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By Yuri de Gaia
Posted June 26, 2020
Before building physical citadels, our efforts may prove more fruitful elsewhere—in the digital realm.
The word citadel is becoming so common among bitcoiners that even newcomers use it. People just get it: why fight the monstrosity that the modern nation-state is when you can start your own?
Satoshi did not blog about the evils of central banking, petition the government to review the monetary system or run for office to “change the system from the inside”. He created Bitcoin.
Similarly, opting out of the current social system and creating your own community based on shared principles may prove a lot more effective. It has been done before and it can be done again. If various groups around the world start forming citadels, chances are that at least one of them will get it right. And thus, a blueprint for many more will be available. Like with many things in life, the success of any such project depends on practice, not theory.
Is it possible, however, to start a citadel without having access to a piece of land? What if a group of individuals have already found each other in various corners of the Internet but are currently scattered around the world without an immediate way of getting together physically? I think such a group is already half-way there. Many physical outposts will be preceded by their digital counterparts. This is the way of the digital citadel.
A Digital Country
We are used to thinking of countries as physical locations with defined borders and the State apparatus as its governing body. My definition of the citadel suggests that some landmass is required, too. A lot of our citadels, however, will be newly formed communities based on shared principles and values rather than common territory, history, religion or ethnicity. While the search for the perfect lot of land continues (which may take a while), it is entirely possible to organize most aspects of the citadel life elsewhere—in the digital realm.
Online communities are common these days. Cat lovers, car aficionados, carnivores and bitcoiners regularly meet on Internet forums, in chat rooms and video-conferences. These groups are usually formed based on specific common interests. In the physical realm, meetups represent a similar idea. But our interest lies on a higher level. A meetup of steak lovers in Singapore, generally, assumes that all the participants are residents of the Singapore city-state, but not all Singaporeans are steak lovers. What we want to build is not just an interest-specific group, but an online version of Singapore, a digital country.
Individual vs Collective
First things first. What are the characteristics of classic nation-states?
“As a political model, the nation-state fuses two principles: the principle of state sovereignty, first articulated in the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which recognizes the right of states to govern their territories without external interference; and the principle of national sovereignty, which recognizes the right of national communities to govern themselves.”—Encyclopaedia Britannica
The current model, as we can see, incorporates two things: territory and the right to self-governance. We do not have the former. The latter, however, is within reach. When we talk about being able to govern ourselves, we imply collective self-determination.
The idea of collective self-determination seems to stand against individual self-determination. In anarcho-capitalist and Austrian economic circles it is often a sensitive topic. Give up some of your individual freedoms in favour of a group and you find yourself walking on thin ice. Collectivism! In my view, however, the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. The issue deals with two properties: tradeoffs and scale.
The formula is simple: the larger the scale of the group, the more tradeoffs you need to make to exist within it.
Imagine a world in which individual self-determination is all we have: eight billion self-sufficient individuals going about their business in complete independence. It is quite hard to picture because such a scenario is impossible. The moment you start a family or become friends with someone, this total freedom disappears. Suddenly, you find yourself making concessions in order to keep the relationship. Stop seeing other women if you are to have a solid marriage; sacrifice work and hobbies to spend time with your children; change your spending habits to make sure your family is well off. Such tradeoffs are already quite significant, and we are only talking about a small-scale collective unit: family, the nucleus of society.
What about your neighbourhood? Village? Town? Country? Per the formula given (and common sense), your freedom wanes with scale. There is nothing bad about it, though. Social interactions are all about tradeoffs and concessions. What matters is the ability to choose the tradeoffs that you are willing to make. And this is precisely what the classic nation-state lacks. Instead of being a service provider and protector, it reaches its ever-growing tentacles into every aspect of your daily interactions, micromanaging your life—all without your consent.
“Collective self-determination need not mean outright statehood. It could mean instead some form of autonomy or self-government within another state.”—Nationalism, Self-Determination and Secession
If a group of individuals enters into a relationship whereby they agree to follow a pre-determined set of rules, including tradeoffs and concessions characteristic of communities, we get collective self-determination. With its own hierarchy, traditions and culture, such a community engages in self-government. In Defense of the Citadel Meme provided a few examples, such as the Amish. The issue with existing self-governing collectives is that they do not have their own territory. Normally, they are located within other nation-states, and no matter how much they would like to secede and go about their business separately, the host state is unlikely to give up any of its landmass—not because it does not have any to offer, but because it will set a dangerous precedent.
