I think it started as a joke.
I’ve always considered that when you’re into politics, you have to treat your opponents with the respect you’d like to be given. You should always hear them out and try to see where they’re coming from. I believed that most conflicts were essentially communication problems, and a rational debate could solve almost anything.
I found out very quickly that it was naive of me. Just because you listen to someone doesn’t mean they’d listen back. Not everybody was respectful. Heck, I think not everybody was even rational enough to have a civilized discussion. Maybe they lacked elementary logic skills, or something…
My stance was to try and be the better person, be as virtuous as I could. If nothing else, I could still look at myself in the mirror. But sometimes, I’m telling you, it was damn hard…
I think I was doing a pretty good job. At debates or at events, it wasn’t rare to see people from the association get carried away and start yelling. Every now and then, a fight broke off. That’s probably to be expected when you’re dealing with subjects so close to people’s hearts and decisions that affect daily life. You don’t need to have the whole world at stake to have a strong opinion.
I was the one calming everybody down, mediating fights, trying to bring back order. Does that make me a hypocrite now? Was it just a disgusting make-belief facade to hide behind? I don’t think so… I mean I’ve always been an advocate for free speech, to let all the facts be known, all the opinions be considered, and let everyone make up their own mind. I believed in democracy and the wisdom of collaboration. In the end, it’s what it has always been about.
I realised that no matter how composed I was, no matter how patient and diligent, some people just will not listen. They’ll stay on their stance and shut themselves off. How could one move further with this kind of attitude? What did you expect to build? What kind of collaboration could this one way street yield?
It’d be one thing to have these people out in the wild, but it’s a whole other to have them in charge. They were the type to get hooked on power, and more often than not they’d want to keep it. I guess it couldn’t be helped. Iit was a major pain to anyone who wanted to make the world a better place. But hey, what can you do? I made a point of trying to work around them and to ignore them. When you’re playing for the long term goal, you have to be able to take small defeats every now and then.
See the biggest problem was these people harnessing power. They were elected representatives, whose goal was to put up a front nice enough to keep their place. Thanks to them, politics were just a stage, a game of smoke and mirrors. If only their schemes could be exposed… Taking money here, using their influence there… it looked almost as if all of them were corrupt to some extent. No wonder that the abstention figures were so high… People simply couldn’t trust anyone.
I couldn’t fathom for the life of me how at this day and age we hadn’t moved to true democracy. Get rid of the middle man. I mean with internet, it was easy enough to build discussion spaces and votes. Of course, there were security questions involved, but surely if we found a way to use it for banking then voting wouldn’t be so hard, would it? And then we could finally vote on every decision, and be a sovereign people as we were so often promised we already were.
– I mean if we could use the advances of technology for civic issues as easily as they do for consumerism, who even knows where we’d be right now?
– Elen, you know they don’t care about that enough to make it happen.
– Then we should make it happen ourselves!
– Look around you, does it look like anyone here could do that?
And of course, it didn’t. Everyone in our little association had a smartphone. We had a facebook page and even a small website that we were running. But that was it. The extent of our joined technological knowledge was the ability to post a news message on our blog.
But that was a project I was passionate about, and it seemed pretty clear that the world needed it. So I pulled out my sleeves and started to get to it. Little by little, I read tutorials, met people on message boards, dabbled with programming.
Of course I spent most of my time in the real world, but I was making definite progress. I built a little message board for the citizens of the town to exchange idea, but it didn’t get the success I hoped it would.
I had built a section for every political figure, so that we could keep permanent records of their misdeeds. It wasn’t much, but a few people like me were passionate enough to keep filling in information. I had to moderate the occasional conspirationist, but on the whole it started to paint a pretty decent picture of the behind the scenes of the political landscape. I had started a little community.
Meanwhile the world was still ruled by these uncaring empty shadows, that the people blindly followed and cheered on. I admit that sometimes it was infuriating to see their rhetorical tricks have more success than my open platform. But little by little, my forum gained momentum. Every unpoplar decision brought us more followers. I rallied people in the streets, at protests, at meetings.
– It doesn’t have to be that way. We’re building towards a better future, where your voice would be heard.
I figured that when I had reached a critical mass of participants, we could have a real impact on the system, and ultimately replace it. Maybe it was naive of me, but things like that have a way of working themselves out. It was about putting the power back where it belonged, in the hands of the people. Ultimately, the people always win, like in the French revolution. Justice would prevail.
But my beautiful ideals had yet to transform the real world. What we were doing, for now, were just words. Lots and lots of words on empty pages. Already, there were posts calling for some drastic actions.
"nthing is ever going to change if we keep sitting behind our keyboards..."
"u need to make something happen!!!!"
"WE NEED A REVOLUTION"
It was really hard to keep a leash on the aggressive tendencies of men, especially when their anger was so justified. But I made a point for our community to remain civil and peaceful. We had right on our side.
The worst part was that despite the records of their worst actions kept publicly available, you’d still see the same faces over and over in the media, stirring up the crowds with promises. Lots and lots of words in empty speeches. Were we the only ones seeing what was really happening? Or was the system so strong and so corrupt that nothing could be done?
