A Spirit Is Born Free

How To Start A Non Violent Revolution

There is no final one; revolutions are infinite ― Yevgeny Zamyatin, We

First, let me say I agree. The world is a broken place and all of us are guilty, by our action, inaction or by our thoughts, of imprisoning our own free spirits. In an age where technology and our own parasitic relationship with our planet pose existential risks to our species, we are very busy imprisoning our minds within the narrow confines of race, religion, sex, caste and political identities. Remember, we are human first and we were all born with a free spirit. Why then should we restrict our world view to the narrowness of our mindset?

A lot of what I present in this story may seem counterintuitive because it is. However, what I show is just a different prism to see a revolution from. There are no rules dictating a free spirit just as there are no rules to build something anew. An unfettered mind is the foundation for an unseen future. So, I urge all my readers to first unshackle your mind while reading this story. I know some of you think the words “free spirit” is “hippiespeak”. However, that thought is the prime example of how we have systematically narrowed our minds. So, don’t let your background and past experiences cloud your thoughts. Read this article like a free spirit that you were born as.

An 1894 essay by the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw ‘How Do You Become A Man Of Genius?’ shows how this world was always a construct of what we made it to be — the best and the worst a matter of public definition. In the essay, Shaw writes:

The secret at the bottom of the whole business is simply this: there is no such thing as a man of genius. I am a man of genius myself, and ought to know. What there is, is a conspiracy to pretend that there are such persons, and a selection of certain suitable individuals to assume the imaginary character. The whole difficulty is to get selected.

By extension, a self fulfilling prophecy is just that- a vision of the world that is repeated so often that it becomes real. Genius, then, can be found in the common man only if we have the vision and the foresight to publicly celebrate those unsung heroes who hide in plain sight. Now, imagine if such heroes unite to change the world. Is there any doubt that they can’t?

There is no doubt that our home — planet earth does not have infinite resources. Equally, there is no doubt that if we choose to build a better world, we can. The ideal must first be born in our minds. It must then be transmitted like a virus to other minds until a majority of the world believes in the power of positive change. It believes that we don’t need to be surrounded by negativity and the thought that our world is falling apart. I am not saying to stop saying the truth. I am just saying there is a need for a more powerful, equally true positive construct of the world beginning in our minds.

Banksy builds a shredder in his painting. On October 6, 2018, The painting sells for $1.4 million. The moment the gavel falls at a Sotheby auction, the painting shreds itself — a ridiculously rebellious act to many. Banksy was protesting the ridiculously expensive prices of paintings. Great works of art remain unaffordable to many. Ironically, Banksy’s own anonymity was one of the primary reasons for the high price of his painting “The Girl With A Balloon”. Banksy and Satoshi have become the poster children of modern revolutions. While Banksy was rebelling against the economics of the art market, Satoshi’s creation was a protest against the existing financial system. In their own way, these anonymous actors have launched a silent, non-violent and global revolution.

Anonymity Could Be A Strength

At the outset, let me say I am a rational optimist if there is such a thing. I am positive we will find solutions to our problems even by starting a peaceful, faceless and global revolution.

Many people are afraid to change the world because they have too much to lose- a perfectly understandable reason for not being the change they want to see in the world. They remain apolitical and quietly go about fulfilling their other dreams. Real life is not a bunch of words that inspire. Ideas should be executable.

The problem with that approach is that our species is running out of time and resources to compete against existential threats. Global geopolitics may not be able to persuade you about such threats but the rising temperatures and almost unbreathable air in polluted cities such as Delhi and Shanghai may. If you are a beer drinker, the rising price of Barley could drive you out of inaction. If not for anything, our legacy for the future generations must not be an inhabitable planet.

Just as Banksy and Satoshi Nakamoto are, we can be totally anonymous and yet become a part of a revolution. The only thing needed is the will to start one.

The Gift Of Hope

There is always a price to pay for starting and sustaining a revolution but it doesn’t always have to be spilled blood.

Although Satoshi Nakamoto is synonymous with Bitcoin, it took the efforts of many people such as Hal Finney to make Bitcoin a reality. It is debatable whether their motivation was to solely profit from their creation. However, one thing remains certain-a revolution must be guided by a higher purpose. The biggest ingredient to starting a revolution is to plant the seed of hope in the minds of the weakest sections of society. Hope turns their anger and outrage into a burning fire. Without hope, a revolution becomes a call to arms. Therefore, a non violent revolution must begin with the most disenfranchised i.e. people living without water, electricity, food, housing and jobs. The world is a very uneven place. While some countries are growing quickly, the bigger economies are slowing down. The economies which are growing rapidly are also dealing with widespread poverty.

Growth brings prosperity and the feeling of hope. When economies enter a recession, it is very hard to swing the pendulum the other way. Also, different economies have different problems. Developed nations are using technology to grow but that growth comes at a price i.e. loss of jobs. Developing nations are trying to leap frog but they need to address the most backward areas i.e. villages and towns which lack basic infrastructure in addition to managing their carbon footprint. In other words, a lot of our solutions are exacerbating our problems namely climate change and technological disruption.

How, then, can you gift hope? We need to start thinking of closed loop solutions i.e. solutions where the output of one process becomes the input of the other without leaving any waste in the environment.

So much of human history is full of strife. It’s time to restore positivity. How do you make positive change sexier than negative news i.e. how do you sell triumph of the human spirit over mindless violence and infighting? Imagine the amount of time we spend packaging consumer goods in creative ways to create a wave of unending consumerism. What if we start using some of our creative energies to create a revolution. A revolution should speak a language the modern world understands.