Our digital citadel, therefore, is an Internet-based collective with no physical territory, organized and entered into voluntarily, the relationships in which are governed by a contractually binding set of rules.
What would set a digital citadel apart from other online communities?
As mentioned, our collective is more akin to a digital country rather than an interest-based community. Video-gamers, anime lovers and even vegans are welcome as long as they agree to follow the rules.
Personally, I would like to see the following attributes.
The Characteristics of a Digital Citadel
Being a digital country, our citadel must possess certain features that regular countries have enjoyed throughout history. At the same time, we are attempting to improve upon the legacy system, so a few innovative approaches must be expected, too.
As Hierarchy is part of Natural Order, we cannot do away with a government. However, rather than having Government, a modern amorphous entity spelled with capital G, there will be a government—a clearly defined managing body consisting of a limited number of known individuals. As I am a proponent of private government, i.e., leaders who have direct ownership of the citadel’s assets, such a country may be referred to, classically, as a kingdom, a principality or an equivalent from other cultures. A more modern name may be used or devised, including citadel itself, but traditional descriptions are very Lindy.
This government will play a very limited role. The king, like the people, will be under the law. The law, in this case, is a set of universal immutable rules that fit on a single piece of paper. As the head and proprietor of the state, the monarch only acts as a judge, not a legislator, the vast majority of relationships in the country being subject to private law. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, it is a kingdom of sovereign individuals.
Starting with small clans and ending with supra-national entities, organized people have always preferred to distinguish themselves in many ways. The use of banners and flags dates back to antiquity. In my opinion, a proper country must have a flag, a coat of arms with a motto, a national anthem, a cultural icon, national colors and some abstract symbols. In a monarchy, the head of state himself usually serves as a symbol of the nation and may make use of the dynasty’s seal or stamp, which is also associated with the country.
I believe that to unite a group of people long-term, there needs to be a common goal shared and revered by all the population. This goal must span decades or, preferably, centuries or even millenia. United around the common vision, the people of the citadel will find purpose and meaning in their lives. Being a part of something larger than yourself and directly contributing to the grand plan—this is what is missing in many people’s lives today.
To further promote unity, national traditions are required. Various events, celebrations, commemorations, competitions will elevate the spirit of the nation and invoke pride in the population.
Traditional values, such as family, community and discipline must be promoted from the young age to ensure that the citadel only grows stronger with new generations. As a root generation, we may not be perfect, but we all know that the future lies with our children.
With time, traditional art, music, theater and even fashion may develop that will reflect in outer forms the inner state of the citizens’ minds. This cultural heritage will pass from generation to generation and strengthen the bond between the people of the nation.
While the above points are not entirely new, the following is what makes a digital country different from the rest.
Unlike in traditional countries where you are bound by an invisible social contract, participation in the citadel is voluntary. Citizenship is represented by a real contract between you and the operating entity. Whether the head of state is a monarch or a President aided by a board of directors, you will never be his subject, but a member of the organization. Citizenship is membership.
As soon as you feel that you do not share the nation’s common goal, do not like its ethos or simply found a better alternative, vote with your feet. Leave. At the same time, if you choose to stay, you must abide by the laws of the citadel and expect to be kicked out if you refuse to do so. This way, management is incentivized to provide the best conditions possible to existing and potential members, and members are incentivized to be good citizens. It is as fair as it can get.
A New Renaissance
Finding a place to belong is an issue that many individuals across the world share. These rootless men would give everything to become part of something meaningful and ambitious, a place to which they could dedicate their lives. A digital citadel, a kingdom that is everywhere and nowhere at the same time, populated by real people with a shared vision of the future may be just the place.
Imagine taking a walk along a street of a foreign city and stumbling upon a person wearing a traditional dress with the insignia of your kingdom. A smile and a warm greeting will surely ensue. Before you know it, he introduces you to other citizens who live in this city. Your stay has just become a lot more pleasant.
It is not a protest or a movement. It is a new culture, a rebirth of traditional values adapted to the modern world. And some day, with enough effort, we may be able to find a piece of land or two upon which our cities will be erected. Thus will start the great consolidation, the unification of the scattered nation.
A New Renaissance is not coming by itself. It must be brought about. Do we have what it takes to make it happen?