Nonviolent protest makes a revolution unstoppable by changing the incentives of the oppressor. Typically, this requires enormous discipline on the part of the oppressed population. Nonviolent protest must be:
- Provocative. If nobody cares, nobody will respond. Gandhi’s actions interrupted the British economy, and provoked a violent response against himself.
- Innocent. Nonviolent protest must be certain not to justify the violent reactions it receives. It cannot succeed without rigorous self-examination to make sure the protester is not committing injustice. To disrupt the British economy (which he did only reluctantly), Gandhi took what (after rigorous self examination) he determined was rightfully his, such as salt from the beaches of his own country.
- Resolute. Protesters must be prepared to suffer. Nonviolence “hurts, like all fighting hurts. You will not deal blows, but you will receive them.” (quote from the movie Gandhi — great scene)
- Admirable. Nonviolence demands respect by demonstrating respectability. The courage to get hit and keep coming back while offering no retaliation is one of the few actions that can make an oppressor reconsider their false sense of superiority.
In today’s era of technology and distraction, is the discipline needed to create nonviolent revolutions still attainable? I’ll argue that it is, and show how.
- Moral laundering: The oppressor’s primary tool
- The unstoppable revolutionary
- Codifying nonviolent revolution
- Example 1—Financial oppression by central banks and governments
- Bitcoin as codified nonviolent revolution
- Example 2—Narrative oppression by corporate media
- IdeaMarkets as codified nonviolent revolution
Moral laundering: The oppressor’s primary tool
The incentives changed by traditional nonviolent protest tend to be emotional and psychological.
An oppressor must launder his moral revulsion and make the act of oppression palatable to himself. Nonviolent protest works by interrupting the moral laundering process, making oppression unpalatable again.
Few people engage in moral laundering consciously. These are steps of progressive self-deception, by which an oppressor maintains his sense of self as a “good person” while doing things that are “bad.”
(Goal) Meet needs
Oppressors have human needs, flaws, psychological wounds, and greed. Like all humans, oppressors ultimately want to satisfy their needs and desires. For example:
- Economic: We want to exploit their economy and the cheap labor they can provide
- Psychological: We want someone “lower” to project our shame onto (not usually consciously expressed)
(How1) Exploit others
Problem: How can we exploit others to get what we want?
Solution: In order to exploit others, an oppressor merely needs the physical or economic means to do so. Then, just take what you want.
(How2) Avoid moral responsibility
New problem: But that’s what “bad guys” do, and nobody wants to be the bad guy. How can we meet our needs while still feeling like we’re the good guys?
Solution: Find a narrative in which overpowering and exploiting others will seem virtuous, or at least neutral.
(How3) Deny humanity of others
New problem: How can we make overpowering and exploiting fellow humans seem virtuous?
Solution: If the people we want to exploit are seen as inferior, perhaps fit to be exploited, perhaps even benefiting from being exploited, we can make exploiting them seem virtuous.
(How4) Embrace and justify prejudices
New problem: There’s no reason to believe others are inferior.
Solution: Accept and double down on prejudices.
Prejudice often comes from projection of our self-judgment onto people who remind us of those aspects of ourselves we have denied and wish to forget. That might sound confusing, so here is a simplified example:
- Step 1: Idealization. Fearing we are barbaric, we idealize civility — we create an unspoken, personal definition of what civility looks and feels like — and then we try to live up to that ideal. Our ideal of civility often conveniently de-prioritizes our areas of potential barbarism.
- Step 2: Denial. If civility is sipping tea and crossing one’s legs properly when seated, we can sip tea farmed by slave laborers in Nicaragua and feel perfectly fine about it. As long as we perform our idea of civility to ourselves, we can remain untroubled by the facts of our barbarism.
- Step 3: Projection. However, if someone squats in public like many Slavs and East Asians do, they’re breaking our personal civility rules. If we were to do such things, we would regard ourselves as barbaric — so we regard them as barbaric.
