Do Not Create A Bitcoin Ideology
The very power structures we hope to abandon via Bitcoin pose to corrupt those involved in the space as much as any other.
Rule VI: Abandon Bitcoin Ideology
A reimagination of “Beyond Order” by Jordan Peterson through the lens of Bitcoin.
These essays mirror the exact chronological structure of “Beyond Order” by Jordan Peterson, offering a reflection through a Bitcoin lens. This is chapter 6 of a 12-part series. If you read the book, it adds a second dimension. All quotes credited to Jordan Peterson. All reflections inspired by Satoshi Nakamoto.
The Wrong Places
“I find it heart-wrenching to see how little encouragement and guidance so many people have received, and how much good can emerge when just a little more is provided. ‘I knew you could do it’ is a good start …”
Technology moves so fast that staying current is a full-time job that gets harder with age. Younger generations born into tech take to it like a fish to water. Older generations struggle to grasp technology and the feeling of obsolescence naturally engenders resentment. Traditionally, older generations encourage and guide younger generations, but, with respect to technology, those tables have turned. Technology enables young people to grow up too fast. There are millions of experts and guides on the internet versus mom and dad (if you’re lucky). And mom and dad can’t compete with the collective knowledge of the internet.
Bitcoin is popular among the younger tech savvy crowd. Could it be that the resentment from the older generation stems from their fear of technology itself? Bitcoiners claim to see the writing on the wall, while fiat holders cling to the ridiculousness of money backed solely by decree. Those who fear what they do not understand cast arrows understandably. But, when we respond in kind, it does neither party any favor. In this bizarre age of the internet, it is not more insults needed rather than encouragement and guidance of our fellow man. When your Bitcoin knowledge comes into contact with a no-coiner you should expect them to reject it out of fear of the unknown.
I’m certainly guilty of going overboard on more than one occasion. It can feel good to flex your knowledge in a bit of dueling pistols. In hindsight, a better place to start is to offer a bit of encouragement or guidance. Show someone how easy it is to send bitcoin over the Lightning network. Make the scary Bitcoin technology feel approachable. That will give you the power to say, “I knew you could do it.” Ironically, patiently dispensing our wisdom applies to our parents. Do not mock the older generations for their fear of what is new, creative and unknown — show them love and help them. It is tempting to twist them into Bitcoin submission but my best advice is to take it slow because time is on our side. Bitcoiners know the sooner the better, but if you want to be successful with no-coiners, educate with a better late than never mentality. And when it clicks, “I knew you could do it” is a good start.
“… the meaning that sustains life in all its tragedy and disappointment is to be found in shouldering the noble burden. Because we have not been doing this, [young people] have grown up looking in all the wrong places.”
The world is awash in money. It seems to be everywhere except your bank account. Trillions are printed and distributed. Internet stars flaunt their successful lifestyles. And we can’t stop staring. Humans are mimicking creatures. What we see influences us and we cannot help but imitate. What’s obvious is a small group of people with an outsized internet presence display dreamy lifestyles we can see but cannot touch. They dangle utopia before our eyes and somewhere within us we believe it is within our reach. So, we mimic in pursuit in all the wrong places.
The internet offers everything but pushes entertainment and controversy to the forefront. And you only have one pair of eyes. To find a noble burden you may need to search rather than be guided by the algorithms of internet giants. You are a meal ticket to the internet. Like Neo in “The Matrix,” shouldering the noble burden must be a voluntary choice. Bitcoin is one such noble burden. It is no small choice to opt out of the financial regime you were born into.
“And this has left them vulnerable: vulnerable to easy answers and susceptible to the deadening force of resentment.”
The internet is a deceptive beast. It surfaces only the outliers on the bell curve. It is designed to promote extremism in every category. That is what is pushed to our screens, that is the content we cannot help but share with our friends. And when so much of what we see appears easy yet unattainable we feel insecure. It’s often said that capitalism thrives by making you feel insecure. The internet took that into overdrive. We are never going to measure up to the standards the internet portrays.
National currencies are exhibiting similar behaviors. There are wizards of money in the government who magically print trillions to save us — or so we’re told. They give us easy answers to troubling times. We do not control this money, but it’s flaunted in front of our faces. We get to nibble on the bits keeping us vested in the process. The lifestyle of the elusive internet star to its viewer is no different than the person with the power to print money while you must work for it. You will never measure up regardless of how hard you work. On many levels, we know that so many of us give up for a damn good reason: Working is tainted with futility when the game is rigged.
Perhaps He Is Only Sleeping
“Friedrich Nietzsche famously announced ‘God is dead.’”
