When War Threatens Everything, Bitcoin Is the New Weapon of Choice
How Bitcoin can already save lives and livelihoods in the worst possible scenario
In 2014, the humanitarian charity known as “Save the Children” produced a ninety second video designed to show the effect of war on children in a way that hadn’t been done before.
The usual approach that had been hitherto the standard for emotionally charged financial appeals — gentle melancholy minor piano chords playing over slow motion images of children looking to camera with large, mournful eyes accompanied by a hard hitting voiceover — had been completely reimagined.
Instead, Save the Children did something that was in equal measures both brave and brilliant. Rather than show us the effects of war on individuals we might not necessarily relate to in places we might not recognize, they simply bought war to the doorsteps of people and places we are already familiar with.
In other words, they bought war directly to you and me — people who have almost certainly never had to deal with anything like it.
Take a moment to watch it. If you are a father of young children, like me, make sure you have some tissues to hand.
This is a genius piece of film making crammed with many details that are easily missed. For example, if you’re outside England (where this ad is targeted) you may not be aware that “Richmond”, a location mentioned in the radio news piece in the car, is one of London’s most affluent and desirable places to live, clearly chosen to emphasize the decline into anarchy that now exists in this little girl’s world.
Yet the unfolding saga is entirely and instantly believable and must surely have followed the same terrifying timeline that many of our fellow humans have already experienced at the hands of, well, other fellow humans.
We are a messy, complicated species and while we seem to be resistant to learning and improving in certain areas, some things, at least, are changing for the better. And even in the worst case scenarios.
The Spoils of War
As in the little girl’s case above, when war comes and you have to run for sheer survival, it often means leaving your possessions — and money — behind.
Sure, you might be able to grab some cash if you have managed to keep a little at home for ‘emergencies’ (a trip to the local bank would be unlikely under these conditions), but the reality is that many countries who find themselves in a state of war also find that their currency is worthless.
This could be due to massive expansion policies to pay for military might, sanctions creating economic hardship or simply a loss of confidence on the international stage because of the military action in the first place, but whatever the reason, there are no guarantees you will have any actual purchasing (or bribing) power.
Meanwhile, even though you may have escaped with the only things that really matter in the end (that is, the lives of your loved ones) you will surely understand that everything you didn’t take with you is unlikely ever to be recovered. When the enemy soldiers come to strip your former home of its possessions and memories, there will be little consideration of your plight.
So, even if you did somehow survive — a lost refugee among thousands perhaps far from your home — you’d find safety with nothing more than the clothes on your back. Of course, if you had your family by your side, you’d still consider yourself lucky but when war ended — as all wars do eventually — and it came time to rebuild, you’d begin that process with nothing.
It may take you years and the help of many international charities to find any way back to normal on a purely standard of living perspective, let alone accounting for the psychological damage that can never be repaired. It may take your family generations. You many never achieve it, as has happened to countless families through countless wars.
But, for the first time in history, there is now a way to take your wealth with you, instantly, safely and securely, even in the nightmare scenario outlined above. We may not yet be ready to stop being ghastly to each other, but we may have found a way to stop the biggest group of victims — those who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time — having to pay the entire price of someone else’s madness.
The unconsidered problem
One of the biggest problems of trying to rebuild — assuming you are lucky enough to survive — is perhaps not what you would first think of.
Beyond the obvious problems of food, drink, sanitation and shelter, how, for example, do you carry out the simple act of proving who you are if you have no passport, paperwork or ID? In extreme cases of war, whole swathes of personal data have been lost for ever and those affected have to rebuild not just their lives, but their very identities.
Even if the banking organization that held your funds survived the conflict and assuming the currency still has come value, how do you access it if you can’t show them you’re the owner?
Worse, if your bank did not survive, all records are lost and the currency has no value anyway, what do you do then? You are left cut off from the system, abandoned by your former institutions, increasingly angry and bitter for having to suffer the way you are.
Your previous wealth and good standing is now irrelevant as far as the rest of the world is concerned. You are nothing but a statistic.
And there’s very little you can do about it.
Bitcoin, the liberator
However, just as the technology of war has evolved, so has the technology of money.
While little can be done about the physical hardships of mankind’s madness, it is already possible for refugees to take their entire personal fortunes with them. Indeed, it may even have already happened.
The fact is that you can take your Bitcoin with you on your phone instantly, a possession you are very likely to grab if forced from your home. However, since a phone could be a high risk asset sought after by criminals or desperate people who want to make contact with loved ones at any cost, we have to consider it’s quite likely the device will not complete the journey with you.
But of course with Bitcoin, you can simply write your seed phrase on a piece of paper, perhaps hidden inside clothing as a backup.
And, should things get to that point, you could memorize your seed phrase and destroy the paper version. That means you could be stripped literally of everything you own and STILL have access to your wealth when you make it to safer shores.
This has simply never been possible at any point in human history. In this scenario and for these people, bitcoin is little less than a miracle.
I can’t even imagine the horror of going through something like this, but I also can’t help wondering if knowing absolutely that you have a real chance to rebuild once you have reached safety would make a difference to the mindset of a refugee.
Would it make you more determined to survive? Would it make you less likely to commit atrocities yourself, knowing that you have a way out at the end of it? Could it even make you more inclined to work with others who are facing the same plight?
I am not qualified to comment, but on the basis of pure unemotional logic, it seems probable that there would be a beneficial effect on an individual level at least to some degree. The relative peace of mind just has to carry some weight.
And, on a macro level in a situation where a displaced population is able to take a good portion of their wealth with them in the face of an invading army, the collective advantage is unprecedented.
Rebuilding would be quicker, the balance of power would not shift quite as much as it would have done, help from international communities could be more targeted and survival rates would almost certainly be higher.
While anger, resentment and other arguably natural human emotions would still run rampant in those who survive, there must, surely, be a consoling factor in that not everything, physically at least, was lost.
Bitcoin’s ability to be both simultaneously store of value and vehicle of value transfer is of incredible value in this context. No other financial instrument can make the same claim and certainly not in a way that is accessible and practically useful to the population as a whole.
So, as we cannot yet seem to evolve beyond our ridiculous and inexcusable behavior to our fellow man, I find some strange comfort that we are also using our collective ingenuity to reduce the impact of tyranny, even if only in part and even if only as a side effect of other (equally bold) objectives.
To paraphrase one great wartime leader from the past; we’re only at the end of the beginning of our journey with Bitcoin, but — just perhaps — we are already at the beginning of the end of our ability to rob the innocent victims of war of everything.
And, as an unashamed optimist for the future of the word and mankind, I think that’s a good a start as any.
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Disclosure: The author of this opinion piece has been heavily involved with bitcoin for several years and holds a substantial cryptocurrency portfolio, including bitcoin. He also has a mining operation running the SHA-256 algorithm based in Siberia and is a published author on the subject of promoting the understanding of cryptocurrency. Jason is an analyst at Quantum Economics. This story was first published on Voice.com
Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It does not constitute trading advice. Past performance does not indicate future results. Do not invest more than you can afford to lose. If you found this content interesting, and have an interest in commissioning content of your own, check out Quantum Economics’ Analysis on Demand Service.