You can listen to this essay at the start of this episode of Citizen Bitcoin:
Tomer Strolight: Don't Tell Me There Are No Heroes in Bitcoin - E122 | Citizen Bitcoin
Look Closely and You’ll See a Long List of Heroes in Bitcoin’s Relatively Short History.
— — — — — — — — — —
“There are no heroes in Bitcoin.”
This expression is often cited in the Bitcoin community because many people elevated to that status have ‘fallen from grace’.
It’s better, some suggest, just to have no heroes in Bitcoin in the first place so as to avoid the pain of having to “slay our heroes.”
What Defines a Hero?
Let us ask ourselves the question “What are heroes?”
Heroes stand up for the little guy.
Heroes act courageously to resist wrongdoing.
Heroes fight for what is right.
Heroes protect the weak.
Heroes achieve extraordinary outcomes.
What Would Heroes in Bitcoin Look Like?
What do these heroic traits mean in Bitcoin?
What does standing up for the little guy mean?
First and foremost it means not taking advantage of that little guy. There is an endless stream of new people coming to Bitcoin and seeking honest education. They are looking for answers to questions that everyone must ask when they begin their journey. They must have their questions answered honestly.
Furthermore, the whole Bitcoin project is itself a movement for all the little guys out there — from the unbanked to the working class to the socially ostracised. They are the little guys whose ability to save for their futures is robbed by the incumbent financial system. They are also the same little guys whose little wealth is being greedily eyed by the promoters of “cryptos” trying to lure them into traps masquerading as something similar to, or better than, Bitcoin. Heroes would stand up to all of these exploiters.
Next, what does it mean to courageously resist wrongdoing in Bitcoin? It means confronting the attackers of Bitcoin in the arena of public discussion, day after day. It means taking on the economists and institutions that attempt to dismiss and slander Bitcoin — opponents who speak for institutions that control all the “fiat” money in the world. It means confronting altcoin promoters from hundreds of projects who attack Bitcoin, each with their own brand of misrepresentations.
What could it mean to fight for what is right? It means exactly that. When something is right and good and others are trying to destroy it or subvert it, it means fighting to preserve and protect it. Like fighting for the ability for everyone to run a full node. In Bitcoin, this is always the fight to retain decentralization.
What might it mean to protect the weak? It also means ensuring that those who cannot speak for themselves or defend themselves still have the ability to use Bitcoin, through anonymity and privacy.
And, finally, what does it mean to achieve extraordinary outcomes? We’ll come back to that.
Don’t Tell Me “There Are No Heroes in Bitcoin”
Bitcoin is replete with heroes. It’s not hard to find them.
Go to any Bitcoin or Crypto room on Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces at any time of the day, any day of the week and you are likely to find some Bitcoin hero gently and patiently explaining to someone new — some little guy — how to use bitcoin as a shield from the inflationary forces which central banks use to rob their savings from them.
If an influential skeptic from the traditional banking system shows up to frighten and intimidate the little guys, you will see the Bitcoin heroes, undeterred and unintimidated, fighting back — informed with better facts, presenting better logic, and pointing to better real world results, all with down-to-earth terminology.
When the misleading claims by altcoin promoters get pushed on unsuspecting, naive beginners who are still early in their journey, you’ll hear Bitcoiners share their own tales of having themselves been lured and tricked in their early days. They place the truth ahead of their pride, warning others to not make the same mistakes they made.
So don’t tell me “there are no heroes in Bitcoin”.
There are in fact many, and they are called upon all the time.
This, though, is just the day-to-day, run-of-the mill role that heroes in Bitcoin play.
There are also extraordinary times where heroes are needed.
Let’s Discuss The Heroes of the Blocksize Wars
There’s a whole book written about one series of events where a lot of heroes came out to perform one heroic task after another.
I refer to 2017’s scaling wars, or the Blocksize wars as some call them. It was an extraordinary situation. That war, as it was called, actually cost us many heroes. It is, in part, where the saying, “Be prepared to slay your heroes in Bitcoin,” comes from.
It took place during an historic moment of truth for Bitcoin. At stake was nothing less than preserving Bitcoin’s essential and necessary decentralization while also simultaneously allowing it to scale — without sacrificing either its decentralization or its scaling to one another. Just figuring out how to do this required extraordinary breakthroughs from Bitcoin’s developers.
Today we are hearing tremendous news of the success and rapid growth of the Lightning Network. However, had Bitcoiners not fought that war, had they not won it, had they not exhibited heroism, we would not be hearing those stories today.
Bitcoiners were up against powerful enemies back then.
The first enemy was none other than the most powerful maker and user of Bitcoin mining equipment — a company called Bitmain. Bitmain opposed activating the feature that would make the Lightning Network possible — a feature called Segregated Witness, or SegWit for short. Bitmain had their reasons. They were the usual reasons the wealthy and powerful resist change — they wanted to preserve their wealth and their power. Bitmain used their power to block the activation of this feature on the Bitcoin network.
