Someone whose star continues to rise once said that “Bitcoin isn’t just memes.” I disagree. It’s all memes, all the way down. Let me explain.
What’s in a meme?
Before we get into the weeds of the matter, let’s take a closer look at the words we are dealing with. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, a meme is “a unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.”
The term was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book and is a nod to the word “gene,” the unit of biological information that is transmitted sexually from one organism to another.
Dawkins realized that cultural information is similar in nature to biological information, spreading and mutating just the same, albeit on a higher level of abstraction. Just like with biological information, the ultimate test for cultural information is survival, and just like biological information, it has to be fit for the environment in order to propagate and keep itself alive.
Some ideas just don’t work if they are out of place or the time isn’t ripe for them. They will quickly die, just like the proverbial fish out of water. Other memes might work for a time, fading away slowly due to gradual changes in the environment or collapsing suddenly due to destructive feedback loops they bring about. Like genes, in the long term, memes only propagate if they benefit the organism-environment.
In the science of ecology, one learns that a human being is not an organism in an environment, but is an organism-environment. That is to say, a unified field of behavior. If you describe carefully the behavior of any organism, you cannot do so without at the same time describing the behavior of the environment… […] The organism is not the puppet of the environment, being pushed around by it. Nor on the other hand, is the environment the puppet of the organism, being pushed around by the organism. The relationship between them is, to use John Dewey’s word, transactional.
What does that have to do with Bitcoin? Well, you’ll have to ask yourself how the Bitcoin network comes into existence, and once you do that, you’ll realize that Bitcoin isn’t too different from the memes and genes discussed above. Bitcoin is instantiated computer code, a digital organism that pays humanity to keep it alive, as Ralph Merkle so aptly put it. The cumulative work embedded in Bitcoin’s timechain is what makes Bitcoin real and what makes it different from ordinary information. And ordinary computer programs, for that matter. Just like there’s a difference between you and a print-out of your DNA, there’s a difference between the Bitcoin code—the memes that it implements—and the real-world instantiation of Bitcoin.
The Bitcoin network instantiates and validates itself every 10 minutes, block by block, like clockwork. It is these blocks that are the unit of information that is transmitted, and yes, just like with memes, this information is cultural information. The fact that this information is transmitted electronically doesn’t matter; it still embodies the core of the Bitcoin culture, the soul of the network. And just like memes, this information is transmitted by repeated action from one node to another. And before that, from one mind to another.
In the ecological sense, we all transact with Bitcoin, and it transacts with us. If you’ve heard of Bitcoin, if you are aware of the “21 million” meme, Bitcoin transacted with you. Way before you made your first bitcoin transaction.
Memes and their Environment
Bitcoin is people, when it comes down to it. Yes, it’s software, but people have to run the software and, more importantly, decide for themselves what Bitcoin is. There is no authority when it comes to Bitcoin. Thus everyone has to figure out what Bitcoin is independently, and out of the overlap of the different points of view, consensus emerges. This is a constant process because it is not only about what Bitcoin is currently, but it is also about what Bitcoin could be. What Bitcoin should be. That’s what The Blocksize War was all about. A battle for Bitcoin’s soul. A difference in opinion regarding the future and ultimate purpose of Bitcoin. A difference in memetic material, one that ultimately led to a split in the protocol, which led to a split in the network, and a split in the culture.
But even without a split, even when in consensus, the question in regards to “what Bitcoin is” is not clear-cut.
To you, the Lightning Network might not be important, and you’re free to run a pre-SegWit version of Bitcoin. For someone else, dickbutts and farts on the blockchain might not be important, and they might decide to run a pre-Taproot version of Bitcoin (or run a version that disrespects ordinals). Bitcoin is backward compatible, and upgrades are optional precisely because there is no authority to dictate things.
That’s how bitcoin works, and that’s how it will always work, which is why memes are important and why it actually is memes all the way down.
You voluntarily have to opt-in to use Bitcoin. You have to be convinced of the idea first, the idea of accepting sats, of dropping fiat and acquiring corn. Only after you’ve convinced yourself that electronic cash with a fixed supply might be useful will you start accepting it or start saving in it.
