Our Word feature this month is Bitcoin’s power couple Hodlonaut and Bitcoin Katia, the masterminds behind the glorious Bitcoin-zine, Citadel21, and stalwarts of the Bitcoin space.
Personally I got onto twitter very late. I had been trying to rid myself of any social media ties and had purposefully stayed away from Twitter, despite being in Bitcoin a couple of years at that point. When I joined in January ’19 I was immediately drawn to Hodlonaut’s account.
Fellow Scandi, clearly a solid Bitcoiner but mostly I was struck by his inclusiveness.
He was sending sats to anyone with a tippin.me address to try out the LN, me included, and soon after it morphed into the LN Trust Chain, which was an incredible initiative and fun and encouraging to observe. In fact, for me it was rivalled only by Plan B’s S2F model for the most bullish moment of 2019!
I have followed both of these two cool cats since my early Twitter days and have always appreciated their involvement, good takes and friendly but reassuringly assertive ways when encountering nocoiners and bad takes. They are in no small part responsible for me being here now. So blame them!
Like lots of you, I have been inspired and amazed with what they have managed to create with Citadel 21. Lots of really great writing, a cypher punk ethos and fantastic 8bit style graphics.
What I appreciate more than anything, though, is that it has given a platform and a voice to lots of regular, but super eloquent and deep thinking plebs. This is where I first became familiar with the work of Croesus, Erik Cason and Dim Zayan, to mention but a few.
THE INTERVIEW 1/3
Bitcoin culture vanguards and on the frontier of an already pioneering field, they would be forgiven for struggling to remember a time before Bitcoin. After all, one year in Bitcoin is like ten years in normie time. What in their life and upbringing primed them to receive and latch on to Bitcoin when they were exposed to it?
"As far as I remember myself it was always a hard economic situation in Ukraine. The situation with our local currency was always so bad.
We were used to storing our money, not in the local currency, but in euros and dollars. It was pretty normal to store stacks of dollars, if you had any money, under you mattress. "
Katoshi aka Katia grew up in Ukraine around the time it declared its independence from the Soviet Union. While she wouldn’t have been conscious of it at the time, fiat and failed central bank monetary policy accompanied her in her earliest years and must have left an indelible mark on her. Like a sound money Harry Potter, forever marked by fiat. Even if those first early years didn’t, there were plenty more economic disasters, monetary resets and currency devaluations to leave a mark later on.
"Since the early 90s every 5 years something happened. Then 2008 which really affected my family and the business we had a lot. Then in 2013 the war started between Ukraine and Russia and the local currency just tanked so badly. I remember that overnight my salary was cut in two and I just remember thinking ‘what do I do now?’ "
These types of events followed her into her adolescence and adulthood. When you grow up with regular currency devaluations and economic crises as a backdrop the lack of trust in, and scepticism of, a centrally controlled economy is baked in.
Her father, an IT architect, experienced having to quickly sell his motor cycle after the currency tumbled overnight as well as losing the family business. For many of us who chase the NGU tech often don’t realise that value proposition Bitcoin poses for so many people around the world.
It won’t take very long to sell the value of Bitcoin to someone who is used to navigating the uncertain seas of regular currency devaluation. It doesn’t take the promise of 10x gains to see the value of simply storing value over time. Given his lived experience as well as his professional knowledge Katia’s dad first discovered Bitcoin as far back as 2009.
"My dad was an IT architect. He was very much into computers and coding. He was talking about Bitcoin very early. The earliest me and my mum remember is most probably around 2009. Of course we didn’t pay attention to that. I’m sure it’s something extraordinary but ‘cool story bro’."
A remarkable story of, what I’m sure was, a remarkable man. Sadly he lost his keys in an office clear out. Books, paper work, schematics and pages full of thoughts and ideas is a hazardous environment for one little slip of 12 words, more precious than gold, scribbled in pen.
It felt like a gut punch just hearing Katia recount that particular anecdote but somehow, easy as it is watching on from the sideline, it strikes me that Katia’s lived experience, not only primed her for Bitcoin but provided her with some of the most profound lessons in the why’s and how’s of Bitcoin.
Meanwhile in stable, socially democratic Norway, Hodlonaut grew up in the most prosperous and abundant time in his nation’s history. There weren’t huge economic crises to inspire thoughts of monetary separation from the state. Nevertheless the seeds were sown early.
An independent and curious character and son of an outdoorsman, he was brought up to questions things. As the son of a tough Scandinavian outdoorsman myself, I recognise the dose of ‘fuck your narrative’ this can inject in your veins. He became interested in gaming and computers with the launch of Commodore 64 and as his interest in the digital world developed he got involved in programming. As gamers of this vintage will remember, there was a huge trend in pirating games and Hodlonaut was involved in this early Europe wide, decentralised, P2P network. Kids sending games, and lists of pirated games available, to each other across the continent.
