All posts by Nozomi Hayase

Prosecution of Julian Assange Is Persecution of American Ideals

Over 50 years ago, in his letter from the Birmingham Jail, addressing a struggle of the civil right era, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” His message is now more prevalent than ever in the current political climate surrounding WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks stepped onto a global stage with release of a huge trove of classified documents revealing government secrecy. After the publication of war logs that exposed the atrocities committed by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the reaction of the Pentagon quickly escalated into a war against the First Amendment. WikiLeaks was subjected to unlawful financial blockades and there has been an ongoing secret grand jury against the organization and its associates since 2010.

These efforts to destroy WikiLeaks brought a long dreadful persecution of Assange. He has been detained for 8 years, first in prison, then under house arrest and now as a refugee living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. In 2012 he was granted political asylum against the threat of extradition to the U.S., relating to his publishing activities with WikiLeaks. The UK government, in violation of UN rulings that indicated the situation of Assange as arbitrary detention, kept him in confinement, depriving him of medical care and sunlight.

In late March, this already untenable situation got worse. Pressured by the U.S., Ecuador’s new President Lenin Moreno put Assange in isolation by cutting off his access to the Internet, denying him phone calls and visitors, including Human Rights Watch. The latest news about him indicates that the Ecuadorian government is close to finalizing an agreement with British officials to evict Assange from the embassy. How did this all happen? Here we have a Western journalist, who has not been charged with any crime, being punished for providing information that shed light on crimes and corruption of governments. This plight of Assange has been largely ignored by American mainstream press and there has been an appalling silence on this issue even among political activists.

Villain, hero or useful idiot?

WikiLeaks has been consistently vilified by U.S. officials across two major political parties. After the publication of U.S. diplomatic cables, Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, designated the whistleblowing site as a terrorist organization, calling for aggressive prosecution. Similar reactions were made by Democrats. Former Vice President Joe Biden compared Assange to a “high-tech terrorist”, while senator and chairman of the Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein urged him to be prosecuted for espionage.

As officials jumped to condemn this new media organization, the public responded differently. WikiLeaks, with the release of the collateral murder video in 2010, that provided an everyday scenery of the War on Terror in the Middle East instantly became a hero among liberals. This was contrasted with Republicans who tended to view the release of U.S. Diplomatic Cables as harmful, with conservative leaders calling Assange a traitor.

This attitude toward WikiLeaks flipped during the election season in 2016. WikiLeaks’ publication of damaging information from the Hillary Clinton campaign during the final weeks leading up to the election was met with Democrats’ hostile criticism. In their minds, WikiLeaks has changed. It no longer represented a champion of free speech that they once saw. To them, WikiLeaks appeared to have been taken over, being weaponized for the agenda of their political opponent.

As mainstream media hype of Russiagate came full on, demonization of WikiLeaks increased, depicting the transparency group as Putin’s puppet for meddling with the U.S. election. Contrary to progressives’ suspicion and animosity toward the organization, support for WikiLeaks grew among conservatives during the most recent presidential race. Right-wing commentators on Fox News and politicians like Sarah Palin cheered WikiLeaks. Trump repeatedly praised the organization during his campaign. Ever since it attained public notoriety, WikiLeaks has become many things for different people. Assange has been called a villain, a hero or a useful idiot. But what is WikiLeaks, who is Assange and what is his agenda?

Crushing bastards

Julian Paul Assange is a computer programmer and journalist with an independent mind and deep knowledge of the workings of hidden forces of control. Raffi Khatchadourian, a staff writer at the New Yorker, who profiled Assange in his article in 2010, described how this Australian citizen who recently obtained citizenship in Ecuador, came to “understand the defining human struggle not as left versus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution”.

In his 2006 seminal writing “Conspiracy as Governance”, Assange identified authoritarian regimes as patronage networks of political elites. He analyzed how this network maintains its power through the use of secrecy, restriction, and the control of national and global communication and information. Assange conceived WikiLeaks upon this understanding of the structure of power. With its innovative technical infrastructure and the method of transparency, the organization revolutionized the function of the press.

As a transnational journalistic entity that is entirely funded by public donations, WikiLeaks places no allegiance to any nations, corporations or political ideology. Its sole loyalty lies in the principle of democracy, using a leak as a tool for information warfare to perform a function of watchdog, restricting the power of institutions and protecting the rights of individuals. This fidelity to checks and balances is demonstrated in Assange’s ability to speak truth, no matter who is in power.

In Obama’s second term of presidency, while many who voted for him were still mesmerized under the spell of “hope and change”, Assange was able to penetrate the deception and see lies and hypocrisies of this president who received a Nobel Peace Prize, while simultaneously engaging in multiple wars. In the statement after one year in the embassy where he called for global support for the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who was charged with espionage, Assange fiercely denounced Obama’s war on whistleblowers.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, WikiLeaks released documents concerning one of the major candidates that would inherit the throne of this global imperial power. With the publication of documents that revealed internal workings of the Clinton campaign, WikiLeaks brought vital information that could help American people carefully scrutinize their political system and crush bastards that try to attack and undermine democracy.

If the organization had documents concerning Trump, WikiLeaks indicated that they would have published it. In responding to accusations of WikiLeaks favoring the Trump campaign with the DNC leaks, Assange made it clear that the role of the organization is to publish whatever is given to them, and they will not censor their publications for any political reasons.

The recent article written by an Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, who worked with WikiLeaks for nine years, backs this claim. In sharing her insider view of the organization, she described how the decision of the timing of Podesta leaks was made and how Assange and his team were preparing to release material on Trump, which didn’t materialize, as it was already published before.

Defense of American ideals

This revolutionary journalism that Assange created through WikiLeaks resonates with the ideals that founded the United States. In fact, Assange pointed out how WikiLeaks derives its inspiration from the American revolutionary ideas and that it aligns its mission with these ideals.

Similar to the faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves, expressed in the preamble of the Constitution with its first words “We the People”, Assange believed in the significance of ordinary people and their ability to engage in history. Thomas Jefferson recognized how, “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press…” Just as founders of this country did not trust their own government and created a safeguard for individual liberty, Assange believed in the importance of an informed public in the functioning of democracy.

From its inception in 2006, WikiLeaks has been working to defend these American values. When the laws that protect whistleblowers were gutted, it is through Assange and WikiLeaks staff’s adamant commitment to the principle of free press that made it possible for former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to exercise her uncompromising free speech. Also, it is because of WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison, with her courage in demonstrating extraordinary source protection that Snowden is now able to enjoy his rights that were denied by his own country.

WikiLeaks, as the world’s first global Fourth Estate, extended the freedom of speech, not only for Americans, but for people all around the world. As of late 2016, it published 10 million documents with a pristine record of authentication. The organization, by making full archives available in a searchable format, brought back information that belongs to the public, directly into their own hands. From the election in Kenya to the Icelandic revolution, WikiLeaks publications empowered people in many countries, creating greater social change and sparks for global uprisings. Information made available has been used to bring justice in courts and address numerous human rights abuses.

Until the moment he was cut out from the outside world, this editor in chief of the world’s most prosecuted publisher defended ordinary people’s right to self-determination. From a tiny sanctum in the Ecuadorian Embassy of London, Assange followed Catalans’ struggle for independence and continuously spoke out against Spanish Central government’s abuse of their democratic rights.

Self-righteous betrayal of democracy

So, did WikiLeaks change? Has this organization that once cracked our heart open with uncensored images of modern war lost its ideals? WikiLeaks illuminated our minds with a large cache of documents detailing dirty secrets of powerful figures, including over 650,000 critical documents concerning Putin’s Russia. Are they now really compromised?

WikiLeaks has not changed. It has not abandoned American ideals that have fueled the engine for this organization. WikiLeaks accepts information that is of public interest. It verifies and publishes authentic documents that fit the criteria of having “diplomatic, political, ethical, or historical significance, which has not been published before, and which is being suppressed”. It does this, no matter who is in office and which nation-state rises to global dominance, and even if doing so makes it a target of massive political retaliation.

WikiLeaks’ influence on U.S. politics in 2016 with the publication of documents that belong to Clinton campaign manager can be likened to efforts of consumer advocate Ralph Nader in the electoral arena. Nader, through his third party presidential run aimed to awaken in American people a fire in the belly that could challenge the corporate two-party duopoly. Similarly, WikiLeaks, by revealing the corruption of the American political system, tried to awaken moral courage for voters to take back their democracy that has long been stolen.

The publication of Podesta files exposed WikiLeaks to the same bigotry and bullying that Nader had faced back then, where the Democratic Party with their ardent middle class devotees blamed him for George W. Bush’s presidency and called him a spoiler. Now, the Democratic establishment, with MSNBC cable news stations and commentators, recycles the old tactics of defamation. They branded Assange as a Trump supporter and Russia’s intelligence asset. By even filing the lawsuit against the organization, they directed their vengeance to this whistleblowing site about the loss of Clinton’s campaign.

Yet, just as Nader’s third party presidential efforts could not spoil the election that was already so rotted, WikiLeaks could not ruin the political campaign that was so corrupted to the core. It is not WikiLeaks, but Americans who have been compromised. It is we who have fallen for a manufactured national politics that is designed to divide and conquer us every four years with new packaged candidates of the same product.

We have lost the revolutionary spirit that founded this nation, its vigilance toward government and have settled for the lesser of two evils. By engaging in our self-righteous crusade for defending our allegiance to leaders, parties and to the flag we plead to, we have betrayed our own interests and ideals.

Claiming our sacred heart

With the publication of Vault 7, a series of leaks on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, fury against WikiLeaks now intensifies. The Trump cabinet continues the war on the First Amendment that began under the Obama administration. In recent months, Trump’s Justice Department Jeff Sessions stated that Assange’s arrest is a priority. Mike Pompeo, former CIA Director and the current U.S. Secretary of State, referred to the whistleblowing site as “a non-state hostile intelligence service” and indicated WikiLeaks as a force that subverts the U.S. Constitution.

From a traitor and a Kremlin puppet to a spoiler of American democracy, words are thrown around to create distortion. Bombarded by loud media sound bites, in this illusion of democracy, many can no longer hear a voice of conscience that knows what is right and they now remain silent. As Ecuador now prepares to hand over Assange to British authorities for a financial reward, by breaking its own Constitution of the Republic, our democracy’s last line of defense is about to be severed. Cruel treatment of Assange is no longer a character assassination and imprisonment of one innocent man. What is at stake is the death of the sacred heart of democracy that remembers our inherent obligation to one another. In his earlier blog, Assange wrote about the moral courage required in our age:

Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love.

He reminded us that what drives our will to crush bastards is a gentle love that inspires us to nurture the vulnerable. In a world where there is WikiLeaks, the veil of secrecy can no longer be maintained. The released information revealed the abuse of the powerful on the most vulnerable amongst us—those that are voiceless, ailing and impoverished. Calamity happening in Knightsbridge under the heightened security at the heart of London represents the injustice of the world that this fearless journalist and his courageous sources brought to us all to bear witness. It is now laid out for those who are willing and ready to see the truth.

Prosecution of Julian Assange is a persecution of American ideals. Criminalizing the act of publishing through the Espionage Act destroys the First Amendment as the guardian of democracy. This not only sets a dangerous precedent for press freedom, but it could allow the beginning of a new totalitarianism. We must break our silence and refuse to participate in the destruction of values that founded this country. It is time for us all to put aside ideological differences and unite in solidarity with people around the world who are engaging in non-violent resistance against this assault on WikiLeaks and our right to free speech.

Only through sincere efforts to keep our eyes open to the truth before us, can we have a chance to end the tyranny of the past that casts its shadow ever more into the present. If our silence has led to this great tragedy that we face now, the victory of democracy can be brought through each of us claiming the center of our heart to stand up for this fellow man who sacrificed his liberty so that all can be free.

America’s Descent Into Despotism

Photo by Guido van Nispen | CC BY 2.0

The United States is in a major upheaval. Trump’s cabinet shake-up moves the country into an alarming direction. From the nomination of torturer Gina Haspel as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency to Mike Pompeo, former CIA Director and a vocal opponent of the nuclear deal with Iran as new secretary of state, his selection exposes the White House’s dangerous kill instincts.

An ultimatum came with the president’s appointment of John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations as his 3rdnational security advisor. Bolton,  who served in the George W. Bush administration is notorious for his hawkishness, with a great zeal for military action against Iran and North Korea. This rearranging of the deck chairs in the sinking empire signals the great calamity of foreign policy ahead with potential threats of war.

In this seeming free-fall toward despotism, what can ordinary people do? Tackling corruption of our political system and averting a doomed future requires us to truly understand the problems we are facing. The crisis of representation didn’t just arise with Trump, the new commander in chief. A glimpse of it was shown during the 2008 financial meltdown, which was covered up swiftly by bank bailouts and politics of ‘hope and change’. The truth is that seeds for dystopia have been inside this country all along. The roots of the issues that are now emerging in Trump’s America go back to the very beginning of this nation.