The meme “21 million” comes first, and after our brains have been sufficiently infected by the idea, we’ll run the software that brings the 21 million into existence.
Of course, some people—most people, I believe—come to bitcoin in a roundabout way. They think it’s a speculative asset, something that exists to make more dollars, which is to say to make more fiat. Or they discover it via online gambling or other avenues, and this is how their first sats come their way. But even when arriving at bitcoin in a roundabout way, even when bitcoin arrives at your doorstep without you understanding what you are dealing with, you will have to learn how to use bitcoin in a self-sovereign way, or you’re not gonna make it.
Running Bitcoin in a self-sovereign way implies absorbing the memes of Bitcoin. For example, you will have to absorb and agree with “21 million,” or what you’ve got on your hands is not bitcoin, but a shitcoin. Running bitcoin means acting out Bitcoin, which in turn means holding your own keys, running your own node, and agreeing to the core consensus parameters that make bitcoin bitcoin.
Over time, a horizontal meme transfer will take place. Bitcoin will rub off on you. Not only will you be exposed to the ideas that are embedded in Bitcoin; no, you will be part of it all, living the meme by holding the corn, day-to-day, block-to-block.
Or you won’t. If you disagree with the ideas embedded in Bitcoin’s consensus parameters, you have two choices: fork off, or suffer from Bitcoin Derangement Syndrome. You could also, of course, adapt to the environment and live in symbiosis with it, which is to come to terms with the memetic material embedded in Bitcoin—accepting it, and slowly agreeing with it.
Using the ecological lens sketched out before, Bitcoin and bitcoiners form the organism-environment, influencing each other in 10-minute intervals. The tricky thing is that Bitcoin is both organism and environment, as are we. The Bitcoin meme lives in our brains and our idea of what Bitcoin is—and what it should be—changes over time. The economic extension of us—our sats—live in the environment that is Bitcoin, an environment that we bring about, individually and collectively.
We shape our tools, and our tools shape us. And we use our tools to shape our environment, which, of course, shapes us as well. Culture is a result of this mutual shaping, and what is culture but a multitude of memes?
In Bitcoin, we are dealing with an incredible opinionated tool, one that is intimately wrapped up with us. A tool that creates an environment that is ridiculously hard to change. I would even go as far as saying that some aspects of this strange meme-tool-organism-environment loop are impossible to change, as it would destroy the identity of Bitcoin and bitcoiners alike.
To me, Bitcoin will always be defined by twentyoneism, even if I’m the last one who believes this meme. I’d rather die on the hill of 21 million—alone and in poverty, node in hand, twelve words in my head—than agree to raise the bitcoin supply by 1%. (Mandibles.)
There are those who accept this unchanging environment and those who reject it, which, naturally, leads to a split in culture.
We are undoubtedly living through a Culture War of sorts. Left vs. Right, Red vs. Blue, Based vs. Woke, Blue Bird vs. Purple Bird, and furries vs. normal people. It’s hard to pinpoint the fault lines that are the underlying reason for this war. Some believe it boils down to individualism vs. collectivism. Others see it as capitalism vs. marxism, self-regulating order vs. central planning. Others speculate that this mess is related to a decline in religious belief, a result of the Nietzschean assassination of God.
All of these reasons might be valid or partly valid, but for me, as a bitcoiner—as someone who has marveled at the graphs of “WTF happened in 1971” many times—it is hard to point to anything other than the emergency of fiat money as the main underlying reason for the chaos we are living through. To me, it seems obvious that these crazy times are a result of the fiat monetary system and the economic as well as the memetic consequences it brings with it. It is a system that is completely disconnected from reality, an artificial and highly political environment that, whether we realize it or not, is the economic operating system of our world. To me, the fault line of society is best summarized as “bitcoin vs. fiat.”
We are now 50 years into acting out the idea of fiat money. The meme that the nature of base money doesn’t matter, the stubborn conviction that “we owe it to ourselves.” We seem to think that our collective future is a magical golden pot—seemingly without a bottom—that we can borrow from over and over and over again.
