A personal essay by CEO Zach LeBeau about Latin America, the human struggle, and how blockchain is already changing lives.
More and more people are starting to understand that blockchain technology has transformative potential outside of being just a cryptocurrency. While the noise of the ICO boom sometimes makes it difficult to hear, a fundamental paradigm shift is taking place, so profound it promises to change the very fabric of human civilization. I was reminded of this when Guatemalan filmmaker, Javier Borrayo, submitted his science-fiction film project, “Luz”, for launch on SingularDTV’s projection creation and tokenization application, Tokit.io.
It’s a film about a physicist whose father was murdered during the Guatemalan civil war. In an attempt to reconnect with his father’s energy, he becomes obsessed with finding a way to measure karma through space and time. Through his journey it becomes clear that the only way to find his father is to just let go.
Borrayo and “Luz” triggered a wave of emotion in me, not just because the storyline is powerful, or because of the potential Tokit.io has to empower filmmakers that would otherwise go unnoticed, but because of the memories I have spending time in Guatemala during its civil war. A civil war that sought revolution through blood and unspeakable violence. I see blockchain technology and the paradigm of decentralization as the mechanism to usher in peaceful and bloodless revolution.
I called Jason Tyrrell, our VP of Content and told him, “It’s working, Tokit is working!” To be able to discover and connect with filmmakers in places like Guatemala… well, if Tokit helps Borrayo’s film get made then it has achieved its purpose. How would we have found out about Borrayo without venturing to Guatemala ourselves? This is the power of decentralized computing and blockchain technology. I knew Jason would feel a special connection to this project as well. He too spent time in Guatemala, lived there for many months out of a camper van, volunteering at animal rescue shelters across the country. He lived among the locals and contributed positively to a post-civil war society. Jason and I sometimes daydream over a few beers, that we’d go back down to Guatemala and make movies in a Herzog or Coppola-esque 1970’s sort of way. Back when moviemaking seemed like a great adventure, not like the unionized mechanical effort it is now, where you count the hours till lunchtime and the days until wrap. Perhaps we could take it a step further and ignite a real filmmaking infrastructure there. Why not?
The reason why Borrayo’s project triggered such a reaction in me, is because as I mentioned, I spent a brief time in Guatemala during its civil war that waged from 1960–1996. I was there in ’94. I was just a kid then — nineteen years old, looking for adventure. A young writer, who had nothing of consequence to write about. I had heard of rebel forces hiding in Guatemala’s jungle province, the El Peten. Heard the stories of how they’d stop buses, line everyone up outside, take their money to fund their revolution. Sometimes they’d execute government officials or foreigners who sympathized with the government, or didn’t have enough money to donate to the cause. When I stepped foot in the El Peten, I made sure I had a wad of cash, just in case, and the words, “Viva La Revolucion!” on the tip of my tongue. I don’t know what attracted me to that area of the world, it was this unstoppable force inside my mind’s eye. Needless to say, my parents weren’t happy I decided to venture there, but I craved something more than what the mundane life of being a middle class white boy in midwest America could provide. For better or worse, my literary heroes at the time were T.E. Lawrence and Ernest Hemingway. How could I write anything, if I didn’t do anything?
My adventure started in Mexico. The plan was to make my way south, through every country, until I reached the southern tip of South America. I was an alpine climber back then. My focus was K2 and Mt. Everest before I was 30 years old. Glacial mountains like Citlaltepetl in central Mexico at about 19,000 feet were my training grounds. I was to hit mountains of that size, one by one, on my way south. The bus dropped me in Tlachichuca, a sleepy mountain town and popular starting point for climbers. But when I got there, I was the only climber and it took me a few days to arrange a ride to base camp and put together the rest of the supplies I needed. I ended up hitching a ride with a young Mexican man who was going to pick up his father. He had been killed in a fall climbing the mountain a few days earlier. I road in the back of the pickup truck, all the while trying to push down any superstition around beginning my first big solo climb in this manner. I stayed with him as they loaded his father’s body into the truck, thanked him for the ride and arranged to be picked up at base camp 72 hours later.
I won’t get into the details of the climb, this anecdote isn’t about that, but after a successful summit I continued south — next stop was Guatemala. Backpack, crampons, ice axe, all my gear, I must have looked like a crazy gringo as I hopped from bus to bus and went from town to town in southern Mexico. It was a few weeks till Christmas, and I wanted to make it to lake Atitlan before then. On one of the buses I met a young woman from Chiapas — a Zapatista– I don’t remember her name. She told me stories of the Zapatista National Liberation Army. Just a year before they had led a revolt against the Mexican government. Several hundred rebels sacked the town of Altamirano. Government forces retaliated and battles broke out. The uprising attracted worldwide media attention. Human rights organizations blamed the Mexican government’s marginalization of the indigenous population in Chiapas as the cause. By February of 1994, the Zapatistas and the government reached an agreement and signed a peace accord. My newly acquired travel companion told me there were whispers of a second round of attacks coming over Christmas. I decided to delay my crossing into Guatemala and head for Chiapas. I wanted to meet the rebels, interview them and learn about their plight. I did meet various sympathizers there, but was never able to make contact with the Zapatista National Liberation Army command. Meanwhile, I fell ill and was bedridden for more than a week. By the time I recovered, the whispers of another uprising had died down and it was evident that the peace would hold. Thousands of miles lie ahead, it was time to move on.
I made my way to Tabasco, to the border of Guatemala’s El Peten. I paid a boy, he couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15, to ferry me down the river into the jungle’s of Guatemala. I had heard there was a military outpost there where I could get my passport stamped and enter the country. We started early in the morning, when it was still dark, and made it to the outpost before noon. No more than a few minutes of setting foot on the banks of the river in the El Peten, a man was shot and killed. The gunman was an alleged rebel, and the murdered man an alleged informant for the government… this is how my adventures in Guatemala began.
The civil war was a heartbreaking affair for the people in Guatemala. I won’t go into any more detail of what I experienced there — that’s for another story, but when I saw Javier’s listing on Tokit, I knew I wanted to do everything in my power to help his vision. I joined the blockchain movement because I see it as a revolution — a bloodless revolution where guns and bullets aren’t necessary to achieve a transition of power, of greater freedom and independence to the people. Javier and his film are examples of this.
Blockchain technology is “the great leveler.” It can help to horizontalize the top down command and control pyramids where the very few at the top have control and dominion of the very many at the bottom. Blockchain technology, if used for good, can help to free and empower. It is because of the experiences I have had in various war zones and conflicted areas in the world, that I feel so passionately about the mission of decentralization and SingularDTV. I try not to let it alter my mood when I encounter the sociopathic mania that infests the cryptosphere from those only focused on the money grab from “this ICO, or that coin”. It’s also disappointing when SNGLS token holders exude a feverish desire for us to pump our token for their monetary gain. Sometimes I regret having ever launched a public tokenized ecosystem for SingularDTV, but I know it was the right thing to do, and that if we can help to transform the impatience, greed and lack of conscientiousness in the cryptosphere with our message and our applications, then it is worth the grind. Besides, I take solace and a sense achievement that Tokit.io and what we’re building at SingularDTV is something that can make a positive contribution to the world, or at the very least be an example of how blockchain technology can do something productive, other than making people rich.
Javier has already raised enough ETH to make his movie. Below are some photos from the production of “Luz”.
Zach LeBeau, CEO of SingularDTV