Bitcoiners had to respond: Corporate interests — a single corporation — challenged our right to advance the network. And Bitcoiners did respond. They mounted a movement to develop and run software that took Bitmain head-on. Bitcoiners threatened to reject the blocks mined by Bitmain and any other miner who refused to activate SegWit. It was a huge gambit, because Bitmain controlled much of the mining power. The risk was that we would end up on a nearly dead chain, facing extremely slow blocks for a very long time, and worst of all, with far less security — vulnerable even to 51% attacks by Bitmain.
But Bitcoiners knew it was “all or nothing” — either retain decentralization of Bitcoin or lose the whole project. So they risked it all. They stood up for the little guy against the big guy. They courageously risked Bitcoin itself, putting it to a life or death test against Bitmain. They fought for what was right. They advocated and explained to other bitcoiners why victory would only come if nearly everyone joined the battle.
It worked. Bitcoiners en masse threatened to destroy Bitcoin itself if it wasn’t going to be able to remain decentralized. Seeing this, and knowing its whole business relied on Bitcoin’s existence, Bitmain backed down and ceased the action they were taking that prevented SegWit from activation.
So don’t tell me that there are no heroes in Bitcoin.
However, this was not all. That was not the only front on which this war had to be fought.
This war also had to be fought against some of the most powerful companies in the Bitcoin and “crypto” space. Partway through this first battle, Coinbase, Bitpay, bitcoin.com, Bitmain — and a total of 58 companies announced that they had met in private and committed to a plan that became known as the “New York Agreement”. It proposed creating a hard fork of Bitcoin to double the block size as some form of bargain to appease Bitmain. This compromise would have harmed Bitcoin’s decentralization — it would have made it more expensive and difficult to run a full node, and it would have set a precedent that corporations could meet in private and modify Bitcoin. While Bitcoiners were resisting and fighting Bitmain’s attack, these companies attempted to use their clout, their leverage, their pull, and their power to take control of Bitcoin.
So, once again, while still fighting the war with Bitmain on one front, bitcoiners confronted this second attack.
The users of Bitcoin stood up to these men and their companies, and said “NO! We will not run your hard fork.”
The developers of Bitcoin said “We will not develop your hard fork.”
In the end, these incredibly powerful and wealthy companies could find only one developer amongst all the Bitcoin developers to co-opt into their attack. All the other developers laughed at the proposal, discredited it, and turned down the money offered to do the development work.
So Bitcoiners had to fight not only to get others to run a version of Bitcoin software that would eventually force Bitmain to capitulate, they had to also fight to get nobody to run the software proposed by the largest companies in the space — the ones with the customer lists and web sites and marketing budgets and money.
To fight on this second front, Bitcoiners had to dedicate more than just their time, their energy and their minds. Bitcoiners had to risk their capital too. They had to demonstrate to the market the overwhelming support of their decentralized Bitcoin against the replacement coin proposed by the wealthy and powerful companies. They had to wager their bitcoin in futures markets to demonstrate their conviction. They had to go long on the Bitcoin with segregated witness and go short on New York Agreement coin. They had to surrender the custody of their coins to make these bets, sending their coins to an exchange and risking loss of funds. Many risked all their bitcoins in driving down the price of the hard fork version.
It worked. Seeing the conviction of bitcoiners lead to the 58 companies capitulating and withdrawing their proposal. Had that hard fork been victorious these bitcoiners would have lost their entire stack, which for many of them was their life savings. They risked it all — every last satoshi — for the sake of Bitcoin’s future. So don’t tell me there are no heroes in Bitcoin.
Yet this still was not all.
We fought this war on a third front, because in one final desperate move, Bitmain and another powerful Bitcoiner launched another attack on Bitcoin. They created and released their own new coin on the same day that Segwit activated, just as the Bitcoin heroes were expecting to celebrate victory. This was a hard fork of Bitcoin that did not activate segwit. It was a version that enticed each bitcoiner with an equal amount of its new coin. It was a version that misrepresented itself as the “true” Bitcoin. It had the backing not only of Bitmain, but also the bitcoin.com web site — again, money, clout, and power attacking Bitcoin.
And so we had fight on this third front, without any rest from battling the two prior attacks. Battle weary, we did not get a chance to rest and celebrate our victory. We had to fight a new attacker. And we did. So don’t tell me that there are no heroes in bitcoin, because I fought alongside them in those fork wars. We fought attack after attack after attack to protect the little guys, who often were our own selves, so that the idea of Bitcoin, a decentralized money controlled by nobody, corruptible by nobody, could live on and have a chance to realize its potential destiny of changing the world for the better. DON’T TELL ME THAT THERE ARE NO HEROES IN BITCOIN.
There Are More Heroes Than You Can Even Count
There have been countless more heroes.
Consider those bitcoiners who created, and worked on, and lived on Bitcoin Beach for two years in El Salvador, with no guarantees of success. Two years of their life. Without pay. Without venture backing. Without any mature technology to easily roll out on day one. Without even any assurances that they might not be arrested suddenly and without notice for using Bitcoin. Don’t tell me that there are no heroes in Bitcoin.
