why crypto enthusiasts are #notallbros
It’s been almost five months but I’m still not about to call the Staples Center by its brand-new name, the Crypto.com Arena, without a long, twitchy pause. Technically, I have no choice if I want to watch a Kings game live. But something about it watching sports in an arena named after a technology that’s actively setting us back from our efforts to clean up the planet, and renamed in a deal powered by $700 million worth of cash with tangled, complex origins, just doesn’t seem to sit quite right. Maybe this revulsion is powered by the stereotypical image of crypto enthusiasts: young, white men with too much money and too little sense trying to pump their newest shitcoins and angry weasel NFTs with social media and TV ad hype.
Now, certainly, people like that do make up a large and very vocal contingency of the crypto world, but as a longform piece in n+1 explains in vivid detail, there’s a vast and all too often overlooked segment of the crypto world. A segment made up of people in developing countries and those severely down on their luck thanks to institutional and systemic problems, or from the fallout of the pandemic. A segment whose driving force isn’t dreams of Lamborghinis and orgies with supermodels in a Vegas penthouse, but desperation to get out of a situation they rightfully see as hopeless. To quote a crypto influencer cited in the article: “they nuked wages so bad that now [people] have to gamble their way up the food chain through markets.”
In other words, if you’re wondering why so many are flocking to the promise of magic internet money and monkey jpegs in hopes of striking it rich, it’s because they don’t know what else to do anymore. College is often a debt trap. Hard work is rewarded with more hard work. To get a significant raise you have to quit and find a new job, after which employers refusing to pay an iota above peanuts throw an international tantrum. And frontline workers lionized during the pandemic were effectively told to shut up and fuck off by those singing their praises just a few months ago when asking for better pay and conditions in light of a global virus killing millions, including their friends and colleagues. So, screw it. Bring on the hipster monkey pics.
when the world no longer needs ditch diggers
You’re probably familiar with the old refrain that “the world needs ditch diggers too.” Well, the problem with that snobbish sentiment is that the world needed ditch diggers, emphasis on the past tense. We now have massive ditch digging machines that can each do the job of a whole army of humans, and we’ve more or less maxed out how dependent we could be on the basic act of consumption to prop up our economies. Our system is very rapidly breaking down as we try to push it forward despite blaring klaxons telling us that it can’t keep working for much longer. And as the system is breaking down, those who don’t have the skills or the chance to get ahead of the curve are being left behind.
Yet this wouldn’t be much of a problem if our leaders understood that the world is changing and introduced programs to cope with those changes and minimize transitional misery and woe, but they’ve done the exact opposite. Instead of embracing the future, they wallow in the past, and their fans decry any efforts of modernize society as a grand conspiracy theory which targets them for reasons one must be well versed in paranoid hallucinations and pathological narcissism to properly understand. Enter crypto, which is marketed as a sort of cheat code: an end run around the banks, governments, money as we know it, and the system that we see calcifying and rotting right before our eyes.
With its false promise of decentralization and zero trust, it sounds as if you can just venture into an entirely new ecosystem where you will be allowed to succeed, a way to flip the tables and refuse to play by rules obviously stacked against you. Sure, the coins and jpegs may not make a whole lot of sense and the crypto communities may be drowning in “hopium” while the value of the latest gamble fluctuates wildly from moment to moment. But what’s the alternative? To go back to begging for scraps from increasingly belligerent and sociopathic robber barons who refuse to see you as human, high on their own hype and pseudo-inspirational pablum? Far too many other avenues are being shut off one by one.
crypto won’t be a magical fix, just a distraction
But then again, crypto and web3 are actually massively centralized, with most assets held by a small number of investors and gateways to the blockchains maintained by a few big players. NFTs are also no panacea, with wild speculation by organizations making highly questionable, if not downright ridiculous investments, and constant scams and rug-pulls. This is why so many crypto groups need to keep telling each other that “wagmi” because the reality says that, no, in the long run they’re “ngmi” unless they were among a small, elite group of very early adopters sitting at the top of the latest crypto pyramid schemes. So, where exactly does that leave those for whom crypto is a desperate last stand against The Man?
Simply put, we need to retool the system to treat humans like, well, humans, not cogs in a big factory because history has been very explicit about the terrible things that happen when the people have had enough. You get revolution, civil wars, the elevation of tyrants and runaway populism which battles imaginary problems while real ones fester for decades. It defies logic that we haven’t moved full steam into post-industrialism and discarded GDP growth as a key measure of success because it’s in everyone’s benefit to unlock people’s potential through a mix of education and broad, open-ended new opportunities. Instead, we’ve stuffed them with meaningless degrees and watch 9 in 10 workers treat their jobs as annoying chores.
Our problem really is as simple as battling a sociopathic, rotten ideology that took root in the Western world since the early 1800s, one that sees “the unwashed masses” as nothing more than the flesh matter toiling to enable “the movers and shakers of history” to do their thing. It was already seen as outdated, classist, and ridiculous by the cosmists of the early 1900s, and the only reason it worked is because we were missing the technology to minimize routinized human labor. Now that the necessary machines are either here or well on their way, it’s even more obvious how horrifically backwards, inhumane, and outdated our systems are. It’s time to move forward. Ideally, without the monkey jpegs and blockchains.