Bottoms up…

Message from the protestors at PolyU

With the list of countries up in revolt and protest growing almost by the day, asking yourself why this is suddenly happening is probably a good question. In 2019 alone, countries like France, Hong Kong, Spain, Bolivia, Lebanon, and Chile have experienced mass protest. Is this simply a coincidence or is it a result of something?

All these protests have a certain ring to them. The resistance of individuals against oppressive authoritarianism. From the Catalans in Spain, to the Hong Kongers against The Communist Party of China, it seems that individual freedoms and autonomy of choice are high on the Zeitgeist priority list. Look no further than the UK’s attempted break away from the empire builders of the European union. It’s the individual’s battle against collectivism. It’s us taking on Moloch.

The proliferation of interconnected individuals seems to me like a good starting point as an important factor in the growing internal unrest we are experiencing around the globe. Information wants to be free and nothing has helped information be freer than the proliferation of internet connection around the world. Over the last 4 decades the world has become ever more connected and each person now has his/her own soapbox to stand on.

This gradual movement, more than anything else, I think explains the seemingly sudden mass movement of individuals in protest. No longer are governments and corporations the gatekeepers of information. The internet has amorally reduced the friction of the movement of information around the world, and suddenly people find themselves fed up with the shit they’ve been fed from mass media for so long.

This is inherently an individualistic and internal movement. Geopolitics are generally taking a back seat as the people of countries seem to be focused on their own government’s shortcomings rather than that of others. The internet has shifted the looking glass from looking out towards looking in. And that is exactly where most governments don’t want you to be looking.

The idea of the nation state is being eroded over time and the internet, along with other distributed technologies like 3D printing, are creating the rise of the individual. The rise of the individual means the death of the nation state. The rise of the individual does not, however, mean the death of family and community. Family and community are becoming more important than ever. Ideas like Localism à la Nassim Taleb, and The Pack à la Ben Hunt, will become more important – not less important – during the rise of the individual.

As the citizen of a country with a government that seems to be the definition of ineptitude and corruption, I ask myself daily why it is that we haven’t gone to the streets yet? Why is it that we tolerate a government that steals from us on a daily basis? Why aren’t we standing with pitch forks demanding an open grid for the privatization of electricity? Why do we accept that SAA has needed billions of rands of bailouts when our children in schools aren’t being educated? Why do we accept the tyranny of the majority that undermines our rights as citizens, families, and communities with differences in needs and preferences?

Maybe the answer lies in the control of information that still pervades this country.

Internet penetration in South Africa compared to protesting countries:

A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generated

It is not a stretch to imagine that at some tipping point of connectedness, the control of information becomes literally impossible. At some point people will be able to ask themselves why things are the way they are, without being told by anyone else.

The control of information is a trick that has been played on the individual for millennia. A trick played by Kings, Lords, Churches, States, whites, and blacks alike. But it’s a trick that is quickly losing its power.

This is the BOTTOM UP revolution against the TOP DOWN tyranny.

This is why we buy bitcoin.

This is why we build distributed technology that cannot be controlled.

This is why we arm individuals and not armies.

This is why we use and develop cryptography.

This is why we fight for privacy.

This is why we fight censorship.

This is how we empower ourselves.

This is how we empower our families.

This is how we empower our communities.


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