You remember 10 years of people telling you Bitcoin is dead? Bitcoin Obituaries will jog your memories. Before panicking about price, take a step back and think about how far the narrative has come. Nietzsche’s quote is not a celebration but rather a warning. If Bitcoin dies, so does our best chance at a universal better, brighter future. That’s what is at stake. Countless modern political movements over redistributing wealth, freedom, equality, opportunity and power will be positively impacted by Bitcoin. And it won’t be a helpless asymmetrical uphill battle. It’s inherent in the source code.
“The doubt that undermines and the uncertainty that crushes: Nietzsche’s prognostication for the two alternatives that would arise in the aftermath of the death of God.”
God serves as an anchor to His believers despite the fact we live in an era of peak skepticism regarding religion. Our societal unraveling is, in part, explained by our lack of morality once derived through community and church. It is no wonder that society is in a downward spiral when considering our desperate pursuit of money over morality. Modern money is so cleverly designed to consume all our time. Buying bitcoin buys you time.
In the aftermath of the decline of money, what will you anchor yourself to? The founding of our monetary system is as much a conspiracy theory as Bitcoin. What can you possibly trust? And our lives are overwhelmed by uncertainty with an endless stream of cataclysmic threats. Study money for long enough and you will come to the conclusion that what is happening now has happened many times before. Bitcoin’s irony is that it makes crystal clear sense to people in third world or developing nations who have questionable money. The benefits are a godsend. It is America, above all else, where our top position is the very thing which creates doubt, confusion and uncertainty regarding Bitcoin.
Doubt and uncertainty come to those without anchors. Nietzsche pronounced “God is dead” not in a celebratory tone but as a dire warning of the consequences. Where do we get our morality from? In my lifetime, people have gone from worshipping God to worshipping the dollar. People put the dollar on the highest altar. Yet we know it is an unanchored entity. It’s no wonder we’ve lost our sense of morality. It’s no wonder we’ve become directionless. Bitcoin is an anchor, a center of gravity. Look around yourself, what anchors do you have left?
“What if there are experiences that typically manifest themselves to one person at a time … but appear to form a meaningful pattern when considered collectively?”
Bitcoin is a grassroots movement. Individuals must come to terms with whether that means they believe or do not believe in its validity. There are many roads that lead to Bitcoin’s adoption yet all share the same final destination: It demands responsibility. Final settlement places the responsibility on the owner. You are the backstop. If you trust an exchange to hold your bitcoin and they lose it, that is your loss. If you lose your hardware wallet, it is your fault. This is a massive shift in mindset. Bitcoin skeptics point to its lack of FDIC insurance. Fiat has trained us that money is replaceable. If you lose a bar of gold, it is gone. It harkens back to a time when responsibility was far more visceral.
America has made a business out of risk reduction and strategically distancing oneself from responsibility. It has become a terrible top-down American skillset weaponized by our institutions and cultural pastime adopted by citizens. It’s no wonder we’ve become soft as a nation. Jocko, Jordan Peterson and David Goggins are such popular speaker authors explicitly because it seems they are our only leaders who promote the benefits of running toward responsibility. This includes our money. Politicians used to balk at large spending bills asking, “How will we pay for this?” Notice that the question of responsibility rarely gets asked these days. If all you had to do to solve problems is print money then why pussyfoot around? Why not give everyone a million dollars? Bitcoin is an illusion-shattering reality. America has become so accustomed to money being manipulated that we no longer recognize honest money.
The Fatal Attraction Of The False Idol
“… the ideologue can place himself or herself on the morally correct side of the equation without the genuine effort necessary to do so validly, it is much easier and more immediately gratifying to reduce the problem to something simple and accompany it with an evildoer, who can then be morally opposed.”
“Bitcoin fixes this” is a misconstrued meme by both Bitcoiners and no-coiners. Bitcoiners following party lines believe all problems can be solved by fiat when this is simply not the truth. Better money certainly applies to an enormous spectrum of problems, yet there are plenty of underlying problems specific to each individual problem divorced from currency. Without doubt, freely printing money leads to the predictable deterioration of everything, but it also serves a purpose. During the pandemic, one can make the case that being unable to print trillions would’ve led to untold millions suffering and possibly perishing. What would have happened if we couldn’t print?
“For the ideologue, however, nothing remains outside understanding or mastery. An ideological theory explains everything … This means that an ideologue can consider him or herself in possession of the complete truth.”