In its modern formation, the United States inspired the world with its torch of liberty and equality. At the same time, this beacon of light had its darkness within. From the onset, America contained internal contradictions manifested as the founder’s hypocrisy and the violation of its own ideals with genocide of natives, slavery of blacks and suppression of women. The Founding Fathers of the United States brought a victory of rejecting the power of the King’s monarchy and pioneered a path for one’s own self-determination. The concept of “a government of laws, not of men” was groundbreaking at that time. Yet without reconciling its own shadow, this nation of law failed to fully shield the republic from the tyranny of the Old World.

Supremacy of reason

The unredeemed darkness found in America’s troubled past was a force inside Western civilization that tries to define history, subjugating other perspectives to its single vision. Europe, with its ethos of separation and objectivity set out to conquer the world, spreading its influence across many continents. This domineering power of reason found its new front of exploration in the New World.

America, driven by the monotheistic goal of Manifest Destiny, expanded its territory with brutality. It swallowed what is edible, assimilating immigrants one by one to its conception of what is civil, while spitting out those that it considered impalatable, relegating them into three-fifths of a person or exterminating them from the earth altogether as savages.

This maddened head centricity was manifested in the structure of a new government. Sheldon Wolin, author of Democracy Inc noted how the framers of the Constitution created a so-called managed democracy, a system that favored elite rule and that “the American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy” (2008, p. 228).

The intellectual elites regarded the democratic majority rule as an irrational force and they feared the tyranny of popular majorities. While the faculty of reason positioned itself as a supreme force, a potential to account its autocratic power was found inside America.

The sovereign power of We the People

Expressed in the preamble of the Constitution “We the People” was faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves. This was an intention to shift from the model of government that acts as authority of their lives to one that places power in the hands of ordinary people. In this government established under the rule of the people, the source of legitimacy was not derived from a god or king, but was meant to come from people themselves.

This arrangement of governance was not granted from above. It was first demanded by those who opposed the ratification of the 1787 Constitution that lacked the guarantee of individual liberties. The proponents of the Bill of Rights articulated essential parts of the sovereign power of We the People as a freedom of expression; freedom of speech, religion, assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. By building upon First Amendment rights, further efforts emerged from below. From abolitionists’ defiance and the women’s suffrage movement to civil rights and free speech movements, people’s determination for individual autonomy persisted.

Assault on this power of ordinary people intensified with the rise of corporate power in the ‘60s. Manifest Destiny is now carried out with Nike’s slogan of “just do it”. With limited liability and having no human beings in charge, the abstraction of the head inside transnational corporations took flight from the communal ground, plundering their way into the globe, without ever having to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Giant corporations became a sponsor for this managed democracy, gaining control over media to manipulate public perception, keeping American voters in hostage with the lesser of the two evils charade politics.

WikiLeaks, the rise of cryptographic direct action

In the political winter of the post-911 war on terror, as fear and apathy spread around the globe, a new civic force surfaced online. The waves of whistleblowers began shedding light on the collaborative secrecy of elites that deceive and manipulate the public behind a façade of democracy.

WikiLeaks, with its motto of “privacy for the weak and transparency for the powerful”, opened a floodgate of a free flow of information.This world’s first global Fourth Estate embodies the philosophy of cypherpunks– a loosely tied group of online privacy advocates who saw the potential of cryptography to shift the balance of power between individuals and the state. With the idea that cryptography is the “ultimate form of non-violent direct action” (2012, p. 5), WikiLeaks founder and editor in chief Julian Assange built the system of scientific journalism that would give everyday people around the world tools to combat military might and confront the madness of fallen reason that censors free speech.

The invention of the anonymous drop box was truly revolutionary. It enabled anyone to send information securely without a trace of his or her identity. Through the robust decentralized infrastructure built around this game changing technology, WikiLeaks was able to provide unprecedented source protection in the history of journalism. Here, the organization that derived its source of inspiration in American founding ideas, freed the First Amendment that had been captured through a corporate monopoly and co-optation of the media, making it available to people all around the world.

It is through WikiLeaks’ adamant commitment to the principle of free press that former U.S. Army intelligence analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning was able to exercise uncompromising free speech and engage in the American tradition of civil disobedience. Manning, whom the late attorney and President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner described as the “conscience of our nation”, let the American public see the US imperialism in action in the Middle East.

In her request for a presidential pardon, Manning stated her commitment to the ideal of America, saying how she was willing to pay the price if it would make this country be “truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.”Through her non-violent cryptographic direct action, she helped America find its conscience.

One individual’s act of courage brought another. Inspired by Manning, Edward Snowden came forward to inform people about the NSA’s mass surveillance. In one of the addresses he made, Snowden also described his act as a public service and connected it with Dr. King’s non-violent civil disobedience. Through his whistleblowing, the former NSA contractor defended individual privacy as fundamental civil rights for all people and tried to preserve the world where people can share creativity, love and friendship freely without every conversation and interaction being monitored and recorded.

Whistleblowers and their faith in ordinary people

From WikiLeaks disruptions to Snowden revelations, courageous act of truth-tellersrenewed the faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves. Both Manning and Snowden believed in the public’s right to know and held a view that when people are informed, they can make changes and determine their own destiny.

Faith is different than mere belief. It is not about one blindly trusting or passively accepting something. Faith is an active will that requires one to choose out of themselves to believe in something. When established media and trusted institutions failed, Manning chose to put her trust in the journalistic organization that was little known at that time.When the government’s internal mechanisms of accountability were broken, combined with the betrayal of Obama’s campaign promises and his war on whistleblowers, Snowden turned to American journalists whom he could trust by his own judgment of the integrity of their work. They placed faith not in political leaders or authority but in fellow men and women.

It is to this faith in the ability for the wise and knowledgeable public to govern themselves that fearless journalism responded. WikiLeaks, the publisher of last resort kept its promise to the source by publishing full archives with maximum political impact and bringinginformation back to the historical record. By doing so, it has become an enemy of the most powerful government in the world, being subjected to legal and extra-legal pressure. Through honoring Snowden’s wishes, journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Barton Gellman broke the story of NSA surveillance and led the Guardian’s independent journalism, making the established media fulfill its duty. In the aftermath of Snowden’s disclosures, when this young whistleblower was stranded in Hong Kong, WikiLeaks demonstrated its extraordinary source protection with journalist Sarah Harrison risking her own liberty to help Snowden attain asylum.

With this faith given by peers, citizens around the world who have been distrusted by their own governments and made powerless began to claim their own power. By recognizing that someone believed in them and sacrificed their lives so that they can be free, they were able to believe in their own ability to protect those they love and preserve rights that they cherish. The will to respond to this faith in one another made it possible for ordinary people to carry out extraordinary acts.

Bitcoin, Innovation without Permission

Contagious courage lit by people’s faith created a fellowship that can withstand the state violence. It began to shift the balance of power, replacing the source of legitimacy from trusted institutions to ordinary people’s trust in one another. As the network of resistance grew, new attacks emerged. Following the release of U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010, WikiLeaks faced the unlawful financial blockade imposed by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union. When this economic sanction starved the whistleblowing site, destroying 95% of their revenue, the flow of autonomy that helped the organization circumvent economic censorship came from fellow cypherpunks.

Bitcoin, as a peer-to-peer electronic cash was the holy grail of cypherpunks. With its defining feature of censorship resistance and permissionlessness, Bitcoin makes free speech an app that can be distributed across borders and used by anyone regardless of nationality, religion, race, gender or economic status. Here, imagination from computer science redeemed the reason that lost its connection to the heart, by synthesizing bits of isolated knowledge that had created separation and injustice, transforming them into a higher order of unification.

Networks of equal peers emerging around this invention opened up a new avenue of dissent in a form of decentralization. Adam Back, notable cryptographer whose work was cited in the Bitcoin white paper, described cypherpunks as “a state of mind” and explained its philosophy of “writing code” as a “proactive approach to societal change by doing: building and deploying tech – rather than by lobbying politicians or asking permission.”

This path toward decentralization was first taken by the creator of this technology. The anonymity of Satoshi Nakamoto represents the power of ordinary people. Through an act of publishing the white paper under a pseudonymous name and making the protocol open source, the mysterious author gave up levers of control and simultaneously gave users control of the software, making it possible for each individual to use it as a tool to govern themselves.

What is enshrined in a piece of mathematics is wisdom of ordinary people that understands that man is corruptible, as well as perfectible and recognizes the security holes inherent in the existing model of governance that requires trust in third parties. It is the wisdom of history that teaches us how the best way to secure the system is not to have levers of control in the first place through which power concentrates, leading to despotism. With a consensus algorithm placed as a foundation, laws can be built that is more immune to man’s fallen nature. With this, idea of a government of laws, not of men can be truly realized. Governance of We the People now becomes possible, where rules of law are validated by consensus of ordinary people as opposed to elected officials having power over them.

Andreas Antonopoulos, a technologist and one of the respected figures in Bitcoin, in his talk titled “Courage to Innovate”, captured new enthusiasm and passion ignited around this technology in a phrase “innovation without permission” and connected it with civil disobedience. He reminded the audience how “almost every important innovation in history starts out being illegal or unregulated” and interesting technology started out with people who forgot to ask permission. Describing technology’s core invention as a platform to scale trust, Antonopoulos described how this is a system that makes it possible for people to make social decisions without hierarchy, whether it is government bureaucracy, corporations or any other institution. This system Antonopoulos characterized as “rules without rulers” is being built by people around the world withoutcentral coordination.

Claiming our revolutionary spirit

Our Founding Fathers, no matter how imperfect they were, brought us ideas conceived in a revolutionary spirit. The genius of the Constitution is that it makes fundamental laws and principles of government amendable. The highest law of the land preserved space for people to not accept authority imposed on them and even to revolt against it when it is necessary, by giving ordinary people means to change rules. America indeed was founded on rebelliousness and distrust of their own government, demonstrated in the Declaration that reads “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive… it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and institute a new Government…”

The government brought by our forebears not only allowed dissent, but depended on our rebellion. The realization of the Constitution as the fulfillment of ideals in the Declaration required individuals with a strong and independent mind. It demanded people to develop moral courage to defend these ideals against special interests of single groups or nations and any adversarial forces that try to deny them.

From the civil rights movement to whistleblowers at the frontier of digital liberation, we have seen the awakening of revolutionary spirit in people’s courageous civic action upholding the ideals of this country. The networks from below expands, converging together to build a new global civil society. Bitcoin developers around the world put their knowledge and skills together, making improvement proposals and fixing bugs, striving to meet the demands of all users.

Innovation without permission is enlivening entrepreneurship. Instead of waiting for problems to be solved by politicians or corporate CEOs, working class began to have faith in their ability to make changes, finding strength and resources within themselves. Around this currency, a new economy is now being bootstrapped, with startups and new businesses hiring people and providing them with skills and knowledge, while many other industries are stagnating.

Solutions to the crisis of representation are within us. Ordinary people, through freely associating with one another, can now give birth to the rule of a real democracy, securing Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness for all.

America’s Descent Into Despotism: Finding Our Source of Power Within

The United States is in a major upheaval. Trump’s cabinet shake-up moves the country into an alarming direction. From the nomination of torturer Gina Haspel as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency to Mike Pompeo, former CIA Director and a vocal opponent of the nuclear deal with Iran as new secretary of state, his selection exposes the White House’s dangerous kill instincts.

An ultimatum came with the president’s appointment of John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations as his 3rd national security advisor. Bolton, who served in the George W. Bush administration is notorious for his hawkishness, with a great zeal for military action against Iran and North Korea. This rearranging of the deck chairs in the sinking empire signals the great calamity of foreign policy ahead with potential threats of war.

In this seeming free-fall toward despotism, what can ordinary people do? Tackling corruption of our political system and averting a doomed future requires us to truly understand the problems we are facing. The crisis of representation didn’t just arise with Trump, the new commander in chief. A glimpse of it was shown during the 2008 financial meltdown, which was covered up swiftly by bank bailouts and politics of ‘hope and change’. The truth is that seeds for dystopia have been inside this country all along. The roots of the issues that are now emerging in Trump’s America go back to the very beginning of this nation.

In its modern formation, the United States inspired the world with its torch of liberty and equality. At the same time, this beacon of light had its darkness within. From the onset, America contained internal contradictions manifested as the founder’s hypocrisy and the violation of its own ideals with genocide of natives, slavery of blacks and suppression of women. The Founding Fathers of the United States brought a victory of rejecting the power of the King’s monarchy and pioneered a path for one’s own self-determination. The concept of “a government of laws, not of men” was groundbreaking at that time. Yet without reconciling its own shadow, this nation of law failed to fully shield the republic from the tyranny of the Old World.

Supremacy of reason

The unredeemed darkness found in America’s troubled past was a force inside Western civilization that tries to define history, subjugating other perspectives to its single vision. Europe, with its ethos of separation and objectivity set out to conquer the world, spreading its influence across many continents. This domineering power of reason found its new front of exploration in the New World.

America, driven by the monotheistic goal of Manifest Destiny, expanded its territory with brutality. It swallowed what is edible, assimilating immigrants one by one to its conception of what is civil, while spitting out those that it considered impalatable, relegating them into three-fifths of a person or exterminating them from the earth altogether as savages.

