The people who are here at the Newton Institute (Cambridge, UK) this week are largely the same ones who were in Paris last week, or at Dagstuhl earlier, or in Jerusalem last year. Why do we go from place to place like a flock of migratory birds? What instinct prevents us from settling down anywhere in particular?
Here is what Christopher Lasch writes in his book "The revolt of the elites":
"Ambitious people understand that a migratory way of life is the price of getting ahead. It is a price they gladly pay, since they associate the idea of home with intrusive relatives and neighbors, small-minded gossip, and hidebound conventions. [...] Those who covet membership in the new aristocracy of brains tend to congregate on the coasts, turning their back on the heartland and cultivating ties with the international market [...] Patriotism, certainly, does not rank very high in their hierarchy of virtues. "Multiculturalism", on the other hand, suits them to perfection, conjuring up the agreeable image of a global bazaar in which exotic cuisines, exotic styles of dress, exotic music, exotic tribal customs can be savored indiscriminately, with no questions asked and no commitments required. The new elites are at home in transit, en route to a high-level conference, to the grand opening of a new franchise, to an international film festival, or to an undiscovered resort. Theirs is essentially a tourist's view of the world -- not a perspective likely to encourage a passionate devotion to democracy."
"Their loyalties -- if the term is not itself anachronistic in this context -- are international rather than regional, national, or local. They have more in common with their counterparts in Brussels or Hong Kong than with the masses of Americans not yet plugged into the network of global communication."
Ouch. Thankfully, I cannot possibly fit that description since I am staying in a dorm with a shared bath!