"When I first read about Bitcoin it resonated with me instantly. I was a huge fan of torrent technology. I was amazed by the concept and power of decentralisation and how hard and impossible it was for authorities to get rid of PirateBay for example."
THE INTERVIEW 2/3
This echoed again later with the rise of torrent technology and again Hodlonaut was not just taking advantage of the technology, like so many of us, but also became excited about the power of decentralisation and the ways in which it is so hard to shut down a decentralised platform like Pirate Bay.
Around the same time the aftermath of 9/11 started to raise a lot of questions, which in turn led to discoveries about fractional reserve banking and global central banking. So when he first encountered Bitcoin, reading about it in an online publication years later, he was already primed to take it onboard and immediately became fascinated by it. This is also why the 21m supply cap resonated so strongly and the thought of being able to own any percentage of the overall supply, without permission, while taking the power of money production back from central banks, was an emancipating thought.
"The freedom this thought brought me even though obviously Bitcoin’s success wasn’t a given at the time. The promise was just so fucking big my conviction was immediately set in stone and this conviction hasn’t faltered at any point in time since the day I discovered Bitcoin."
Scandinavians have a real herd mentality. This is born out of them being small nations and politically socialist. I forever remember the cultural marxism of growing up there. When Carharrt hoodies were a trend, every-single-fucking-kid was wearing them, then it was NorthFace gilets etc etc. Every household has the same Scandinavian designer furniture. Most middle aged women have the same middle-aged woman haircut and trendy glasses. In fact, it is even written into cultural law via the “Jantelov” which states that no-one should think they are better than the rest. No-one should rise above others.
I digress, but was compelled to illustrate just how big of a realisation that must have been to an independently minded young person growing up in this culturally marxist and politically socialist environment. In a sense it represents the first opportunity to truly be yourself. It’s huge!
"There is a reason we end up talking about cult and religion. There is a very strong esoteric aspect to Bitcoin and the journey you take. It’s really mind-blowing to me, the type of change we are set to affect and how all the things that were just wild hopium dreams a few years ago are now actually happening in front of our eyes. Things few would believe a few years ago are happening every day now. It feels to me like we are creating reality as we go."
THE INTERVIEW 3/3
Bitcoin has a way of first imposing an intellectual gravity on you, which in-turn morphs into a moral gravity of sorts. We are many that think and speak about this – the power of Bitcoin to, not just make sense of the world, but the way in which it propagates action and inspires output of various sorts. Like disciples of the most profound, we go forth and perpetuate the knowledge and wisdom of Bitcoin in the ways we know how and see fit. This is what led Hodlonaut to start the LN Trust Chain and what led him to speak out against Craig Wright (with a resulting legal case that is still ongoing). This is what led a young woman, marked by economic crises, to take agency of her own destiny. This is what led two Bitcoiners to the same place and fall in love. In turn it is what led to what we are celebrating today, Citadel21!
" No one is paying us or the writers to spread certain words or narratives, because there is a feasible, applicable to life value, worth more than money itself. Across the globe, there’s a thing that literally changes people’s lives and Citadel21 is focused on exposing it."
The knowledge and wisdom shared by Citadel21 will in turn permeate more minds, sharpen resolves, inspire more action and give agency to more people to speak they minds. This is one of the many incredible things about Bitcoin and Bitcoin culture – it’s like looking at the most incredible domino setup and watching each piece take down the next.
Like the time chain of Bitcoin itself, Citadel21 continues to propagate new “blocks” of truth, backed by a decentralised network of the power of the cyber hornet hive mind.
The story of Bitcoin’s two favourite cats is as beautiful as it is inspiring but by no means is it unique. We will all recognise elements of their journey in our own lives. We all share the same faith and confidence in this new, radically different, parallel system. We all have the same need to proliferate the knowledge and wisdom of Bitcoin but few of us have found a way to contribute to the eco system the way Hodlonaut and Katia have. They have inspired me and everyone here at 21ism to get off zero when it comes to giving back, to building and to making culture in all its beauty be the Trojan horse for Bitcoin.
Love and respect, cats!
WHY WE ARE HERE
Most people only see the surface. They are rarely motivated to go deep down rabbit holes.
Narratives about Bitcoin were, and still are split into two camps. You either get it or you don’t. The Bitcoin journey is one of moving forward, shedding myths and misunderstandings, feeding on insight sparks from veterans and fellow newly re-born normie minds, slowly approaching the revolutionary reality paradigm Bitcoin is unveiling.
We look at the data and put our arguments on weights for the goddess of Justice to make an evaluation. We know that most people are worried about recession, the future of their kids and an oncoming economic destruction. Traditional money loses value, and parents teach their kids that happiness is not in how much money you have, knowing that the economic outlook for the next decades is bleak. Mentally they’re preparing to be poor. Why are we supposed to have to go through this? Is economic struggle and uncertainty the reason we were brought into this world? The whole planet, not only developing countries, has lost trust in the monetary system. Despite this, the money printers continue to brrr, further compounding the problem.
