Rituals and myths have important sociological functions in culture; first and foremost they help achieve and maintain cohesive values, but also teach, perpetuate, and even formulate cultural norms.
We’ve been privileged to be able to witness the compressed evolution and now deconstruction of the rituals and myths of the BTC maximalist subculture.
The formation and role of culture
I’m not a sociologist or anthropologist but my study of organisational theory has led me to educate myself on the formation and role of culture with deep research into the bowels of dusty academic journals, which requires some fairly deep diving into history, anthropology, sociology, and psychology. Some of the insights I’ve gained apply across the board from the levels of neighbourhoods, Internet-bred subcultures, for and non-profit organisations, through to the rise and fall of nation-states.
Observations and insights into blockchain and Bitcoin culture
I’d like to share some very interesting observations and insights I’ve been able to discern recently being in blockchain and Bitcoin full-time for a few years now. A bit of background is necessary to understand the basis of the hypotheses I’m putting forward, which I’ll try to summarise briefly while giving you enough bibliography for further research should you be so inclined.
The worship of gods: historical vs today
Societies throughout history have had varying degrees of mandatory worship of the public’s gods, up to and including the involuntary sacrifice of life itself – and many, if not most, societies demand the sacrifice of some individuality to the group in the name of the gods. This appeals to the rulers and the ruled alike.
Fulfilling the need for belonging
For the ruler, they can build institutions that increase predictability and control. The subjects are afforded not only a sense of predictability and orderliness, but also a sense of group identity to inform the sense of self (something many have a hard time forming without seeing oneself reflected in the mirror of society), and a sense of worth that is dependent on acceptance by the group. The need for belonging is deeply wired into the species and sociological experiments confirm that we will sacrifice almost anything to maintain social credit with our peer group.
From literal to metaphorical sacrifices
The expression of these institutions has morphed from a literal sacrifice of the individual to a literal god on a bloody altar to a more metaphorical demand for ideological and behavioural compliance by the priestly caste of the culture to demonstrate one’s inclusion in the group and avoid ostracisation.
Likewise, the deflationary boom in long-range communication has allowed the dissemination of cultures to cease to be primarily geographical and ethical in favour of organising around ideologies and values.
Modern subcultures follow the formula of ancient religion
Subcultures organised around a shared value often can be spotted in the group’s shared beliefs, mannerisms, and even styles of clothing. The propagation of a culture often happens through the promulgation of its mythos and supporting rituals.
One need only look at the religious fervour of explicitly atheistic and materialistic societies of the last few centuries to see that removing literal gods from the picture does not remove the sense of sacredness around the touchstones of the group’s cultural identity as expressed through its rituals and myths.
Nor does it eliminate the fervent need to protect them from outsiders. It seems only to remove some restraints on our ability to rationalise atrocity in the name of our gods. We substitute politicians, so-called ‘experts’, scientists, and other talking heads in their ivory towers for priests cloistered in monasteries and require allegiance to their dictates.
Even the proselytic impulse to grow the culture and spread the sacred myths and rituals is maintained with or without any explicitly metaphysical layer to the group’s identity. The reasons for this make it an extremely interesting subject of study of its own, but let’s avoid that digression for now.
Reformation and self-criticism are a new beginning, not an end
Societies that do not self-police the compliance of individuals with the myths and rituals demanded by the priestly caste tend to have the core of the culture disintegrate and reform. Intuitively this would seem to spell the extinction of the culture, but the opposite seems to be the case.
Allowing individuals to question, examine, and iterate on the mythology allows for faster and smoother adaptation to the changes of the external world, which is a primary reason that liberal western cultures that are less rigid in terms of their compliance demands tend, ironically, to be more robust and better able to maintain identity over time and thus supplant more strident cultures.
The more strident and rigid a culture’s self-enforcement the more brittle the more intelligent and independent whose energy towards adaptation and improvement is not welcome to begin to break away and form competing cultures and societies that outcompete the original and thus supplant it. Counter-intuitively, the less one is required to conform and sacrifice individuality for belonging to the group the more robust and long-lasting the group seems to be.
The rise and fall of BTC maximalism
We’ve had a unique opportunity to witness some of these dynamics happening in less than one generation with the proudly toxic and highly rigid BTC maximalist subculture of diamond hand and HODL memes.
The exposure of its inner workings through its public presence on Twitter and Reddit as well as the recent evidence presented in the Magnus Granath v. Dr Criag S. Wright trial in Norway gives us the ability to trace the rise and fall of the subculture while the collapse is still in progress as its sustaining mythology is stripped away and the wider culture begins to be repulsed by the toxicity of its rituals.
Follow us for more in this series from Greg Bledsoe
Greg Bledsoe has made a career of jumping on the right bandwagon at the right time and has a 100% success rate. Starting with open source, to cybersecurity, to DevOps, business agility, to blockchain and BSV – he’s invested in the right things at the right time to arrive at this apex moment of history. A recognised thought leader in next-generation business, he now writes on blockchain technology and the Bitcoin SV ecosystem.
Bitcoin SV ecosystem contributions
We are an open community of various voices. Contribute your visions, ideas and reviews to the bitcoinsv.com news page as a guest author via our submission centre.