This maddened head centricity was manifested in the structure of a new government. Sheldon Wolin, author of Democracy Inc noted how the framers of the Constitution created a so-called managed democracy, a system that favored elite rule and that “the American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy” (2008, p. 228).

The intellectual elites regarded the democratic majority rule as an irrational force and they feared the tyranny of popular majorities. While the faculty of reason positioned itself as a supreme force, a potential to account its autocratic power was found inside America.

The sovereign power of We the People

Expressed in the preamble of the Constitution “We the People” was faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves. This was an intention to shift from the model of government that acts as authority of their lives to one that places power in the hands of ordinary people. In this government established under the rule of the people, the source of legitimacy was not derived from a god or king, but was meant to come from people themselves.

This arrangement of governance was not granted from above. It was first demanded by those who opposed the ratification of the 1787 Constitution that lacked the guarantee of individual liberties. The proponents of the Bill of Rights articulated essential parts of the sovereign power of We the People as a freedom of expression; freedom of speech, religion, assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. By building upon First Amendment rights, further efforts emerged from below. From abolitionists’ defiance and the women’s suffrage movement to civil rights and free speech movements, people’s determination for individual autonomy persisted.

Assault on this power of ordinary people intensified with the rise of corporate power in the ‘60s. Manifest Destiny is now carried out with Nike’s slogan of “just do it”. With limited liability and having no human beings in charge, the abstraction of the head inside transnational corporations took flight from the communal ground, plundering their way into the globe, without ever having to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Giant corporations became a sponsor for this managed democracy, gaining control over media to manipulate public perception, keeping American voters in hostage with the lesser of the two evils charade politics.

WikiLeaks, the rise of cryptographic direct action

In the political winter of the post-911 war on terror, as fear and apathy spread around the globe, a new civic force surfaced online. The waves of whistleblowers began shedding light on the collaborative secrecy of elites that deceive and manipulate the public behind a façade of democracy.

WikiLeaks, with its motto of “privacy for the weak and transparency for the powerful”, opened a floodgate of a free flow of information. This world’s first global Fourth Estate embodies the philosophy of cypherpunks– a loosely tied group of online privacy advocates who saw the potential of cryptography to shift the balance of power between individuals and the state. With the idea that cryptography is the “ultimate form of non-violent direct action” (2012, p. 5), WikiLeaks founder and editor in chief Julian Assange built the system of scientific journalism that would give everyday people around the world tools to combat military might and confront the madness of fallen reason that censors free speech.

The invention of the anonymous drop box was truly revolutionary. It enabled anyone to send information securely without a trace of his or her identity. Through the robust decentralized infrastructure built around this game changing technology, WikiLeaks was able to provide unprecedented source protection in the history of journalism. Here, the organization that derived its source of inspiration in American founding ideas, freed the First Amendment that had been captured through a corporate monopoly and co-optation of the media, making it available to people all around the world.

It is through WikiLeaks’ adamant commitment to the principle of free press that former U.S. Army intelligence analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning was able to exercise uncompromising free speech and engage in the American tradition of civil disobedience. Manning, whom the late attorney and President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner described as the “conscience of our nation”, let the American public see the US imperialism in action in the Middle East.

In her request for a presidential pardon, Manning stated her commitment to the ideal of America, saying how she was willing to pay the price if it would make this country be “truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.” Through her non-violent cryptographic direct action, she helped America find its conscience.

One individual’s act of courage brought another. Inspired by Manning, Edward Snowden came forward to inform people about the NSA’s mass surveillance. In one of the addresses he made, Snowden also described his act as a public service and connected it with Dr. King’s non-violent civil disobedience. Through his whistleblowing, the former NSA contractor defended individual privacy as fundamental civil rights for all people and tried to preserve the world where people can share creativity, love and friendship freely without every conversation and interaction being monitored and recorded.

Whistleblowers and their faith in ordinary people

From WikiLeaks disruptions to Snowden revelations, courageous act of truth-tellers renewed the faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves. Both Manning and Snowden believed in the public’s right to know and held a view that when people are informed, they can make changes and determine their own destiny.

Faith is different than mere belief. It is not about one blindly trusting or passively accepting something. Faith is an active will that requires one to choose out of themselves to believe in something. When established media and trusted institutions failed, Manning chose to put her trust in the journalistic organization that was little known at that time. When the government’s internal mechanisms of accountability were broken, combined with the betrayal of Obama’s campaign promises and his war on whistleblowers, Snowden turned to American journalists whom he could trust by his own judgment of the integrity of their work. They placed faith not in political leaders or authority but in fellow men and women.

It is to this faith in the ability for the wise and knowledgeable public to govern themselves that fearless journalism responded. WikiLeaks, the publisher of last resort, kept its promise to the source by publishing full archives with maximum political impact and bringing information back to the historical record. By doing so, it has become an enemy of the most powerful government in the world, being subjected to legal and extra-legal pressure. Through honoring Snowden’s wishes, journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Barton Gellman broke the story of NSA surveillance and led the Guardian’s independent journalism, making the established media fulfill its duty. In the aftermath of Snowden’s disclosures, when this young whistleblower was stranded in Hong Kong, WikiLeaks demonstrated its extraordinary source protection with journalist Sarah Harrison risking her own liberty to help Snowden attain asylum.

With this faith given by peers, citizens around the world who have been distrusted by their own governments and made powerless began to claim their own power. By recognizing that someone believed in them and sacrificed their lives so that they can be free, they were able to believe in their own ability to protect those they love and preserve rights that they cherish. The will to respond to this faith in one another made it possible for ordinary people to carry out extraordinary acts.

Bitcoin, Innovation without Permission

Contagious courage lit by people’s faith created a fellowship that can withstand the state violence. It began to shift the balance of power, replacing the source of legitimacy from trusted institutions to ordinary people’s trust in one another. As the network of resistance grew, new attacks emerged. Following the release of U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010, WikiLeaks faced the unlawful financial blockade imposed by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union. When this economic sanction starved the whistleblowing site, destroying 95% of their revenue, the flow of autonomy that helped the organization circumvent economic censorship came from fellow cypherpunks.

Bitcoin, as a peer-to-peer electronic cash was the holy grail of cypherpunks. With its defining feature of censorship resistance and permissionlessness, Bitcoin makes free speech an app that can be distributed across borders and used by anyone regardless of nationality, religion, race, gender or economic status. Here, imagination from computer science redeemed the reason that lost its connection to the heart, by synthesizing bits of isolated knowledge that had created separation and injustice, transforming them into a higher order of unification.

Networks of equal peers emerging around this invention opened up a new avenue of dissent in a form of decentralization. Adam Back, notable cryptographer whose work was cited in the Bitcoin white paper, described cypherpunks as “a state of mind” and explained its philosophy of “writing code” as a “proactive approach to societal change by doing: building and deploying tech – rather than by lobbying politicians or asking permission.”

This path toward decentralization was first taken by the creator of this technology. The anonymity of Satoshi Nakamoto represents the power of ordinary people. Through an act of publishing the white paper under a pseudonymous name and making the protocol open source, the mysterious author gave up ownership and simultaneously gave users control of the software, making it possible for each individual to use it as a tool to govern themselves.

What is enshrined in a piece of mathematics is wisdom of ordinary people that understands that man is corruptible, as well as perfectible and recognizes the security holes inherent in the existing model of governance that requires trust in third parties. It is the wisdom of history that teaches us how the best way to secure the system is not to have levers of control in the first place through which power concentrates, leading to despotism. With a consensus algorithm placed as a foundation, laws can be built that is more immune to man’s fallen nature. With this, idea of a government of laws, not of men can be truly realized. Governance of We the People now becomes possible, where rules of law are validated by consensus of ordinary people as opposed to elected officials having power over them.

Andreas Antonopoulos, a technologist and one of the respected figures in Bitcoin, in his talk titled “Courage to Innovate”, captured new enthusiasm and passion ignited around this technology in a phrase “innovation without permission” and connected it with civil disobedience. He reminded the audience how “almost every important innovation in history starts out being illegal or unregulated” and interesting technology started out with people who forgot to ask permission. Describing technology’s core invention as a platform to scale trust, Antonopoulos described how this is a system that makes it possible for people to make social decisions without hierarchy, whether it is government bureaucracy, corporations or any other institution. This system Antonopoulos characterized as “rules without rulers” is being built by people around the world without central coordination.

Claiming our revolutionary spirit

Our Founding Fathers, no matter how imperfect they were, brought us ideas conceived in a revolutionary spirit. The genius of the Constitution is that it makes fundamental laws and principles of government amendable. The highest law of the land preserved space for people to not accept authority imposed on them and even to revolt against it when it is necessary, by giving ordinary people means to change rules. America indeed was founded on rebelliousness and distrust of their own government, demonstrated in the Declaration that reads “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive… it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and institute a new Government…”

The government brought by our forebears not only allowed dissent, but depended on our rebellion. The realization of the Constitution as the fulfillment of ideals in the Declaration required individuals with a strong and independent mind. It demanded people to develop moral courage to defend these ideals against special interests of single groups or nations and any adversarial forces that try to deny them.

From the civil rights movement to whistleblowers at the frontier of digital liberation, we have seen the awakening of revolutionary spirit in people’s courageous civic action upholding the ideals of this country. The networks from below expands, converging together to build a new global civil society. Bitcoin developers around the world put their knowledge and skills together, making improvement proposals and fixing bugs, striving to meet the demands of all users.

Innovation without permission is enlivening entrepreneurship. Instead of waiting for problems to be solved by politicians or corporate CEOs, working class began to have faith in their ability to make changes, finding strength and resources within themselves. Around this currency, a new economy is now being bootstrapped, with startups and new businesses hiring people and providing them with skills and knowledge, while many other industries are stagnating.

Solutions to the crisis of representation are within us. Ordinary people, through freely associating with one another, can now give birth to the rule of a real democracy, securing Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness for all.

Bullied Relations: Australia, East Timor and Natural Resources

“The Commission instead opted for the easiest way out, which is a shame as in my perception it reveals a lack of impartiality on your behalf!”
Chief East Timorese negotiator, Xanana Gusmão, Feb 28, 2018

In the scheme of things, Australia has deputised as regional bully for imperial powers since it became an outpost of the British empire. Neighbouring states have been ridiculed, mocked and derided as sub-human and incapable. The term “failed state” is still used in Canberra’s circles of presupposing power over desperate basket cases. Little wonder that China smells a wounded reputation.

It is in that spirit that signing of an agreement between Australia and East Timor to demarcate maritime borders took place. Officially, there were smiles, even a sense of back slapping. The March 7 press release from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop conveys the moment of false elevation:

“The treaty is a historic agreement that opens a new chapter in our bilateral relationship. It establishes permanent maritime boundaries between our countries and provides for the joint development and management of the Great Sunrise gas fields.”

The story behind the rubbing and flesh pressing was more questioning. The countries had, after all, reached this point after allegations of espionage threatened to scupper talks. Those allegations pertained to efforts on the part of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service to spy on East Timorese delegates during negotiations of the 2006 CMATS (Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea). Where the division of revenue is concerned – in that case, the Greater Sunrise gas field in the Timor Sea – the spooks will follow.

The central points of historic contention between the states remain traditional: natural resources and how best to harness them. Neither could quite agree on who should have access to oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea. The political imbroglio had its genesis in the 1989 Timor Gap Treaty signed between Australia and Indonesia when President Suharto’s kleptocracy, not to mention brutal suppression of East Timor, were deemed acceptable matters of realpolitik.

The subsequent liberation of East Timor left the fledgling state in a parlous, near-death state. Indonesia and Australia continued to share the resources of the Timor Gap in gluttonous merriment till the signing of the Timor Sea Treaty. The document had one glaring flow: the lack of a determined permanent maritime border. CMATS, which East Timor duly tore up, permitted an equal division of revenue, but similarly postponed the discussion of a maritime border.

Central to the Timor-Leste strategy was a determination to do it by the international law book. East Timor argued for a maritime border lying half way between it and Australia; Australia, that it follow its continental shelf. The Permanent Court of Arbitration, and Conciliation Commissioners, were duly engaged in applying the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Australia subsequently celebrated the outcome as “the first ever conciliation under [UNCLOS].”

While students of international law cheered the result, the political dimension proved uglier. East Timor’s chief negotiator and all-round resistance figure Xanana Gusmão lashed Australia and the Commissioners in a letter to the Conciliation Commission.

The Commission, he argued, were ignorant on East Timorese matters. The “chosen technical expert does not have appropriate experience or understanding from working in Timor-Leste or similar developing country contexts.” Their assessments on “potential benefits to the Timor-Leste population” were “shockingly superficial”, a point that only advantaged Australia.

Gusmão also had another gripe: Australian negotiators had seemingly been gotten to by the extractive industry heavies, Woodside Petroleum and Conoco Philips. “Civil society could potentially perceive this as a ‘form’ of collusion between the Government of Australia and Darwin LNG Partners and/or the Sunrise J.”

