I’m in an airport. I’ve been in an airport all afternoon. Airports are terrible places, vacant and uninteresting, where people only go to get out of them as soon as they possibly can, and the height of misery is being compelled to stay in one longer than planned. But I find a moment of grimdark happiness in reading an article by Laurie Penny, in which she is trapped in an even worse place: a cruise ship. And just to double-down…a cruise ship full of cryptocurrency fanatics.
On this half-empty passenger ship with its swirling ’80s carpets right out of The Shining, there is very little sober talk of blockchain’s obstacles or limitations. Nobody mentions how wildly ecologically unsound the whole project is—some estimates have bitcoin burning as much energy as the entire nation of Ireland for a relatively small pool of users. Instead, the core and only existential question is which of the various coins and ICOs (initial coin offerings) will make you the richest the fastest before dawn.
Freedom here means freedom of money, and only freedom of money—and what freedom of money means is the freedom to amass great stocks of it without being taxed or traced. Occasionally, people even talk about this on panels, though nobody is really here for the conference part of the conference.
At least nobody in this airport is talking incessantly about money…or rather, there are such people, but they roam the place like Martians, easily avoided because they wear bluetooth ear-pieces and their mouths constantly move as they prowl about, focused entirely on the conversation they find so important. Nobody talks to much of anyone here. They move. They squat next to precious electrical outlets. They hover morosely over luggage they’ve been warned will be confiscated if they leave it untended.
Another thing we lack, mostly, in airports is women in obvious bondage.
One of the ways men bond is by demonstrating collective power over women. This is why business deals are still done in strip clubs, even in Silicon Valley, and why tech conferences are famous for their “booth babes.” It creates an atmosphere of complicity and privilege. It makes rich men partners in crime. This is useful if you plan to get ethically imaginative with your investments. Hence the half-naked models, who are all working a lot harder than any of the guys in shirtsleeves.
The cruise’s panelists all tout decentralization’s promises of shared responsibility, community, and freedom, but the version I see here means that nobody knows precisely who is responsible for all of this. It’s nobody’s specific fault that we’re trapped on a floating live-action walkthrough of how un-trammelled free-market capitalism can be bad for women, given that money and power are things women tend to have less of.
See? It could be worse, I tell myself, while checking the clock again for that moment of transition when I get to leave the land of dull carpet and interminable chairs to be confined in a tube with virtually no freedom to move for 3 hours.
48 minutes to boarding, O Blessed Sweet Relief from Waiting.
No, I don’t want a lecture from John McAfee to ease the boredom.