Central Banks and Bitcoiners alike are guilty of believing their product cures all ailments. Both Jerome Powell and Neel Kashkari shocked the world when they exposed the Fed’s God-like ability and willingness to print unlimited money by simply editing the account. Bitcoin purists live on the opposite end of that spectrum. They are like surgeons who don’t believe in sedatives, because it weakens the human spirit. There is something noble to this way of thinking. But seeing how much pain and suffering already exists in the world, it must be believed that a responsible dose of painkillers is tolerable so long as it does not become an addiction. Around the year 1971, our money began its dark descent into our modern addiction. So, WTF happened in 1971? Nixon severed the tie between the U.S. dollar and gold; that’s any indicator. This evidence seems so utterly convincing but it isn’t to say it’s the complete truth.
I believe it’s possible our complex world benefits from, and may require, both systems in the near term — USD and bitcoin. We will need a bridge to get to mass Bitcoin adoption and hyperbitcoinization is likely a terrifying approach. I’m hesitant to believe any one system completely encompasses the countless economic scenarios to come. That said, we are fully addicted to unlimited money and are in dire need of homeostasis. I have no doubt that bitcoin restores balance in contrast to fiat’s recklessness. “Fix the money, fix the world” is another Bitcoin meme. Our world is in such dire straits, I fear we will need both bitcoin and central bank digital currency (CBDC) for the foreseeable future, as painful as that sounds to Bitcoin purists.
“This is a terrible trap: Once the source of evil has been identified, it becomes the duty of the righteous to eradicate it.”
There is palpable tension between nation states, banks and Bitcoin. Nation states have shifted tone from “Bitcoin is a scam” to “Bitcoin is speculative” to “Bitcoin is a gold alternative.” In other words, our government is coming to grips with the fact it underestimated Bitcoin. We should not repay the favor. Bitcoin has gone from playing in the shadows to being on the cusp of mainstream adoption. Bitcoiners may be repeating our government’s folly as our tone is shifting from “Bitcoin is digital gold” to “Bitcoin is money” edging ever closer as the Bitcoin community senses national currency vulnerability. A subset of Bitcoiners press the aggressive idea that the U.S. dollar is a scam. While the comments have merit, this is dangerous ground as it oversimplifies a complex macro economy.
U.S. dollars are a functional high utility tool losing value. Bitcoin is blessed with value and building layers toward high functionality. Bitcoin will win, but we need to learn how to bridge these two worlds. Bitcoin is the escape hatch at the end of the tunnel. Good comes from tribalism, but the negative elements include the idea that the dollar exists solely with evil intention. It ignores the reality that the dollar, by and large, is the fabric that connects our world and establishes order. In our eagerness to see continued adoption of what we believe to be a harder money, we may be wholly unprepared for life without the U.S. dollar altogether. Be careful what you wish for. Most failures are in execution.
“We’re still so early” meme calls out signals by no-coiners. Bitcoiners spend a lot of time being attacked. Now that momentum is shifting. How will we act when we begin to get a taste of power? In “Crossing The Chasm,” we are exiting the Innovators stage and entering the Early Adopters stage. It’s far too early to claim victory and far too soon to believe Bitcoin will simply be set to cruise control into the sunset. Will we become the monsters we’ve replaced?
“It is much safer morally to look to yourself for the errors of the world …”
Bitcoiners are known to behave like white blood cells, actively attacking suspected intruders. Before we go on the full offensive and tear down every national currency in the belief they hold no purpose and bitcoin can suffice … perhaps it would behoove us to remain focused on building what bitcoin can offer rather than criticizing what dollars cannot do.
“To take the world’s sins onto yourself — to assume responsibility for the fact that things have not been set right in your own life and elsewhere — is part of the messianic path: part of the imitation of the hero…”
If you believe your money has not been set right, it is on you to take responsibility. For some that may mean buying gold. For others, bitcoin. Part of the hero’s journey is to confront and overcome a great challenge, be changed in the process, then come home to reintegrate that change within society.
In my life I’ve learned you get a lot more credibility when you don’t bad mouth incumbents, competitors or alternative solutions. We lose credibility when it’s discovered we selectively straw man our opponents. Credibility is built when we can point out the differences while minimizing personal bias. Major credibility can be gained when we steelman the opposition prior to pointing out the differences.
It is hard to change yourself and it’s exceptionally difficult to change another grown up’s mind. Cory Klippsten put it best that “Bitcoin marketing is Bitcoin education.” But know that, if national currencies continue to harm its citizens, it will push its citizens toward better options. That same game theory exists between nations as those at the bottom with more to gain will benefit asymmetrically with Bitcoin-friendly legislation. For the first time in 100 years, the future of money is up for grabs. Jack Mallers believes Bitcoin’s key differentiator is its openness and I tend to believe the same.
Abandon Bitcoin Ideology.
This is a guest post by Nelson Chen. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.
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