I had a friend over recently, one of my neighbors, with whom I have had a very fruitful back-and-forth ongoing discussion about all sorts of things over the decade Lali and I have lived in this house. He and I just click, and it had been a few weeks (while I was in Tbilisi) since we had slipped effortlessly into discourse mode. He dropped in, I put on coffee, and we got into it.
The topic list, as usual, was quite wide-ranging. He is highly educated, very open and honest; and religion, morality, politics, the environment, local affairs, family life and much more flow through our conversations.
One of our ongoing subjects has been my strong suspicion that Upper Svaneti, which has had free electricity for longer than the 21 years I have been in Georgia, would be an ideal place for someone to exploit for bitcoin mining. I’m not going to get into the technical aspects of this esoteric but very current process here; Google it if you want to. Suffice it to say that a couple of years ago, out of simple curiosity, I began investigating what kind of computer is ideal for such number-crunching, the goal of which is just to make money (called cryptocurrency) electronically.
I very soon realized that my little laptop, or anyone’s standard or even souped-up home computer, doesn’t cut it for bitcoin mining. This is because the calculations are very intensive, needing huge computing power and speed, and actually such machines as are necessary generate a LOT of heat, and need a LOT of electricity simply to keep them cooled. So I gave up on the thing before even starting: it’s out of my price range entirely. You have to be rich in order to get into bitcoin processing.
Funny thing is… the rumors persisted that such things were being done up here, where electricity is without cost, winters are long and cold (helping somewhat with the cooling problem; maybe generating USEFUL heat in the process!), and the law is sliding backwards into the corruption and chaos of the Aprasidzes’ Wild West, which existed until President Saakashvili put an abrupt stop to them.
I have a decade’s worth of living in the same house up here now. Things should be improving infrastructure-wise. But I have to say that this is turning into the worst winter we’ve had thus far, and it’s hardly even under way: we are getting RAIN as I write this, not snow. The thing that’s worst is the amount of electricity available to my house and, reportedly, to those of my neighbors. We’re all using electric heaters to some degree, alongside the ubiquitous and largest-anywhere wood-burning Svan stoves. But the peripherals which should also be able to run alongside them are really struggling now, so that’s a noticeable difference. For our microwave, under-the-counter lighting strips and a few other things to work normally, as they would in other winters, we now have to switch off heaters for a while. More so than ever before. My friend has to turn off any electric heaters just to run the washing machine!
I’m not writing this to complain that my usual life of luxury (ha ha, not there yet) is being curtailed, or that the things I’m so used to having are less available, poor me. But the worse electricity, right now, does point not only to a decaying system not being maintained, but to one being strained far beyond its normal and intended parameters.
Look, the new kindergarten, three years in the building and hardly used at all yet until recently, was recently discovered to have had all its new electric wiring burnt out except for that in its director’s office, useless, dangerous and needing replacement. A new local transformer for its area of our village had been installed next to it as part of the building project: one which, nearly four times as powerful as the one which serves my house and many more houses than the kindergarten one’s area. And yet it too had inexplicably burnt out and had to be replaced, while our old one keeps on keeping on. So, this stinks. As of yet, nothing is being noised about all this; any wrist-slapping is being done very quietly. A great environment for the rumors to flourish, suspicion and crazy theories to take root. Such as… bitcoin mining in Upper Svaneti, to fatten the fat cats even further while enmiserizing the lives of the rest of us. (That’s a word I just made up).
When beginning to write this article, I asked many of my neighbors, and other villagers I came across, how their power supply is this year compared to earlier. All say the same: much lower; one benchmark being the need to turn off all heaters to run a washing machine. The only exceptions are those handful of households fortunate enough to be connected to that powerful new transformer at the kindergarten: they have plenty of juice!
Am I endangering myself writing about all this, with nothing more to go on than what you have now read? The rotten structures in regional government are certainly powerful and not known for restraint. I am comforted greatly, however, in the firm beliefs that 1) God is not stupid or blind, only patient, and in the end always just, and 2) one can only die once.
Since I made a phone call about this to a friend out of the region and the village lost electricity for some hours twice immediately afterwards, and while writing this article I lost the internet I need to send it for publication (both of which are fairly frequent occurrences, I freely admit), should I then claim intimidation, or just call it coincidence? The former requires that both my phone conversations (in English) and my typing on the computer (ditto) are being monitored, a degree of paranoia which I am very loath to suggest.
What do we want? The perpetrators exposed and brought to justice, the outright bitcoin mining/power THEFT to stop, electricity supplies to return to normal all over Upper Svaneti. Thank you very much and good luck to us.
(I hope my modified Bitcoin logo doesn’t look too comical: the effect is supposed to be sinister.)
And…as always at the moment, in Georgia’s current political season, #mishavs means: “It matters to me”!