Look at the symmetrical poetry of this! (I say this not out of appreciation of prejudice itself of course, but of the orderliness of the mind.)
Our “personal civility rules” — or respectability rules, humanity rules, morality rules, etc. — are shaped by our whole life experience, and help us defend ourselves from vicious self-judgment and shame.
But their inevitable by-product is prejudice, negative feelings toward people who are different. These negative feelings, which we could never admit come from ourselves, can be extremely useful in justifying to ourselves the sense of superiority required to oppress others.
Therefore, the oppressor’s solution to “there’s no reason to believe others are inferior” is to accept and double-down on the negative feelings about others that are the by-product of their defense against their own consciences.
Whatever the others seem to the oppressor to be — barbaric, stupid, servile, etc. — the oppressor’s incentive is to look for more evidence of this and amplify it.
Moral laundering inclines a person’s incentives toward oppression.
It changes the choice to oppress from this:
The oppressor’s commitment to oppression depends upon maintaining the latter set of choices in his mind.
The Unstoppable Revolutionary
Nonviolent protest is unstoppable because it unstoppably inclines the oppressor’s incentives toward goodness.
In the example above, “evidence of inferiority” allows the oppressor to launder his moral sense — by being relentlessly exemplary, revolutionaries halt the laundering process. This is why self-scrutiny, dignity, innocence, etc. are nonviolent protest requirements.
The unstoppable revolutionary is unstoppable because his strategy is such that no matter what, the oppressor fails to launder his moral revulsion, and this changes his incentive landscape.
Without the ability to launder his moral revulsion, the oppressor must either face the truth or tell progressively more egregious lies.
The choice thus changes back from
Nonviolent protest is unstoppable because it changes the incentive landscape for the oppressor, making lies more costly and truth more profitable.
Codified nonviolent revolution
Traditional nonviolent protest:
- Uses primarily psychological and emotional incentives
- Requires discipline of the oppressed
Codified nonviolent revolution:
- Uses primarily financial and economic incentives
- Rewards discipline in the oppressed
Codified nonviolent revolution succeeds instead by building something that rewards public discipline in a way that in turn changes the incentives of the oppressor.
Example 1—Financial oppression by central banks and governments
Under central banks and fiat, economies are upheld by oligarchic governments that rob the public using quantitative easing, fractional reserve, and accredited investor laws.
The resulting incentives look like this:
Centralized banks before bitcoin
1—Inflate fiat currency
Inflation costs Americans about 4% per year in purchasing power.
2—Gamble with people’s money
Corporate banks meddle in multi-trillion-dollar derivatives markets, and when something goes wrong, the public must bail them out to avoid global economic collapse.
The perception of economic growth is driven by consumption, so the public is encouraged to spend money to feed the machine.
The public before bitcoin
1—Lose 4% per year to inflation
Everybody does it, and nobody feels able to do anything about it. The alternative would be to stage a national protest movement more powerful than Occupy.
2—Trust banks to store money
Conveniences like worldwide locations, credit and debit cards accepted everywhere, the FDIC insurance policy of $250,000 per account, and the conveniences of modern mobile banking make trusting banks to store money the easy choice for most people in leading economies.
The downside is banks can freeze funds, cancel transactions, charge fees, cause delays, alter your credit, and exploit customers in other ways. They are also vulnerable to the same threats as all centralized entities, such as losing your data to hackers.
3—Spend money, accumulate debt
Someone on Twitter put it like this:
If you had $500,000, you wouldn’t buy a $500,000 house and then have $0. Why when we have $30,000 do we take out a loan to buy a $500,000 house?
Accumulating debt is not only easy, it’s expected.
Bitcoin as codified nonviolent revolution
Amid an economy driven by consumption and spending, Bitcoin makes people want to save money. Not only that — it makes people want to bear risk, cultivate frugality, and learn economics, all of our own accord. Bitcoin rewards the public for being as disciplined as we’ve always needed to be in order to reform the banks.