That the officials of Timor-Leste should harbour obstinate suspicions is not only understandable but sagacious. To deal with a repressive, sanguinary Indonesian military was painful enough. But then came international knowledge about the brutal regime operating in East Timor, knowledge that came precariously close to active complicity. Fraternal talk tends to be counterfeit in the market of geopolitics.

The 2,500 page Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor, transmitted by Gusmão, then East Timorese president, to the national parliament in November 2005 referenced hundreds of illuminating formerly classified US and British documents. These showed tacit approval by both the US and UK for the invasion of East Timor in 1975 and the status quo till 1999, during which some 100,000 Timorese died.

There were even open instances of Indonesian officials showing interest, as a National Security Council memorandum to US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger states, “in knowing the American attitude regarding Portuguese Timor (and, by implication, our reaction to a possible Indonesian takeover).” They were not disappointed.

As late as 2014, the Australian government would go to considerable lengths to prevent the release of files pertaining to Canberra’s knowledge of Indonesian troop deployments during the occupation. Of particular sensitivity were operations conducted in late 1981 and early 1982 which ended in predictable massacre. In a decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal agreeing with the government, President Justice Duncan Kerr claimed with Kafkaesque absurdity that he had to “express conclusions which I am unable to explain”.

What the justice did reveal was a tantalising titbit on the regional bullying East Timor has been subjected to at the hands of murderous and occasionally complicit powers. Evidence submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade revealed a certain insistence on the part of US authorities in 2013 wanting “the Australian government to continue to restrict access to… four documents” with “ongoing sensitivities”.

East Timor remains a state on a drip. It is impoverished. Despite all this, the Australian preference remains determined and exploitative. The issue on where the oil and gas will be processed continues as a niggling sore point. Canberra prefers that piping take place through Darwin, with an 80 percent revenue sweetener to East Timor.

That will hardy pass muster for Dili, which sees value in having the processing facility in East Timor, where a “petroleum hub” is being developed. To that end, it is even willing to surrender a revenue cut to Australia. Power machinations, and Australia’s petroleum lobby, may well yet undo these arrangements. The regional bully remains renascent.

Is the Era of Transhumanism a Final Corporate Takeover of Humanity?

Photo by Todd Huffman | CC BY 2.0

Transhumanism is knocking at the door. Dubbed as Humanity+ or H+, the idea to radically revolutionize humanity has emerged in the last decades as a global intellectual movement. With a slogan of melding humans with the machine, it aims to radically alter human nature by means of technological advancement.

Proponents of transhumanism envision a human that goes beyond its current biology and cognition. They are trying to move society into the next stage of human development where man achieves super-intelligence and emotional well-being. Transhumanists ask, “If humans can interfere with the process of evolution, is it possible for us to create a human being with greater capacities than what we are now? Can we make a human species without weakness of disease and illness, anger and sadness, and ultimately overcome death itself?”

Some see such technologically driven future as not just desirable, but a necessity. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX indicated an inevitability of humans to symbiotically bond with artificial intelligence, if the human species were to remain relevant. This call for humanity’s radical makeover comes right at the midst of the digital age, where Homo sapiens, with the progress of science and technology is crossing the Rubicon, challenging physical boundaries and organic biological limitations.

Our fake world, fake democracy

The rapid expansion of technology in this new millennium radically transformed our social landscape. The modern life filled with information has placed everyone behind computer screens and cell phones. As society has become more abstract, it became virtual, fabricated with images that are dissociated from the facts and events of the world.

In many ways, the recent hype of “fake news” reflects this counterfeit reality that we are all surrounded by. Waves of whistleblowers in recent years revealed that we live in a kind of simulation intervened by government and corporate media propaganda. The 2008 financial meltdown exposed the global economy, overdriven by the bubble of toxic assets and stocks that were propped up by central banks with their money made out of thin air. This Ponzi scam of financial engineering was further covered up by bank bailouts, creating a fake recovery.

Meanwhile, our ‘democracy’ has been one big consumer fraud. We have been duped by psychopaths in power who pull the strings of puppet politicians. Civic power has been fragmented by a corporate duopoly, keeping the populace in false hope for change in the electoral arena. With tactics of divide and conquer, monetary elites behind the scenes trigger emotions, stirring conflicts among voters in a national tournament of identity politics. Once people are trapped by fear and hatred that are carefully manufactured, they easily lose sight of reality. Rather than finding commonality and building a coalition to solve problems, many engage in mutually assured self-destruction.

While the American working class is distracted by this political charade, the economy continues to stagnate, making the divide between the rich and poor ever wider. The beast of neoliberalism that has been devouring victims abroad is now finally coming home to roost. Now, ordinary Americans are suffering from unemployment, homelessness and lack of access to medical care. Young people are burdened with predatory student debt, where despite the promise of college recruiters, there are few viable jobs for them. Social services are defunded, throwing away elders, while a military budget gets fatter and fatter, with increased defense contracts for the never ending wars.

Free ticket to heaven?  

While political corruption is deepening the crisis of institutions and governments, Silicon Valley tech companies through lobbying have steadily gained influence in Washington. Now, technological innovation is pushed forward as a solution to the breakdown of social systems. From Apple and Google to Facebook, giant tech companies put a monopoly on AI, trying to control its development, so to dictate the course of our future. With the initiative of universal basic income (UBI), wealthy and elite technologists advocate for the creation of a robot economy where labor is replaced by automation.

Here the radical vision of humanity 2.0 arises. The coming of a post-human era promises to alleviate suffering, make us stronger, more intelligent and godlike. Transhumanists try to bring eternal life through insemination of machine intelligence into the human body. By combining big data with AI software, the idea is already there for humanity to attain digital immortality, where one can develop mind clones of oneself that has its own life on the web. Dr. Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and futurist shares his aspiration of uploading a digital memory, creating a new pill that slows down people’s perception of time and drugs that can eliminate painful memories.

The idea of fusion with technology as a next stage in human evolution can speak to our own narcissism induced by social media attention culture. The H+ agenda can be marketed by appealing to one’s desire for recognition, to be boundless and to attain mastery of oneself. Through social engineering, it will corral the herd and achieve mass adoption. Yet this techno-utopia does not come for free. One has to pay a heavy price for the ticket to this supposed heaven on earth. In the exchange to transcend human limitations, we are asked to give up the essence of being human. What are we expected to sacrifice on this altar of transcendence?

Free will and learning

Humans are endowed with subjectivity that places them in relationship with the world. With this self-awareness, we are given freedom to determine the course of our own actions. While machines can only do what they are programmed to do, humans with intention can choose their actions and alter the situation through insight and creativity. This freedom releases spontaneity and variation, making the environment not fixed and unpredictable. At the same time, out of this comes the potential for errors. Choices expose men to the propensity for mistakes and make them fallible.

The AI trend of technological intervention of humanity now threatens this ability to make choices. Automation narrows and eliminates the space for humans to make their own decisions, locking society into a deterministic future. Through scientific and mathematical precision, the force of mechanization tries to remove possibilities for errors and by doing so, it deprives something essential about human beings.

What make us different from these artificial beings is our free will and unique learning processes that are associated with it. Our connection to the world binds us deeply to the consequences of our own choices. In a moment we make a mistake, reality blows up in our face and we are forced to see the results of what we have created. The feeling of shame and guilt that overwhelm us can break the heart wide open. The unbearable pain awakens one’s moral sensibility. With these burning sensations, we directly experience our own actions and the effect they have on others’ lives.

When we confront our own mistakes with honesty, we can transform this sense of humiliation into humility. We learn to become humble. This connects us to other human beings, allowing us to see reality from their perspectives. This empathy makes us strive to mend our actions. It is the foundation of conscience that makes humans acknowledge their errors and inspire one another to repent, undo wrongdoing and learn.

Fiction of corporate personhood

It is this morality rooted in our relationship to the environment that corporate culture has been trying hard to eradicate. Agendas behind transhumanist movements can be seen as the ultimate goal of transnational corporations. The rise of corporate power turned civilization against nature. Multinational agricultural biotechnology corporations like Monsanto have assaulted life by monopolizing seeds and poisoning food with GMOs.

Corporations as artificial entities bring the force that hardens the heart. They assert themselves in society through the legal fiction of corporate personhood. The theater of the American Dream managed by big business has turned citizens into consumers, who are directed to find happiness in consumption and material acquisition. Unbridled greed of capitalism bombards all with ads and commercials, 24 hours 7 days a week, making us chase after products that we don’t need and to be always cheerful, while suppressing sadness and deep dissatisfaction of life with antidepressant drugs. Ensnared by glamorous Hollywood life and a culture that worships youth, many engage in a pathological pursuit for perfection, to be beautiful, thin, and ageless.

In this fictional world, we are not humans. Workers are exploited, being treated as disposable with no benefits, while mega corporations look for the next cheap labor to exploit and new markets to make a killing. The merciless cyborg with its callous skin controls world finance, turning all living beings into caricatures in their tyrannical fantasy. In this artificial natural selection pushed forward by the invisible hands of the market, the cold algorithm enacts financial terrorism, dictating who should survive and who should die.

Pursuit of happiness and pathological drive for perfection

Now, in Trump’s America, the fiction of corporate personhood finds a new iteration to make its dream great again. As the nation consolidates power with the new administration, we all become contestants in The Apprentice. In this grandiose Reality Show, we are told to mimic corporate personhood, to be cunning and self-serving or we will be fired. The world of Wall Street entices all to a path of personal power, filled with ambition, vanity and pride. Plundering through exploitative business practices and addictive gambling of high frequency trading becomes a way of life. Corruption is rife with rampant greed and sexual conquest.

Inside 9-5 office hours of white collar jobs, relationships became impersonal and transactional, where people are forced to hide real emotions behind professional masks. In this supposed free market competition that bars entry to immigrants, people of color and transgenders, workers are trained to mind their own business by climbing up the ladder of success in a rat race of profit at any cost. Deep inside the labyrinth of organizational hierarchies, we are cut off from our own authentic feelings and lose the ground of consensual reality. We no longer are held accountable by feedback of others.

Now, with depletion of resources and environmental destruction, the life of the American dream is becoming unsustainable. As the fantasy of corporate personhood is losing its fuel, it seems to be carried into a vision of techno-utopianism. Through mass surveillance and authoritarian use of police force, the corporate state has been attacking privacy and autonomy of individuals. From face recognition technology and biometrics used at borders to AI augmented cyber-security and auto flying drones, it further mechanizes this world. The goal is no longer just total control of the world to create an ever more perfect world, but to control human nature itself by reprogramming our biology to create a perfect self.

As the disfranchised middle class is slowly waking up from their insulated reality and starting to face their broken life, transhumanism offers all a short cut to nirvana. From the magic of genetic modification to the creation of the mind file, through making humans directly interface with the net, technology is presented to rescue us, trying to numb throbbing aches in the arteries that carry the ebb and flow of our human experience.

Humanity at a crossroads

Transhumanist thinkers with technological enlightenment ideas declare the liberation of humanity from a cog in the wheel of the corporate machine, only to once again ensnare all in their Sci Fi illusory future. From self-driving cars to androids, robots that are designed to look and act like a human, artificial intelligence is here in everyday life, promising to make our life more convenient, efficient and safe. With a gospel of machine supremacy preaching perfection, increased dominance of technology can annihilate our free will that is a prerequisite for developing conscience.

With artificial nerves that can’t carry the warmth of blood, robots mimic life in their synthetic existence. They are the phantoms that claim immortality, when they never even had a chance to truly live. These ghosts in the machine make us sever our ties to the world, by turning the heart into a pump that pushes out the pain of our mother in her giving birth to a child.

Our remembering of her pain that brought all of life makes us remain connected to her world. “We are living in a fake world; we are watching fake evening news. We are fighting a fake war. Our government is fake,” said renowned Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. He continued:

But we find reality in this fake world. So our stories are the same; we are walking through the fake scenes, but ourselves, as we walk through these scenes, are real. The situation is real, in the sense that it’s a commitment, it’s a true relationship.

Our ability to feel is a testimony of being human, allowing us to be a real person in this fake world. To be human is to live among flesh, being audaciously flawed. Our striving to bear our own pain awakens compassion. We are able to forgive ourselves and others. We find strength to love one another in our authenticity found in each other’s imperfection. This total acceptance of human errors connects us to potent creative power within that resists rigidity, mechanization and all stagnation, keeping the world alive through our relationship with her.

Humanity is now at a crossroads. With the exponential growth of technology, we have the capability to bring a great turning or destroy the world. Branches of science; technology, engineering, chemistry and medicine helped mankind overcome natural disaster and disease and live more comfortably in this harsh physical environment. Renewable energy technologies can help us create a sustainable future. These are tools that can be used for the good. They can reduce poverty and enhance the quality of our lives, but they can be also used against us.

Transhumanism is marching on into our society, showing its footsteps everywhere. With iPad and Android, talking gadgets are entering into the crib, hijacking childhood imagination. Day and night technology snatches youngster’s attention, plugging them into Instagram and Snapchat. As the expansion of this machine world accelerates, our life gets faster and faster, making it harder for us to be present in our own bodies.