Consider the early Bitcoiners who had to endure wild volatility, more of them having bought bitcoin at its highs than at lows and having to find the conviction to HODL through the wild swings as onlookers laughed and criticized. They did not know the project would survive. They did not cash out. They stood strong. Don’t tell me that there are no heroes in Bitcoin.
Consider those who still hold and don’t sell when bitcoin is under attack. Heroes.
What about those who invest their earnings every week instead of going along with the fiat system and its short term rewards? Heroes.
There’s the developers who contribute to Bitcoin, often without any compensation, and certainly not with the high salaries and stock options they would get working for venture backed startups. Heroes.
What about all the content creators who research the true facts, counter misconceptions and mis-statements and offer them to the world, often for free? Heroes.
There’s the business operators that courageously resist governmental over-reach to protect the privacy of their customers. Heroes.
How about Bitcoiners who build their own nodes and figure out how to compile the code to run it on those self-built nodes and who also teach others how to do this? Heroes.
The sentinels who patrol Twitter, Clubhouse, Telegram and other social media platforms for scammers — Who explain patiently and slowly and repeatedly to newcomers why Bitcoin has integrity; why it is a one-way trade; why those other “crypto” projects are centralized, have leaders, and are, in fact, corporations. They’re heroes too.
And those who fight and struggle in underdeveloped nations to make Bitcoin available as a purely humanitarian mission? Heroes.
The ones who struggled themselves to save and who now help struggling little guys learn how, for the first time in their lives, to save money and develop a long-term perspective through Bitcoin? Heroes.
Those who seek freedom for Ross Ulbricht and Julian Assange? Heroes.
Those who save for their families’ futures? Heroes.
Even those who have made mistakes, and are prepared to admit them, and get back on the right track? Also heroes.
So don’t tell me that there are no heroes in Bitcoin.
THERE ARE ALMOST ENTIRELY ONLY HEROES IN BITCOIN!
Bitcoin Was Founded on Heroism
Let us not forget the greatest Bitcoin hero of all — Satoshi Nakamoto:
The very inventor of the idea of Bitcoin;
A hero who had the genius to create what no one was able to create before;
A hero who was able to devise the solution to a problem that mathematicians and computer scientists claimed to have proven could in fact not be solved.
He solved that problem. He wrote the code that implemented the solution. He launched the project. SINGLE-HANDEDLY!
He carefully protected his true identity so that he could, when the time came, disappear and make Bitcoin into truly decentralized, leaderless, incorruptible money.
He then had the actual courage to do that disappearing: To forsake all the fame that would come from being the inventor of Bitcoin; To abandon the fortune that came from being the original miner of bitcoin; To surrender the power that might come with being able to pull the strings of Bitcoin.
No other “crypto-asset” has any person of this ingenuity, of this integrity, of this genius, vision, and commitment. None have a creator who’s greatest act of heroism is to decide to not be here now for the good of the project — To not take credit for or advantage of what he created. So don’t you dare tell me that there are no heroes in Bitcoin. We have the greatest hero in our ranks.
Bitcoin is likely the greatest invention that we will see in the 21st century. It is certainly the greatest invention we have seen in it so far. What else comes even close? It has been so widely imitated — tens of thousands of imitators have come and either already gone or are on their way out. Yet Bitcoin has never once been duplicated. It has risen to a trillion dollars in value faster than any other asset in history. It has done so without hiring a single employee. without spending a single dollar on marketing. without raising a single penny from a venture capitalist and without borrowing a single dollar from a bank. It has done this because of Satoshi and Bitcoiners who followed.
What an extraordinary and unprecedented achievement.
Heroes can help a single person. And heroes can change the world. Starting with Satoshi Nakamoto and followed by so many others, a group of heroes, armed with their minds, with their conviction, with their integrity, are doing just that. They are changing the world through this project called Bitcoin. A project started by the hero, Satoshi Nakamoto. An enterprise supported, continued and developed firstly by the early bitcoin heroes, afterwards by tens of thousands of heroes — for over 12 years so far. It will continue to be advanced by millions more in the decades to come.
Don’t tell me that there are no heroes in Bitcoin. Instead, see for yourself , that there are, there always have been, and there always will be heroes in Bitcoin.
Let Us Conclude With a Brief Epilogue:
Take a look in the mirror.
What do you see?
Do you see one of the “little guys”? Maybe? But if you choose Bitcoin, it is a little guy standing up for himself and not being a victim.
It is someone with courage, resisting wrong-doing.
It is someone fighting for what is right — Doing something that protects the weak from the powerful.
It is the face of someone doing something beyond the ordinary — something extraordinary. Someone doing their part in making a seeming impossibility possible. It is the face of someone making an idea into a reality. The idea of decentralized, non-government, engineered money that will last forever and be available without restriction to anyone, anywhere, and anytime.
Bitcoin does have heroes. If you are looking in the mirror right now, chances are you are seeing the face of one of those heroes.
So don’t tell me that there are no heroes in Bitcoin.
Just be one.