The Enemy is not the Community: it’s our own naivety

Scene from 1984

The events of last week did not surprise at all. We have been noticing a bigger trend on the online community: the one that is twisting and transforming information into something dark. The one that puts developers and others to almost unbearable scrutiny. The one that’s been driving valuable members out of social media and keeping them in the shadows. And I believe we have been pointing fingers wrong. It’s not the bear, it’s not other coins. It’s the sociopolitical disease that’s been creeping into every plane of our lives.

More than ever, we need to look out for each other. Not because we don’t have the capacity to defend ourselves, our arguments and our credibility. We need to stand up for each other because we are too innocent. We (Ethereans) claim we want to build better systems, but when politics and societal problems, fear mongering and false prophets from other realms contaminate our community, we look away. “Let’s not make this political” you argue. “This has nothing to do with what’s happening in the world, this is about trolls from other coins coming for us and trying to install false narratives in our fora” — well, this is partly true. What we are failing to understand, is the root cause that drives these people to behave this way. And it’s very much tied to politics, sorry to burst your bubble.

The cypherpunk movement did not start with shiny happy people holding hands in hundred thousand dollar conferences and the pioneers they were certainly not fully-fledged idealists. These people, fed up by being ostracised by society, skeptical about systems, decided to build their own solutions through hacktivism. This is wonderful and is still much needed. However, at their core, some of these pioneers were not exactly beacons of joy. In the space, it’s lingua franca we respect their ideas over their bias. And we will continue to do so because code and cryptography are the only ways to protect us from institutions and governments’ abuse, espionage agencies, and, again, from each other.

Recently, arguments about the toxicity of nerd culture have been arising, and while I may agree with those, that’s just my opinion. Nerds have done more good than damage so far. From that perspective, their ideology is a tradeoff we would be willing to make in exchange for their incredible contributions to the resistance. Let me remark, I’m are ONLY talking about ideology. When ideologies become tangible, when these people translate their darkest thoughts into actions (à la Jacob Appelbaum, for instance), we must act against them. Adversaries might become allies, and allies will become adversaries at any given point of the work we are doing. And we need to be less naive, less happy-go-lucky, more combative, and above all, better prepared. This is a dog eats dog world. And we’ve been getting continuously bitten. Yes, by all means, sometimes you need to be the better person and just ignore the criticism. But sometimes, you also need to be reactive and learn to defend yourself and each other.

By looking into the InfoSec latest issues, I’ve been down the rabbit hole trying to understand that the menaces that are now slowly creeping into our community work are very similar to the ones they face. InfoSec does not have coins. However, brigading groups are growing in that field, and abuse in all its forms is rampant.

Are we really still going to blame this on the bear and on the end of the ICO frenzy? Think again.

We need to work on ourselves. The community is not our enemy. There are incredible voices both between developers, contributors and the wider community alike. But there are also really dark forces, those that are growing in the midst of the political and social neglect, and friction between community subgroups or spheres. And there are as well snake oil salesmen that contaminate their thoughts, fill their hearts with empty promises and hope, and propose theories where the people that are fighting for a change in the world are turned into enemies. So I’ll say it once again: it is very much political, it is more dangerous than it looks like, and it’s more complex and goes deeper than a week-long “troll war”.

When this argument was raised on one of the dev community discussion groups, it got immediately disqualified by those refusing to see the root of the problem. Here’s a meme for you (you know who you are — I still like you, but you are being too innocent)

Another argument I would like to respectfully disagree with is Lane’s:

Yes, Lane, I’m are also here for the community. But I will simply not migrate because we understand that contributing to identify and work on better practices for healthy community growth is the path we should walk. The community is not toxic. The community would never expel us. These mobs that infiltrated lately, don’t even represent the community. If they are unable to see how rare are developers of the kind of Afri, Lane, contributors like Taylor, and they think that “we can afford losing one of them because a new one will come” — they do not understand a thing about how we work. The rarity of the talent and the quality of the people in the space cannot be easily replaced. We cannot move to another community because this one belongs to us, to all of us.

If we wanna fulfill the huge aspirations Ethereum has it’s time to own the whole thing and think about how we want to deal with bridging the pure tech components with what they will potentially do to our society.

We work so hard on security, and we cannot identify this attack vector? Well, some people on Reddit even identified this for us. Let’s invite all these voices to the conversation and to take action. It is our job now (as a big united community), to get our hands dirty, to stop being afraid of digging into the darkest corners of the web and to learn to figure out the causes of this dark menacing cloud tarnishing the efforts of an otherwise wonderful community.

Let’s get to work, together. Let’s open up our working groups for community members to help out. There are ways, and we must reclaim our community.

One more time for the people in the back: it’s not about the bear, it’s not about the end of the ICO frenzy, it’s not about speculators caring only about money. It’s darker and scarier, and if you are not up for the challenge, you might as well prepare your migration to another community. Spoiler alert: there is no guarantee that this won’t happen in the next community, the odds are even higher. These actors have identified us and most possibly will follow us, here, on EOS, on Tezos, or in any idealist chain of your choice.

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