(This article was originally posted in May, 2018, here.)
Where are we going?
A group of crypto enthusiasts mingle boisterously, swapping stories and loud laughter on the front steps of the Two Dogs Taproom, Roppongi, Tokyo. Directly below, a cemetery stretches into the distance, blanketed in shadow, and is broken abruptly by another line of buildings in the immediate distance. The tops of the stone monuments reflect the weird flashing lights and signs of Tokyo at night. At the top of one of the buildings—a white one—across the gravestone valley, a strange orange glow emanates from a top floor window, oscillating and undulating as if being enhanced by a disco ball, seeping out of the large pane glass and casting Halloween-candy-colored swathes of light over the darkened tenements around it. A loud voice snaps me back to the conversation:
Man, everybody used to do drugs down there in that park. Shooting up. Having sex. Everywhere. Shit was crazy.
Yeah! The bubble economy man. Everything was crazy then!
The two longtime Tokyoites I’m talking to stare off across the street in a moment of sudden, silent reflection. The streets of Roppongi are pretty tame now. People slowly trickle by. The public bathroom just below, where people used to shoot up, is now punctuated only by a lone man sleeping on the park bench out front. A police officer is nudging him, trying to wake him up.
No more sex in the cemeteries. No more heroin. No more money spilling from everybody’s pockets. The excess of Japan’s “bubble economy,” of the late eighties and early nineties has been over for ages now. Now, we stand here—a blogger, a couple long time Tokyites, 4 members of the Bitcoin.com team, and some random dudes into crypto that serendipitously (and accidentally) showed up here, at the Bitcoin Cash weekly meetup—talk about now, and the future, as if they are one and the same.
There are a few more characters in this cast. A guy from LA who has recently launched his own coin and crowdfunding platform—called “Dreamr”—whose head is covered in tattoos of monetary symbols, wifi service “bars,” and a power button. His name is Markus. He swipes feverishly at the badly fractured screen of his smart phone, running through his excited elevator pitch in a gravelly voice. A voice and demeanor that make me feel simultaneously at ease, excited, and a bit worried. He, and a few others whose names I didn’t ask, and whose stories I never learned, comprise this remaining portion of the “cast” of funny characters at the top of the steps.
Out of the bubble, and into the dirt.
Talking with members of the Bitcoin.com team, something becomes more resolute and clear inside my mind. It’s been revealing itself to me in bits and pieces, progressively, with each trip to Tokyo I’ve made over the past two years. Something’s happening. Something that was “underground” is beginning to emerge, and there is no stopping it. It’s like the internet. Like the printing press. That level of revolutionary. But still, there’s a notable and somewhat ominous tinge of sadness, it seems, in all this contagious enthusiasm. There’s a big gap.And we all know it.
A gap between how things have “normally” been in this world, and this fantastic vision of how they might be, and now can be, thanks to blockchain technology. That is, if so many unpleasant dinosaurs would just get the fuck out of the way.
And that’s just the thing. The world now knows multi-millionaire anarchists, like Roger Ver, who wish to put an end to war and are openly anti-state. There individuals at these meet ups who are starting their own restaurants, insurance companies, you name it… All in the interest of putting financial autonomy back in the hands of the value holders, the rightful owners of their own money! There are influential figures in this space unafraid to openly and publicly address the absurd violence of the state. This was not really conceivable even ten years ago.
And Tokyo. This city. Is like a little garden
where the seed that has been planted is now struggling ferociously to push its way upward through miles and miles of regulations, layer after layer of concrete statist slabs, massive webs of corroded, hyperinflationary Keynesian pipes, and the broken brick and steel dinosaur edifices of a former era of coercion. One built on brutality and violence.
And people like this little, boisterous motley crew here, in front of this small bar in Roppongi, are the types that want to build the new system. One based on sound economics and non-violence. Not inflationary bubbles and legalized extortion.
State-regulated markets and unfathomably immense jungles of razor blade red tape encroach this glowing new seed, salivating and plotting feverishly to slice it into something more containable—into something impotent and “nice to look at.” A little lawn with a “keep off the grass” sign.
The tectonic plates of change are grinding against each other now, and there is a palpable tension in the air.
As I make my way back to my hotel, I look around.
A blonde model’s pouting, sensual face adorns a massive DMM Bitcoin billboard across the way, overlooking the busy intersection. It’s coming, I think, but what shape will it take? I look to the left and see a nighttime construction crew ripping up the street, hard at work. They’ve dug down at least five feet. I hear that singular sound of a metal spade making contact with the ground. A man is digging. I look closer…..Dirt!?
For some reason, it is amazing to me in this moment to see dirt, in this massive, concrete jungle. There’s dirt even under Tokyo! I think, highly amused. Dirt just like the dirt anywhere else! Something about this seemingly banal and perhaps stupidly obvious observation shocks me—knocks me a bit off kilter. But why?
Under everything, even this posh city, is dirt. Reality. Not the foolish, over-confident facade of the “bubble era.” Not the flashy bread and circuses of the mainstream media, designed to distract and detract from the violence of the state and its financial institutions. Nope. Nothing like that. Just good old, smelly, scrape-y, solid, dirt.
The great equalizer of us all, where we all must, in a sense, ultimately end up someday, and the common ground from which all of us must start. No title, office, or rank, can change this. A natural foundation upon which to build. The difference between “their world” and ours, is that we’re not trying to ignore the dirt. The reality. The logic that governs this existence.
Tokyo is something to see. A modern technological and engineering marvel. A testament to the almost superhuman capabilities of individuals working together for the manifestation of an idea. The difference between “our world” and “theirs,” is that we recognize the “necessity of violence” as an untenable and illogical idea, where peace is the goal. Think of what this world might look like with the current barriers to innovation removed. Where all aspects of society, from economics to ethics, were resting not upon violent and arbitrary religious ideas—such as this or that class of people’s “divine right” to do A, B, or C—but on logic and objective reality itself.
To these loud fellows shouting and laughing out here tonight, on these steps overlooking the vibrant and colorful night life of this weird little spot in Roppongi, this is understood.