Leaving on a Jet Plane
As we left church on Sunday we sang the chorus:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!
Walking out I started thinking about several articles I read this week on the growing interest in survivalism and an apocalyptic mood permeating so much of our country. Probably the most interesting is in a recent The New Yorker article, “Doomsday Prep For The Super-Rich” by Evan Osnos.
For what might have been quirky and even humorous a few years ago, Osnos makes a chilling case that many of the Silicon Valley elite are preparing for a cultural meltdown: “Survivalism, the practice of preparing for a crackup of civilization, tends to evoke a certain picture: the woodsman in the tinfoil hat, the hysteric with the hoard of beans, the religious doomsayer. But in recent years survivalism has expanded to more affluent quarters, taking root in Silicon Valley and New York City, among technology executives, hedge-fund managers, and others in their economic cohort.”
Many – some say half – of those who have benefited most from the economic boom are preparing for the worst. “When society loses a healthy founding myth, it descends into chaos” is the way one of those interviewed put it. Convinced that at some point those who have been displaced by robots, losers in an increasingly divided economy, and the impending breakdown in the rule of law leading to chaos and even revolution, they are planning their flight.
As Nick Hanauer wrote,“No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out.”
In anticipation, they are buying secluded homes and turning them into well-secured bunkers. A handful are going even further. The Survival Condo Project is a 15-story luxury apartment complex built in an underground Atlas missile silo. For prices ranging between one and three million dollars, the developer has sold every unit: “You can send all the bullets you want into this place. We’ve got a sniper post.”
Along with armored vehicles, access to private runways for personal jets and blast proof concrete it provides “true relaxation for the ultra-wealthy. They can come out here, they know there are armed guards outside. The kids can run around.”
For many, the destinations of choice are outside the country. The most popular by far is New Zealand. In fact, according to an article in the New Zealand Herald, immigration officials have received more than 13,000 registrations of interest from U.S. citizens hoping to move there – more than 17 times the number of normal registrations. So many Americans have bought property in New Zealand (nearly 1400 square miles of land) that current citizens are beginning to push back in protest.
On the other hand, some think those planning their escapes should, instead, be investing in prevention and holding to the possibility that our country is resilient enough to survive the rapid change and dislocation as well as the fear and insecurity that creates. Unfortunately, “faced with evidence of frailty in the American project, in the institutions and norms from which they have benefitted, some are permitting themselves to imagine failure. It is gilded despair.”
Osnos quotes Robert A. Johnson, the head of the Institute for New Economic Thinking: “Why do people who are envied for being so powerful appear to be so afraid? What does that really tell us about our system? It’s a very odd thing. You’re basically seeing that the people who’ve been the best at reading the tea leaves – the ones with the most resources, because that’s how they made their money – are now the ones most preparing to pull the ripcord and jump out of the plane.”
With the simple chorus of “Because He Lives” in my head, I thought as well about the word of the Lord to Jeremiah held prisoner in the courtyard of the king for his prophecies about the imminent fall of Israel. The times were dark with little hope. The elites had left the country years before. Leadership was cowardly and in shambles. And though the end was near and there could not have been a worse time for doing so from his prison, Jeremiah heard the Lord tell him to buy the field at Anathoth.
“For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.”
We can live in fear or in hope. We can fall into gilded despair or invest in the future. That’s what I am counting on and instead of flight I can choose trust. In place of fear I can face tomorrow.