We need to stay awake and not sleepwalk through this time of transition. Reality may be painful, but if we lose our own sense of reality by giving up what feels at the center of our hearts, it will be the death of our own selves. Such is a tragic loss of what it means to be human and the life of all on this planet that we are meant to steward. It is our ability to make choices that will create the future and this freedom must be claimed by each one of us.

 

Bitcoin, Innovation of Money and Reinventing Activism

Bitcoin’s price explosion made news headlines this last year. Topics of digital assets entered onto dinner tables and friendly chats at work places. Fever of the digital gold rush that has swept mainstream finance became contagious. Institutional funds are now entering into cryptos, seemingly hedging their bets with their “sugar high” bubble economy. Jamie Dimon, the JPMorgan CEO who previously slammed Bitcoin as a fraud is said to be regretting his claim. He now praises the blockchain, the underlying technology of Bitcoin. Goldman Sachs recently acknowledged Bitcoin as money, comparable to gold. The firm is already setting up a trading desk for digital currencies.

While Bitcoin is gaining traction in financial circles, Naval Ravikant, the CEO and co-founder of Angel List saw this technology’s profound socio-political impact. He noted, “Bitcoin is a tool for freeing humanity from oligarchs and tyrants, dressed up as a get-rich-quick scheme.” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange also recognized the revolutionary power of this money based on math. At the end of 2017, from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been confined more than five years, Assange tweeted, “Bitcoin is a real Occupy Wall Street”.

What is this disruptive force of Bitcoin? The Occupy movement that had spread over dozens of US cities and across many countries created a wave of uprising. It inspired a new vision of politics outside of the electoral arena. Now, years after Occupy’s demise, this new innovation of decentralized digital currency could offer a way to reinvent activism, helping all around the world to organize and create radical social change.

The era of creditocracy

First, let’s look back at the rise of OccupyWallStreet protest. The movement kicked off in New York’s financial district in 2011, uniting people from all walks of life under the banner of the 99% against economic inequality and corporate greed. Occupy emerged within a cultural milieu of transparency, spearheaded by WikiLeaks’ disclosure of documents pertaining to government secrecy and corruption.

The insurgency in lower Manhattan marked a peak of disillusionment about the current state of democracy. People began to wake up to an invisible hand of the market – 1% global oligarchy, that was controlling resources through money based on debt. In the article “Student Debt Slavery: Bankrolling Financiers on the Backs of the Young”, attorney and author Ellen Brown described the advantage of “slavery by debt” over owned slavery, which was an idea argued in a document reportedly circulated during the American Civil War among British and American banking sectors. Brown showed that while slaves need to be housed and fed, “free men could be kept enslaved by debt, by paying wages insufficient to meet their costs of living”.

This debt-based financial system has become what professor and veteran of the Occupy movement Andrew Ross calls a “creditocracy”. In this, ordinary people with student loans, medical and credit card bills have become indentured servants. Ross explains how it is the Western version of a “debt trap”, where debts are piled up with monthly credit card balances or underwater mortgages that cannot be ever paid to ensure continuing revenue for the banks. He notes how this is similar to the developing countries that fell under IMF dependency in the course of the 1970s and 1980s.

In the era of creditocracy, ubiquitous anonymous corporations keep the force of control invisible, making people obey their rules. MasterCard tells their customers who the master is with exuberant charge-back fees and penalties. VISA maintains US hegemony of the world, denying access to finance for refugees and immigrants and assisting US government sanctions on countries like Russia and Iran that challenge dollar supremacy. This is a two-tiered financial patronage network that exempts fees and extends credit lines to the rich and privileged, while it exploits the poor by seizing their funds and engaging in predatory lending.

Creditocracy now expands around the globe and threatens civil liberties. Recently, PayPal came under scrutiny, with their failure to provide services in the West Bank and Gaza, while making its service available in Israel. This payment processing company was accused by pro-Palestinian activists as enacting “online apartheid” against Palestinians.

Vision of new democracy

It is people’s indignation against this systemic economic oppression that sparked revolt at the center of world finance seven years ago. Occupy was unprecedented in its scale and its unique style of no central coordination or formal leadership. It was a move away from electoral politics and top-down decision making to the principle of consensus and direct action, which activist scholar David Graeber described as “the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free”.

During the early days of this movement, the mainstream media criticized demonstrators for not having a clear mandate. Yet this lack of demand was a strength and refusal to recognize the legitimacy of power structures that protesters were challenging. What unfolded then was a new form of activism that truly channels uncompromising power of ordinary people. It was an activism that doesn’t acknowledge external power or seek for permission. Instead it encourages people to change society by simply building new alternatives.

This was a seed for a real democracy that is horizontal and participatory. It was manifested through activists’ effort of creating people’s libraries, media hubs and kitchens and forming a new way of governance through mic check and General Assemblies. This vision of organizing society through mutual aid and voluntary association went viral, spreading with internet memes and Twitter hashtags, creating solidarity across borders.

Cypherpunks write code

Occupy’s permissionlessness, without a need to refer to central authority, is embodied at the core of Bitcoin. The idea of Bitcoin was introduced in a whitepaper published in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis. It is clear that the anonymous creator of Bitcoin was concerned about deep corruption of government and their mishandling of monetary policies. This was shown in the message embedded in the genesis block of the block-chain. It contained a headline of a newspaper that read “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”.

Richard Gendal Brown, chief technology officer at software firm R3, provides a summary of the invention of this open source software:

Bitcoin is the world’s first system of digital cash, which allows peer-to-peer value transfer over the internet with no reliance on third parties. It is built on a new invention, the decentralized global asset register. This global asset register is the world’s first decentralized consensus system.

What is behind the protocol of a truly peer-to-peer currency is a revolutionary mind that refuses to obey the command from above and declares independence from all that claim authority. This fierce autonomy is the moral value of cypherpunks, a group that emerged in the late 1980s, who saw a potential of cryptography as a tool to shift balance of power between the individual and the state.

Cryptographer and one of the notable cypherpunks Adam Back, who was cited in Bitcoin’s whitepaper for his invention of Hashcash described the ethos of cypherpunks as that of writing code. This is an idea of making changes by creating alternatives. Back noted how pressuring politicians and promoting issues through the press tends to be slow and create an uphill battle. He pointed out how instead of engaging in the political process through campaigns and appealing to authority for changes, people can simply “deploy technology and help people do what they consider to be their legal right”. Then society would later adjust itself to reflect these values.

Network of resistance

While the mainstream media is obsessed with Bitcoin’s price and investors speculating gains in their portfolios, this technology’s defining feature lies in censorship resistance. The integrity of Bitcoin relies on decentralization, which is a method to attain security by flattening the network and removing levers of control, rather than performing checks and balances of power that tends to concentrate through control points inherent within the system, seen in the existing model of governance. This unprecedented security creates a network of resistance resilient to any forces of control.

When governments that are meant to defend civil rights act against their own people, Bitcoin preserves the network value of public right to free association and speech and distributes this to all users. This right was claimed and exercised in real time. In facing the illegal financial blockades imposed by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union, WikiLeaks showed ordinary people how they can circumvent and combat economic censorship with Bitcoin.

As the whistleblowing site continues to publish CIA Vault publications, political persecution intensifies. Now the Freedom of the Press Foundation, an organization that was founded to tackle attacks on free press, decided to terminate processing of donations for WikiLeaks. In response to this new political pressure, Assange urged supporters to continue making contributions with cryptocurrencies and unleash the power of free speech that belongs to all.

As trusted institutions and governments are failing, people around the world are finding their own path of self-determination. In Argentina, as the Peso has been steadily falling since the country’s 2002 economic collapse, Bitcoin adoption has been accelerating. Bitcoin historian and former tech banker who goes by Tweeter handle @_Kevin_Pham noted, “Bitcoin’s killer app can be found in Venezuela, it’s called: ‘not dying.’” As hyperinflation is rendering their national currency worthless, Venezuelans are flocking to Bitcoin as a safe haven to store their savings.

In Iran, the government came on full force, engaging in internet censorship and cracking down on protesters who revolted in response to the country’s long economic stagnation. It was reported that leading up to the civil unrest, the Bitcoin community has grown with more people entering into cryptocurrencies. In Afghanistan, a company that advocates Afghan women’s computer literacy empowered women with bitcoin, helping them gain financial sovereignty.

Permissionless activism

The Occupy movement ignited aspirations for the rule of the common people, verified and upheld by a network consensus created through people’s trust in one another. Yet the enthusiasm for real democracy that was mobilized through social media could not withstand state coordinated police crackdowns. With the eviction of encampments and squares, people’s power that had arisen then dissipated.

Now, with Bitcoin surging, a new stream of disruption is emerging. These old financial engineers aim to protect their dying fraudulent world of central banks by upending their speculative casino with this hyped crypto market. As incumbent banks geared with regulatory arms try to control the bubbling civic power, perhaps this technology calls people to rise once again to halt financial aristocracy by innovating the ‘activism without permission’ – this time with better security and robustness.

Knowledge of computer science empowered by the ethics of cypherpunks now provides a viable platform for people to occupy society with their heart’s imagining. Sovereign individuals can now defy the rule of creditors and create their own rules, ending financial apartheid and discrimination. They can coalesce to fund independent media they support with their money and defund wars that they oppose. Permissionless activism can bring a jubilee, making rapacious debt obsolete through each individual simply walking away from this erroneous system, uniting with those who share goals to create a new economy.

The imagination of this invention opened the potential for a radically different future. From Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery Alabama to occupiers’ adamant refusal to make demands, Bitcoin’s networked consensus creates an autonomous currency that allows all to move struggles of the past forward.

The rise of Bitcoin is poised to disrupt the world of creditocracy, as we know it. As the price rally continues, many now proclaim the rise and rise of Bitcoin! The question that remains is: Can our imagination rise with the revolutionary force this technology brings? Bitcoin already unleashed a potent power within. The future is now in our hands. It is up to each person to claim this power and show the world what democracy really looks like.

 

The Upsurge of Bitcoin and the Rise of New Civic Power

Bitcoin’s price explosion made news headlines this last year. Topics of digital assets entered onto dinner tables and friendly chats at work places. Fever of the digital gold rush that has swept mainstream finance became contagious. Institutional funds are now entering into cryptos, seemingly hedging their bets with their “sugar high” bubble economy. Jamie Dimon, the JPMorgan CEO who previously slammed Bitcoin as a fraud is said to be regretting his claim. He now praises the blockchain, the underlying technology of Bitcoin. Goldman Sachs recently acknowledged Bitcoin as money, comparable to gold. The firm is already setting up a trading desk for digital currencies.

While Bitcoin is gaining traction in financial circles, Naval Ravikant, the CEO and co-founder of Angel List saw this technology’s profound socio-political impact. He noted, “Bitcoin is a tool for freeing humanity from oligarchs and tyrants, dressed up as a get-rich-quick scheme.” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange also recognized the revolutionary power of this money based on math. At the end of 2017, from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been confined more than five years, Assange tweeted, “Bitcoin is a real Occupy Wall Street”.

What is this disruptive force of Bitcoin? The Occupy movement that had spread over dozens of US cities and across many countries created a wave of uprising. It inspired a new vision of politics outside of the electoral arena. Now, years after Occupy’s demise, this new innovation of decentralized digital currency could offer a way to reinvent activism, helping all around the world to organize and create radical social change.

The era of creditocracy

First, let’s look back at the rise of OccupyWallStreet protest. The movement kicked off in New York’s financial district in 2011, uniting people from all walks of life under the banner of the 99% against economic inequality and corporate greed. Occupy emerged within a cultural milieu of transparency, spearheaded by WikiLeaks’ disclosure of documents pertaining to government secrecy and corruption.

The insurgency in lower Manhattan marked a peak of disillusionment about the current state of democracy. People began to wake up to an invisible hand of the market – 1% global oligarchy, that was controlling resources through money based on debt. In the article “Student Debt Slavery: Bankrolling Financiers on the Backs of the Young”, attorney and author Ellen Brown described the advantage of “slavery by debt” over owned slavery, which was an idea argued in a document reportedly circulated during the American Civil War among British and American banking sectors. Brown showed that while slaves need to be housed and fed, “free men could be kept enslaved by debt, by paying wages insufficient to meet their costs of living”.

This debt-based financial system has become what professor and veteran of the Occupy movement Andrew Ross calls a “creditocracy”. In this, ordinary people with student loans, medical and credit card bills have become indentured servants. Ross explains how it is the Western version of a “debt trap”, where debts are piled up with monthly credit card balances or underwater mortgages that cannot be ever paid to ensure continuing revenue for the banks. He notes how this is similar to the developing countries that fell under IMF dependency in the course of the 1970s and 1980s.

