A Laughing Matter

A Laughing Matter

Memecoins reign and in-jokes are the currency of the realm. Is crypto fundamentally dumb? Is that the whole point?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the past 12 months have been a Bad Time for crypto. It’s as if the Book of Revelation turned out to be very specifically about the crypto markets, and we’ve just seen the part where the four horsemen of the cryptocalypse (I’m thinking Do Kwon, Su Zhu, Alex Mashinsky and Sam Bankman-Fried) prance over the bones of the fallen, ushering in an age of woe and darkness and endless red candles.

If post-apocalyptic fiction is to be believed, humanity has two major responses to abject catastrophe: devout religiosity and cheerful nihilism. In crypto’s case, the former belongs to the Bitcoin maxis, our equivalent of those penitents who nail themselves to a cross just to FEEL something, dammit. And the latter belongs to the degens that took three weeks to turn a coin themed around a potentially racist frog into a (briefly) billion dollar venture.

For those staking a claim to crypto’s legitimacy, it’s a head-shaking moment. But what if this kind of silliness is the point? What if crypto is just a big joke?


Of maxis and minis

Bitcoin is, by its very nature, serious. Deviation is anathema to its design. While it was first to market with most of crypto’s dumber memes (HODL! This is gentlemen! Magic internet money! Lambo! To the moon!), they always felt an odd fit for a protocol that had value only if it remained forever unchanging. At a basic level, Bitcoin just didn’t care what you did, or how you saw it. Bitcoin simply was.

And then came the forks, the imitators, the new chains and the iterations, every one of them taking crypto further and further away from Satoshi’s true vision. To a certain breed of Bitcoin maxi, the past year’s collapse has been just punishment for the crypto community’s corruption of our Bitcoinian eden. Scour it from the world and return to the one pure chain. And if you disagree, into the pit you go!

Look, they have a point. Through all the upheaval – the bubbles, crashes, rug pulls and hacks – Bitcoin has remained solid, doing what it does, day in, day out, slowly seeping into the collective consciousness. Has it overturned mainstream finance yet? No. Will it? TBD. But there’s no denying that if things continue going south in tradfi land, Bitcoin will be around to pick up the slack, because it’s always been there and always will be.

It’s-a me, Pepe! (I think I’m doing that right)

And then you have the other major theme of the last few months – a period I’m terming The Temporary Reprieve, because do you think we’re going straight to new highs? – which is crypto at its absolute dumbest.

I’m obviously talking about Pepe, a coin that by its own admission is “completely useless”, yet has swiftly become one of the most traded tokens in the entire market and can almost single-handedly claim responsibility for reinvigorating the crypto industry. Launched [checks watch] not even two months ago, you can already buy Pepe on Binance, Coinbase and *cough* CoinJar. It has a market cap of half-a-billion dollars and there are 420,690,000,000,000 coins in existence. What have you done with your year so far?

Now when I say dumbest, I don’t mean it as a criticism. Crypto does dumb exceedingly well. Dumb is the fire that has taken a relatively academic iteration on accounting practices and turned it into one of the defining narratives of the past decade. Because dumb is fun. Dumb tells a story. Dumb builds community. Dumb spits in the face of authority and smiles while it's doing it.

Pepe is real dumb. Maybe that’s enough to save crypto – or at least give it a right kick in the ass.

And they all lived happily ever after

Throughout history, irreverence has been the language of the downtrodden and overlooked. Crypto may be yet to fulfil its promise of global financial liberation. But its excess and weirdness and sheer DGAFedness has created a fire beneath the sacred cows of finance and opened a generation to the way money is moved and used, often against us.

Crypto is going through a profound identity crisis at the moment. It needs to find new narratives, new idols and new energy before it can reclaim its ascendancy. Memecoin season may not be the narrative or idol we need, but it is energy, an ember glowing in the ash, and for now that might be enough.

As for the rest of it, well, at the end of Revelation the bad guys are cast into a Lake of Fire and after that there’s no more suffering and death. Hopefully that’s a portent of things to come. To the moon!

- Luke from CoinJar

P.S. Did you miss me? It’s gooooood to be back.

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