I believe that we are in the final stages of the great fiat experiment. Once more, the arrogant kings of this world decided to play God and meddle with forces that are greater than them, greater than us. Once more, we are finding out that printing money doesn’t produce any actual value. Once more, society will transform or outright collapse, as it did in Egypt, Rome, and in many other cultures before ours. And, once more, nature will reassert itself by wreaking havoc and killing off everything that is not in accordance with it. Be it ideas or otherwise.
So when the money failed in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, ‘Give us bread, for why should we die in your presence? For the money has failed.
This time around, however, the fiat experiment is not locally contained. It’s not the money of a single country that is failing but the meme of fiat money itself.
Printing Money vs. Fixing The Money
Realizing the importance of money, as well as the moral and cultural implications of the nature of money—and the ethics of money production —has altered my worldview irreversibly. Once I realized that money printing is simply wealth redistribution and that centrally planned wealth redistribution is an impossible task—not only computationally, but morally—it dawned on me that confiscation by inflation and other forms of involuntary redistribution is nothing more than roundabout stealing. The fiat system is a system of slavery, and no, this is not an exaggeration.
Here’s the good news, however: Bitcoin fixes this.
There is a certain ethic embedded in Bitcoin, and it is this ethic that forms the cornerstone of the memes we see emerge and propagate. If I had to sum it up in one phrase, it would be this one: “You shall not steal.” If I had to sum it up in one number, it would be, of course, 21 million.
The motivation behind the creation of Bitcoin is undoubtedly political, as “chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks” and various comments by Satoshi tell us. For example, while Satoshi agreed with the statement that “you will not find a solution to political problems in cryptography,” he also mentioned that “we can win a major battle in the arms race and gain a new territory of freedom.” Note the words used in this statement: a territory (environment) of freedom (opposite of slavery).
I would argue that “win a major battle” is an understatement, and I would also argue that the original assertion is wrong, but I’ll come back to that.
Yet even without these comments, even if the message embedded in the Genesis block would be “ooga chaka ooga ooga ooga chaka,” bitcoin would still be political. Yes, the resulting system is apolitical, just like the sunrise is apolitical, but the act of creating bitcoin is a political act. It is a statement, a manifestation of specific ideas, of quality memes.
Contrast the ethic embedded in Bitcoin (fixed supply, no forced redistribution, no free lunch, no bailouts) to the ethic of fiat money (endless supply, centrally planned redistribution, bailouts for friends, everything is made up)—or, even more drastically, the “ethic” of shitcoins, which is just fiat money on steroids (everyone can print their own money, nothing matters, rug-pulls are funny and dickbutts are basically the Mona Lisa).
Is it any surprise that the culture around these phenomena is so different? Or is “you will own nothing and you’ll be happy” simply a downstream effect of the meme that is fiat money? Is the cultural difference between bitcoiners and shitcoiners a natural result of the memes embedded in and brought about by the different organism-environments?
Translated to plain language, the meme of fiat money—the idea that we can and should create money from thin air—is simply saying, “I know better than the market how to allocate money”, which is to say to know better than everyone else what is good and what is bad, what is valuable and what isn’t, what is necessary and what is superfluous.
The question that the fiat system answers is the following: who is allowed to counterfeit currency, and how much? Further, who is allowed to have access to money, and who isn’t? The answer is political and enforced by violence.
The Bitcoin system is answering the same questions, and the answers are as simple as they are ethical: nobody is allowed to counterfeit money, and anyone can access it. No exceptions.
These are two very different ideas, two very different memes. One is implemented in the fiat system; the other is implemented in the Bitcoin system. One is breaking at the seams; the other is chugging along, growing economically, computationally, and memetically—every 10 minutes.
Bitcoin vs. Gold
When it comes to identifying the root cause of many of our ills, gold bugs had the right idea (for the most part). But they had no way to implement their ideas in a meaningful and effective way, a way that works in the networked world of the 21st century. The meme of “sound money” is the right meme, but without a way to act out said meme efficiently, the meme has no way of spreading itself throughout the population.
Here’s the deal, dear gold bugs: We won’t return to a gold standard. Gold has failed in the past, and it would fail again in the future. The usefulness of the “gold standard” meme has come to an end. The remnant of its glorious past will be found in linguistics only.