In the era of creditocracy, ubiquitous anonymous corporations keep the force of control invisible, making people obey their rules. MasterCard tells their customers who the master is with exuberant chargeback fees and penalties. VISA maintains US hegemony of the world, denying access to finance for refugees and immigrants and assisting US government sanctions on countries like Russia and Iran that challenge dollar supremacy. This is a two-tiered financial patronage network that exempts fees and extends credit lines to the rich and privileged, while it exploits the poor by seizing their funds and engaging in predatory lending.

Creditocracy now expands around the globe and threatens civil liberties. Recently, PayPal came under scrutiny, with their failure to provide services in the West Bank and Gaza, while making its service available in Israel. This payment processing company was accused by pro-Palestinian activists as enacting “online apartheid” against Palestinians.

Vision of new democracy

It is people’s indignation against this systemic economic oppression that sparked revolt at the center of world finance seven years ago. Occupy was unprecedented in its scale and its unique style of no central coordination or formal leadership. It was a move away from electoral politics and top-down decision making to the principle of consensus and direct action, which activist scholar David Graeber described as “the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free”.

During the early days of this movement, the mainstream media criticized demonstrators for not having a clear mandate. Yet this lack of demand was a strength and refusal to recognize the legitimacy of power structures that protesters were challenging. What unfolded then was a new form of activism that truly channels uncompromising power of ordinary people. It was an activism that doesn’t acknowledge external power or seek for permission. Instead it encourages people to change society by simply building new alternatives.

This was a seed for a real democracy that is horizontal and participatory. It was manifested through activists’ effort of creating people’s libraries, media hubs and kitchens and forming a new way of governance through mic check and General Assemblies. This vision of organizing society through mutual aid and voluntary association went viral, spreading with internet memes and Twitter hashtags, creating solidarity across borders.

Cypherpunks write code

Occupy’s permissionlessness, without a need to refer to central authority, is embodied at the core of Bitcoin. The idea of Bitcoin was introduced in a whitepaper published in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis. It is clear that the anonymous creator of Bitcoin was concerned about deep corruption of government and their mishandling of monetary policies. This was shown in the message embedded in the genesis block of the blockchain. It contained a headline of a newspaper that read “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”.

Richard Gendal Brown, chief technology officer at software firm R3, provides a summary of the invention of this open source software:

“Bitcoin is the world’s first system of digital cash, which allows peer-to-peer value transfer over the internet with no reliance on third parties. It is built on a new invention, the decentralized global asset register. This global asset register is the world’s first decentralized consensus system.”

What is behind the protocol of a truly peer-to-peer currency is a revolutionary mind that refuses to obey the command from above and declares independence from all that claim authority. This fierce autonomy is the moral value of cypherpunks, a group that emerged in the late 1980s, who saw a potential of cryptography as a tool to shift balance of power between the individual and the state.

Cryptographer and one of the notable cypherpunks Adam Back, who was cited in Bitcoin’s whitepaper for his invention of Hashcash described the ethos of cypherpunks as that of writing code. This is an idea of making changes by creating alternatives. Back noted how pressuring politicians and promoting issues through the press tends to be slow and create an uphill battle. He pointed out how instead of engaging in the political process through campaigns and appealing to authority for changes, people can simply “deploy technology and help people do what they consider to be their legal right”. Then society would later adjust itself to reflect these values.

Network of resistance

While the mainstream media is obsessed with Bitcoin’s price and investors speculating gains in their portfolios, this technology’s defining feature lies in censorship resistance. The integrity of Bitcoin relies on decentralization, which is a method to attain security by flattening the network and removing levers of control, rather than performing checks and balances of power that tends to concentrate through control points inherent within the system, seen in the existing model of governance. This unprecedented security creates a network of resistance resilient to any forces of control.

When governments that are meant to defend civil rights act against their own people, Bitcoin preserves the network value of public right to free association and speech and distributes this to all users. This right was claimed and exercised in real time. In facing the illegal financial blockades imposed by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union, WikiLeaks showed ordinary people how they can circumvent and combat economic censorship with Bitcoin.

As the whistleblowing site continues to publish CIA Vault publications, political persecution intensifies. Now the Freedom of the Press Foundation, an organization that was founded to tackle attacks on free press, decided to terminate processing of donations for WikiLeaks. In response to this new political pressure, Assange urged supporters to continue making contributions with cryptocurrencies and unleash the power of free speech that belongs to all.

As trusted institutions and governments are failing, people around the world are finding their own path of self-determination. In Argentina, as the Peso has been steadily falling since the country’s 2002 economic collapse, Bitcoin adoption has been accelerating. Bitcoin historian and former tech banker who goes by Tweeter handle @_Kevin_Pham noted, “Bitcoin’s killer app can be found in Venezuela, it’s called: ‘not dying.’” As hyperinflation is rendering their national currency worthless, Venezuelans are flocking to Bitcoin as a safe haven to store their savings.

In Iran, the government came on full force, engaging in internet censorship and cracking down on protesters who revolted in response to the country’s long economic stagnation. It was reported that leading up to the civil unrest, the Bitcoin community has grown with more people entering into cryptocurrencies. In Afghanistan, a company that advocates Afghan women’s computer literacy empowered women with bitcoin, helping them gain financial sovereignty.

Permissionless activism

The Occupy movement ignited aspirations for the rule of the common people, verified and upheld by a network consensus created through people’s trust in one another. Yet the enthusiasm for real democracy that was mobilized through social media could not withstand state coordinated police crackdowns. With the eviction of encampments and squares, people’s power that had arisen then dissipated.

Now, with Bitcoin surging, a new stream of disruption is emerging. These old financial engineers aim to protect their dying fraudulent world of central banks by upending their speculative casino with this hyped crypto market. As incumbent banks geared with regulatory arms try to control the bubbling civic power, perhaps this technology calls people to rise once again to halt financial aristocracy by innovating the ‘activism without permission’ – this time with better security and robustness.

Knowledge of computer science empowered by the ethics of cypherpunks now provides a viable platform for people to occupy society with their heart’s imagining. Sovereign individuals can now defy the rule of creditors and create their own rules, ending financial apartheid and discrimination. They can coalesce to fund independent media they support with their money and defund wars that they oppose. Permissionless activism can bring a jubilee, making rapacious debt obsolete through each individual simply walking away from this erroneous system, uniting with those who share goals to create a new economy.

The imagination of this invention opened the potential for a radically different future. From Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery Alabama to occupiers’ adamant refusal to make demands, Bitcoin’s networked consensus creates an autonomous currency that allows all to move struggles of the past forward.

The rise of Bitcoin is poised to disrupt the world of creditocracy, as we know it. As the price rally continues, many now proclaim the rise and rise of Bitcoin! The question that remains is: Can our imagination rise with the revolutionary force this technology brings? Bitcoin already unleashed a potent power within. The future is now in our hands. It is up to each person to claim this power and show the world what democracy really looks like.

The Upsurge of Bitcoin and the Rise of New Civic Power

Bitcoin’s price explosion made news headlines this last year. Topics of digital assets entered onto dinner tables and friendly chats at work places. Fever of the digital gold rush that has swept mainstream finance became contagious. Institutional funds are now entering into cryptos, seemingly hedging their bets with their “sugar high” bubble economy. Jamie Dimon, the JPMorgan CEO who previously slammed Bitcoin as a fraud is said to be regretting his claim. He now praises the blockchain, the underlying technology of Bitcoin. Goldman Sachs recently acknowledged Bitcoin as money, comparable to gold. The firm is already setting up a trading desk for digital currencies.

While Bitcoin is gaining traction in financial circles, Naval Ravikant, the CEO and co-founder of Angel List saw this technology’s profound socio-political impact. He noted, “Bitcoin is a tool for freeing humanity from oligarchs and tyrants, dressed up as a get-rich-quick scheme.” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange also recognized the revolutionary power of this money based on math. At the end of 2017, from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been confined more than five years, Assange tweeted, “Bitcoin is a real Occupy Wall Street”.

What is this disruptive force of Bitcoin? The Occupy movement that had spread over dozens of US cities and across many countries created a wave of uprising. It inspired a new vision of politics outside of the electoral arena. Now, years after Occupy’s demise, this new innovation of decentralized digital currency could offer a way to reinvent activism, helping all around the world to organize and create radical social change.

The era of creditocracy

First, let’s look back at the rise of OccupyWallStreet protest. The movement kicked off in New York’s financial district in 2011, uniting people from all walks of life under the banner of the 99% against economic inequality and corporate greed. Occupy emerged within a cultural milieu of transparency, spearheaded by WikiLeaks’ disclosure of documents pertaining to government secrecy and corruption.

The insurgency in lower Manhattan marked a peak of disillusionment about the current state of democracy. People began to wake up to an invisible hand of the market – 1% global oligarchy, that was controlling resources through money based on debt. In the article “Student Debt Slavery: Bankrolling Financiers on the Backs of the Young”, attorney and author Ellen Brown described the advantage of “slavery by debt” over owned slavery, which was an idea argued in a document reportedly circulated during the American Civil War among British and American banking sectors. Brown showed that while slaves need to be housed and fed, “free men could be kept enslaved by debt, by paying wages insufficient to meet their costs of living”.

This debt-based financial system has become what professor and veteran of the Occupy movement Andrew Ross calls a “creditocracy”. In this, ordinary people with student loans, medical and credit card bills have become indentured servants. Ross explains how it is the Western version of a “debt trap”, where debts are piled up with monthly credit card balances or underwater mortgages that cannot be ever paid to ensure continuing revenue for the banks. He notes how this is similar to the developing countries that fell under IMF dependency in the course of the 1970s and 1980s.

In the era of creditocracy, ubiquitous anonymous corporations keep the force of control invisible, making people obey their rules. MasterCard tells their customers who the master is with exuberant chargeback fees and penalties. VISA maintains US hegemony of the world, denying access to finance for refugees and immigrants and assisting US government sanctions on countries like Russia and Iran that challenge dollar supremacy. This is a two-tiered financial patronage network that exempts fees and extends credit lines to the rich and privileged, while it exploits the poor by seizing their funds and engaging in predatory lending.

Creditocracy now expands around the globe and threatens civil liberties. Recently, PayPal came under scrutiny, with their failure to provide services in the West Bank and Gaza, while making its service available in Israel. This payment processing company was accused by pro-Palestinian activists as enacting “online apartheid” against Palestinians.

Vision of new democracy

It is people’s indignation against this systemic economic oppression that sparked revolt at the center of world finance seven years ago. Occupy was unprecedented in its scale and its unique style of no central coordination or formal leadership. It was a move away from electoral politics and top-down decision making to the principle of consensus and direct action, which activist scholar David Graeber described as “the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free”.

During the early days of this movement, the mainstream media criticized demonstrators for not having a clear mandate. Yet this lack of demand was a strength and refusal to recognize the legitimacy of power structures that protesters were challenging. What unfolded then was a new form of activism that truly channels uncompromising power of ordinary people. It was an activism that doesn’t acknowledge external power or seek for permission. Instead it encourages people to change society by simply building new alternatives.

This was a seed for a real democracy that is horizontal and participatory. It was manifested through activists’ effort of creating people’s libraries, media hubs and kitchens and forming a new way of governance through mic check and General Assemblies. This vision of organizing society through mutual aid and voluntary association went viral, spreading with internet memes and Twitter hashtags, creating solidarity across borders.

Cypherpunks write code

Occupy’s permissionlessness, without a need to refer to central authority, is embodied at the core of Bitcoin. The idea of Bitcoin was introduced in a whitepaper published in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis. It is clear that the anonymous creator of Bitcoin was concerned about deep corruption of government and their mishandling of monetary policies. This was shown in the message embedded in the genesis block of the blockchain. It contained a headline of a newspaper that read “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”.

Richard Gendal Brown, chief technology officer at software firm R3, provides a summary of the invention of this open source software:

“Bitcoin is the world’s first system of digital cash, which allows peer-to-peer value transfer over the internet with no reliance on third parties. It is built on a new invention, the decentralized global asset register. This global asset register is the world’s first decentralized consensus system.”

What is behind the protocol of a truly peer-to-peer currency is a revolutionary mind that refuses to obey the command from above and declares independence from all that claim authority. This fierce autonomy is the moral value of cypherpunks, a group that emerged in the late 1980s, who saw a potential of cryptography as a tool to shift balance of power between the individual and the state.

Cryptographer and one of the notable cypherpunks Adam Back, who was cited in Bitcoin’s whitepaper for his invention of Hashcash described the ethos of cypherpunks as that of writing code. This is an idea of making changes by creating alternatives. Back noted how pressuring politicians and promoting issues through the press tends to be slow and create an uphill battle. He pointed out how instead of engaging in the political process through campaigns and appealing to authority for changes, people can simply “deploy technology and help people do what they consider to be their legal right”. Then society would later adjust itself to reflect these values.

Network of resistance

While the mainstream media is obsessed with Bitcoin’s price and investors speculating gains in their portfolios, this technology’s defining feature lies in censorship resistance. The integrity of Bitcoin relies on decentralization, which is a method to attain security by flattening the network and removing levers of control, rather than performing checks and balances of power that tends to concentrate through control points inherent within the system, seen in the existing model of governance. This unprecedented security creates a network of resistance resilient to any forces of control.