You will never read about the real issues in a newspaper. Most people will never even discuss it with friends or family. They simply lack basic knowledge and are conditioned to rely on official sources of information for narratives and solutions.
People tend to value friend’s and family’s opinions more than anyone else’s. We are human. Even if our minds and hearts were blocked by cold and monotonous ephemeral authoritarian voices telling us what is right and what is wrong we are still humans – we love what is warm, cosy, light-hearted and sincere. We also love applicable to life theories, as we want to be practical. The truth is that we absolutely love to dream big, but we need to be realistic about smelling the strong fumes of the failure of global monetary principles. We desperately want to find a solution, a way out of this mess, but no one seems to have a proper coordinate locating it. At the same time many find it extremely hard to stop believing that our overlords have the solutions.
When we talk with our friends and families on the sidelines we often find unity. In the corridors and at dinner tables, in the middle of the party, in chats and during calls we agree on at least one thing – something needs to change.
Citadel21 is a space for light-hearted and sincere talk about Bitcoin, the vehicle that promises to bring more change, hope and disruption than anything before it. Citadel21 is brought to the world by people just like everyone else, me and you; striving for good, wanting to remain grounded, real and loving. Citadel21 is not a scientific paper, not an institution proposing some kind of sophisticated modeling, not an authority. Citadel21 is real people with real life stories, just like our inner and outer lives; serious, foolish, inspiring, anxious, desperate, ambitious, dreamy, realistic, happy, useless, silent, ranting, lost, faithful… But these stories have a common answer, as if thousands of separate stars splattered across the night sky suddenly formed a clear and never before seen constellation.
These are sincere stories people want to share and hear. These stories never tell that you are not good enough to understand them, or what you have to think or what you have to do. People like you and me simply have no agenda to do so. No one is paying us or the writers to spread certain words or narratives, because there is a feasible, applicable to life value worth more than money itself. Across the globe, there’s a thing that literally changes people’s lives and Citadel21 is focused on exposing it. This thing is Bitcoin, and Citadel21 is a Bitcoin-only zine. The perception of what Bitcoin is and what Bitcoin contains and consists of is constantly expanding. Not known to many yet, it also comes with a vivid culture around it. That is why Citadel21 exists.
It all happened rather spontaneously, out of the pure urge to speak out and point to the severe flaws of our societal order leaking from the broken monetary system.
Looking back at how we started Citadel21, it seems like it was already programmed there for us, and, probably, could only happen within a love story tandem. Love seems to be a strong driver for creation. All the crucial internal mind work was done separately by the two cats through the years of their own development, the lives they had, the books they read, the changing cultural values they saw and cultural representations they consumed, the people they knew. Collision took place. There is something magical in manifesting with someone you love. There were no long discussions, brainstormings or long preparations – it was just two cats wanting to bring something to this world without caring about success or failure. Twitter was showing its weaknesses: larping influencers and cringe takes from big accounts took most of the bandwidth, and the real pleb signal had a hard time breaking through the informational clutter. There was no Bitcoin-only publication. The niche was available. A zine format was a very natural way of grassroot, subcultural voices expressing themselves for both of the cats – Katoshi had fond memories of anarchist, anti-globalist and punk zines; Hodlonaut the same with computer and football zines.
In January 2020 we started to work on establishing a Bitcoin-only zine. Plenty of work had to be done around the final concept and branding. We had to answer several fundamental questions whether it should be a monthly released pdf-file with articles, poetry and art, a whole website or a paper zine; and what will be the stylistics? Remember when everything was new, revolutionary and exciting? Old games nostalgia, cypher- (and cyber-) punk esthetics were a no-brainer and led to pixel art vector and CGA graphics. Logotype and naming were the hardest parts. We didn’t want to sound generic digging into Bitcoin memes out there, but wanted a name to describe a united community of like-minded people – determined, faithful and standing up for their beliefs. After going through various options, from those more suitable for Bitcoin wallets or financial portals and those resembling porn sites (we still laugh at Toxies21 option, which reminds us about Bitcoin Tinder), we settled on Citadel21. Logotype flawlessly appeared from the naming, sealing the concept perfectly: a tower, a shining star through the night, 21 Million reference.
We bought a domain and were ready to launch the very first volume. Being all set up, until the end we were not sure if anyone would like to write a piece. We would be happy to have just a few articles. Amazing things happened later: many of our acquaintances greeted the idea with enthusiasm, as now there is a platform for sharing knowledge, opinions about Bitcoin and experience not limited to 280 symbols. Citadel21 is pretty much like Bitcoin’s blockchain itself: it is backed by the enormous mind power of Bitcoiners, who keep it going by producing new pieces and sharing content with friends and family.