A lot of people look at charity for an answer. Charity and gifting do work but they have their own drawbacks. First, charity is catching someone a fish, not teaching someone how to fish. A love of programming that can be spawned by revolutions such as the Blockchain and AI can inspire common people to code. Second, charity comes with huge administrative costs, corruption and leakage of resources before they reach the needy. Blockchains can help reduce almost all of them. Thirdly, charity has a stigma associated with it i.e. the giver becomes a god and the helped his devotee. I am not saying Blockchain is a panacea for everything. Blockchain has its own problems when it comes to scalability.

It is time to start looking at charity as an investment by the private sector and to start thinking about developmental entrepreneurship. This new form of entrepreneurship should incent the private sector to be instruments of development by creating and executing projects that are financially viable in some of the most backward areas of the world.

The bigger answer is enterpreneurial education in primary schools and high schools. Not everyone will be an enterpreneur but a mindset geared towards finding solutions and creating employment will help spur growth. Unlocking women as a workforce is another catalyst.

Create The Biggest Squakbox In The World

Imagine a YouTube channel which is moderated by few curators but has positive stories from all around the world about using creative solutions for overcoming issues plaguing our societies. In India, for instance, scarcity of resources leads to innovative solutions which are colloquially known as ‘Jugaad’s’ .

As an example, India launched a $50 laptop named Akash (sky) to provide access to computers to the underprivileged. It was designed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. This is just an example. Countries and individuals around the world have come up with innovative solutions to problems. It is just a matter of broadcasting the achievements across the world through a medium that is for the human race, by the human race and of the human race.

The reason we need an independent medium is that spreading positivity should not be hostage to advertising revenue. It should be a selfless and crowdsourced pursuit. There are plenty of media outlets out there that highlight everything that is wrong with the world. We need to think different.

What if we could create one giant party around the triumph of the human spirit and then broadcast that content using social media? In other words, what if we create a channel that broadcasts only positive content or stories of incredibly positive change?

I know the answer I will get: such a channel will not sell? However, my counter question is : have we tried hard enough ?? what if we are all watching the channel? Do you think money shall follow? After all, revolutions are always predicated on unreasonable ideas.

It is impossible for me to wonder : when we have millions of influencers around the world on the worlds largest social media platform for video ie YouTube, why is it hard to create a global media juggernaut that is larger than traditional media, is crowdsourced and is democratic in choosing its content? Think about incentivizing the rich — what better than a platform that has strength in numbers.

The Economic Engine Needs Shock Absorbers

I think Paul Romer may have some of the answers all of us are seeking. Romer, an economist from the New York University (NYU) proposed the ‘Endogenous Growth Theory’ and won the Nobel prize in economics in 2018. According to Romer, all of us are caught up in predicting the next financial crisis. It is almost certain that there will be a financial crisis but Romer suggests we can reduce people’s expectations by creating ‘backup’ plans in case a crisis does come into being. If everyone expects a crisis, nobody will take a risk and invest in capital. They will hold on to liquid assets perhaps even just hold on to FDIC insured bank accounts.

The larger point here is that we need to create clean public sector banks which can lend money when the economy is in the throes of a crisis or recovering from it. These banks will not be motivated by profit but will act as shock absorbers within the financial system. We should not and can never eliminate risk but we can create a climate where failing or making mistakes doesn’t cost us a global meltdown.

The Hapless Observer

Thinking about my future, one of my biggest regrets could be the fact that I was an armchair critic. There is nothing wrong with that. At least, I am trying to inspire people by the power of my words however limited it may be. However, if I don’t take any action beyond writing, I risk becoming a hapless observer who did nothing beyond writing. I can hide behind a litany of excuses e.g. “I had no time”, “there was too much at stake”, “it’s almost impossible to change the world” and on and on.

Slowly, I have begun to give back to my community by spreading educational initiatives in the schools that lack basic infrastructure. On the other hand, I can assemble like minded people to begin working on creative solutions to improve and build upon the current systems. I think capitalism can be fixed.

I am not a Bitcoin evangelist and I am certainly not advising people to invest in it. I just hope people see Bitcoin for what it is. In my opinion, the power of Satoshi’s creation ‘Bitcoin’ doesn’t lie in the fact that it is a living proof of decentralization of trust or that it heralded a cryptocurrency revolution or even the fact that it jolted the existing financial establishment out of complacency. It’s power is symbolic. It the one of the most powerful ideas to have emerged in human history.

Most revolutions have been against the rich and powerful. Bitcoin’s power lies in the fact that it makes the richest and the most powerful an important part of the revolution albeit in a very counterintuitive way. It lures the rich by promising untold riches through speculation and by stoking their greed for more wealth. However, Bitcoin’s popularity has made the Blockchain a matter of discussion in every household in the world. It has also gifted hope to the young in some of those households by inspiring them to use exponential technologies for the greater good. Ultimately, the Blockchain should benefit the poorer sections of society through financial inclusion and by lowering cross border foreign exchange fees — the promise of decentralized trust.

Bitcoin is an idea that demonstrates the impossible — the fact that a revolution, started by an anonymous individual assisted by others, can indirectly benefit the poor by making the rich the brand ambassadors of the revolution. I am not saying we should create Ponzi schemes to help the underprivileged.

All I am saying is that there could be creative ways to solve the worlds problems if we think hard enough, pool our resources and try to think about how a non violent revolution can include the very same order we are challenging. I don’t know if Satoshi intended for the Blockchain to be an instrument of financial inclusion but it certainly ended up being a powerful one.

Today, anyone can start a revolution but it is almost impossible to include the establishment in the revolution. The hardest part therefore is how to create a non violent revolution that benefits the poorest using the resources of the richest. Bitcoin gives us a glimpse of such a revolution albeit in a very indirect manner.

Writer @ The Intersection of Finance, Tech & Humanity. Stories of a Global Language: “Money”. Contributor @ Startup Grind, HackerNoon, HBR. Twitter@akothari_mba

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