Community is crucial, and this was never more clear to me than last month, as bushfires swept through 10,000 hectares of the area around my home, leaving many people with nothing but the clothes they were wearing when they fled.
At its peak, firefighters from all over Portugal were battling our fire. Ultimately, more than a thousand men, 400 fire engines and 14 aircraft participated. We watched the huge plume of smoke and none of us slept much the four nights it burned, we watched the approaching orange glow light up the sky. In the aftermath, now that the firefighters have completed the heroic task of killing the fire dragon, it is the power of the community that comes to the fore.
There is an almost festive atmosphere among local small businesses. Stories of last-minute escapes are shared by those affected, and the damages are compared. Together, we count what we’ve lost and celebrate the small victories over the fire. A house was saved here, a family was reunited with their livestock and pets there, a house untouched by the fire even though everything around it had burned.
People have flocked from everywhere to volunteer. Donations of food, clothing and household items are piled high on the back wall of a local restaurant and shared among those in need. Gender roles seem to fall naturally into place among the volunteers, with men mostly taking on the heavy tasks of clearing scorched earth and charred trees to make way for people to start rebuilding and women cooking for men’s teams and families who have lost their homes. Now, a month after the fire, the progress is very clear. Fallen roofs were razed and removed, and structures were inspected and cleaned in preparation for new beams and rebuilding. Melted pipes for irrigation systems were recovered from the ground and removed. Personal property has been sifted through and what can be salvaged has been secured. We received excellent information sessions on how to manage burned land, what to clear, what to leave, how to prevent land erosion, and when and how to start replanting. With the first rains of autumn coming down hard, the first sign of green has already appeared again all over the black landscape.
A good friend of mine, who is a dedicated Bitcoin user, put it beautifully in a letter to me when I told her how confusing it was to see people coming together like this. “This is what people do when they govern themselves, and it’s beautiful,” she wrote.
Truer words have never been spoken. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a society slide so smoothly before. And in countries – like most European countries – where governments are still functioning to at least some extent (one might argue, too much) many people seem to have lost touch with society. While churches would have provided the cornerstone of this connection, the majority of people no longer belong to any religious association, and if you asked them about their community or “tribe,” most would grope for an answer. They talk about a group loosely composed of work colleagues, sports buddies, friends who are not necessarily close and neighbors with whom they share an often coincidental bond of proximity. The fabric of our societies is now an open tapestry, through which many individuals simply slide into isolation, clinging only to a few threads here and there.
From a historical and sociological perspective, the loss of community is deeply troubling. Humans did not form societies for fun. We didn’t get together because it was more fun to hunt or guard the castle walls with a friend (although that might have been the case too). Throughout human history, regardless of era or geographic setting, humans have banded together because together we have always been safer, more effective, and more able to influence our context to our advantage, whether it be fighting a fire or an enemy attack. Or political overreach and although it may sound like a political slogan, together we truly are stronger.
Women traditionally play a crucial role in creating and bonding societies, largely because they are socially and biologically incentivized to do so – a woman’s primary protector of herself and her children is of course her man – but behind him or in his absence, it is her. The community that is her second line of protection and on which she depends for safety and assistance in times of need. It can be convincingly argued that the breakdown of society is at least partly to blame for the high statistics of depression and anxiety among women of all ages, especially younger generations in northern Europe and the United States. Social media seems to mimic a community made up of legions of followers, but as an alternative it simply doesn’t do the trick, providing only a dopamine addiction rather than a real connection. From a mental health perspective, the loss of community is as catastrophic as it is when viewed through a historical and sociological lens.
Clearly, women are not alone in this catastrophic downturn. Across genders, the statistics for poor mental health, including isolation, depression, suicide and addiction, make for depressing reading and their incidence is increasing, despite the increasing ease of living for most people in the developed world, even more so. It is the lack of community that leaves such a void in people’s lives, and above all, the lack of feeling that they are contributing to a cause greater than their own personal well-being. It may be naive – but I can’t help but feel that effectively establishing and stimulating the growth of local communities can have amazing restorative potential for our collective well-being.
This is just one of the reasons why it is so encouraging to see the community here in full force, coming together to support and provide for each other, and each member contributing what they have to offer. For some, these funds are directed directly to providing emergency relief or donated to people whose livelihoods depend on their homes. For others, it is the power of muscle and machine, sawing, mopping and cleaning. A few people dedicated their time to coordinating the flow of volunteers. For those of us who have no idea how to use a saw and whose lack of muscle strength threatens to make us more of a liability than a help on the front line of the disinfection process, the duty of the kitchen is to provide food for those who work and those in need. This community is vital at all levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs and was clearly embodied in the aftermath of our fire.
But how can we go about reintroducing the seeds and roots of community elsewhere, where this shared faith and competitive social relationships in all aspects of life have been lost for so long? Can we as individuals and families foster this growth?
As a fellow Bitcoiner, I think you know what I’m going to suggest. Along with its countless other aspects, Bitcoin provides a unique foundation for society. We’ve all experienced this if we’ve attended Bitcoin events; I’d bet my bottom dollar (if you or I still believe in the value of the dollar) that you have more in common with the person you had a five-minute conversation with in the bathroom line at a Bitcoin conference than you do. Do this with your co-workers, whom you have known and worked with for years.
Bitcoin is about shared values and the shared knowledge that the system we live under is not working. Its ability to lay the foundation for society (not to mention the rest of its economic, technical, social, and philosophical talents) is unparalleled. Bitcoin-based society is a completely new and unique model that has the potential to fill the void left by other failed community models.
Those of us who have already chosen to experience some of this Bitcoin community through Telegram, Twitter, and Nostr. Among other Bitcoin users, we can simply go ahead and skip the small talk. For the most part, we are all aware of the role played by governments, big pharmaceutical companies, mainstream media and food giants. Once these issues are no longer a topic of conversation, it’s nice to see what emerges – we all pretty much agree what went wrong on a large scale in the past, so we tend to focus on the future. These conversations are incredibly valuable. I, personally, love the thought-provoking connection and sense of community online – but there’s a danger that those online communities, the people I socialize with, and the companies I buy from in goods I need in everyday life can feel like two separate worlds. It takes some steps to bring these two worlds together, but I feel they are worth taking. Shared values create strong bonds, and as you build the Bitcoin community around you, you can experience the luxury of that.
Providing regular educational sessions on Bitcoin and watching companies around me start accepting Bitcoin is, for me, planting the seeds for a whole additional layer of community. It can be said that we have an obligation – not only to ourselves and our families, but also to our communities – to cultivate and foster the growth of new Bitcoin-based communities. Doing so will bring us great benefits. Not only will we be able to transact and save real money among ourselves, building uncensored parallel economies tailored to suit our own needs (because we are incentivized by the orange pill companies we so desperately want to buy from), but we will have access to the social, philosophical, and even moral benefits that it brings. Being part of a real community that most of us have yet to fully experience.
Can Bitcoin take us back to the golden age of society, where we can all experience these benefits? I think the answer is that he probably can. Some green shoots can already be seen growing from the ashes left by the collapse of paper models of society. So, if I may be so bold as to offer you some advice – go into that store, restaurant or bar you go to often and say those magic words: “Are you accepting Bitcoin yet?”
This is a guest post by Holly Young. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.
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