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Bitcoin is Freedom: Alex Gladstein and Panelists Speak on Financial Privilege and Liberation

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Onstage at Bitcoin 2022 in Miami, Chief Strategy Officer at the Human Rights Organization Alex Gladstein led a conversation with activists Yeonmi Park, Farida Nabourema, and Fadi Elsalameen on the theme “Bitcoin is Freedom.” In it, the speakers shared alternative experiences from smaller economies, offering fresh perspectives on the development of Bitcoin globally.

Yeonmi Park, who escaped from North Korea with her family at the age of thirteen, recounted stories from North Korea’s economic collapse in the 1990s.

“Growing up in North Korea, I still remember when I was young, the government was telling people that you should deposit money in the bank,” she said. “And then people did, because we trusted our dear leader, he was a god to us.”

“Once we put our money in the bank account, it was locked. Nobody could get their money out of their bank account, only people who had connections to bankers and government officials could get their money out.”

For Park, early memories of financial struggle set the context for her interest in Bitcoin as a tool for liberation. She went on to share the story of her mother’s best friend, who hid her life savings from the government only to lose them in a fire.

Farida Nabourema, meanwhile, is a human rights advocate from Togo, who has been fighting for democracy since she was a teenager. She spoke about the ways that centralized banks exerted political influence over French-speaking Africa, ultimately culminating in a turbulent military takeover in her home country.

Fadi Elsalameen is a Palestinian activist, who talked about the different concepts of money in the US and in Palestine.

“If you leave this panel with one thing about Palestine,” he said, “I want you to replace in your minds the Free Palestine slogan with Bitcoin Palestine. Because I really do think that’s the future.”

The talk was introduced by a line-art animated video targeting the anti-Bitcoin rhetoric of American billionaires like Bill Gates, Charlie Munger, and Warren Buffet.

“I know that for a lot of you, Bitcoin is about number go up,” said Gladstein. “...but Bitcoin is also about freedom go up. It’s about how a new monetary technology can help liberate people around the world who are stuck in horrible, horrible situations.”

Adan Kohnhorst is a globally-based writer and producer with a focus on alternative culture and emerging ideas. He’s a founding member of Shanghai-based media outlet RADII, and the founder of Mind Body Globe, a blog covering intersections of travel and wellbeing.

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