The Pedagogy of Bitcoin

The personal conquest of the power/knowledge that is the Essence of Bitcoin

“Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion.”

— Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“There is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations”

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

Pedagogy is the way and means that someone comes to understand a topic. It is how someone learns a subject, how it is taught to them, and all of the wider social context in which someone learns. Larger than just learning, teaching, or understanding; pedagogy involves the social, historic, political, economic, technological, and every other contextual situation in which someone is attempting to learn a particular subject. In short, we could call it the philosophy of learning. This is important for our context because the pedagogy of Bitcoin is also the pedagogy of liberation insofar that both endows us with a radical new understanding of the world that makes our oppression no longer viable. It is through this key of decrypting the meaning of what crypto is that we can remake the world.

Pedagogy of Oppressed is the title of Paulo Freire’s magnum opus on the topic of radical collaborative learning as personal empowerment. In this book Freire explains how both the oppressed and oppressors find themselves enslaved to systems of power which operate through pedagogical means. The oppressed are taught they are too stupid, lazy, or infirm to help themselves and that they must ‘learn’ from their oppressors to lessen their misery. Likewise, the oppressors are also entrapped within these systems of power through being taught that they have the ‘right’ ideas within them, and that only through depositing these right ideas of theirs into the oppressed through hierarchical systems of power, such as education, legal, economic, and so on, that the oppressed will be able to change their circumstances by emulating their oppressors. What is critical about both of these roles and perspectives is that they both rely upon seeing oneself and others as objects first, and as human-beings secondly. For it is once that you realize that all people are first and foremost human-beings that have a consciousness and critical agency; you can also understand that these systems of power can be broken because of the critical consciousness and personal agency that all humans have the potential for.

This power that is the critical consciousness of the individual to recognize their personal agency and power through the acquisition of knowledge is the greatest secret that there is. It is THE singular power that we have as human-beings and it is only an endogenous phenomena that may be discovered from within. This discovery allows the clearing of the possibility that all beings may use to compel themselves the will-to-power, and the solidarity that is the task of respecting The Other as ‘a being whom I have no power over’.

It is only when we understand that humans are beings with critical agency, and each of us, as an engine of our being-in-the-world, are animated by this capacity for critical agency; can we also come to understand the capacity for self-actualized power that exist within each of us. It is a personal secret discovery that once we know it exist, we can cultivate and broaden this power within ourselves to become The Power by which we will conquer the world. It is through this recognition of our agency and that of The Other’s as well, that we can dignify us both with the greatest gift that can be given–Bitcoin.

Bitcoin not as just an idea, but as an apparatus of power in the world of today. The singular hope for a freedom in the future that is beyond the last vestiges of slavery we call fiat money.

The power of understanding The Truth Machine

Bitcoin is an invincible energy machine of immutable power whose oath cannot be broken. It renders and guarantees a kind of protection that nothing else on this planet can offer. It is the promise of what truth means in our fallen world, and the consequence of its unvarnished rediscovery at this time. Through each of our own personal discoveries of this Truth Machine and what it means to us personally as an enslaved people, do we also have an understanding of its messianic power. We understand that with Bitcoin and cryptography we can recover an ancient form of power that will give us the ability not only to vanquish the state; but to organize for the new coming epoch. It is The Truth that allows for us to rise above and beyond the limits we believe we had for the courage that our love of The Other instills within us–it is the deepest solidarity that there can be.

It is once you understanding that the power that resides within each of us as an esoteric discovery that is activated by the unveiling that is critical consciousness that is the pursuit of truth; that you can also start to understand how such a power is limitless. It is this secret hidden deep inside each of us that hodls the power to break the state’s hypnosis of control, its order of authority over truth. It is the empowerment of knowing that you can free yourself from the camps and that you can kill the police officer in your head in the most horrific of ways for the most magnanimous of all causes:

Your own freedom.

The current paradigm of state society relies upon a system of discreet disciplinary enforcements where everyone is under suspicion and everyone is a potential criminal in order to create a panoptic disciplinary system where everyone and everything is monitored. And to be clear, this is far beyond just policing powers, but is the whole regulatory system which has fused with the modren economic and financial systems to teach us our own oppression, to be our own police.

This is how the police officer got into your head and was allowed to colonize there; having you hesitate because you don’t know if you are being watched; waiting to be hit rather than preparing to fight back. It is because we have lost our personal agency and no longer see ourselves as sovereign beings of light and love, but citizen subjects with bodies that can be brutally destroyed. No longer are we taught to think, but to comply. Not to create, but to work. Not to be free, but be fearful. We have become slaves to an existence that traps, molests, and mutilates us. No longer are we free people, but the remnants of a horrific science experiment gone wrong; the artifacts of a failed democracy that was liquidated long ago.

