes place annually in Portland, Oregon and serves as a gathering place for the lifestyle-entrepreneurship, do-what-you-love (DWYL) community that has grown around the writings of Chris Guillebeau, Tim Ferriss, and the other gurus that dominate the niche.
In its early years, Amanda Palleschi wrote about the event for the New Republic, calling WDS out for being attended primarily by white people who “have advantages or significant successes that enable them to see the world through DWYL-colored lenses (and to pay for the $500 entry fee to WDS).” Guillebeau himself even acknowledged that he was “mostly attracting other Westerners” and told Palleschi, “[j]ust because we have privilege doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our lives.” The summit has advertised a more diverse set of speakers in recent years, but that doesn’t mean its audience is significantly more diverse. As the community has grown, there were bound to be minorities who did well within it, just as in regular society, but that doesn’t mean they make up a sizeable chunk of its followers.
The reality is that the promise of digital nomadism is built on a quasi-libertarian worldview that’s closely related to the ideologies of Silicon Valley titans. In short, certain measures to promote social progress might be acceptable, but many believe that the government needs to take a hands-off approach on economic matters and not interfere significantly in the market.
DWYL is a privileged orientation focused on individual success, which ignores programs in developed societies the were designed to promote collective wealth and well-being. Miya Tokumitsu, a Jacobin contributing editor, called it “the secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment.” The movement’s gurus make a gesture toward charitable causes to not seem too selfish, but their initiatives often forward their worldview: helping others to escape the tyranny of traditional work and life structures by building their own lifestyle businesses.
The fierce individualism of digital nomads is damaging to communities, both at home and abroad, because people who feel “liberated” from space have no stake in improving their local area. They’re far less likely to work toward positive local change, fight for the rights of disadvantaged peoples, or be interested in halting the gentrification that displaces long-term residents — to which they usually contribute — because those issues don’t affect them.
.. Into this situation come the digital nomads, looking for locales that are inexpensive by Western standards, but where they can easily outspend residents to maintain a quality-of-life that would be difficult to achieve on local salaries. Chiang Mai, Thailand and Bali, Indonesia are some of the leading destinations for those seeking the location-independent life, causing a predictable development: developers chasing Western money.
.. The gurus talk of finding destinations where one’s money will go further, ignoring the consequences for local people because the only thing that matters is the achievement of their personal success.
.. Even though digital nomads come from developed countries and benefited from taxpayer-funded education, health, and social programs throughout their lives (and expect to in the future when they return to their home countries), they rarely feel any obligation to give back. Similar to tech libertarians, they do all they can to minimize their tax burden by finding the jurisdiction or country with the lowest tax rate to establish their business and, depending on the tax rules of their country of citizenship or residence, move often enough that they aren’t obliged to pay income tax.
.. Rhetorically, digital-nomad gurus say that everyone should follow their hearts and pursue their passion, but it’s clear that their message is only meant for a particular group of privileged Westerners, as their lifestyles are made possible by people rooted to place and not necessarily enjoying their work.
.. They may achieve an additional degree of freedom and enjoyment from structuring their lives in an unconventional way, but that’s only possible because they ignore the consequences of their actions by surrounding themselves with people who have similar levels of privilege and an unquestioning adherence to an ignorant, individualistic worldview strongly influenced by Silicon Valley’s brand of libertarianism.
.. Low-cost destinations exist because rich countries looted and plundered the rest of the world for centuries through colonialism and unequal trade relationships. The privilege to even consider becoming a digital nomad is a result of legal structures and high-quality public services that are funded through the wealth generated from those centuries of global dominance.
.. Privilege allows digital nomads to ignore all these things and live in a fantasy world where they need only worry about themselves. They take full advantage of their positions to live more fulfilling lives, while trying to avoid the responsibility to contribute to the society that granted them their privilege in the first place and actively augmenting the forces displacing locals in the places they treat simply as destinations, rather than communities. Digital nomads do not care about the societies they live in, and for that reason they have no place in the future.
Emerging Christianity is both longing for and moving toward a way of following Jesus that has much more to do with lifestyle than with belief. We do not want to solidify into an institution focused on certain words and the writing of documents. We want to remain, if at all possible, focused on orthopraxy (right practice), compassionate action flowing from non-dual consciousness.
We are grateful and content to let our historic churches and denominations take care of the substructures and the superstructures of Christianity. Some are gifted and called to that, but most are not. Our churches have trained us, grounded us, and sent us on this radical mission. We will keep one happy foot in our Mother churches, but we have something else that we must do and other places that we must also stand. We have no time to walk away from anything. We want to walk toward and alongside.
Washington’s subway banned a civil liberties group’s ad consisting entirely of the text of the First Amendment, which ostensibly violated the rule against ads “intended to influence members of the public regarding an issue on which there are varying opinions.”
.. United Airlines said: Assault? Don’t be misled by your eyes. That passenger dragged off the plane was just being “re-accommodated.”
.. The councilwoman who made the motion for protecting illegal immigrants said: “Our city depends on a Hispanic population to support our comfortable lifestyle.”
.. In more-progressive-than-thou Oregon, where you can get state-subsidized gender reassignment surgery at age 15 without parental permission, the legislature made 21 the age at which adults can buy cigarettes.
.. Although San Francisco’s hourly minimum wage has not yet reached its destination of $15, the city is surprised that so many small businesses have closed. McDonald’s probably was not surprised when its shares surged after it announced plans to replace cashiers with digital ordering kiosks in 2,500 restaurants.
