In August 2013, an anonymous Redditor posted a description of what the future would look like during hyperbitcoinization. Pretending to be a time-traveler, he laid out what would happen with the price (it goes up, of course), geopolitics (Saudi Arabia and North Korea are political heavyweights), and society, in general.
A potent bitcoin meme was born as a result of this fictional rendering of the future—that of the Citadel.
What is the official meaning of the word? Wikipedia helps:
"A citadel is the core fortified area of a town or city. It may be a castle, fortress, or fortified center. The term is a diminutive of "city" and thus means "little city", so called because it is a smaller part of the city of which it is the defensive core. Ancient Sparta had a citadel, as did many other Greek cities and towns."
Compare it to the time-traveler's definition:
""What is a Citadel?" you might wonder. Well, by the time Bitcoin became worth 1,000 dollar, services began to emerge for the "Bitcoin rich" to protect themselves as well as their wealth. It started with expensive safes, then began to include bodyguards, and today, "earlies" (our term for early adapters), as well as those rich whose wealth survived the "transition" live in isolated gated cities called Citadels, where most work is automated. Most such Citadels are born out of the fortification used to protect places where Bitcoin mining machines are located."
Unsurprisingly, the meme spread like wildfire and is now a popular term among bitcoiners. We love appropriating memorable images and catchy soundbites, even if they were initially designed as derogatory terms (think "bitcoin maximalism"). Why? Memes are extremely powerful because they can quickly convey an idea in a simple way to millions of people. They are crafted to trigger specific emotional responses and, as such, are ideal for propaganda.
In his overview of the Citadel meme, Dustin D did an excellent job of exploring its origins in the historical and cultural contexts. He gives examples of real (mostly religious) communities, like the Amana Colonies and New Harmony, that were set up to experiment with various political approaches based on religious beliefs. They were not so successful, however.
"Josiah Warren a resident described the community as doomed to failure given that the united interest of the group was at perpetual war with the individuality of its adherents; a lack of individual sovereignty, in short, was to blame."
The failure of these undertakings is attributed to the conflict between the community's values and the desire of individuals to remain sovereign. This is just a wordy way of saying that communism does not work. Because that is exactly what was tried and, as expected, failed miserably. Thus, calling these attempts "Christian utopian movements" is not a stretch.
In contrast, some segregated Christian communities survive on their original ideas to these days, the Amish and Mennonites being great examples. Called "plain people," members of such communities focus on traditional social values and aim to minimize the impact of new technologies on their lives. So much that they have committees ("Ordnung") that decide whether a particular new technology can be adopted in a limited way or is deemed detrimental to social life and, thus, must be banned. The result is unusual: many settlements use horse carriages instead of cars and payphones instead of smartphones.
While not without issues with governments (mostly pertaining to taxation), the Amish still enjoy their preferred lifestyle to this day. Either because they understand human nature better or because they are more realistic, capitalism is the one thing they never abandoned. Farming being their main occupation, the "plain people" are often seen running local farm markets.
"But Amish values lend themselves to business practices that contribute to a high success rate. These include: a) Camaraderie with competition. The idea of trade secrets isn't pervasive among the Amish. One farmer will gladly teach methods to another farmer… even a direct competitor. b) Flexibility with finances. Community members might make loans among themselves or adjust asking prices to accommodate buyers who aren't flush with cash."—The Hustle
Clearly, there is no utopia here. Shared values and hard work turned out to be the decisive factors in the survival of these movements.
Going back to Dustin D's overview, we see him turn to other examples, like the famous Galt's Gulch, a fictional segregated community from Ayn Rand's impactful novel "Atlas Shrugged," organized by the "men of mind" who decided to secede from the overreaching federal government's influence. In their community, the individual is the crown, and merit and reputation are its jewels. The blogger goes on to explain how self-segregation based on culture and values is not a novel thing, and the adoption of the citadel meme is an "expression of this tradition and impulse." His conclusion, however, is that the meme bad:
"In my personal opinion, the Citadel meme is a shit one, one that is rife with elitist overtones and doesn't play well outside of a small group that feels entitled to reap the benefits, to live a pleasurable life due to either foresight or luck."
