Overcoming Widespread False Consciousness

False Consciousness is a term that refers to a case in which an individual or a group willingly participates in their own oppression.

I stumbled across this term as I was searching for a phenomenon that explained why a close friend of mine holds the belief system that he holds, even though it doesn't make sense for him to hold that belief system.

I have had long debates with a friend on various hot topics such as cryptocurrencies, bitcoin, central banking, insurance, technology, Tesla, Cathie Woods, entrepreneurship, the role of diversification in wealth creation and wealth preservation, liberalism, commercial banking, the economic systems, housing, inflation, wage deflation, violence, feminism, toxic masculinity, etc.

Throughout the conversations, my friend has consistently made arguments that are fundamentally against his own best interests. He sticks to his chosen worldview even when confronted with a ton of evidence that proves otherwise. He barely moves an inch. I started to notice that pattern early on in the conversations. The conversations took place over 8 months.

I misdiagnosed his refusal to accept even the most basic facts as denialism. He was indeed deliberately choosing not to see certain things, ignoring certain facts. Given the seriousness in which he rendered his positions, I began to doubt that this could be denialism alone, so I foraged the internet in search of explanations. I thought some schooling system was responsible for poisoning my friend. I was absolutely furious. How can they do that to a person?

That's how I bumped into the false consciousness term. The term is not just a theory from Karl Marx but is reality.

My friend has countless troubles with the banking system. He lives in Africa where banking systems are not that functional. He knows the struggle of opening an account. He is aware of the high bank charges. He lives the realities of inflation. It is very difficult for him to send or receive money from friends and relatives. How can a person experiencing all these ills passionately hate bitcoin?

His hatred towards cryptos is not based on any logical issues around cryptos, for example, bitcoin’s scalability problem and Ethereum’s gas fees issue. His hatred is raw and banal. He uses the common “it's a tulip” baseline, which is apparently an adopted mentality, imprinted onto his mind by a system that demonizes cryptocurrencies.

He also loathes fintech with the same level of energy. I found his position to be very surprising. Common sense would suggest that the marginalized people in Africa would fall in love with fintech. Fintech is a bold attempt at making things easier and inclusive for those that are excluded.

My friend says he loves capitalism, but he does not abhor central banking. If you love capitalism, you must surely know that central banking is communism. It is the apex of communism. Two of the most important elements of the economy, interest rates, and money supply, are centrally planned and controlled by a bureau known as a monetary policy committee. This is full-blown soviet-style communism at play. Central committees, bureaus, controlling of the prices (the price of money), centralized allocation of resources (who gets to benefit from the new money supply), etc. are at the very core of communism. What makes my friend chose not to see this?

So, while the bureaucrats print money for themselves, practicing capitalism for us and socialism for them, the populace that includes my friend keeps insisting that the system we are living under is 100% capitalism and it is the best.

Why would a person support that which is fundamentally against his best interests? the answer lies in ideology. The ideology that my friend adopts is precisely that which is authored by those who are against his best interests. The authors are the ones that polluted capitalism by monopolizing the money supply in a Soviet-style.

During the time of slavery, some slaves would willingly participate in slavery. They deemed it to be the only way possible for them to exist. They accepted the superiority of their masters. They would argue against those that tried to rebel. They truly believed that the slavery system was exactly how things were supposed to be.

A good example of false consciousness in the world is the British Royalty. Millions of Britons and people across the Commonwealth countries praise and worship the British Royalty, a monarchy, that exists by leeching off taxpayers' money without doing anything of value besides existing. The royal family has done so for centuries. It is in the best interests of millions to do away with the royal family, its bloodline-based chiefdom, its excesses, et cetera. Why do millions still fixate their eyes on what the irrelevant royal family does?

Five Examples of False Consciousness in Zimbabwe

  1. Farmers vis-a-vis Industrialization

Farmers vis-a-vis Industrialization

Zimbabwe is a tiny country that is extremely underdeveloped. The country does very little manufacturing. It relies heavily on imports. It imports almost everything.

Just like most of the sub-Saharan economies, electronical and mechanical goods are imported. Zimbabwe goes a step further. It imports foodstuffs because it is very bad at farming. Its cost of production for a ton of maize is far above that of its neighboring countries.

The country used to have a vibrant manufacturing base. Poor economic management destroyed that base. Right now the country is very agrarian.

For a country to grow fast, it needs to industrialize. It is very difficult to find an African economy that can manufacture its own cars, guns, cellphones, fridges, and televisions. These are high-value items that drive growth.

We have all witnessed the industrialization of China and how it has lifted millions out of poverty. The same movie happened in South Korea, the USA, UK, Germany, France, etc. Industrialization is the way to go.