The big social movements of the past half century were about maximizing freedom of choice.
- Right-wingers wanted to maximize economic choice and
- left-wingers lifestyle choice.
Anything that smacked of restraint came to seem like a bad thing to be eliminated.
We’ll call this worldview — which is all freedom and no covenant — naked liberalism (liberalism in the classic Lockean sense, not the modern progressive sense). The problem with naked liberalism is that it relies on individuals it cannot create.
Naked liberals of right and left assume that if you give people freedom they will use it to care for their neighbors, to have civil conversations, to form opinions after examining the evidence.
But if you weaken family, faith, community and any sense of national obligation, where is that social, emotional and moral formation supposed to come from? How will the virtuous habits form?
.. Freedom without covenant becomes selfishness. And that’s what we see at the top of society, in our politics and the financial crisis. Freedom without connection becomes alienation. And that’s what we see at the bottom of society — frayed communities, broken families, opiate addiction. Freedom without a unifying national narrative becomes distrust, polarization and permanent political war.
- .. Moreover, if you rob people of their good covenantal attachments, they will grab bad ones. First, they will identify themselves according to race. They will become the racial essentialists you see on left and right: The only people who can really know me are in my race. Life is a zero-sum contest between my race and your race, so get out.
- Then they resort to tribalism. This is what Donald Trump provides. As Mark S. Weiner writes on the Niskanen Center’s blog, Trump is constantly making friend/enemy distinctions, exploiting liberalism’s thin conception of community and creating toxic communities based on in-group/out-group rivalry.
Trump offers people cultural solutions to their alienation problem. As history clearly demonstrates, people will prefer fascism to isolation, authoritarianism to moral anarchy.
If we are going to have a decent society we’re going to have to save liberalism from itself. We’re going to have to restore and re-enchant the covenantal relationships that are the foundation for the whole deal. The crucial battleground is cultural and prepolitical.
In my experience, most people under 40 get this.
.. To address it, we’re going to need to confront it with another broad social movement
.. Many people my age and above seem clueless. Our elected leaders were raised in the heyday of naked liberalism and still talk as if it were 1994.
- .. Congressional Republicans think a successful tax bill will thwart populism.
- Mainstream Democrats think the alienation problem will go away if we redistribute the crumbs a bit more widely.
Ryssdal: One of the other things, though, that that IPO, if and when it happens — and I should point out here that President Trump brought it up with King when they spoke this weekend — one of the things that IPO will bring is transparency and sunlight into the internal workings of the Saudi royal family and its finances, which has to be on Mohammed bin Salman’s mind.
Waldman: Clearly. Saudi Aramco, the oil company, is a slush fund for the royal family. The thousands of princes depend on oil revenue directly for their lifestyles. This is something of a warning shot to them, I believe, this corruption roundup, or anti-corruption roundup, saying to them, “Listen, your lifestyles are indeed threatened by what we’re planning to do in this kingdom, and you better not complain too much about it. We’re moving on.” So I do absolutely think this is all connected.
Ryssdal: One of the big names among the crowd that was arrested this past weekend is Alwaleed bin Talal. He’s a holder of, or has been owner of, Citigroup stock, and Ford, and Hewlett-Packard and Twitter. He is somebody in the world of international investments.
Waldman: He certainly is. I think Bloomberg ranks him in something like the 50th wealthiest person on the globe. We’re certainly not aware of specific allegations against any of these people, but particularly against him. On the other hand, the public has wondered for years both in Saudi Arabia and overseas, where did all that investment capital come from in the first place? So it could be an interesting file to open up.
Ivanka and her husband holding hands as they stride across electric-green grass at the G-20 summit; her kids ascending the crimson staircase of Air Force One. What’s notable is that Ivanka, like Linton, often does not procedurally belong in the settings where she is photographed; there is an undercurrent of White-House-as-life-style-blog-prop. Nonetheless, these images seem ordinary when viewed without context.
.. Great #daytrip to #Kentucky!” Linton wrote. “#nicest #people #beautiful #countryside #rolandmouret pants #tomford sunnies, #hermesscarf #valentinorockstudheels #valentino #usa.” This is an unsubtle caption, drawing on a type of hashtag-saturated social-media syntax that I associate both with discount-clothing retailers attempting to optimize their search results and aimless individual souls hoping to catalogue their membership in some tribe. Charitably, we could assume that Linton was writing in the latter spirit, registering herself as a lover of the #daytrip, of #people and #beautiful #countryside—a sister to all who love #tomford sunglasses and #valentino heels.
.. In a few aggrieved sentences, Linton managed to frame her husband’s three-hundred-million-dollar net worth as a burden, her six months in Washington as harrowing public servitude, and an ordinary American as a contemptible member of the economic underclass. She punctuated this bit with two emoji, a flexed bicep and a kissy face, which were meant to convey nonchalance but instead communicated a type of strained, hierarchical female fury that I have not witnessed in person since cheerleading camp, in 2005.
.. Linton, who spent part of her childhood in her family’s castle in Scotland and once gave an interview to Town & Country about her twelve-piece suite of wedding jewelry, cemented her appearance as an appropriate partner for Mnuchin, whose company OneWest earned him the nickname “Foreclosure King.”
.. The two fiascoes are twin parables, really—each one illustrates how a desire for reverence leads easily to ridicule, and how, when you visibly strain to perform your identity for an audience, the audience often rebels. The trouble with a manufactured self-image is that it requires onlookers for confirmation.