The public after bitcoin
Bitcoin gives he public an alternative to fiat currency that operates in the digital age and is not subject to inflation.
2—Self-custody, transact trustlessly
New solutions are making Bitcoin self-custody easy for the public. Bitcoin operates on a trustless network and users are not subject to account freezes, transaction blocking, overdraft fees, credit scores, or massive data leaks.
3—Save money, buy bitcoin
Whereas the prospect of taking out a mortgage 500% the size of your net worth may have seemed exciting before, Bitcoin offers the opportunity to drastically increase purchasing power over time, without creating debt.
These changes in public behavior, incentivized by the existence of bitcoin, in turn affect the incentives of corporate and central banks.
Centralized banking after bitcoin
1—Use bitcoin as reserve currency
As economies like Venezuela, Argentina, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and Spain struggle, the first to incorporate Bitcoin into its reserve strategy will set off a chain reaction of imitators.
2—Respect “hard money”
Banks and governments must acknowledge that bitcoin has qualities possessed by no other kind of money. These qualities make bitcoin the “hardest” money in human history; the most absolutely limited in supply and the most difficult to recover if lost. If banks gamble with bitcoin and lose, no amount of public taxation can bail them out.
3—Drastically improve banking for users
Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and other blockchain-based financial infrastructure is acclimating consumers to vastly improved banking experience. Blockchain-based bank accounts can yield double-digit interest, enable instant collateralized loans, and involve none of the fees and delays found in the corporate banking experience.
In order to compete and retain users, corporate banks will somehow need to do even better. Will they? We’ll see.
Example 2—Narrative oppression by corporate media
Returning financial sovereignty to the public is only half the battle—oligarchs continue to dominate the public by controlling the narrative.
In the same way that fiat currencies are valuable only because governments say they are, fiat narratives are true only because media corporations say they are.
To end the domination of fiat narratives and restore narrative sovereignty to the public, we’re building something called an Idea Market. An idea market applies a stock-market-type investment structure to matters of subjective judgment. Instead of measuring public confidence in companies, idea markets measure public confidence in narratives about the world.
In the same way that bitcoin rewards the public for educating ourselves and exercising discipline financially, idea markets reward the public for thinking well and exercising discipline in our relationship to information and belief. This new behavior changes the incentive landscape for media corporations which, like banks, must now reform and actually provide value if they wish to stay relevant.
(For more on Idea Markets: ideamarkets.org)
Corporate media before IdeaMarkets.org
1 — Control public opinion
Media corporations have near-limitless power to enforce fiat narratives using tactics like these:
- Limiting the scope of discussion (“Democrat vs. Republican”)
- Astroturfing (paying people to imitate a grassroots movement)
- Distributing airtime ($4B of free airtime to Donald Trump in 2016)
- Sponsoring entertainment and media (CIA involvement in media)
- Great firewalls (China)
- Banning media outlets (Facebook and Twitter)
- Interrupting members of US Congress to cover Justin Bieber (Video)
- Scripting local news on a national scale (Video)
Corporate media took 50 years to tell America smoking is harmful. What is it hiding from us now?
2 — Compel public attention
Meanwhile, corporate media earns money by selling advertising, so the success of a publication is measured in its ability to capture a large audience. Media are thus encouraged to show content that scares, hypnotizes, and addicts viewers rather than inform them.
Like other large-scale “attention farms” (e.g., Facebook), corporate media exploits the vulnerabilities of human psychology to compel attention. Attention is systematically extracted from the public in the same way that money is under a central-bank-controlled fiat economy.
3—Encourage ideological division
By misinforming each side about the other’s beliefs and motivations, corporate media cultivates not only distrust, but contempt for people with opposing viewpoints.
Cultivating contempt for ideological opponents makes it nearly impossible for the audience to switch sides, cementing its allegiance to one’s own platform and point of view.
