The Narcissism Of Small Differences
Bitcoin and the crypto world have enjoyed a phenomenal decade. Despite the fact that Bitcoin is perhaps the most disruptive technology to the status quo since the printing press, the powers-that-be have mostly left us alone. Sure, exchanges have been obliged to perform KYC measures, there’ve been a few darkmarket arrests, China banned Bitcoin a few times and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission went after some ICOs. But these regulatory responses are the bare minimum, the same regulations are applied to the very scary antiques market.
For a decade, we have been left largely to our own devices while enjoying the unprecedented luxury of a growth rate that has averaged thousands percent. To be extremely successful, all you had to do was buy some bitcoin and then do nothing. In fact, you didn’t even need to do that, you could have chosen the cryptocurrency you were going to buy by throwing darts while drunk and blindfolded and you still would have seemed like a genius for buying XRP.
So, we did what people always do when they are free from any real troubles — we turned on each other. Bitcoin hated Ethereum. BCH hated Bitcoin. Monero hated Zcash. And everyone hated Ripple. We whiled away the hours of our idyllic age of innocence, by going to Twitter and telling people to “have fun staying poor… idiot.” It felt important.
Undoubtedly there are important differences between Bitcoin and, say, Ethereum. There might also be a very real sense in which they are competing with each other. While we had no problems more important to attend to, the rivalry, and its intensity, perhaps made sense.
End Of Innocence
This tribalism is soon going to come to a very sudden end. Bitcoin and crypto have become too big to ignore. Leviathan is stirring. Even in the minds of the most unimaginative of bureaucrats, the realization is starting to dawn: “This is not a toy, this is not some millennial fad. This is our control over the monetary and financial system that these kids are coming after…”
Monero is being delisted from exchanges. An Ethereum Core dev and the BitMEX CTO have been arrested. The Travel Rule is being adjusted special, just for us. In the U.S., in Europe, in Israel and soon everywhere, you must disclose your crypto holdings, not just when you sell but always.
“First they laugh at you, then they ignore you, then they fight you…”
Congratulations everyone, they are getting ready to fight us. No pretendsies anymore. This fight will be for keeps. Are you ready? They say you can’t fight City Hall. Well, how about fighting a global coalition of nations with nuclear weapons and interpol at its disposal that can make the financial rules up as they go along?
We are going to need every ally we can get, even if they are an imperfect shitcoiner.
New Battle Lines
It’s actually even worse than that. Those closest to us are going to be the ones to turn the knife. For a decade, we have been entrusting our funds to exchanges and relying on them as our on- and offramps. We have also been praying that this would be the “year the institutions come.” Well, the exchanges have built huge businesses that they now need to protect. They have shareholders to whom they must answer. They have precious regulatory licences that were expensive to acquire and are easy to lose.
Coinbase is going to conduct an IPO. Kraken has become a bank. Banks were an invention of the free market. They have been co-opted into a quasi-arm of the government and have become the primary enforcers of the financial surveillance state. How long before Kraken has its tentacles in your finances, operating under instructions from the regulator? How long before we begin to see all those institutions we summoned digest crypto companies in an orgy of M&A?
If you imagined that institutions getting interested in Bitcoin meant that they would begin to lobby on our behalf, you were mistaken. They will lobby on behalf of their own interests: to be mandatory middlemen, who must approve your every transaction and who take a cut for the trouble. The exchanges that served us so well over all of these years, who offered us great convenience in exchange for the mere trifle of controlling our keys — these exchanges run by Bitcoin OGs — they are no longer our friends. The age of innocence is over.
Together, We Shall Overcome
Nothing unites a community like a common foe. As large as the perceived differences between the different crypto tribes might be, they pale in comparison to the gulf between us and the nocoiners. Right now, we live in a nocoiner world. A fiat world of central authorities, financial surveillance and crony capitalism. The nocoiners have the power by default. We must choose to either unite, or allow them to succeed through a strategy of divide and conquer.
The great underdog success stories have always required the revolutionaries to put aside their differences and unite. The squabbling Greeks came together to defeat the Persians and defend their democracy. The competing houses of England paused their fighting and forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. The States of America forgot their ideological and religious differences, defeated the Red Coats and won their independence.
This hour calls for us to unite. While I am sure we will struggle to do so, I am confident that as the battle lines become clear, we will rise to the occasion and focus on the mission we have in common. This is why I am excited to see projects like Sovryn and TBTC; mission-driven projects, true to our trustless values, bringing together the worlds of Bitcoin and Ethereum.
The higher stakes, the more intense the need for unity.
At the Hot Gates, the Spartans were outflanked and massacred. At Marathon, however, they stood shoulder to shoulder with their arch-enemy, the Athenians. That day, free men won a victory for liberty that we benefit from to this day. Even the Spartans couldn’t HODL alone.
This is a guest post by Edan Yago. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.