Writer and Bitcoin activist Meghan Kellison-Lords (or M.K. Lords) has been doing some great work down in the Florida panhandle in the southern US.
She currently serves as the editor of Bitcoin Not Bombs, which promotes Bitcoin and financial freedom by helping launch NGOs and social entrepreneurs. Additionally, she volunteers at Sean’s Outpost
and writes at a number of outlets on the currency’s potential to empower and free communities worldwide.
We had a chance this week to speak with Lords about her work and her thoughts on Bitcoin.
Cointelegraph: I wanted to first ask about your experience at a precious metals brokerage. How did you first get interested in precious metals? Was it a similar interest that led you to cryptocurrencies?
M.K. Lords: After being involved in political activism through the Ron Paul 2008 campaign, I became disillusioned with the political process, but it led me to further study libertarian/anarchist philosophy and monetary policy. My interest in precious metals came out of an appreciation of sound money and the principles that go along with that. I realized cryptocurrencies made the philosophic voluntary society a practical possibility and encouraged healthy competition among currencies that we desperately need. I also view them as a way for the millennial generation to find financial freedom.
CT: You volunteer for Sean’s Outpost, which Blockchain just did a nice piece on. You’ve had a tough time recently with local officials in Pensacola. What can you tell us about that?
MKL: Yes, the city council passed a camping ordinance that outlawed camping on public property; this disproportionately affected the homeless population. As a reaction, Sean's Outpost concentrated on finding the homeless that were spread out and delivering food to their secluded camps. City police and code enforcement would harass the homeless from time to time, and a few months ago even stole blankets from them as freezing weather was approaching. I dubbed this event Blanketgate, and it got national attention, which embarrassed the City of Pensacola and led to them overturning the blanket ban section of the ordinance. It is still illegal to camp.
After it was revealed that Jason King obtained Satoshi Forest
and planned to turn it into a campground where people in need can stay, some of the county commissioners were upset. We have been to three hearings so far trying to get through the permitting process, but have received pushback from the county. I even caught them on video conspiring to replace the magistrate who oversees our case so they could find someone more amenable to their side. Basically, neither the city nor county want to address this growing problem and are actively trying to shut us down despite us not using any taxpayer money, government grants, and using private property. The video got over 150,000 views.
We are dealing with a culture of dirty politics that Pensacola natives are well familiar with.
CT: Sean’s Outpost also began advertising locally to sort of showcase what volunteer Bitcoin donations can do. How has that message been received in Pensacola?
MKL: We are in the process of putting up billboards and park benches to raise awareness about Sean's Outpost's work to help the homeless. I also recorded a commercial highlighting Bitcoin charities that has been very well received. So far, from just the press we have received in regard to Satoshi Forest locally and through Al Jazeera and Bitcoin Not Bombs, there has been a very positive reception. Many people are upset that the county commissioners want to stop us.
CT: You mentioned previously that you are most concerned with what cryptocurrencies can do for remittances and direct action. How are cryptocurrencies changing those two things?
MKL: Right now, Western Union charges as much as 14% to send money to the poorest parts of the world, and 30% of Mexico's GDP is remittances. These companies, especially Western Union, are making a killing off of poor people who move to more prosperous countries to provide for their families back home, and it's awful.
You see Western Union signs everywhere bragging that you can send $50 anywhere in the US for a $5 fee. It is ridiculous when you consider that Bitcoin allows you to transfer value instantly, worldwide, for 1% or less in fees. Bitcoin can help the poorest people here and in other countries get money to their families affordably, and this directly undercuts usurious money transfer services.
In regard to direct action, one of the best examples is Sean's Outpost. Mike Kimberl of Sean’s Outpost came from Food Not Bombs, a direct action-based homeless outreach, and Bitcoin has allowed people to be fed instantly, as the funds are quick to arrive and easy to be turned into cash for food. It's also helped homeless people accumulate funds through working for Bitcoin so that they can get into homes — so far 10 people in the last year have made it into homes.
Bitcoin is also great for a wide variety of activism even globally. Fr33 Aid
helped hundreds of people in the Philippines through Bitcoin donations, and the immediacy of the funds allowed them to help people quickly while PayPal was still trying to prevent funds from being transferred. When you can send value to someone anywhere in the world, you can be engaged in direct action helping that person. I envision a future where this is the norm for how we help each other.
CT: In your interview with Chris Ellis, you said a great deal of your work involves essentially counteracting what you called propaganda — narratives such as Bitcoin being a tool for drug dealers, etc. How effective are stories like that of Sean’s Outpost in countering those narratives?
MKL: I think they vary in effectiveness. At some conferences, you see the charity aspect tucked away in a corner or removed completely to focus on regulations and how people can make money on investing in Bitcoin. I think this is unfortunate because many people assume Bitcoin is all about hacks, making a lot of money and buying drugs.
Bitcoin has an image problem in that regard, and it must be counteracted with feel-good stories. Everyone likes good news, and Bitcoin charities bring the best news about Bitcoin that can help soften the public to what is still a complicated concept to grasp.
It also humanizes technology, and people want something they can empathize with. I think bringing charity to the forefront of Bitcoin like you've seen with the Dogecoin community will make our counter-propaganda more effective, but also just talking about it and getting the word out through advertising and blog posts.
In Pensacola, it has been very effective because Bitcoin is directly associated with homeless outreach whereas in larger financial sectors it may not be the focus.