“Why,” you ask? Well, for starters, the physical body of gold forbids teleportation, which is to say, the electronic transmission of gold. It forbids invisibility, i.e., the plausible deniability of possession. Bitcoin can be teleported instantly and hidden perfectly. It can be held in your head, and nobody can know if you actually hold bitcoin or not. Gold will always be centralized in vaults for logistical reasons alone. Bitcoin doesn’t have to be. Gold will always inflate at a certain rate, as an unknown amount is still underground (and out in space). The amount above ground is unknown as well, as the global supply of gold can’t be audited easily.
Contrast that to bitcoin: absolutely scarce and perfectly auditable. Every 10 minutes, the total supply of bitcoin is audited. Every 10 minutes, its emission schedule is verified. Every 10 minutes, billions of sats are settled, finally and electronically, which is to say at the speed of light. Real, physical settlement. Global and instant, without much cost or friction. Every 10 minutes.
The gold meme will still spread for a while, and that’s okay. People are nostalgic, especially if they are set in their ways. As with scientific revolutions, the monetary revolution that is currently underway will probably spread slowly: one funeral at a time.
I believe, however, that Bitcoin has the power to win the minds and hearts of people very quickly, if said minds are open or culturally aligned enough; or if the change in their environment is drastic enough.
Politics vs. Culture
Let’s return to the assertion that “you will not find a solution to political problems in cryptography.” I mentioned before that I disagree, and here’s why. Politics is downstream from culture, and cryptography in general (and Bitcoin in particular) changes culture.
This should be clear as day to anyone but the most blind observer of the Bitcoin space. The culture around bitcoin is steeped in responsibility and self-ownership (“hold your own keys” & “not your keys, not your coins”), verification and reasoning from first principles (“don’t trust, verify”), long-term thinking and saving for the future (“stay humble, stack sats”), as well as a focus on hard work, integrity, truth, and visible outcomes (“proof-of-work”).
Satoshi, in true cypherpunk fashion, realized that memes have to be implemented to be most efficiently spread, which is why he sat down and wrote the code. It was also the first test regarding the fitness of his ideas, as he mentioned in one of his many forum posts: “I had to write all the code before I could convince myself that I could solve every problem, then I wrote the paper.”
That’s proof-of-work, right there. That’s anti-fiat. Not only talking about it, but doing it. Leading by example. Not only speculating about the ideas you have in mind, the memes you want to see propagate in this world, but implementing them. Which is to say: putting them to the test against reality.
Don’t let your memes be dreams.
Is it any surprise that bitcoin is spreading into the “sound food,” “sound farming,” free speech, and human rights communities? That bitcoin is quickly and easily understood by people who are literally close to the ground, connected with the base reality of things? Is it any surprise that bitcoin is used and understood readily by those who need it most? By those who are living in countries where the money is failing? By those who are rejected by the fiat system?
It shouldn’t be a surprise. Some cultures have a natural overlap with Bitcoin’s culture, and it’s these cultures that will adopt Bitcoin first. Early examples are the cypherpunk culture, as well as the cultures around Austrian economics, libertarianism, and Muslim finance. As these cultures adopt bitcoin, Bitcoin will, in turn, adopt these cultures and influence them. A mutually beneficial influence, as is required by anything that survives long-term, as is the default for the symbiosis that is nature. The organism-environment that is created by the orange coin and those who hold it wants to survive. Bitcoin: the selfish meme.
Of course, there are also fiat memes. It is what defined our culture for the last 50 years: “fake it till you make it” and “YOLO” come to mind, which, interestingly enough, is the modern version of the Keynesian idea that, in the long run, we’re all dead. Is it any surprise that an environment brought about by fake money results in fake food, fake bodies, fake health, fake medicine, fake relationships, fake experts, and fake people?
Those who sit on the top of the fiat pyramid speak of “useless eaters,” trying to convince us that we don’t need to have ownership of anything, but we’ll be happy all the same. One has to marvel at the slogan: “You’ll own nothing and you’ll be happy.”
“You’ll be a happy little slave,” is what this particular meme is saying. Someone decided that happiness is the ultimate goal to be achieved, and they (and only they) know how to achieve it for you.
As if happiness was the ultimate goal in the first place, the end-all and be-all, the reason for our existence. What about the pursuit of something meaningful, something that is hard, something that requires sacrifice, which implies pain and suffering?