We are told that if we simply follow the advice of the experts who know better than we do, that we will attain the same power that they have. However, once we start to questioning the legitimacy of these ‘correct’ ways, we can start to see and understand a totally different form of power that is created when it is not compliance that is offered, but questioning. It is this courageous action of questioning, that Kant called Sapere Aude (Dare to Know)’ that allows for a new form of critical consciousness to be cultivated from within. This allows for the individual to locate the true locus of power which they rediscovered within themselves to become the secret person they are destined to be. This new critical consciousness that is awaked within people that allows for new forms of critical questioning to be created Freire called “conscientização” or consciousness-raising.

Conscientização then becomes the tool that we need towards information technology, monetary history, and most importantly cryptography, in order to raise our critical awareness to understand Bitcoin as a tool of liberation first and for most. For it is only once we are critically questioning in a way that expands our power do we start to become self-sovereign. Only when we have the critical awareness of what bitcoin is, how its encryption to protect us, why decentralization allows for Bitcoin to be anti-fragile and what consequence that has in the world today, will we start to build conscientização around our relationship to technology, and how we can use bitcoin to make it a free one.

It is with this new consciousness of how we can use this knowledge of technology as personal power that we now have a choice:

To use the technology that enslaves you, or to understand the technology that liberates you.

It is your choice alone.

With the exquisite technique of the discovery of personal knowledge in the information age one may become the master of their domain once again. With the specific knowledge of how Bitcoin and cryptography operate, and a wider knowledge of how the internet and privacy can protect us; we start to understand the true consequence of what this knowledge means in the world of today. We start to see how the promise of cryptography and what its discipline and liturgy offers humanity is a new kind of promise that has never been possible before. With this knowledge we can start to cultivate a new form of consciousness within ourselves that is outside and beyond the approval or power of any state or external power that exist. This is what I mean by the phrase ‘Crypto-Sovereignty’.

Through our holistic understanding of Bitcoin, our consciousness is raised in such a way that unveils the secrets of a radically different understanding of money, finance, wealth, value and power through its revolutionary praxis that is the knowledge of Bitcoin. This praxis of Bitcoin, when well-understood, allows for any person–regardless of their political caste, religious creed, or station of birth–to reclaim the right to the most basic commonality that is property ownership. It is a right outside and beyond the power of any temporal being or political institution. However, to understand what this means we must first ask the question ‘what is wealth?’ in order for us to have a critical consciousness of what it is, and how it functions.

The commonwealth of knowledge

Wealth is a concept that goes well beyond simply money, but relates to the security of the sovereign order itself. It is the promise of safety and security that once was only possible to be offered by a sovereign who was beyond the law, for they established the law. Through the exchange of the subject submitting themselves fully to the sovereign they could have confidence and esteem in the order of the commonwealth, and its security and safety. It was the guarantee of the sovereign to deliver on its promise of the commonality of law and the consanguinity of justice for all subjects equally and alike. Without this guarantee of safety and security, every other assurance is hollow and meaningless, including money. This is better surmised by Hobbes as:

“The Obligation of Subjects to the Sovereign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth, by which he is able to protect them. For the right men have by Nature to protect themselves, when none else can protect them, can by no Covenant be relinquished. “

–Hobbes, Leviathan

When we start to critically consider the concept of wealth in a more holistic way, we can see that wealth comprises of much more than just money, or even the guarantee that the law is suppose to be; but is a form of actualization directly. It is what is at stake in a promise or an oath that no state, institution, or individual can provide. When we consider what Bitcoin has to offer us in this context, operating beyond the order of the state or contemporary banking and finance, it unveils a totally new and different form of what can be considered wealth. It is here that we see the flash of recognition that allows for a totally new form of consciousness that creates this new formula of wealth that is Bitcoin.

The coming Polis of Bitcoin

“Every religious, moral, economic, ethical, or other antithesis transforms into a political one if it is sufficiently strong to group human beings effectively according to friend and enemy. The political does not reside in the battle itself, which. possesses its own technical, psychological, and military laws, but in the mode of behavior which is determined by this possibility, by clearly evaluating the concrete situation and thereby being able to distinguish correctly the real friend and the real enemy.”

