Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Perpetual travel & "the 5 flags"

This promotional video for trillionstars.com, a New Zealand financial company (for personal and corporate finance), is something I've found morbidly fascinating. It is but one example of the "Perpetual Traveler" lifestyle and its attendant "5 flags" philosophy. Clients are urged to think of themselves basically as "human multinationals". I believe that social theorists such as Chris Rojek or Anthony Elliott would recognise here an intensification of individual experience. "Postmodernization" is a process typically understood to involve a blurring of the boundaries between work and leisure, whereas the ideal of the "perpetual traveler" appears more suggestive of a growing sense of fragmentation: hence the ideal and lifestyle of the "5 flags" divides identity into relatively discreet autonomous zones. For example, (according to the clip I've posted here), Thailand or Sydney serve as relatively inexpensive "playgrounds", while France is for "friends" and cultural sophistication, and New York or Frankfurt are chiefly financial repositories.

Those able to fully avail themselves of the opportunities afforded by the "5 flags" would, almost certainly, have to be the most mobile members in a global network of services. In this regard they stand at the opposite end of the spectrum detailed in the ethnographies of Aihwa Ong (previously posted on this blog). It follows that it is more proper to speak here of the development of globalisation to the exclusion of a cosmopolitan sensibility (i.e. the latter is closer to world citizenship than the individual sovereignty associated with the perpetual traveler).Hence global financial transactions are the closest approximation of a cultural Esperanto, as far as perpetual travelers are concerned (in tandem with legal indemnification against personal loss- i.e. as soon as the latter does not serve the former, the traveler will transfer their investments elsewhere).

By extension, the latter point is a stark illustration of the conventional nature of seasteading, given how easily one can imagine such degenerate utopias setting sail under the "5 flags". To my mind this is also indicative of how the book Evil Paradises may have benefited from a greater attempt to systematise the core literature with respect to the competing agendas of globalisation and cosmopolitanism. For instance, such an approach could have protected China Mieville's critique of seasteading from the predictable ad hominem attacks by the likes of Patri Friedman (which can be easily Googled),given the [libertarian] failure to understand how the method of immanent critique can be used to deconstruct seasteading, and, indeed, "perpetual travel".

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