Occupy Starfish

Image courtesy Michael Kink’s Facebook wall

What started as a public outcry with a few hippies in a park ignited culture wars. In late September 2011, few people were looking at the young ones camping in Manhattan, rallying against wealth inequality. That was until a young girl, about 15 years old, was pepper sprayed by a white shirt Lieutenant in the NYPD. Suddenly, thousands of people rallied to Zuccotti Park, scurrying to unite for whatever cause they seemed worth touting. It was chaos, and in that chaos was order.

Most participants were young, left-leaning, anti-capitalist, and frustrated with the state of affairs. Many lacked the business language to articulate that bailed out banks are the true anti-capitalists. The same catalyst event that started today’s cryptocurrency mania began this social movement- the failure of the big banks in 2008.

image courtesy www.britannica.com

Flashback to Spring of 2008, I was working as a financial salesperson at the Maxim Group in Manhattan. If you’ve seen the movie ‘Boiler Room’ you’ll get the culture- many young men in shirts with the top button unbuttoned and ties cold calling strange people to convince them to buy stocks over the phone. Bear Stearns, one of the most reputable investment banks in the world, had just folded, and the market was going into a tailspin. Sean Michael Murphy, a slick and polished man from Long Island was convincing his key clients to ‘short’ (bet against) General Motors, making them a killing. Watching the Titanic of global financial collapse from the ship’s machine room was terrifying, I thought to myself ‘I need to get more education to understand all of this,’ and immediately enrolled in an accelerated Master’s in Finance at CUNY Baruch.

That September I enrolled in the first CUNY Baruch’s Executive Masters cohort, ready to study Financial Statement Analysis and Securities Valuation. I took out $50k of loans to finish this degree in a year (funny for a school that in the 1970s was free,) and week 2 of my program Lehman Brothers collapsed, and the entire financial system crumbled. Today there are 45% less Wall Street analysts than when I began my program; the market shifted significantly. As the subject we were studying was melting before mine and my classmates’ eyes, alternative finance became the subject du jour.

What happened? You may have read about ‘too big to fail,’ banks, which means that the financial system got so big, and so out of control, that it was in the people’s best interest to bail out failed companies rather than let them fold, as capitalism is designed for. Centralized finance itself was (and still is) a threat to the global economy, and in the inner workings of government all that the bureaucrats could do was pump money into the dying, centralized Leviathan. Yet somewhere in Northern California, this event catalyzed the creation of Bitcoin, the world’s first cryptocurrency that was actually feasible in the marketplace. Government officials didn’t create the solution to this problem, an unknown entity named Satoshi Nakamoto did.

The people created the solution. Case study 1 in decentralization- there are no experts, or the experts of the old cannot envision the new. Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke, heralded in the centralized press during the financial crisis as saviors, were really just servants of their centralized economic Masters. All they knew was to prop up the big dead squid of global finance. The Department of Justice worked quickly to retroactively make legal illegal activities taken up by many of the world’s top banks, or waited till the statute of limitations dried up on the worst offenders- truly centralized tomfoolery. The rest of us were left with the bill from massive global fraud, and as long as the only thing you use for money was Federal Reserve Notes, then there was little recourse. Bless our world that Satoshi solved that problem.

From the ashes of the collapse starfish organizations were born- Bitcoin and Occupy Wall Street. Both had no top-down ruling structure. Bitcoin was built like a tank, able to withstand hacking attacks from even the world’s biggest threats (think centralized finance.) Occupy Wall Street was reactionary, and built as an information warfare mechanism, with little desire to implement policy solutions. It was a destabilizing agent in a time when one couldn’t honestly speak of the wealth divide without being called lazy, and many of the talking points from that movement migrated to Bernie Sander’s election bid in 2017. Occupy was clearly stating the problem, the centralization of resources in our society is a disaster, the centralization of the press leads to a misinformed public- and many in the centralized press responded with the question- what do you actually stand for?

Fast forward a few years and the starfish of Occupy Wall Street flamed out. It reached global scale quickly but was squashed here at home with unconstitutional help from the FBI. Bitcoin however, bloomed like no technological advancement before its time.

Today, the natural migration toward a stable decentralized economy is under watchful eye from the centralized status quo. Bitcoin, Ethereum (another cryptocurrency platform) and other cryptocurrencies are being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the same body that failed to protect the public against global securities fraud in ’08. One of the failures of centralized oversight built into our system, the SEC- in charge of regulating big banks, with staffers who are paid very little compared to the officials at the banks they regulate, leading many regulators to look forward to fruitful jobs in private banks once they complete their career. It’s in our movement’s best interest to watch their behavior closely, as their ties to the old guard are undeniable. We need only look at BitLicense for an example of when regulators go haywire and lead the industry to arduous regulations that do not benefit anyone.

Ethereum is a semi-starfish organization. No top-down leadership. An organism that lives in far beyond the reach of even its articulate founder, Vitalik Buterin. These visions begin with the Crypto world’s constitutions- their White Papers. Visionaries create a new world in their mind, and have been able to garner resources toward creating that world.

Cryptocurrencies are creating new wealth, with different values than old wealth. Blockchain technology, the ledger that makes cryptocurrencies feasible, is getting ready to cut out middle men (and women) in all organizations worldwide. Starfish Mission, a blockchain inspired coworking space in SF, is opening its doors to these pioneers of the new way. We seek the decentralized misfits who believe they can change the world, because as Margaret Mead once said-

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’

You can find me at Starfish Mission developing community, or at blockchain events around the Bay Area rallying the troops of the decentralized future. I am surrounded by passionate, talented, caring and incredible people on a daily basis. I am Starfish. We are Starfish.

‘Starfish Mission is dedicated to creating spaces and learning opportunities for the community which inspires us; to change commerce, communication and governance, effectively upgrading the operating system of our world.’

#blockchaincoworking #changetheworld #OccupyStarfish

article by Jon Connors, edited by Matt Quinn