I’m not much of a Led Zeppelin fan. In fact, I have an unnatural animus towards Led Zeppelin. Outside of Houses of the Holy and “Fool in the Rain” and “Misty Mountain Hop” I pretty much don’t have anything good to say about them.
That’s weird coming from someone of my demographic — Gen X, white suburban male who grew up on a steady diet of what’s today “Classic Rock” radio.
That said, I admit that part of this animus toward Zep is unfair because it comes from the insanity of my friends’ obsession with them to the exclusion of nearly all other types and kinds of music when we were teenagers getting our artistic imprint on. The music and stories we ingest during those pivotal years become foundations for who we are as adults.
Zeppelin for these Gen-Xers is like The Beatles are for some Boomers, the pinnacle of music to proselytize to the masses. Let’s call it worshipping at the Altar of Physical Graffiti.
And that’s, of course, not true, but it is to them. FYI, not a big Beatles guy either.
So much of how we interact with things in this life are a reflection of the people who introduce us to those things and their reactions to our reactions to them. We are mimetic creatures in many ways, mirroring or rejecting the desires of those around us.
The emotions from these encounters are real and lasting. If the interactions were negative, in my case of Zeppelin very negative, then that simply clouds your judgment of the thing until you are willing to confront your own motivations head on.
And in my experience that is the one thing people are the most dishonest about… their own motivations.
In the case of teenage males arguing about the music that becomes the basis for the soundtrack of their lives, it’s not hard to see where this leads.
Now in the innocuous case of my antipathy to Led Zeppelin I know exactly where it comes from and as I’ve gotten older nothing has changed. If ‘The Ocean’ comes out of a speaker, I stop and become an entranced lunatic, air drumming and doing the ‘White Man’s Overbite.’ And if “Stairway to Heaven” comes on I immediately reach for my Frank Zappa version to keep from going postal.
I bring all of this up because today it seems there are thousands of professionals and not-so-professionals out there who approach bitcoin the same way I approach Zeppelin. And it’s doing no one, especially them, any good whatsoever.
Because bitcoin a real thing. It is now truly a phenomenon that deserves serious discussion not knee jerk reactions, especially from those millions look to for advice on how to deal with their money.
I’ve railed against the Only Gold Bugs in the past multiple times, but this anger at bitcoin is much deeper than their frustration and/or projection. This is a pathology that precludes any rational discussion of what’s going on with crypto and it’s turning the entire financial and political commentariat into a bunch of noradrenaline poo-flinging morons.
Part of this is the fault of social media, certainly, since the only effective way to communicate on a platform like Twitter is through snark and schadenfreude. I’m as guilty of this as anyone.
I was at the Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami this past weekend and the commentary surrounding it has been, well, shockingly bad, to say the least. We have momentous events happening in crypto. Some good, some bad. However, what I find fascinating — if not a bit alarming — is that every opinion concerning these events are couched in nothing but existential terms.
There are existential threats surrounding bitcoin but most of the people espousing opinions on it are not the ones threatened by bitcoin or its opponents.
The permabears, embarrassed after an historic run from $3000 to $64,000, chuckle gleefully about a 50% pullback no reasonable bitcoin bull would ever argue against happening. The arguments that come out are laughably naïve if not ignorant.
In the immortal words of Dean Wormer, “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.” Most of them come from the U.S. and Europe, making their irrational hatred of bitcoin truly a first world problem.
Everyone wants to be the first to have that novel insight, be the one who scoops everyone else to gain some pathetic little bit of street cred in cyberspace that they rush to their phone to put out there for the world to see just how little they’ve actually thought about what’s going on.
Doomscroll through Bitcoin Twitter and you’ll see most everyone turn into some version of Flounder.
While I was at Bitcoin 2021 the thing I kept saying was never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would see anything like this in association with bitcoin. We were so far away from my first reading the white paper and downloading an early wallet/miner that simply taking a step back and soaking in what was happening around me was overwhelming.
And, in many ways, meaningful.
Because what I was truly blown away by wasn’t the spectacle, it was the fact that the ethos of bitcoin was still intact amidst all the Vegas. That same ethos that drew me to it out of curiosity in 2010 is alive today in the people who are directing its future.
Back then I wrote:
How successful can this be? I have no earthly idea and could care less. For me watching the rate at which new ideas are spawned when people are motivated to produce solutions to ancient problems is what is important…
…I see Bitcoin as a metaphor for the Web itself. It is what happens when people of common tastes are able to find each other over vast distance to find their niche in the division of labor. Synthesizing cryptography, programming and monetary theory into a unique offering could not have happened without the Web; itself that which subverts attempts at control as a natural consequence of its own structure. Any success Bitcoin enjoys exists as a means to an end (improving how humans interact via mutual exchange), not the end itself (adoption in the marketplace). All knowledge is fractal; each new exploration implying a completely new host of questions that need answers… and right now we need answers.