I understand Dustin's reservations when it comes to the "us vs them" mentality. Inevitable inequality has always been the seed of unrest in the world. Socialists understand it very well. That is why they have been successful over and over at controlling vast masses of the population. Playing on the emotional state of the common man (in this case, propagandizing about "fairness" and "greedy capitalists"), these "saviors" evoke strong feelings of resentment in him that necessitate immediate and decisive action. All that is left is to tell the man exactly what to do. History shows that this usually ends in bloodshed, with hundreds of millions of victims globally only in the twentieth century.
It is not a stretch to assume that the transition to the bitcoin standard, whether sudden or gradual, will be accompanied by similar moods. Early adopters will be looked upon as evil scrooges who took advantage of the most massive wealth transfer in the history of mankind. Despicable! Unequal! Unfair!
The citadel meme, however, cannot be dropped because of hurt feelings for the same reason the "bitcoin maximalist" meme is so popular—it is descriptive, not prescriptive. While it is our strongest belief that the world will benefit immensely from bitcoin as its reserve currency, giving billions a better chance at life than what they would get under the current fiat central banking system, we cannot forget that bitter men will keep existing. Social parasites who feed off of other people's productivity will find it difficult to extract wealth from bitcoiners. They will be left with the one vehicle they know well how to use: the easily impressionable masses. Anti-bitcoin demagoguery is, thus, guaranteed to happen.
Does it mean that talking about citadels adds fuel to the fire? In many cases, it does. But that is just one defining quality of the mass man: he will always find a reason to be outraged. Give him such an idea and a few meters of rope, and he will gladly hang the enemy. Must we, then, always tread carefully so as not to anger the representative of the crowd? To me, it has never been a conundrum—the answer is absolutely not. The hard worker does not justify his actions to the rent-seeker; the capitalist does not answer to the socialist; the moral man does not seek the approval of the degenerate.
Citadels are not a thing of the future either. They exist here and now. The bigger the gap between the rich and the poor in a given country, the more obvious it is. Latin American countries are known for their luxury gated communities that share borders with slums in which kids kill each other for control over landfill territories. Even in so-called "developed" North American and European countries, the elites always make sure to segregate themselves from the rabble in high-end neighborhoods, enormous mansions, and family estates. American Hodl mentioned on the Stephan Livera podcast that a friend of his lives in a triple-gated community: the outer gate separates the neighborhood from the rest of the city, the second gate—his lavish sub-neighborhood from the main one, and, finally, the third gate—his own property.
What we argue here is not whether citadels are good or bad, but instead that they already exist, and the idea of segregation will only keep evolving. The mass media will tell you that the world is becoming more open and borderless. Ironically, this is one of the main reasons for further separation. In a world devoid of tradition, culture, and principles, individuals who share these qualities will form their own islands of sanity. Future citadels, growing from neighborhood-sized lots to towns and cities, will welcome anyone who earns their spot by merit, not by looks or feelings. Producing value will be of utmost importance.
At first, these communities may be built on leased or purchased land, on private islands, or even seasteads and, thus, may not be united based on the racial or national principle. But, with successful implementations of such ideas, there is no reason to believe that race-based citadels will not appear within nation-states as enclaves. Today, you can see how "integration" fails miserably in multi-cultural countries like Canada, where the Chinese or the Indian communities occupy whole towns in which, at times, it may be challenging to navigate if you are an English speaker.
Such lack of integration can be explained by the fact that tribalism is in our nature. Even if you succeed at creating a sexless, raceless, tasteless entity, you will still see such creatures form tribes based on their perverted views of the world. They will separate from the rest to engage in locally accepted behaviors, fight against the oppressive majority, or do whatever else their anti-culture requires of them. In short, they will unite. Such a union may be incredibly fragile and temporary (no association based on unnatural affections, mental illness, or debauchery can possibly last long), but its emergence is guaranteed.
To summarize, I believe that the citadel meme is in perfect alignment with what bitcoiners are set to do. I argue that:
- the meme describes how the world already works and the path it will continue on; and
- replacing the word "citadel" for something else will not change the fact; thus, we must embrace it.
The concept of property is one of the pillars upon which many bitcoiners' understanding of objective reality rests. Bitcoin is private money. Citadels are private cities. And there will be many, each with their own set of rules and values. The age of the most daring political experimentation is here. We now have the tools necessary to bring to life what has been simmering in our minds for many years. Have we been right or wrong? There is only one way to know.
I am going to build a citadel. Are you with me?