Every man is happy until happiness is suddenly a goal.
Or what about the statement by Lagarde that “we should be happier to have a job than to have our savings protected?” That’s an expression of a certain meme stuck in her head, the meme that job security trumps most other needs and that regular people do not need to accumulate wealth. Even worse: it suggests that it’s perfectly fine to steal what regular people managed to save, diligently working over the course of their lives.
There is a reason why we speak of “the rat race” and why this part of our culture is so heavily criticized in art and film. To quote Tyler Durden: “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
I don’t think that people are pissed off, however. I believe that people are mostly depressed and nihilistic. They don’t see a way out; they are hopeless and have accepted their position in the system—be it consciously or unconsciously.
Nothing shows the drudgery of the fiat rat race better than the short animated movie “Happiness” which is a visual journey of man’s unrelenting quest for fulfillment in the modern world. It puts into pictures what many people fail to put into words. Helplessness, addiction, hopelessness. A crisis of self, a crisis of meaning. A lack of a hopeful vision for the future.
“Quite frankly, it gets quite depressing,” to quote a 44-year-old working-class man who is stuck in the woods alone. “I’ve been trying to formulate a thought, to express it, without breaking down and crying. But I’m not sure to be able to relay it, without crying.”
“So my issue, one of the reasons why I wanted to come out here, was to try and think on the new aspect of my life. In other words: after kids.”
“A person can endure a lot of things, for someone that they love. Trying to endure the same things, just purely for yourself, is not that easy. I’m an electrician. You might think it’s not that hard, but it’s a lot of repetitive tasks. I know everybody has their own work, I know that’s just the way of the world. But for me, to think that I have another 15 years of basically wasting my life, waiting for the weekends. Just the mundane torture of it all...”
Watch the clip if you have the chance. It’s one thing to theorize about the meme of the rat race; it’s another thing to watch a grown man break down crying after reflecting on his life, the system he is embedded in, and the future that this system has in store for him. After wiping away his tears, he goes on to speculate what the reason for his depressive outlook might be: “This place I know the rules. It’s life outside of this place that makes me wanna cry.”
That’s it, isn’t it? Rules and rule changes. If you want to deeply and utterly depress someone, change the rules, and change them often. Force them to do something meaningless. Change the rules arbitrarily. That’s what really demoralizes people: being imprisoned in a system of arbitrary rule changes. No hope for stability and no way out.
World War III will be a guerilla information war, with no division between military and civilian participation.
You know, now I finally get it. About the difference between actual war, and global Guerilla war. Because what we’ve got now is not conventional shooting war. With military honor, military ranks, military activity… This is culture war. We’ve got the troubles. We’ve got the disorder. And now I really know how that works. You know, when the disorder is over, you don’t get to say: ‘I proudly served.’ It doesn’t matter which side you’re on. Because the disorder is a war on the pride. It’s a war on the people’s morale. You don’t get to confront the enemy as an equal. Everybody lives in shadow. It’s always covert. It’s always fake. It’s always trumped up. And no history can be written of it, because it’s all been compartmentalized.
When it comes to monetary policy, the fiat system has no rules. “The rules are made up and the points don’t matter,” to paraphrase Drew Carey. Reality has rules, and once a fiat system gets out of whack enough, it is reality that brings the consequences, not the fiat system itself.
The fiat system is broken; its money is worthless; its culture is depressed and hopeless. If politics is downstream from culture, is it any surprise that our politics is mostly a clown show, focused on appearances and on the short-term only? Where to find hope in the hopeless world of fiat everything? Broken ideas lead to broken environments, which in turn lead to broken organisms. Once man is broken, he will not be able to change his environment in a mutually beneficial way. To the contrary. He will be stuck in a downward spiral of despair and destruction, trying to do “whatever it takes” “at all costs.”
Without Bitcoin, the prospect of our future is bleak. Without bitcoin, you have two options: the black pill of pessimism or the Soma of nihilism.
There is a reason why people say that Bitcoin is hope.
Black Pill vs. Orange Pill
Bitcoin is hope because Bitcoin’s rules are known and stable. The Bitcoin system is insanely reliable, operating like clockwork, with rules that are known and set in stone. It is an environment of iron-clad constraints that are enforced without rulers.
