Julian Assange and Monasticism

A recent post by the Julian Assange Fanciers Guild depicts Assange thinking about a possible exile in one of the Meteora monasteries. http://julian-assange-fanciers-guild.tumblr.com/post/1634285760/the-witc... This prompted me to dig out an old article by the Guardian, which I had meant to review for some time. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/aug/01/julian-assange-wikileaks-afg... When I first read its heading, I was startled. It says:

“Julian Assange, monk of the online age who thrives on intellectual battle”

Why would one want to describe Assange as a monk? This seemed rather obscure. I began to read. Halfway through the article I came across the following passage:

“David Leigh describes Assange as "a mendicant friar of the electronic age". Like his organization, he is global and rootless.”

This, on the other hand did make sense. Like a mendicant friar, Assange does not own many worldly possessions, he leads an itinerant life and he is funded by donations from the public. He also advocates a radical change to existing structures, which is one of the most prominent characteristics of mendicant friars.

Was the enigmatic heading of the article based on a misunderstanding of this quote? If this was the case, then two very different groups of people got mixed up. Mendicant friars understand themselves as an opposition to monks. Maybe the best known depiction of this divide can be found in Umberto Eco's novel “The Name of the Rose”, where one of the lead characters, William of Baskerville (a Franciscan friar) visits a wealthy Benedictine monastery (inhabited by monks) that exploits the poor indigenous population.

Coming back to the post by the Fanciers Guild, why not propose an exile on Mount Athos? It is one of the last truly autonomous states of the world, and it has a very effective border control system that still follows the regulations of the Byzantine empire. Moreover, it holds excellent libraries, and, contrary to popular belief, it is very progressive in means of electronic media, as it established a web presence long before others did.

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