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Unjust Systems Prevail, Social Change is Rare

One would assume that the most disadvantaged people embrace social change and new technologies that alter the status quo, but the opposite is true

In the past few years, I’ve devoted nearly 12 months to Zimbabwe, sharing knowledge about Bitcoin, introducing people to it, and helping establish local meetup groups. I was also a guest on one of the country’s largest YouTube shows, discussing how Bitcoin can address the need for a global, permissionless currency and serve as a savings tool in a country plagued by inflation and financial controls for over 30 years.

Turns out: there hasn’t been any significant change. Unlike neighboring countries such as Zambia and South Africa, I struggled to encourage regular meetups or local initiatives aimed at promoting the concept of freedom money. While many individuals did enhance their understanding, it’s disheartening that Bitcoin online groups ended up echoing the ideology prevalent on US-based Bitcoin Twitter accounts.

My reasoning for the lack of local initiatives was that life is extremely hard in Zimbabwe. For the average person, apart from the wealthy few, everyday existence is a constant struggle due to economic hardships. People are forced to tirelessly navigate the challenging monetary landscape just to get by. Consequently, there’s neither the time nor the resources available to enact positive change. Furthermore, individuals who dared to improve their community were met with arrests and intimidation by law enforcement.

I remember Andreas M. Antonopoulos’ saying four years ago: Bitcoin is not ready for Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans are not ready for Bitcoin.” I didn’t want to hear it. Now I have to acknowledge that radical change won’t happen in Zimbabwe. Not in general, not in terms of Bitcoin adoption.

Despite an authoritarian system that has been steeling from its people and the country’s vast resources, the people suffering the most are the least to change the situation. Contrary the system is being justified not only by those who gain from it, but also by those who are disadvantaged the most. In unfavorable conditions, they are the least motivated people to change the situation.

The reason for this is system justification. Disadvantaged groups consistently support the status quo, even if it is totally detrimental to their living situation. Supporting the system fulfills humans’ fundamental epistemic, existential, and relational needs for certainty, security, and social conformity. In essence, individuals who endure hardship find solace in rationalizing and endorsing the existing system, thereby reinforcing the status quo.

System justification motivation typically leads people to resist social change and to perceive it as threatening to the status quo. That’s why efforts to further the knowledge of how the current financial system is to the detriment of us all and has long reaching negative global effects on the environment and society do not gain the importance in peoples minds they should.

How to make a ruckus

Research suggests that people are more willing to accept social change when it is perceived as inevitable or extremely likely to occur and congruent with the preservation of at least some aspects of the current social system or its ideals. Framing proposed changes as system sanctioned”, as patriotic and consistent with the status quo might enable people to improve upon the status quo rather than reflexively defend against the possibility of change.


Source: Theory of System Justification, John T. Jost, System justification theory

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