Not only is it the opposite of the fiat system, but it is also its antidote. Not only a lifeboat, ready to be boarded by anyone who is in need, but also a cure, providing meaning and optimism where there was none before.
It’s easy to get depressed once you’ve identified the ills of the fiat system. Many bitcoiners who are filled with optimism today were hopeless and fatalistic before they took the orange pill. Many people still are, Lionel Shriver and most gold bugs included.
But you have to be ready. You can only orange-pill yourself, as they say. Nobody can force Bitcoin down your throat.
You need to have an epiphany, the same epiphany as our 44-year-old electrician in the woods, reflecting on his life. Shortly after his breakdown and his monologue about being stuck in the rat race, he comes to a sudden realization: “I’m gonna have to make a change. It’s not the world that has to change. It’s me that needs to change. It’s my outlook on life.”
Yes. What a Chad.
Fiat Mind vs. Bitcoin Mind
The fiat system will not fade away easily, nor will it disappear quietly. Too many people are still infected with the meme of easy money, working bullshit jobs, and living fiat lives. The death of the fiat organism is unavoidable, however. It is self-destructive, and like all animals that are cornered and on the brink of death, it will lash out in a last-ditch attempt to avoid the unavoidable.
“Our great war is a spiritual war,” as Tyler Durden so aptly put it. And we are right in the thick of it.
With each passing day, it’s becoming more and more obvious that this is a spiritual war. A clash of ideas, a battle of differing worldviews.
Even the final boss of Bitcoin, Augustin Carstens, knows that this is a war. Why else would he, the embodiment of the fiat standard, appear on TV, stating the following?
A few years ago, cryptocurrencies were put as an alternative to fiat money. I think that battle has been won. A technology doesn’t make for trusted money.
If we wouldn’t be wound up in memetic warfare, why would it be necessary to state that a battle has been won?
If we wouldn’t be in the midst of a spiritual war, why would Christine Lagarde, a person that was convicted of negligence and misuse of public funds—a person who is now the President of the European Central Bank—state publicly that we have to regulate Bitcoin at a global level, because, “if there is an escape, that escape will be used”?
Why would Stephen Lynch assert that bitcoin will “go to zero when we come up with a CBDC that has the full faith and credit of the United States behind it”?
Why would Neel Kashkari, crazy-eyed as he is, go in front of a camera to perpetuate the meme that “there is infinite cash in the federal reserve,” hoping that this statement would instill confidence in the failing fiat system?
It’s almost impossible to watch these interviews without shaking one’s head. Do these people truly believe what they are saying? Is it malice, or is it ignorance? Or is it simply an outgrowth of the distorted worldview of the fiat mind? Are these people beyond redemption, or could Bitcoin humble even them, putting them on the path of responsibility and fiscal discipline?
Whatever the answer may be, Bitcoin’s mere existence is offensive to their minds, or to any fiat mind, for that matter. Bitcoin invalidates the idea that money has to be created by the state. Its architecture says, “anyone should have access to the monetary system.” Its design says, “we see what you’ve been doing, fiat people, and we will put a stop to it.”
It is ironic that what most fiat people see at first are the battle cries of bitcoiners, screaming “HODL!” and shouting “we will make you obsolete” from the rooftops. They fail to see the deeper truth of these memes, the fact that these memes come from a deep conviction that a mathematically and thermodynamically sound system is preferential to a political one. They don’t hear the humming of the ASICs, nor do they pay attention to the valid blocks that are coming in without fail. Every 10 minutes, whispering quietly:
The loud and boastful surface phenomenon is easy to ridicule and dismiss. The deeply technical, economic, and game-theoretical organism that brings about the 21 million, not so much. Both are growing. Both are intertwined. One can not exist without the other.
Fiat Self vs. Bitcoin Self
Upon first contact, Bitcoin is dismissed by most. In a world ruled by The Fiat Standard, most people are unable to comprehend the orange coin when they initially stumble upon it. I think it’s safe to say that most bitcoiners didn’t “get it” immediately. I certainly didn’t get it at first.
Many a bitcoiner’s journey can be summed up as follows:
- What the fuck is this?1
- What the fuck is that?
