Day 14: The bug is man.
14 dicembre 2021

In these parts of the world the rhythms of life have a completely different intensity. The frenzy of the West is thousands of kilometers away and so it happens that, even when you think you have organized everything impeccably, some unforeseen event occurs to upset all your plans.

This is what has just happened to us. In fact, our driver’s car has just suffered an unspecified mechanical failure and instead of leaving El Zonte in the afternoon, we are only able to do so late at night.

No harm done because this leaves us with one more day to wander the streets of Bitcoin Beach and interact with the citizens. Something, we realize, has changed in the way people look at us and approach us. We are now familiar faces. The community here is microscopic and there are not thousands of tourists. We are the Italians who go around asking strange questions about Bitcoin and who can only pay with it. It may be for this reason that the locals are more open to us and increasingly confide to us what they really think about this technological innovation. So we collect a whole series of new accounts and the ones that strike us the most are, not surprisingly, the negative ones.

In the past few days, in fact, we have collected more and more dissonant opinions compared to the general enthusiasm that seems to pervade this area of El Salvador, the most bitcoinized. 

It does not surprise us at all, after having collected various testimonies, to recognize some recurrent patterns. Some forms of common and shared dissent that, as chance would have it, all refer to some nefarious human attitudes rather than to specific characteristics of technology. 

There is more distrust in the people who are bringing Bitcoin to this geographic area than in the distributed payment system. The group of people who have gathered around Hope House, the learning center coordinated by Michael Peterson, the one who collected the large donation from an anonymous patron and who started the project of circular economy based on cryptocurrency proclaiming himself Director of Bitcoin Beach, is seen by many with a certain suspicion. They are accused of opaque practices, of exploiting Bitcoin to carve out a leadership role in the community and of having implemented a system of economic surveillance among the population. The wallet developed and spread by the organization does not give to those who use it the possession of private keys, so it is a custodial wallet. It’s hard to understand why an entity that says it wants to teach Bitcoin to the population doesn’t feel the need to start with a basic concept of economic sovereignty such as the custody of its own keys. I mean, if the society in El Salvador is based on cash, this means that every citizen has a place in his house where he hides his banknotes, whether they are many or few. Therefore, is he not considered capable of effectively hiding a piece of paper with twelve or twenty-four words jotted down?

These are all concerns that we will get rid of very soon because we have already asked to speak with someone in charge of the project. In general, however, we must admit, we don’t like this approach either and we understand how it can instill doubt in the community.

Then there is another form of recurring annoyance that we have noticed in people less convinced by the Bitcoin project in El Zonte. Something that has to do with an atavistic sentiment of man, although in our opinion not agreeable. That form of sovereignty, of protection towards one’s own territory, one’s own cultural identity and one’s own traditions that is repeated the same at every latitude. 

In recent years the local population has witnessed with increasing frequency caravans of foreigners, especially Americans, arriving on their beaches with their wallets swollen, physical or digital, and buying property and land. Many complain of contemptuous attitudes, overt superiority, and lack of respect for local individuals, and we have not infrequently heard this type of attitude associated with Bitcoin. The same big conference, held in the vicinity of El Zonte not even a month ago, if for some it was a memorable event, for others it is seen as the beginning of a new economic and cultural colonization, perpetrated by the usual moneyed and overbearing foreigner.

It is clear to us that behind these opinions there is above all a fear of change, of seeing one’s own poverty replaced by economic subordination, and that form of identity pride that we know is so effective even among the cultured and rich society of the first world. And yet we would like those who come to invest in this unfortunate land to have the sensitivity to do so in a gentle and empathetic way. In a spirit of sharing and helping. We’d like bitcoiners to really show that they are in El Salvador to be the change they want to see in the world.

But we know that this is not possible because the bug is always the man and we know well the greedy arrogance of certain bitcoiners. We see it every day in the chats and social networks of our home. The euphoria for social redemption that turns into blatant abuse.

We are only comforted by the deep conviction that we are living in a transitional phase. The revolution that Bitcoin is bringing to the world will in fact, once accomplished, have the beneficial effect of marginalizing man and his influence on society. And it is only in this way that we will get to build something better.