The public before IdeaMarkets.org
1—Trust corporate fiat narratives
The American public has been told for centuries that the purpose of the media—the “fourth estate”—is to defend the public from the excesses of the state.
Many people grew up in an era when it really seemed to do this: through its role in ending the Vietnam War and exposing Watergate, Corporate media disillusioned the Baby Boomer generation of the post-WWII feeling of American innocence and government benevolence. Corporate media was the hero.
It’s no surprise that the Boomer generation continues to trust the heroic voices of its youth.
2—Be satisfied with “infotainment”
While many are aware that sins of inclusion occur, like the moment CNN interrupted a Congressman talking about NSA spying to provide an update on the Justin Bieber trial, corporate media’s sins of omission are far less obvious.
Corporate media’s most egregious miscarriages of journalism occur in what they do not cover, and this can only be found through independent research.
Consuming corporate media out of a sense of duty to “stay informed” is often enough for people who need to spend most of their time working to feed their families.
3—Avoid shame and ostracism
As a result of corporate media conditioning, considering other viewpoints often comes with the risk of identity crisis and of losing the acceptance of friends and family.
By cultivating contempt for alternative viewpoints, corporate media trains people to avoid changing their minds. When one has contempt for people who think differently, the prospect of coming to agree with them could require re-evaluation of one’s entire life. The answers to questions like “What have I done in the name of previous beliefs that I no longer agree with?” can cause shame and guilt.
Questioning corporate narratives also often involves questioning the beliefs of one’s community. The risk of social ostracism is often too much to bear, even without the identity crisis.
IdeaMarkets as codified nonviolent revolution
The public after IdeaMarkets
1—Question corporate media
IdeaMarkets.org inserts investment due diligence into the process of narrative evaluation.
Narratives that have been popularized by corporate media are extremely likely to be “overvalued.” Narratives that have been ignored by corporate media are by comparison “undervalued,” and offer far more upside with less fundamental risk. The Epstein murder conspiracy is an easy example.
2—Do your own research
IdeaMarkets provides a new standard for narrative credibility. Instead of relying on corporate media to legitimize a narrative, the public can legitimize our own narratives by taking on risk.
Given this new standard, information consumers must decide for ourselves which among the narratives competing for legitimacy seem the strongest.
When controversies rage on social media, people who “put their money where their mouth is” by investing on IdeaMarkets.org will be listened to. People who don’t will not. (We own the domain http://mouth.is to make it easy for people to ask this of each other.)
3—Consider other viewpoints
IdeaMarkets.org makes considering other viewpoints a financial necessity.
In order to increase and returns and reduce risk, investors must understand what others are likely to believe and why. This allows investors to anticipate viewpoints worthy of enduring public support, and avoid buying beliefs that can’t withstand the scrutiny of our entire civilization.
Corporate media after IdeaMarkets
1—Earn public trust
With IdeaMarkets.org setting a new decentralized standard of credibility, corporate media can no longer depend on the mere perception of public trust. Corporate media will lose its audience to platforms that earn trust until they reform—perhaps using IdeaMarkets as a “farm system” for identifying worthwhile narratives—or go extinct.
2—Show good faith
Corporate media can demonstrate their commitment to earning public trust by pledging regular amounts to invest in their own token on IdeaMarkets.org.
Consider the equivalent of one day’s advertising revenue per month — if corporate media decide not to invest this, they tell the public they’d rather have 3% more income in the short-term than a chance to earn our trust ever again.
3—Encourage ideological harmony
A reformed media corporation may possess more persuasive power than its independent competitors. If it uses this power to identify narratives that unite people, it could generate enormous trust and profits, including from the appreciation of its good faith pledges on IdeaMarkets.org.
- What other institutions need replacing?
- What are their incentives?
- What incentives do they create for the public as a result?
- What incentives must the public have in order to change the incentives of the institution?
- How can these be decentralized?
These are the questions that need asking today.
Ideamarkets.org is 100% community-funded and developed.