Now, bad economic management has prevented the country from industrializing. Those who were going to benefit the most from industrialization are the poor villagers who are stuck to subsistence farming as the only means to survive. These people have been deprived of a decent lifestyle.

Instead of focusing on industrialization, the government chose to focus on agriculture. Those who stand to benefit from industrialization, the villagers and subsistence farmers, find themselves praising and supporting the government’s focus on agriculture.

Clearly, their best interests should be vested in industrialization. Why then do they go against industrialization in favor of farming. Farming is the only thing they know. They think farming is the only way out of poverty, even though it is clearly not the way. No nation has ever escaped poverty by relying on farming alone. You have to industrialize. The farmer does not want to hear about industrialization. He considers any talk of industrialization as lofty talk and idealism, not practical, not possible, not good, a waste of time.

This mindset does not affect the farmer alone. It also affects those who are not farming. They now consider farming as the best way forward. Everybody wants to be a farmer now when clearly everybody should have wanted the country to industrialize.

Why is this is the case? Those who badly managed the economy and took it backward by 30 years, converting a developing country into a purely Oldowan agrarian society are the same people in charge of authoring societal ideology.

The obsession with farming, which has also gripped the Zim Twitter community was created by the government. It is an ideological product of Zanu PF and the government. Their over-emphasis on agriculture, with endless rhetoric over the years has created the agric ideology. These are the people that looted funds for developing the country. These are the people that ensured that farming, corruption, and vending are the only games in town.

The rest of the population buys into this agric-alone ideology, willingly. This ideology is fundamentally against the people’s best interests, but the people actually believe it is in their best interests.

How do we proceed? What's the way forward? The populace is chained to an ideology that is fundamentally against its best interests. The painful part is that the population was not forced to be in these chains. The population willingly chained itself to the ideology proffered by its oppressors.

How do we overcome the widespread false consciousness?

It is important to underscore a distinction between ideology and reality. The reality is that those who author the ideology of the farming cult (i.e., Zanu’s ruling elite) do not make money from farming. They don’t even farm, even though they have farms. They make their money from looting public resources whilst preaching the gospel of farming. They want everyone in the country to be a farmer.

The few ones that attempt to actually are very bad at farming. They gobble tons of resources (usually subsidized by the state) in order to produce food. The cost of production inclusive of the subsidies will be 2X that of a Zambian farmer. This is the reality.

Back to the question, how do we propose to move forward? What shall we do now that we know that the populace has willingly adopted a narrative that is not in the country’s best interests?

How do we bring up the conversation of industrialization? The country has to be able to manufacture and export at least two of the following goods:

  • Cars

If these are too complex, then the country should be able to manufacture and export at least three of the following products:

  • Clothes

The keywords are (1) manufacturing and (2) exporting. We must be good at something that the whole wide world wants. We must focus on something and do it better than everybody else.

This is what is in our best interests. How do we bring this up? Everybody is screaming farming, farming, farming.

Unemployed Youths vis-a-vis Mbinga’s

The rate of Youth Unemployment in Zimbabwe must surely be the highest in the world. Young people are unemployed. The few ones that are employed are usually grossly underemployed.

The problem cannot be over-emphasized. It is there for all to see. A shame on the nation.

The term “mbinga” is street lingo for a rich person in Harare. The mbinga’s flaunt their wealth on social media. Most of these mbinga’s are not real businesspersons. The typical mbinga is a beneficiary of the corrupt systems in Zimbabwe. He has very close ties to the ruling elite. He is a runner for one or more of the top politicians. He is a scrupulous tax evader. He has scored big on a deal that involves siphoning public funds. He has corruptively benefited from a government tender. He is a tenderpreneur. He has defrauded the public by running an investment scheme, a housing scheme, or some other clever scheme.

The real source of funds for these mbinga’s is never disclosed. The fellas occasionally open a business “front” to give the appearance of running a profitable business.

The mbinga’s, working hand-in-hand with top politicians are the authors of our downfall as a country. By looting public resources, they ensure that the government has no capacity to deliver services, including the most basic services such as the issuance of IDs and passports.

These men and women are the reason why the youths in Zim are unemployed, broke, and depressed.

Why then do young unemployed people celebrate mbinga’s? Clearly, mbinga’s are against their best interests. Mbinga’s are eating their bread, leaving them hungry. Why do they (the ghetto youths) idolize their oppressors?

This is the perplexing puzzle that drives Hopewell Chin’ono crazy. He just doesn't understand why this is so. False Consciousness is a reality. People are taught to value things that are actually bad for them. The majority adopts the value system of the minority.

In this instance, the mbinga’s are the authors of the ideology. What is the ideology? The hustle-hard, make money, get-rich-now, spend-money ideology.

