A negative balance? Just when I was about to withdraw rent money?
Yes, it appeared that someone had attempted to steal from me. And, in the short term, they had succeeded. Someone had written a check in my name for a couple thousand dollars to try to buy a car. Now, mind you, I can’t remember ever using a check in my eight-plus years since opening that bank account. I barely used the account at all since I had started making all my money in Bitcoin. The only reason I was using it this time was to liquidate some cryptocurrency for rent, since I had procrastinated about selling it for cash. But that one small interaction with the banking system was all it took to somehow make me feel its worst inefficiencies. I called the number provided on the website, was on placed on hold for a half-hour, then transferred to another number and another half-hour hold time, until at last I was sent to the third and final banking representative… complete with another 30-minute hold. They agreed to reverse the charge, but said it would take until the end of the business day. After the bank closed, of course.
To summarize: Someone tried to buy a car by scribbling something on a piece of paper I never touched, said it meant that my money was behind it, and some bank just went and gave them more of my money than I had in my account. And I spent almost 100 minutes on the phone and had to wait until the next day to get it reversed. For $12 per month. When I was already using cryptocurrency and getting more functionality than a bank for free.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had had it. The next day I went into the nearest bank branch, withdrew the rest of my money, and closed the account, exiting the banking world for good.
Being unbanked as a source of freedom
I am now unbanked. That very word evokes images of human rights organizations passionately pleading on behalf of grubby migrant workers forced to deal with predatory check cashing services, cut off from the marvels of the modern financial world. Saying you’re unbanked is like saying you don’t have a car, don’t vote, don’t have a smartphone, and probably live in a hut with a spear as your only technological advancement to help you survive in this cruel world. Say you’re unbanked on purpose, though, and people will look at you like you’re insane.
But it’s not insane. There’s nothing wrong with deciding not to have one giant corporation in control of the product of your labor for the rest of your existence. What’s insane is leaving the unaccountable and mandated Federal Reserve in control over the value of your savings, while trusting an institution that reports your every financial move to the government with all your earnings. The same government that blows all your tax money on bombing wedding parties half a world away, and will be happy to arbitrarily drain your account of all funds, with no warning, and certainly no recourse.
In reality, I’m not so much unbanked as I am post-banked. By going full Bitcoin, I’m not stashing gold ingots in my basement, bartering with clam shells and bushels of apples while the rest of the world remains light years ahead of me. It’s actually the opposite. I’ve jumped to a financial plane of existence where I can send money to anyone anywhere, and they can do the same, in the blink of an eye, with extremely low fees and no centralized control. And if I get tired of Bitcoin someday, I can always switch to any of the hundreds of alternative cryptocurrencies out there, provided I can find someone to accept them.
Unplugging from the Matrix bit by bit, Bitcoin by Bitcoin
Here’s how power structures work: They centralize all activity around one crucial chokepoint, and make passing through that point necessary to function in society. Then they can do what they want with you. At worst, anyone expressing unpopular ideas can be ruined on a whim. At best, with one monopolized service everyone has to go through, they can basically charge you what they want, all while delivering the worst customer fulfillment you’ll ever see.
Now that I’m not using the banking system anymore, that’s two extra realms of freedom I’ve won back. One, I’ve reclaimed the value of my productivity from an unaccountable centralized organization than can just print more money and make mine worthless. And two, now I control my funds. No one can just mistake me for a terrorist and take everything away, or go bankrupt and inform me that they gambled away all my money. I’m outside the system of control in some of the most significant ways possible.
So I kicked the bankers to the curb. I haven’t lost my goddamned mind. I’ve won my goddamned freedom.