When governments that are meant to defend civil rights act against their own people, Bitcoin preserves the network value of public right to free association and speech and distributes this to all users. This right was claimed and exercised in real time. In facing the illegal financial blockades imposed by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union, WikiLeaks showed ordinary people how they can circumvent and combat economic censorship with Bitcoin.

As the whistleblowing site continues to publish CIA Vault publications, political persecution intensifies. Now the Freedom of the Press Foundation, an organization that was founded to tackle attacks on free press, decided to terminate processing of donations for WikiLeaks. In response to this new political pressure, Assange urged supporters to continue making contributions with cryptocurrencies and unleash the power of free speech that belongs to all.

As trusted institutions and governments are failing, people around the world are finding their own path of self-determination. In Argentina, as the Peso has been steadily falling since the country’s 2002 economic collapse, Bitcoin adoption has been accelerating. Bitcoin historian and former tech banker who goes by Tweeter handle @_Kevin_Pham noted, “Bitcoin’s killer app can be found in Venezuela, it’s called: ‘not dying.’” As hyperinflation is rendering their national currency worthless, Venezuelans are flocking to Bitcoin as a safe haven to store their savings.

In Iran, the government came on full force, engaging in internet censorship and cracking down on protesters who revolted in response to the country’s long economic stagnation. It was reported that leading up to the civil unrest, the Bitcoin community has grown with more people entering into cryptocurrencies. In Afghanistan, a company that advocates Afghan women’s computer literacy empowered women with bitcoin, helping them gain financial sovereignty.

Permissionless activism

The Occupy movement ignited aspirations for the rule of the common people, verified and upheld by a network consensus created through people’s trust in one another. Yet the enthusiasm for real democracy that was mobilized through social media could not withstand state coordinated police crackdowns. With the eviction of encampments and squares, people’s power that had arisen then dissipated.

Now, with Bitcoin surging, a new stream of disruption is emerging. These old financial engineers aim to protect their dying fraudulent world of central banks by upending their speculative casino with this hyped crypto market. As incumbent banks geared with regulatory arms try to control the bubbling civic power, perhaps this technology calls people to rise once again to halt financial aristocracy by innovating the ‘activism without permission’ – this time with better security and robustness.

Knowledge of computer science empowered by the ethics of cypherpunks now provides a viable platform for people to occupy society with their heart’s imagining. Sovereign individuals can now defy the rule of creditors and create their own rules, ending financial apartheid and discrimination. They can coalesce to fund independent media they support with their money and defund wars that they oppose. Permissionless activism can bring a jubilee, making rapacious debt obsolete through each individual simply walking away from this erroneous system, uniting with those who share goals to create a new economy.

The imagination of this invention opened the potential for a radically different future. From Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery Alabama to occupiers’ adamant refusal to make demands, Bitcoin’s networked consensus creates an autonomous currency that allows all to move struggles of the past forward.

The rise of Bitcoin is poised to disrupt the world of creditocracy, as we know it. As the price rally continues, many now proclaim the rise and rise of Bitcoin! The question that remains is: Can our imagination rise with the revolutionary force this technology brings? Bitcoin already unleashed a potent power within. The future is now in our hands. It is up to each person to claim this power and show the world what democracy really looks like.

From Gandhi to Catalans, the Revolutionary Movement of Peacemakers

As Trump’s dangerous move on Iran’s nuclear deal and his provocative reaction to North Korea undercut diplomacy, tension is rising for World War III. Discord in the international community has been amplified in conflicts of identity politics across America. Greed and power-seeking leaders’ ambition for profits never end. With ever-increased military budgets, combined with tax cuts for the rich and slashes in health care and public funds, the legacy of imperialism is carried on. Uncertainty created by economic stagnation is generating frustration and anxiety, which is turned into anger and fear. These emotions are then channeled to harness a false sense of nationalism and white supremacy.

In the air of hostility that surrounds us, it is tempting for people to shun those who have opposing views and to respond to hate with even more hate. Resistance can easily be relegated to reactionary rallies. Protests quickly turn into an ideological battle of us versus them, which often results in violence. Yet for real social change to happen, it is imperative for all of us to overcome this loathing toward different views and work together.

There is a force within each person that can counter the hatred that seeks to separate us. Mahatma Gandhi recognized this as the power of peace and applied it to create nonviolent civil disobedience that led to India’s independence from British rule. Now, more than a half century later, a similar peaceful resistance has emerged.

Recently, leading up to the independence referendum on October 1 in Catalonia, Spain’s richest province, Spanish police engaged full force to stop the voting. WikiLeaks founder and editor in chief Julian Assange, who has remained confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than five years, acknowledged the peaceful act of self-determination by the Catalonian people in facing this police violence. Calling it “the most disciplined Gandhian project since Gandhi,” he said that “its results will spread everywhere.” Peace is a revolutionary force that largely remains untapped. How can social movements be created by this innate transformative power and bring harmony to this divided world?

The great law of peace

The same force of peace that guided Gandhi to fight against the oppression of Britain was present at the beginning of the United States. In history classes, many learned about the American Revolution and the War of Independence, where founders bravely fought for separation from King George. We all know America was founded on revolutionary spirit, but little is known about the quiet strength behind a fiery passion of war at the birth of a nation.

Early colonists, after settling into this New World, interacted with indigenous people. Historians have consistently noted how the original framers of the US Constitution like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin greatly admired the core concepts of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and their democratic governance that was based on a vision of peace. So what does peace mean?

From Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace to John Lennon’s popular song Give Peace a Chance, the word “peace” is in our everyday vocabulary. Many of us make slogans, carry banners of peace, and march in the streets. In our culture, peace seems to have become a mere symbol and has come to simply indicate the opposite of violence or a lack of conflict. Native Americans had a different conception of peace. Philosopher Jacob Needleman1 described how to them, it is “not as something passive, not as a mere absence of conflict, but as a force that can harmonize the actions and impulses of human life in all their multiplicity and opposition to each other” (p. 215). Peace, to Native Americans, is at the center of their way of life.

Needleman recognized how this peace diverges from European religious and ethical principles that work in duality and supports the “radical separation of the good (however it is understood) and the evil (that which resists the good)” (p. 198). He noted how peace conceived by Native Americans acknowledges interconnectedness of good and evil and it “includes all the forces of life,” even “what we often call ‘evil’” (p. 195). He then described for them “to be at peace means to be at peace with one’s conscience” (p. 196).

The First Nation’s conception of peace calls on each to recognize and respect each other’s differences, even the opinions and viewpoints of those we disagree with or condemn. The Great Law of Peace protects independence and individual liberty, while at the same time bases decision-making processes on consensus rather than majority rule. This wisdom of peace was not only at the root of Native American governance, but also influenced the formation of the US government—in particular, the key concept of decentralized power that was secured by the separation of power and checks and balances incorporated into the US Constitution.

Lost ideals and call for love

This peace placed at the foundation of America is a radical acceptance of differences that recognizes all equally in their uniqueness. Out of this fertile soil that embraces diverse seeds sprang the sprouts of inalienable rights. These include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that were promised in the Declaration of Independence.

Yet this revolutionary idea of peace that enlightened the mind and lit the hearts of early settlers seems to have been cast off by the shadow of the old world of monarchy. As Frederick Douglass reminded us in his famous speech “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” America became “false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.” From the onset, with internal contradictions in the genocide of natives, slavery of Blacks, and the oppression of women, the nation diverged from the ground upon which it stood. The promise of equality in the Declaration became empty words. History, with absence of authors who can take responsibility for their creative power, remained asleep to its potential and fell prey to the darkness within.

As the republic expanded, with a focus on material happiness and short-term pleasure through acquisition, the force of peace retreated into the background. Yet it continued to speak to the hearts of ordinary people who still listened to the cries in the wilderness, awakening impulses for social change.

In the 1840s, women’s suffrage gained strength. Through the emergence of feminism, nature began to speak its silent language of peace. Some recognized the influence of the Iroquois principles of democracy, in which women played an important role. In the mid-1950s, mass protests erupted against racial segregation and discrimination in the southern states, which launched the nationwide civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. found the power of peace that Gandhi had discovered. In his effort to liberate Black people in the struggle for civil rights, he inspired the nation through a true message of peace—its unifying force of love even for one’s enemies. In his speech delivered in 1957 in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. King said:

Somewhere, somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.

Such is the decentralized power of peace. It inspires all to yield the urge for power in order to open a space for others to come forward, a principle necessary for democratic dialogue.

Rage against the machine

The ’60s brought the further destruction of the democratizing force of peace and at the same time created a resurgence of peacemakers. As the country engaged in military action overseas, the opposition to US involvement in the Vietnam War quickly organized anti-war protests. Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1969 at Woodstock struck a chord in the hearts of many, letting people hear “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air” over Vietnam.

As the nation began seeking for answers blowing in the wind, a massive student movement kicked off at UC Berkeley. In the launch of the free speech movement (FSM), Joan Baez, who led the first group of protesters into Sproul Hall on the UC Berkeley campus, echoed Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence. She reminded the crowd of the commitment to act with love in the heart and that students were going to be “nonviolent in thought, word, and deed”.2

The clash of two forces became visible in images of flowers placed in gun barrels. As the youth turned to the hardened America represented by armed police, for a moment a breath of peace was brought back to resuscitate this dying culture. Yet this power of peace upheld by childlike innocence alone was not enough to confront the growing beast of the military industrial complex, which with its insatiable hunger consumes all into its soulless capitalism. As Mario Savio, the spokesperson for the FSM depicted in his passionate speech in December 1964, the “operation of the machine becomes so odious.”

As the rise of corporate power rolled back most progress that consumer advocate groups had made, the rage against this machine was quietly building up. Decades later, a call for an uprising came from southern Mexico, one of the poorest parts of the world, where indigenous people were treated like animals and abandoned by Western neoliberal economic policies. On January 1, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, the people in Chiapas revolted against the Mexican government. This ignited the revolutionary power of peace on the streets of Seattle in 1999. The protest against the World Trade Organization (WTO) spawned a cycle of global social justice movements. Yet this victory was short-lived and the enthusiasm for a different world was crushed by the Bush era’s “war on terror” and a draconian crackdown of dissent, creating a chilling effect and moved society toward a more authoritarian state.

The age of cypherpunk

In the moral ice age of the post-911 world, a new front of courage emerged from the internet. In April 2010, with the release of the “Collateral Murder” video, an unknown website burst onto the global stage. When the government’s internal mechanism of checks and balance had been broken, WikiLeaks opened an avenue for a new accountability. Through this whistleblowing platform, patriotic and liberty-loving men and women found a way to restore the peace of a nation by each choosing to be at peace with their conscience.

Empowered by the vision of cypherpunks, a group that advocates social change with the use of strong cryptography, WikiLeaks engaged in nonviolent information warfare, freeing speech that is censored and oppressed. With its radical acceptance of speech in all forms, backed by innovative technology, WikiLeaks made the First Amendment available to the whole world.

From the election in Kenya and the Icelandic revolution to the Arab Spring and Occupy movements, WikiLeaks’ publications sparked contagious courage, helping open a future where ordinary people armed with knowledge began claiming the power of peace that was for so long stripped away and denied. History that was awakened through this courage is still moving.

Now in Catalonia, as Assange observed, significant events were happening that would change the “relationship between population and state in Western Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” As the Spanish government seized election literature, shut down websites, and threatened politicians as well as the offices of newspapers, the Catalan president gave his people instructions on how to circumvent this blockade and obstruction of free speech. Assange then noted: “When #Catalonia‘s press is Tweeting how to use proxies to avoid voting censorship we are in the age of cypherpunk.” He then provided technical support for people in Catalonia to communicate and organize securely, as they faced Spanish oppression for their right to vote for the referendum.

Currency of radical acceptance

The unchecked power of the dominant elite continues, engaging in the suppression of free speech through economic censorship. Along with control of public media and police, the Spanish government has been trying to seize control of Catalonia’s finances. Assange, who had firsthand experience of this kind of financial warfare with private companies’ illegal banking blockade of WikiLeaks, called people’s attention to the network of resistance that has been steadily growing online.

The invention of Bitcoin was the holy grail of cypherpunks. With features of permissionless, censorship resistant, and unseizable transactions, it was envisioned to become stateless currency that preserves the individual liberty of all. The white paper of this revolutionary decentralized money was published in 2008. It became operational in 2009.

The Iroquois’ law of peace codified in the wampum belt is now being coded into software. It becomes an armory that is made much more secure and immutable to any foreign or domestic attacks. Here, the First Nation’s vision of great peace that inspired its democratic confederation seems to have found its realization in the open source protocol of the consensus algorithm. Security expert and author Andreas M. Antonopoulos calls Bitcoin’s governance model “leaderless”—that which creates decentralized power. He describes how the system motivates people to come to consensus at a very high level and decisions are made by the circle of five constituents: miners, developers, wallets, merchants, and users.

