Two movements have been gaining momentum over the last six months or more. Both are fueled by that blind enthusiasm with which the human race dives onto the nearest bandwagon. Both have lasted far longer than anyone expected. Both have a slim chance of lasting forever and changing the lives of billions. And both have a chance of crashing and hurting a lot of people in the process.
To put Bitcoin in perspective, let’s look at the real-value stock market. It’s how people who have an actual product or service get the capital to create their businesses. Unfortunately, due to the scammers and gamblers, the stock market varies wildly, having runs and falls and booms and busts. But what always drives the stock market at the bottom line is that the businesses it is based on have real value. If their value gets bid up until it is inflated, sooner or later people start to say, “Wait a minute. This company isn’t making enough profits to deserve this price.” So they don’t buy, the market readjusts, companies become valued closer to what they are worth again, and everything calms down for a while.
The problem a few voices crying in the wilderness have brought up is that Bitcoin has nothing to sell, no real value, and therefore it is the stock market equivalent of a slot machine. Which, in case you didn’t know, is usually set to pay out about 3% to 6% winnings. Coincidentally the same return one tends to make on the stock market.
But that’s beside the point. Bitcoin is based on nothing of real value, so when it tanks, it has no bottom line to drop to. We’re all just waiting for the first digital currency to fail completely. It probably won’t be Bitcoin. Too many important (i.e. rich) people have invested in it to allow that to happen.
But the bottom line is that Bitcoin is gambling, pure and simple, and the fact that a bunch of the financial industry’s top gamblers are involved has meant that many small players are fooled into thinking there’s some kind of stability there. Sorry, gambling is one area of life where “safety in numbers” just means a whole lot more rubes getting skinned.
The interesting thing is that the present move to give women more protection against sexual predators is fueled by similar aspects of human nature, and subject to the same rules. No, I don’t mean greed. I mean people’s desire to get behind something they believe in, but fear to do so in case they get burnt. But when a lot of people are doing it, it looks much safer, so we are willing to take the risk.
This is a social phenomenon where, like the stock market, the pendulum has been swinging back and forth for years, always trending upwards. It is typified by small spurts ahead, followed by backlash where it seems that no progress has been made at all. Thus we fully expect this fad to fade, and the social credit it has been developing to be lost to some extent in the backlash and/or indifference that follows. Such is human nature, unfortunately.
What’s the Difference?
Well, it may not seem like it, but the difference between Bitcoin and #MeToo is that the movement to protect victims of harassment does have solid value. It has social value: the combined will within every citizen to do the right thing, and the agreement as to what the right thing is. Added to this is the knowledge that has been gained in the pursuit of social justice. What works and what doesn’t; that will never be lost. Plus the awareness that disadvantaged people can really stand up for themselves and win. That’s a cat that, once out of the bag, is very hard to stuff back in.
So when a large number of people feel that someone has been treated unfairly, and they decide to take action against that unfairness and actually make progress in their struggle towards that goal, the action adds to the strength of their society. The power of people’s moral fortitude and their confidence in their abilities is capital that will stand the country in good stead when difficult times return.
And So to Augury
Will Bitcoin last to become one of the tried-and-true ways of making a killing on the stock market? Oh, probably. A sucker born every minute, and all that. But it will never attain the same rapid rise as the initial blast. Unless, of course, it has a rapid fall, first.
Will #MeToo settle back and lose strength? Unfortunately, that is the probable outcome. The obvious targets will get used up. The media will go on to the next story. The legal charges will get bogged down in the courts and discouraged by lack of success. Abusers will be driven underground and become smarter criminals, more careful to protect themselves. However, the social gains made are solid, and when the next upsurge of support for a disadvantaged group comes, it will be just that little bit easier to make even more progress.
Support for the harassed will slowly grow to become a time-honoured plank in progressive political platforms. People who believe in more fairness will get elected, change the laws and the court procedures, and the whole of society will become less abusive, fairer, and just a better place to live.
Now, that’s a dream worth holding on to.