Why was that mayor reelected, when it was known that a decent amount of taxpayer money disappeared around his administration? He had no redeeming qualities, no use, no purpose, and yet he had power.
"The world would be a better place without assholes like this..."
"he shouldnt be allowed to exist"
"plz just KILL him once and for all him and get it over with!"
Yes, it started out as an innocent joke, a crazy concept casually mentionned behind the cover of anonimity. But it sparked a conversation.
"ahaha there are places on the internet that can make that happen xD"
"You're joking, right?"
"nah it's true, look up TOR ;)"
Despite my responsibility to moderate the flow of incoming messages, I couldn’t help myself. I guess I was driven by some kind of unhealthy curiosity. But after all, I was home alone behind my computer screen. Who was I hurting by looking up some information?
And I started to learn about TOR, about the darknet, its currencies and its platforms. It was really fascinating the level of freedom that total anonymity offered. And yet, instead of the expected anarchy, you’d find an extremely well organized place.
With public records and anonymity, your worth was basically the reputation of your pseudonym. If you were to scam someone, it would inevitably be known and you’d be cut out of the loop. On top of the expected chaos had risen a self-organised society, which I was forced to recognize was a better working democracy than anything we came up with in the real world ever since Athens.
The downside, though, was that it was mainly focused on illegal activities, and it wasn’t long before I found out that bounty hunters were actually a thing. You could actually ask for someone to be killed for a couple of grands. Of course, the price rose drastically the harder the target. But there it was, in front of my eyes.
I have to admit it’s hard to stay composed when faced with the possibility to end a life by a couple of clicks, completely protected from any fallback. I did not dare check the reviews and portfolios bragging about past achievements. I simply closed the window and went back to the chatroom, in hope to redirect the conversation to less edgy topics. But the discussion had already started escalating. I read fearfully:
"nobody has that kind of money lol"Reading the ideas scrolling by in front of my eyes, I did not think much of it. It seemed like a casual conversation for people to unwind, a silly catharsis from a rotten system. How could I have guessed that someone would actually build it?
"nobody ever does, but I bet if it's for the good cause, we can convince people to donate"
"+1 everybody is sick of that jerk"
"you want to organize a campaign?"
"oh yeah, right, just go out and be like: yo gimme cash to kill the mayor"
"idk but we could organize some kind of cash pool on TOR, and anons could donate. i did that for my sister's bday gift"
"not on TOR obviously"
"for my sis I mean"
"that's actually not a bad idea"
"fuck that, if im sending money i want to kill at least the president"
"you wanna have cash pools for everyone?"
"we could have votes though to decide how the cash is used"
"let me get this straight you wanna crowdfund an assassination?"
"why not, crowdfunding is all the hype now. They got fucking millions for fucking youtube shows, we'd be making the world a better place"
"are you insane? you srsly wanna make a kickstarter for bounty hunters"
"more like KILLstarter lmao"
I don’t know which of them did it. I don’t know if I could have stopped it. All I know is that I didn’t even try. I had no idea what was going on. I only found out a couple of days later that a new onion link was advertised on our forums. I didn’t have to follow it to know what it was.
The presentation was really attractive. They had copied the design of kickstarter, as a joke. They had up to date bounties for all the rotten politicians and you could spread your cash between the different pools you were interested in. They even partnered up with a bitcoin mixer for convenience. I’m ashamed to say that it really made me want to participate.
Of course, I did not. But some people did. And there was nothing I could do to prevent that. Once something is set free on the internet, removing it is impossible. It was only a matter of days before the first cash pool was filled, and the media would report the suspicious disappearance of a right wing extremist.
The worst part of it was that no one complained. Even I had to admit that the selection process was democratic and fair. Everyone was free to place their opinions, bitcoins acting as the measure of value, and designate who was good riddance. Nevermind the persons behind the facades, the friends or family they left behind. The cleansing went on and on, and maybe on some level it was for the best.
The political landscape started to change. Less lies, less promises, more transparency. Politicians would fear the consequences of their actions. At first it seemed like a win for democracy, but I quickly realized that things were never as simpled as they seemed. You could see looming over society the reign of fear. Nobody dared to speak up. Less and less people would engage into politics, and those who did were too afraid to do anything.
That’s when I realized that this had gone too far, and I felt at least partially responsible for it. This system was not the salvation we wanted and hoped for. It was just about replacing an opressor by another one. I started voicing my concerns… I should have known that the system would react.
Pretty soon I was on the top of the hitlist. In the past week, I’ve seen the figure in my cash pool steadily rising. It’s a weird feeling seeing on your screen that the world does not want you anymore. Fair enough, I guess I will comply to the will of the people. Not that there is anything else I can do…
So as my final words I beg of you, please listen to reason. It appears to me pretty clearly that I don’t have much longer to live. I do not ask to be spared. I guess I have to pay for my part of responsibility in all this… But please take a deep look at society and yourselves. Is this what you wanted? Is this what we fought for? Is this what happens when you give voice to the people? Is that really what human nature is?
I have no hope of being saved. But let my death be a warning to you. It’s not too late. It never is. The system is not guiding mankind towards a better and more just world. It’s only guiding it to apathy. Let my story be told as a reminder. Please, react.
I think it started as a joke.