As the era of cypherpunk opened up, the tyranny of the incumbent legacy system gathered up its power to define a new digital age on its own terms. Western liberal democracy, with the arms of technology and transnational corporations, has now expanded throughout the world, placing all into an elaborate web of a financial industrial complex. In this artificial machination of the world, money that has been used as a weapon to wage war and exploit can be automated, with humans no longer in charge. With mass surveillance and control, it can create a total dystopia. Here, the Great Law of Peace enshrined in a piece of mathematics can offer a shield for ordinary people to defend themselves against the sword of power that seeks to control and enslave all living beings into institutional hierarchies.

With Bitcoin, the First Amendment becomes an app that can be distributed across borders indiscriminately to anyone, including those condemned as enemies. Stewarded by developers around the world committed to the shared ideals of cypherpunk, Bitcoin makes its transactions from country to country, from belief to belief, from opinion to opinion, and traverses the way of peace. Having demonstrated its unbreakable integrity for the last eight years, the protocol of radical acceptance continues to evolve, providing an alternative to tyranny without fighting, by each engaging in the creative act of innovation.

As governments all over the world become destructive and old systems begin to crumble, new networks are being made by linking the knowledge of computer science with the wisdom of the First Nations, who have lived in harmony with nature. Now, the West and natives, two minds from the same roots that once diverged paths can come together to begin a new civilization. By each choosing freely to chart the way of peacemaking, social movements can be created. People walking side by side bring this world toward a more perfect union, founded upon a principle of equality that allows everyone to be free.

  1. Needleman, J. (2002). American soul: Rediscovering the wisdom of the founders. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
  2. Nagler, M. N. The search for a nonviolent future: A promise of peace for ourselves, our families, and our world. Maui, HI: Inner Ocean, 2004, p. 202.

From Gandhi to Catalans, the Revolutionary Movement of Peacemakers

As Trump’s dangerous move on Iran’s nuclear deal and his provocative reaction to North Korea undercut diplomacy, tension is rising for World War III. Discord in the international community has been amplified in conflicts of identity politics across America. Greed and power-seeking leaders’ ambition for profits never end. With ever-increased military budgets, combined with tax cuts for the rich and slashes in health care and public funds, the legacy of imperialism is carried on. Uncertainty created by economic stagnation is generating frustration and anxiety, which is turned into anger and fear. These emotions are then channeled to harness a false sense of nationalism and white supremacy.

In the air of hostility that surrounds us, it is tempting for people to shun those who have opposing views and to respond to hate with even more hate. Resistance can easily be relegated to reactionary rallies. Protests quickly turn into an ideological battle of us versus them, which often results in violence. Yet for real social change to happen, it is imperative for all of us to overcome this loathing toward different views and work together.

There is a force within each person that can counter the hatred that seeks to separate us. Mahatma Gandhi recognized this as the power of peace and applied it to create nonviolent civil disobedience that led to India’s independence from British rule. Now, more than a half century later, a similar peaceful resistance has emerged.

Recently, leading up to the independence referendum on October 1 in Catalonia, Spain’s richest province, Spanish police engaged full force to stop the voting. WikiLeaks founder and editor in chief Julian Assange, who has remained confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than five years, acknowledged the peaceful act of self-determination by the Catalonian people in facing this police violence. Calling it “the most disciplined Gandhian project since Gandhi,” he said that “its results will spread everywhere.” Peace is a revolutionary force that largely remains untapped. How can social movements be created by this innate transformative power and bring harmony to this divided world?

The great law of peace

The same force of peace that guided Gandhi to fight against the oppression of Britain was present at the beginning of the United States. In history classes, many learned about the American Revolution and the War of Independence, where founders bravely fought for separation from King George. We all know America was founded on revolutionary spirit, but little is known about the quiet strength behind a fiery passion of war at the birth of a nation.

Early colonists, after settling into this New World, interacted with indigenous people. Historians have consistently noted how the original framers of the US Constitution like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin greatly admired the core concepts of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and their democratic governance that was based on a vision of peace. So what does peace mean?

From Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace to John Lennon’s popular song Give Peace a Chance, the word “peace” is in our everyday vocabulary. Many of us make slogans, carry banners of peace, and march in the streets. In our culture, peace seems to have become a mere symbol and has come to simply indicate the opposite of violence or a lack of conflict. Native Americans had a different conception of peace. Philosopher Jacob Needleman (2002) described how to them, it is “not as something passive, not as a mere absence of conflict, but as a force that can harmonize the actions and impulses of human life in all their multiplicity and opposition to each other” (p. 215). Peace, to Native Americans, is at the center of their way of life.

Needleman recognized how this peace diverges from European religious and ethical principles that work in duality and supports the “radical separation of the good (however it is understood) and the evil (that which resists the good)” (p. 198). He noted how peace conceived by Native Americans acknowledges interconnectedness of good and evil and it “includes all the forces of life,” even “what we often call ‘evil’” (p. 195). He then described for them “to be at peace means to be at peace with one’s conscience” (p. 196).

The First Nation’s conception of peace calls on each to recognize and respect each other’s differences, even the opinions and viewpoints of those we disagree with or condemn. The Great Law of Peace protects independence and individual liberty, while at the same time bases decision-making processes on consensus rather than majority rule. This wisdom of peace was not only at the root of Native American governance, but also influenced the formation of the US government—in particular, the key concept of decentralized power that was secured by the separation of power and checks and balances incorporated into the US Constitution.

Lost ideals and call for love

This peace placed at the foundation of America is a radical acceptance of differences that recognizes all equally in their uniqueness. Out of this fertile soil that embraces diverse seeds sprang the sprouts of inalienable rights. These include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that were promised in the Declaration of Independence.

Yet this revolutionary idea of peace that enlightened the mind and lit the hearts of early settlers seems to have been cast off by the shadow of the old world of monarchy. As Frederick Douglass reminded us in his famous speech “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” America became “false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.” From the onset, with internal contradictions in the genocide of natives, slavery of Blacks, and the oppression of women, the nation diverged from the ground upon which it stood. The promise of equality in the Declaration became empty words. History, with absence of authors who can take responsibility for their creative power, remained asleep to its potential and fell prey to the darkness within.

As the republic expanded, with a focus on material happiness and short-term pleasure through acquisition, the force of peace retreated into the background. Yet it continued to speak to the hearts of ordinary people who still listened to the cries in the wilderness, awakening impulses for social change.

In the 1840s, women’s suffrage gained strength. Through the emergence of feminism, nature began to speak its silent language of peace. Some recognized the influence of the Iroquois principles of democracy, in which women played an important role. In the mid-1950s, mass protests erupted against racial segregation and discrimination in the southern states, which launched the nationwide civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. found the power of peace that Gandhi had discovered. In his effort to liberate Black people in the struggle for civil rights, he inspired the nation through a true message of peace—its unifying force of love even for one’s enemies. In his speech delivered in 1957 in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. King said:

Somewhere, somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.

Such is the decentralized power of peace. It inspires all to yield the urge for power in order to open a space for others to come forward, a principle necessary for democratic dialogue.

Rage against the machine

The ’60s brought the further destruction of the democratizing force of peace and at the same time created a resurgence of peacemakers. As the country engaged in military action overseas, the opposition to US involvement in the Vietnam War quickly organized anti-war protests. Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1969 at Woodstock struck a chord in the hearts of many, letting people hear “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air” over Vietnam.

As the nation began seeking for answers blowing in the wind, a massive student movement kicked off at UC Berkeley. In the launch of the free speech movement (FSM), Joan Baez, who led the first group of protesters into Sproul Hall on the UC Berkeley campus, echoed Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence. She reminded the crowd of the commitment to act with love in the heart and that students were going to be “nonviolent in thought, word, and deed” (Nagler, 2004, p. 202).

The clash of two forces became visible in images of flowers placed in gun barrels. As the youth turned to the hardened America represented by armed police, for a moment a breath of peace was brought back to resuscitate this dying culture. Yet this power of peace upheld by childlike innocence alone was not enough to confront the growing beast of the military industrial complex, which with its insatiable hunger consumes all into its soulless capitalism. As Mario Savio, the spokesperson for the FSM depicted in his passionate speech in December 1964, the “operation of the machine becomes so odious.”

As the rise of corporate power rolled back most progress that consumer advocate groups had made, the rage against this machine was quietly building up. Decades later, a call for an uprising came from southern Mexico, one of the poorest parts of the world, where indigenous people were treated like animals and abandoned by Western neoliberal economic policies. On January 1, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, the people in Chiapas revolted against the Mexican government. This ignited the revolutionary power of peace on the streets of Seattle in 1999. The protest against the World Trade Organization (WTO) spawned a cycle of global social justice movements. Yet this victory was short-lived and the enthusiasm for a different world was crushed by the Bush era’s “war on terror” and a draconian crackdown of dissent, creating a chilling effect and moved society toward a more authoritarian state.

The age of cypherpunk

In the moral ice age of the post-911 world, a new front of courage emerged from the internet. In April 2010, with the release of the “Collateral Murder” video, an unknown website burst onto the global stage. When the government’s internal mechanism of checks and balance had been broken, WikiLeaks opened an avenue for a new accountability. Through this whistleblowing platform, patriotic and liberty-loving men and women found a way to restore the peace of a nation by each choosing to be at peace with their conscience.

Empowered by the vision of cypherpunks, a group that advocates social change with the use of strong cryptography, WikiLeaks engaged in nonviolent information warfare, freeing speech that is censored and oppressed. With its radical acceptance of speech in all forms, backed by innovative technology, WikiLeaks made the First Amendment available to the whole world.

From the election in Kenya and the Icelandic revolution to the Arab Spring and Occupy movements, WikiLeaks’ publications sparked contagious courage, helping open a future where ordinary people armed with knowledge began claiming the power of peace that was for so long stripped away and denied. History that was awakened through this courage is still moving.

Now in Catalonia, as Assange observed, significant events were happening that would change the “relationship between population and state in Western Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” As the Spanish government seized election literature, shut down websites, and threatened politicians as well as the offices of newspapers, the Catalan president gave his people instructions on how to circumvent this blockade and obstruction of free speech. Assange then noted: “When #Catalonia‘s press is Tweeting how to use proxies to avoid voting censorship we are in the age of cypherpunk.” He then provided technical support for people in Catalonia to communicate and organize securely, as they faced Spanish oppression for their right to vote for the referendum.

Currency of radical acceptance

The unchecked power of the dominant elite continues, engaging in the suppression of free speech through economic censorship. Along with control of public media and police, the Spanish government has been trying to seize control of Catalonia’s finances. Assange, who had firsthand experience of this kind of financial warfare with private companies’ illegal banking blockade of WikiLeaks, called people’s attention to the network of resistance that has been steadily growing online.

The invention of Bitcoin was the holy grail of cypherpunks. With features of permissionless, censorship resistant, and unseizable transactions, it was envisioned to become stateless currency that preserves the individual liberty of all. The white paper of this revolutionary decentralized money was published in 2008. It became operational in 2009.

The Iroquois’ law of peace codified in the wampum belt is now being coded into software. It becomes an armory that is made much more secure and immutable to any foreign or domestic attacks. Here, the First Nation’s vision of great peace that inspired its democratic confederation seems to have found its realization in the open source protocol of the consensus algorithm. Security expert and author Andreas M. Antonopoulos calls Bitcoin’s governance model “leaderless”—that which creates decentralized power. He describes how the system motivates people to come to consensus at a very high level and decisions are made by the circle of five constituents: miners, developers, wallets, merchants, and users.

As the era of cypherpunk opened up, the tyranny of the incumbent legacy system gathered up its power to define a new digital age on its own terms. Western liberal democracy, with the arms of technology and transnational corporations, has now expanded throughout the world, placing all into an elaborate web of a financial industrial complex. In this artificial machination of the world, money that has been used as a weapon to wage war and exploit can be automated, with humans no longer in charge. With mass surveillance and control, it can create a total dystopia. Here, the Great Law of Peace enshrined in a piece of mathematics can offer a shield for ordinary people to defend themselves against the sword of power that seeks to control and enslave all living beings into institutional hierarchies.

With Bitcoin, the First Amendment becomes an app that can be distributed across borders indiscriminately to anyone, including those condemned as enemies. Stewarded by developers around the world committed to the shared ideals of cypherpunk, Bitcoin makes its transactions from country to country, from belief to belief, from opinion to opinion, and traverses the way of peace. Having demonstrated its unbreakable integrity for the last eight years, the protocol of radical acceptance continues to evolve, providing an alternative to tyranny without fighting, by each engaging in the creative act of innovation.

As governments all over the world become destructive and old systems begin to crumble, new networks are being made by linking the knowledge of computer science with the wisdom of the First Nations, who have lived in harmony with nature. Now, the West and natives, two minds from the same roots that once diverged paths can come together to begin a new civilization. By each choosing freely to chart the way of peacemaking, social movements can be created. People walking side by side bring this world toward a more perfect union, founded upon a principle of equality that allows everyone to be free.

References.

Nagler, M. N. (2004). The search for a nonviolent future: A promise of peace for ourselves, our families, and our world. Maui, HI: Inner Ocean.

Needleman, J. (2002). American soul: Rediscovering the wisdom of the founders. New York, NY: Penguin Group.