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In April 2005 I was living in Cuenca, Ecuador, teaching English. I had just graduated college in the United States and was still very new to the place — but there was already a simmering fire about to explode. The President, who was hailed as a courageous defender of the nation’s heritage and champion of the poor when elected, had quickly moved to the right as soon as the votes were counted. A few months previous to my own arrival, he had fired an unsympathetic court and replaced it with his friends. …


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My window was open, and I heard a cacophony of celebration pour in from outside. It didn’t build but exploded all at once as if the entire neighborhood had found out simultaneously. I knew immediately what it meant: Donald Trump had lost. People hung out of windows banging pots and pans, cheering and screaming while a rhythmic pulse of car horns blared up from the street in all directions.

I live at the very top of Manhattan in Washington Heights, a mostly Dominican neighborhood, and decided to ride my bike all the way down the island to witness the varied celebrations. …


Or, how to cede your power in one easy step

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There is tremendous energy wasted on electoral politics. At best it is a distraction, at worst it serves to suffocate any alternative.

To clarify, this isn’t an attack on voting per se, it’s an attack on what large scale political elections in the United States have become.

We are beaten over the head our entire life with the notion that change begins at the ballot box. That’s false. The reality of change is that it’s uncomfortable. Voting will never yield substantive change because it is designed to prohibit the very discomfort which is a necessary prerequisite to substantive change.

In the civil rights movement blacks that sat at segregated lunch counters did not wait for an election to create change — and that’s exactly why they were successful. When we look back, we think of those sit-ins as righteous and assume they were popular. They weren’t. Forcing change never will be. …


Their focus on privacy and decentralization carry forth the original Bitcoin vision

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When I first became aware of Bitcoin, it was a revolution. It seemed immediately clear that it would cause major disruption to the status quo or be suffocated in its infancy. This was in early 2013, so it was already going for four years, but the project was still in the early stages. It seemed possible, nay probable, that the full weight of governments and central banks would come down on it and the community consisted of lots of visionaries and dreamers who thought Bitcoin could disrupt a corrupt system.

A lot has changed since then. Bitcoin is no longer the high-risk rebel. In fact, it’s launched a whole industry of cryptocurrency projects and within that realm it has become the low-risk, conservative one. Bitcoin has slowly made its way towards the mainstream. That Bitcoin community I stumbled upon nearly 8 years ago is long gone. Most people involved now see it as a means to make money, not a means to replace it. [Has Bitcoin lost its way?] There are new projects that carry forth the original vision though. …


But this time, the guns will turn inward

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A few days ago, a car drove through a Black Lives Matter protest in Times Square. Maybe it hit home because I had been considering going, or maybe it was following the story online and scrolling though the endless comments. It was clearly an intentional act meant to physically harm protesters. That’s attempted murder. Yet, many internet comments defended the driver and attacked the protest — ‘That’s what you get for blocking the street, lol.’ The ramming took place in a crosswalk while the driver had a red light in an area that is mostly a massive pedestrian plaza with only limited car access. But it wasn’t about details or facts, it was about politics. The real comment was that many people supported violence against the protesters. …


The Capital Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) is the latest, but the Paris Commune is history’s most famous example of liberated space.

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Paris, 1871.

The city of lights; the city of love — Paris is most famous for being in flames. The Paris Commune burned so bright that upwards of thirty thousand Parisians died during the government siege of the city in La Semaine ensanglantei — the bloody week.

Paris has a long history of capturing the world’s attention with romantic idealism and blood. …


The Capital Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) is the latest in a long history of free territories

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A flag used by the black army (translated).

When the February 1917 revolution overthrew the Tsar in Russia, political prisoners were freed from the jails in Moscow and looked up to as heroes who had fought the old regime. Later that year, in October, the Bolsheviks led a second revolution and installed the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” In the civil war that followed, one of the prisoners released in February, an anarchist named Nestor Makhno, would take control of eastern Ukraine with an army 100,000 strong and lead the charge for the “third revolution.”

It’s surprising how little is written about Makhno and the Free Territory, considering it was one of the longest and largest historical examples of a stateless society organized under anarchist principles, although the fluid situation which created the dynamic which gave rise to the Free Territory also makes it difficult to fully grasp what was happening. …


Promises of change by politicians ring hollow to many of us

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The death of George Floyd was the match, but the kindling had been piling up for a long time. The tragedy is not a police officer slowly murdering an unarmed black man in plain sight and in front of witnesses, the tragedy is that we live in a country that enables that behavior. The racism and police abuse that killed George Floyd was built upon a myriad of acts of unchecked subtle racism and unquestioned police power. There are only so many times politicians can promise change and fail to deliver before that rage boils over.

Riot is desperation. It’s a last resort. It what happens when following lawful, prescribed methods for justice appear pointless. …


It’s become a way to make dollars rather than a means to replace them

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As Bitcoin has entered the mainstream it’s lost a lot of what made it special. In the beginning, it rose as a counterweight to the political and economic status quo. It combined game theory and emerging technology in novel ways that created something that was able to challenge that status quo.

Bitcoin wasn’t the first digital money. Among other examples, things like Liberty Dollars and E-Gold had been created in the years since the Internet blossomed. And all of them failed. All of them were crushed by a system whose power they challenged. If you’ve never heard of these early attempts at nationless digital cash it’s because they were suffocated quickly and efficiently. They all had something in common with the systems they challenged: centralization. Among other things, what made Bitcoin different was its radical decentralization. …


It’s not about how; it’s about why

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The first time I saw Bitcoin mentioned back in early 2013, I was intrigued, looked up the White Paper, and immediately grasped that it would be massive. Though generally, I’m very slow to adapt to new technologies. At the time, I had a flip phone, no social media, and my electric toothbrush was the third most advanced technology I owned.

In the seven years since I’ve noticed how unusual it is for people to immediately grasp the value of cryptocurrencies. Very often these people are more computer literate than I am. They fixate on the how and struggle to understand the technical aspects of complex and novel systems. …

About

John Dennehy

Writing about social movements, international politics and cryptocurrency — often from South America or Asia. Author of Illegal https://amzn.to/38NQveX

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