- What the fuck?
- The fuck?
- All in.
The process of understanding and adopting bitcoin is the process of leaving your fiat self behind. You have to get the fiat memes out of your head and allow the bitcoin memes in. You have to burn off your fiat self and build up your bitcoin self. Day by day, action by action, block by block.
By participating in the system of fiat debt slavery, you reinforce the meme of instant gratification, of discounting the future for the present, of fake money and short-term thinking. By participating in the bitcoin system, you reinforce the meme of sound money, inelastic supply, long-term thinking, responsibility, and inalienable property rights.
You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with working in the fiat mines and humbly stacking sats. It’s one of the most important things you can do. Stacking sats will give you freedom, control, and self-sovereignty. It allows you to maneuver yourself into a position of stability and strength, and before you know it, the simple act of humbly stacking and loving your future self will transform you.
The real battle is a personal one. Quelching the impulse of wanting to have something for nothing. Dropping the habit of immediate gratification and building up a culture of long-term thinking. Rejecting impulsive spending, accepting sacrifice and limitation.
The relationship between you and the world is transactional, as John Dewey taught us. Not only are our physical bodies bound to our physical environments, but we are also bound to each other via the equally real economic environments we choose to participate in. And by each dollar spent and every satoshi saved, we birth our future.
There’s a fork in the road.
The sign on the one side says: “you’ll own nothing and you’ll be happy.” The sign on the other side says: “You’ll own bitcoin, and you’ll be the best version of yourself.”
Bitcoin has the power to bring out the best version of yourself because the incentives of Bitcoin are set up in favor of mutual improvement. On an individual level, owning bitcoin requires a change in time preference and responsibility. Ownership implies that you hold your own keys. If you don’t, you don’t own bitcoin, but IOUs. It also implies that you run your own node to verify that you actually hold bitcoin. If you don’t, you’re trusting someone else’s word for it, relying on their view of Bitcoin, their worldview, and trusting that they aren’t lying to you.
Even further, continued ownership implies shouldering the responsibility of providing value to society. Money does nothing but circulate, so you will have to do something that other people find valuable. If you fail to do that, you will quickly find yourself out of bitcoin. Nature will force you to part with your sats, because everyone—including you— has to eat.
Get busy with life’s purpose, toss aside empty hopes, get active in your own rescue-if you care for yourself at all—and do it while you can.
The Bitcoin path is not an easy path, but a fulfilling one. It is fulfilling because you know the rules, you know the consequences, and you are in charge. It is a path that allows you to construct a life for yourself as you see fit, but you’ll have to do the constructing. It’s a path that allows you to protect yourself from overreach and theft, providing long-term security and stability. But you’ll have to walk it. You’ll have to participate. You’ll have to act it out.
You’ll have to burn off your fiat self, leaving behind the easy answers, the shortcuts, and the fake value. You’ll have to provide something real, be someone real, and suffer the real consequences in case of failure.
Not only does the line between good and evil run through everyone’s heart, but the line between fiat and bitcoin runs through everyone’s heart too. It’s not “us versus them.” It’s our fiat selves vs. our bitcoin selves. Personal responsibility vs. willful ignorance. Systemic fragility vs. long-term stability. You are making a choice with every action, and you have no choice but to act.
There is a fork in the road, and every single one of us has to decide which path to take. The seemingly comfortable path presented by the powers that be, or the bitcoin path: hard, rocky, with its ups and downs, without safety nets, and without bailouts. It’s not an easy path, but it’s a beautiful path. A path that teaches patience, responsibility, and discipline. A path that will humble you. A meaningful path. A path that is worth walking.
It used to be a lonely path, but it is not anymore.
It used to be a crazy path.
Today, walking down the path of more fiat is the crazy path. It is a long walk, a daily struggle. And nobody can do the walking but you. I would love to tell you that I’ll meet you at the top, but I’m afraid there is no top.
I’ll meet you on the road instead.
This article was first published in Citadel 21, issue 21.
- English audio by Guy Swann
- Italian translation by Italian Satoshi
- Italian translation by Jesse
- Spanish translation by Nelson
- Greek translation by Nina
- German audio by Rob
- German translation by Sinautoshi
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