I was invited to speak at Texas Bitcoin Conference in Austin this past week. Due to my house arrest, I’ve been largely staying low key but felt I needed to make a statement, a strong one. I asked Rick if I could use his speech from the Stockholm 2006 pro-freedom demonstration and adapt it to Bitcoin, which he agreed to. The speech ended to a standing ovation, and although I was over Skype I could not help but burst into tears. Free knowledge, free the market, free the world!
Below is the text of the speech —
Friends, citizens, Bitcoiners:
There is nothing new under the sun.
My name is Charlie Shrem, and I speak to you from under house arrest.
During the last few weeks, we’ve seen several examples of legal outbursts. We’ve seen the police abusing the measures available to them. We’ve seen the actions of the financial services industry. We’ve seen high-profile politicians mobilizing in order to protect the financial and banking industry.
All of this is scandalous without parallel. That is why I stand here today.
The financial and banking industry wants to convince us, that it’s only about illegal payments, that it’s about protecting the integrity of the status quo. It’s a pretext. We need to look at the big picture, Bitcoin is about something entirely different.
To understand today’s situation in the light of history, we need to go 400 years back, back to when the church had a monopoly on culture and knowledge. What the church said, went. Pyramid communication. There is one person at the top, talking to a number of others down a pyramid. The culture and knowledge had a source, and that source was the church.
And may God have mercy on the one who dared to challenge the church’s monopoly on culture and knowledge! They were subjected to the most horrible legal abuse conceivable, at the time. Under no circumstances did the church allow the citizens to spread information on their own, they governed the whole law enforcement; prevention, punishment and harassment.
There is nothing new under the sun.
Today, we know the only right thing for the evolution of society was to let that knowledge go free. That Galileo Galilei was right. Even if he was infringing on the knowledge monopoly.
We’re talking about a time when the church went out in full force, promoting the idea that citizens didn’t have to, learn to read and write, since the priest would tell them everything they needed to know anyway. The church knew what it would mean if they lost their control.
Along came the printing press.
Suddenly, there was not only one source of knowledge to listen to, but several. The citizens – who had started to learn to read – could take part of unsanctioned knowledge. The church was furious. The royal families were furious. The British royal family even went so far as to forging a law that said only printers specially approved by the royal family were allowed to print books, multiply knowledge and culture for the citizens. Sound familiar?
Then, a couple of hundred years passed by, and the freedom of the press was created. But everywhere, the same old model of communication still existed: one person talking to the many. There were different people to listen to, but everywhere, one person talking to the many. This was used by the state in introducing a system of a “liable publisher”.
The citizens will indeed be able to take part of knowledge, but there will always be someone to answer if they – oh, horrible thought – take part of the wrong knowledge.
And this is what is changing in the Bitcoin culture. today. Because the Internet no longer abides by this model. We no longer simply use old legacy systems given to us from the top down. We upload at the same time too and we want to transact instantly to others. Knowledge and culture have, amazingly, lost its central point of control.
This is the central point of my whole address, so I’m going to go into it, in deeper detail:
Transacting is the old mass medium model where this is a central control point, a control point with a responsible party liable, with the risk of their license being revoked and so on and so forth, where everyone can transact from the central point of control. The license holder can give and take away rights as they see fit. We’ve seen when you have central control, this equals central points of failure. We saw a few months ago, VISA Card’s central data center in Canada go offline. Any Canadian with a VISA debit or credit card was disconnected from their finances. Life virtually screeched to a halt, and this was only for a mere 24 hours. We saw 110 Million customers of Target Stores have their identity and financial information stolen, and now their financial future is at the heals of a bunch of hackers.
Payment and transactional monopoly. Control.
Inherently, Bitcoin transacting constitutes simultaneous up- and downloading from every connected person, and completely lacks central point of failure or control; it’s a situation where all payments and information organically flows between millions of different people at the same time. Fundamentally different. This is something completely new in the history of human communication and Bitcoin is one of the largest socio-economic experiments humankind has ever seen.
And this is exactly why we are going to change the law. We started Bitcoin Foundation for this exact purpose. Mutual dialogue with the government on creating safe regulations around Bitcoin companies, that do not allow for stifling innovation. I applaud those regulators such as Mr. Ben Lawsky of NY who see this vision, and is committed to keeping innovation alive and letting it thrive. Before I stepped down as CEO, my company BitInstant was honored to have worked with his office for over a year. Illegal payments are a real threat, however using it as an excuse to ban or to assert control is merely a distraction. There are those who are set on bringing down our culture.
During the last few weeks, we’ve seen how far a player is prepared to go to prevent loss of control. We saw the constitution being violated. We saw young MIT students pressured with government subpoenas merely for creating a proof of concept. I saw my personal freedom lost when I was arrested off the plane, stripped naked, searched and my body violated, handcuffed, and escorted out of JFK airport while returning home from a trip with my girlfriend. We saw how forced measures and restrictions of personal integrity were used by the police, not for fighting crime, but for the obvious purpose of harassing the ones involved and everyone who has been anywhere near them.
There is nothing new under the sun, and history always repeats itself. This isn’t about illegal payments. This is about control over transactional culture and knowledge, because he who controls them, controls the world.
The financial and banking industry has tried to shame us, telling us what we’re doing is illegal, that we’re pirates. They’re trying to push us down under some rock. Look around you today – see how they’ve failed. Yes, we’re pirates. But one who thinks being a pirate is a shame is mistaken. It’s something we’re proud of.
Because we’ve already seen what it means to be without a central point of culture. We’ve already tasted, felt and smelled the freedom of being without a central monopoly of transactional culture and knowledge. We’ve already learnt to read and write.
And we’re not about to forget how to read and write, just because it’s not fit in the eyes of the laws of the yester year.
My name is Charlie and I’m a Bitcoiner. Let’s change the world!