The focus at the conference this year wasn’t on, “Hey, isn’t it great we’re all rich thanks to bitcoin.” The focus was on the basic morality of bitcoin. That sound money and property rights, those pesky things libertarians are derided for advocating all the time, have the opportunity to break the cycle of violence, corruption and thievery inherent in the fiat currency system.
That was my initial impression of the conference from the moment Miami Mayor Suarez took the stage to welcome us and that’s what I left with two days later. I spoke with my friend Jay Fratt about this on his podcast in detail, making the point that bitcoin itself seems to be on its own a better communicator of libertarian principles of individual sovereignty and responsibility than any of us ever have. Just by being and developing bitcoin is teaching people that radical individualism leads to a strong sense of community, property and family through its immutability and the prospect of a future where work isn’t stolen through inflation.
It’s not about inflation or the Quantity Theory of Money. It’s not about what The Davos Crowd has planned for us next week. It’s about fully expressing one’s potential within a division of labor that is constructive not extractive. The hamster wheel of paying all of your profit (and then some) to some envious or ignorant jackass through inflation stops and you can actually get off of it.
You can go from looking down at your feet to avoid the next obstacle and lift your eyes to the horizon and seeing you home and family flourish.
The point made over and over by the speakers and many in the audience was that it didn’t matter what some central banker thought of bitcoin or what some lame duck politician whistling past their own graveyard thought of it.
As each block is confirmed and the network grows stronger their power to tax and spend, thieve through inflation and bribe others to commit violence to enforce their will grows that much weaker.
And yet, so many I talk to about bitcoin simply want to make light of this because some overzealous bitcoiner harassed them on Twitter or made bad arguments to them when they first encountered it. Every time the price drops or some irrelevant power broker says something stunningly ignorant they point at us and say, “Have fun going back to being poor.” They’ll never allow you to get free of them.
Bitcoin requires so much computing activity that it eats up more energy than entire countries. One of the easiest and least disruptive things we can do to fight the #ClimateCrisis is to crack down on environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies. pic.twitter.com/derGr1bjuq— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) June 9, 2021
Well, of course they won’t allow it, if you want something you don’t ask permission. Again, bitcoin fixes this fundamental process by reorienting your perspective through action.
The Song Can’t Stay the Same
And that is what is so disturbing about the so-called No-coiners. They actually help tyrants like Elizabeth Warren build the systems to stop bitcoin and crypto in general from freeing all of us from what they know impoverishes and disenfranchises billions of people.
Nowhere is this more common than the ridiculous statements surrounding the historic decision by El Salvador to pass legislation this week making bitcoin legal tender in the country. The same people decrying bitcoin in 2013 at $100 are now today at $36,000 missing the basic point that countries like El Salvador, the victims of dollar diplomacy and dollar imperialism, have for the first time in history a money that can help them attract capital and build wealth that can’t be taken away from them because of a decision made in the board room at the Mariner-Eccles building.
All across Central and South America, Africa, Southeast and Central Asia billions of people have access to an asset that can reverse the dynamic of tyranny we all say we’re against but refuse to entertain the possibility of their success at doing so. Again, for those that do that your real white privilege is showing.
They ignore the ability of Lightning Network to keep local transaction fees to a level commensurate with what the local economy can bear. They ignore the gross incompetence of powerful people, plain for all of us to see, instead hanging on their every word like it’s fait accompli true. Newsflash:
Imagine living in El Salvador and having Elizabeth Warren tell you that using Bitcoin is killing the planet and then contemplating all the energy used by U.S. Banks, the U.S. Military and the U.S. Government all to protect a U.S. Dollar that's destroying every other currency.— John Tuld (@BradHuston) June 10, 2021
And now imagine just how angry and committed they are to a better life rather than continuing to wallow in apathy and pain. Have we all become so hard-hearted and cynical that we no longer value this basic truth?
I’ve said many times that hope is the most negative of emotions, because hope is all you have when you have nothing else. Well, these people have more than hope, they have an answer to a fundamental problem, how to preserve their past work in a money that isn’t their enemy.
That is what is rising today threatening to overflow the levees erected around our futures. El Salvador may be the beginning of the break.
And that is the conversation we should be having not the silly games of snark that masks the discomfort we feel from refusing to confront our own motivations. How many more countries are ready for this? How many more people will make their weak and corrupt governments irrelevant in the coming years?
Because bitcoin isn’t Led Zeppelin. What music a person likes and doesn’t like is a personal choice. There is no objectively good or bad music from the individual’s perspective. Bitcoin, however, is a tool, and like all tools it has a function that it alone is best at performing. It is technology not art.
My antipathy to Zeppelin doesn’t negate one whit the influence they’ve had on millions of people to help them navigate a cruel and indifferent world. For that I owe them a debt of immense gratitude. My rejection of Zeppelin doesn’t negate your love of their music.
In the same way your hatred of bitcoin doesn’t negate what it is, what it represents and what it’s capable of.
The moral case for bitcoin stems from this basic fact. It is changing the fate of millions today and potentially billions tomorrow. Whether it succeeds in the long run is irrelevant. It has already changed the world for the better.
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