–Carl Schmitt, On The Concept of The Political

Through the commonality that is the knowledge of cryptography and how it must operate with mathematical statements that can be verified as being true, a whole new world opens to man and the possibilities he can create through a consensual, non-violent agreements using this technology. It now becomes possible to concretely evaluate who your real friends and real enemies are. When wealth is no longer tied to just material objects and state legal ownership; but opens itself to a much broader idea of what wealth could and should be, we start to understand the true power of Bitcoin. It is this new social commons of the internet that contains the friendship that is this new commonality of wealth. It is this commonality of rules, and not rulers; of protocols, and not princes; of verification, not trust, that creates the new commonwealth that is Bitcoin.

It is of no coincidence that root word of ‘commonwealth’ has wealth within it. It is also of no coincidence that ‘Res Publica’ (the public thing) is the etymological origin for the word commonwealth, which is also known as Republic. For wealth is something that we can only hold in common within our society for it is only though social agreements with others, and the power of those agreements, that we can find the guarantee of safety and security that wealth truly is. Wealth must be contextually understood and recognizing by other members of a society in order for it to function as any kind of barer of value. In other words, wealth is the measure of value to which we consensually agree; or are forcibly subjected to.

It is the later point to which we must apply our critical thought. Have any of us ever agreed to how money is created, distributed and controlled? I think not. Do we have any say over the inflation rates, issuance, or even the power to reject fiat money when we are asked to transact with it? Again, I think not. The supposed commonality from which our shared wealth is suppose created displays that its true nature is not one of consensual agreement, but forced subjection. The only true commonality of fiat money is its general means of oppression for all people. It is a poverty that only people with a corrupt money can share; a commonality of destitution and constitution of corruption.

Even the richest of fiat owners may not spend their money freely or as they please. With each cent spent, governments leer and impatiently wait for their cut of the transaction which they so guilefully call ‘tax’. And if forbidden items would like to be purchased, unauthorized transactions created, one runs the risk of being caged and punished under the most horrifying and degrading of means possible–to become enslaved to the state for simply not complying with what governments have demanded to be obeyed for no reason more than obedience. What this simple exercise towards fiat money shows us is that our wealth is not really ours, but is little more than a permission based system to access the right to the means of life, i.e. property. Whatever goods one may need to survive, must first be ‘whitelisted’ by the state, and approved for our use, but only after permission is given.

From this vantage point of understanding power, we can see that cryptography unlocks a spectacular new form of power that could only be called a destituent power. This is not a kind of legal power, nor is it even economic clout or a social principal; but is a totalizing form of power created through withdraw and refusal. It is to follow the messianic path of Bartleby the Scrivener though the action of, ‘I would rather not’. It is through this power of refusal to participate because we understand what Bitcoin offers that we will recreate the world in a better and more fitting image for our time.

In short we can say, as Giorgio Agamben so pointedly said:

“If revolutions and insurrections correspond to constituent power, that is, a violence that establishes and constitutes the new law, in order to think a destituent power we have to imagine completely other strategieswhose definition is the task of the coming politics. A power that was only just overthrown by violence will rise again in another form, in the incessant, inevitable dialectic between constituent power and constituted power, violence which makes the law and violence that preserves it.”

What is a Destituent Power?

It is this new formula of destituent power that we find hidden within cryptography that also allows for a totally different strategy of money, power, and law. However, the most critical aspect that allows for this radical new form of power to function is to dare to ask the question ‘Why?’ For if we cannot find the courage to think for ourselves then everything is lost. We must have the courage to question the systems of money, wealth, law and power that we have been offered, and to question this system from a sincere foundation of courageous logic. It is with this radical power of pedagogy we find the critical tools that allows for the awakening of our inner spark that is our power, our critical consciousness. For it is only once we can see there is a possibility to free ourselves from the chains of fiat money, and the vast system of exploitation which does not ask us to think, but only to obey; that we will achieve freedom. It is only once we are free to choose, do we have a way in which we can start to question this way of living, this system of power, these laws and money. When we see that there is a choice, we will find the hidden secrets of a life that is beyond the state’s power and control–a life that is for us and us alone.

Through the radical personal discovery of Bitcoin as a critique of our current systems of money, wealth, and power; a new critical consciousness is created. It is the hope that is awakened in any individual on the planet today when they start to think about wealth with the most critical lens, and are open to the radical possibility of what Bitcoin promises. It is the truth that we discover within Bitcoin that allows for us to live courageously in the world again for we know that truth is a real thing of this world that has value and others see it too.

Erik is a crypto-anarchist, iconoclast, and thinker that has been working in the bitcoin ecosystem since 2012. His primary concerns are the intersections of political, economic, and social theory as they relate to bitcoin specifically and crypto generally.