It’s been a week since “the slap heard round the world.” The celebrated actor Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on live television, then won an award, then received a standing ovation for his acceptance speech.
This is literally assault and battery.
This is also a complicated and nuanced situation, and I spent the last week talking, listening, and reading the reactions. (I went to one of Chris Rock’s first comedy shows after the incident, and I’ll talk about his reaction below.)
The bottom line is that we as a society have got to agree that assault and battery are not okay.
As the NAACP’s Janai Nelson responded, we cannot normalize violence:
We crypto investors, who are building the future of money, the future of the world, we especially cannot normalize violence.
Instead, we must stand for peace. Here’s why.
The Situation is Complicated
I love both Will Smith and Chris Rock.
King Richard was my favorite movie this year. The story of Venus and Serena Williams, and how they overcame adversity with grit and determination, was incredibly inspiring to me. I think about this movie constantly, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone. (I still do.)
Will Smith — actor, rapper, icon — is a cultural hero. He’s larger than life. He’s spent a career building a persona adored by all ages, whether you knew him from Fresh Prince, or whether you’re a kid who loved him in Aladdin.
To appreciate the career arc, watch these two clips back to back.
Seriously, who else could replace Robin Williams as the genie in Aladdin?
Chris Rock, while a very different celebrity, is to me a comedy genius. Like all great comedians, he has consistently pushed the boundaries of safety — both socially and personally. He opens up on stage about his infidelity and his porn addiction, and he somehow makes it funny.
Chris Rock — actor, comedian, icon — is also a cultural hero. He bravely jokes about topics most of us are afraid to even touch, from racism to cancel culture. Today some call Dave Chapelle the GOAT, but I think Chris Rock deserves the title more.
Both Will and Chris are icons, which makes the situation difficult.
It’s also complicated because race is involved. I’ve read many takes from Black writers that Will is a hero for standing up for his wife , as Black women are historically among the most marginalized . Other Black writers have said that doesn’t excuse violence.
To me, Chris Rock’s joke was in poor taste, which further complicates things. But that still doesn’t excuse violence.
At the end of the day, we have to stand for peace.
We cannot say that it’s okay for one person to strike another, especially when words would have been more powerful: imagine if Will Smith had reprimanded Chris Rock’s joke in his acceptance speech. He could have even pulled a Kanye and just grabbed the mic.
We don’t allow people to slap each other: not in the workplace, not in schools, not on the street. If we have one standard of behavior for emotional celebrities, and another for everyone else, everyone ends up angry and confused.
Instead, we must stand for peace.
“Defending Our Interests”
There’s a difference between Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, and Will Smith’s aggression toward Chris Rock. But the tendency toward human violence is the same.
In his acceptance speech, Will Smith described himself as “a fierce defender of his family,” but that’s what we say to justify every war. We in the U.S. have used the same language to take on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam — we’re “defending the people.”
Here is the contradiction in our thinking: we say Russia should not invade a smaller, weaker neighbor. But then we look the other way when a powerful actor slaps a smaller, weaker comedian.
This is why it’s important to speak out. It is a small-scale example of the large-scale conflict that we must not allow to grow any larger. We must work for peace.
I have not been a fan of the crypto community rallying around donations to fund the war in Ukraine — or Russia using crypto get around economic sanctions — because this is just more funding of violence.
Chris Rock even has a recent joke about the U.S. sending aid to Ukraine: “If you’re selling guns to the people to fight a war, you’re in the war.”
Why do we want crypto to fund war?
I truly believe in the power of crypto to build a better global money system, and a better world. Why use it to fund the same machinery of violence and war?
Imagine if we use crypto to fund peace. The Binance Charity Foundation, for example, has raised $86 million to fund positive causes that donors care about, from women’s education in Afghanistan to providing school lunches for children in Africa. It’s like a nonprofit Kickstarter for crypto, turning the charity model on its head.
Imagine if we use crypto not for more guns, but for humanitarian aid. And not just for the people of Ukraine, but also for the people of Russia, the ordinary citizens who are being hit hardest by economic sanctions, who never asked to go to war.
Fighting is expensive. Divorce court, suing a business partner, getting “justice”: when the lawyers get involved, the only people getting rich are the lawyers. (Read that line in Chris Rock’s voice.)
War is really expensive. Historically, it’s how countries go into debt. When governments run out of money to pay for war, they end up issuing debt, devaluing their currencies, and ultimately bankrupting their economies. Our children and our grandchildren pay for our fighting today.
If we’re using crypto to perpetuate these same bloody cycles, our burgeoning blockchain economy is over before it begins.
For these reasons, we must de-escalate this war in Ukraine. I am horrified by people casually mentioning World War III (as Chris did in his stand-up set last week). When nuclear superpowers are involved — and they can be, if enough people get angry about Ukraine, and we allow ourselves to slip into the madness of war — then we stand to lose everything.
To be clear, I am not saying that Will Smith started World War III. I am saying that the normalizing of violence is how it begins. Unless we have the courage to speak out against violence, to speak up for peace, then total destruction is where it ends.
We want the human race to survive. You, me, we’re part of it.
The Hero is Chris Rock
To me, the hero in this story is Chris Rock: not only did he stand up there and take the slap, on live television, but he didn’t fight back with jokes.
Last week I saw one of his first standup shows since the incident, and he immediately said he wasn’t going to talk about it. You could sense disappointment — some people paid thousands of dollars for tickets to this show — and we wanted him to cut Will Smith down to size. But he didn’t do it.
The physical restraint he showed on stage at the Oscars was impressive. The verbal restraint he showed on this different stage, a week later, was even more impressive.
“I’m still kind of processing what happened,” he began. “I haven’t even talked to anyone about it. But the thing is, I had another whole show prepared before this happened. So if it’s OK with you, I’ve still got another show for you, if you’d like to hear it.” The audience, which had already given him a standing ovation, roared its approval.
Chris Rock did the show, not once mentioning Will Smith, but the crowd was hungry for it. At one point, a table started chanting “F*** Will Smith!” over and over, but he didn’t take the bait. He stopped the show and allowed security to escort the hecklers out, saying only, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”
I hate the game of violence, because it leads to war. And I love the game of peace, because it gives people freedom to build and do amazing things, instead of cowering in fear or fleeing for their lives.
I love the game of peace. There’s a reason we always say “Peace and prosperity”: the two go hand in hand. Peace is the ultimate investing mindset. I hope, as we build the future of money, we can also build a society with more of it.
Sir John Hargrave is the publisher of Bitcoin Market Journal. Sign up for our free newsletter and get his investor column every Friday.