On this one, it is critical that we distinguish the ideology from reality. The reality is that mbinga’s don't really hustle hard. They don't really make money in the sense of working, solving problems, providing market solutions, and creating value. They don't create valuable enterprises. That's the reality. The ideology though is something else, a cover.

Ideologies and world views are powerful. By deduction whoever gets to author these and render them to the people is also powerful. Worldviews are so powerful when they are cemented and entrenched.

The broke ghetto youths will defend their mbinga’s to the end. They love their mbinga’s. Even when confronted with a dossier of evidence that points out the mbinga is a villain rather than a saint, the youths remain defiant and unwaveringly rally behind their mbinga’s.

Just like my friend’s cliche of “bitcoin is a tulip” rhetoric, the ghetto youths adopt cliches and rhetoric. A common one is “siyai munhu adye Mari dzake” translated to “leave him alone, let him enjoy his money”. Even when proved beyond reasonable doubt that this is not “his” money, it is our money, the broke ghetto youths are devoted and committed to worshipping their mbinga’s.

But why? False Consciousness. The exploitation is concealed. The one who is blinded by an ideology authored by his oppressors is not in a position to open his eyes and see the oppression. He is not in a position to unconceal that which is concealed. The concealment is mental.

The banks that financially exclude us authored the “bitcoin is a tulip mania” cliche. The mbinga’s that loot our public funds authored the “ndisiye ndidye Mari yangu”, “let-me-chow-my-money” cliche. The politicians that loot our funds, preventing us from industrializing authored that “let-everyone-focus-on-farming” cliche.

My friend dislikes those who try to make him see that which seems obvious regarding banking and money transfers. He tags them as “those ones that call themselves woke”. And he hates the woke ones, whatever that term means. His hatred is not based on the content from those he categorizes as trying to be “woke”. His hatred is based on their actions of trying to spread a different ideology. He then proceeds to brand the different ideology as heresy. To find somewhat of intellectual ground, he uses the term “conspiracy theory” in his defensive vocabulary.

Why is my friend so defensive, hateful, spiteful, and generally angry towards change? The answer lies in cognitive dissonance. He is uncomfortable being confronted with information that could potentially lead to a change in his worldview.

It is not easy to accept new information. As such, it is not easy to change an ideology. This is the condition in which the unemployed ghetto youths find themselves in.

Senzeni? Todii? What shall we do, regarding the ghetto youths? How do we overcome the widespread false consciousness?

Women vis-a-vis Lobola

This one is a hot potato. The practice of lobola as customary marriage is awesome. The payment of a fee known as the bride price and related fees during the process is however controversial. In my arrogant opinion, it is silly.

Lobola, as practiced in Africa is more than just a marriage. It is a transaction that transfers a human asset (a woman) from the custodianship and ownership of her parents to the custodianship and ownership of another man. That concept and ideology are at the very core of the lobola processes and practices. In essence, it is a commercial transaction.

Marriage as an institution needs to be far removed from the lobola processes and practices because they are fundamentally not humane. They treat women as properties. Everything else said about the goodness of lobola is just spin and propaganda.

The propaganda ranges from the silly “that's our culture since a long time ago” line to the obnoxious “would you want your daughter to be married for free” line. Other spin material includes the idea that lobola shows how much you value your wife and how much you appreciate the parents of your wife for raising her.

The mere concept of valuing the life of a human being in monetary terms (or cow terms since cows were the basic representation of wealth long ago) is pathetic and unacceptable in this day and age. The more reasonable spin says lobola is a token of appreciation. It's not a price but a gift. The reply to this spin then becomes that of the price. If it is a gift, why does the process involve charging a price, and agreeing to that price? If it is a gift, the amount to be gifted needs to be solely the prerogative of the giver. That is not the case with the aptly titled bride price. It is a price, with a negotiable tag right next to it, by default.

Now, women have suffered a lot under African marriages. Women essentially don't have rights under our customary marriage as initiated by the lobola “transfer of asset” process. the asset can be used with certain terms and conditions but the asset itself has no right to self-governance. It belongs to the owner, after all. It is an object under the arrangement. It is not a human being. That is a central tenet of the terms and conditions of the lobola contract of sale. The theme is expressed through various stages of the lobola processes. It is verbally emphasized to the human asset by the aunties who expressly and directly “program” the asset with the right code that enables the asset to function as merely an asset. This is a human being we are talking about.

The lobola process initiates a very sad arrangement for women to live under. Men, the ones who pay lobola, expressly understand lobola to be a price they paid in order to own a woman. This is never misunderstood by men. They fully understand the essence of the transaction. Some men, however, totally misunderstand the nature of the transaction and give themselves rights of usage that are far above that which is allowed by the contract.

Women have suffered a lot because of lobola. Lobola is a process whereby they are treated as passive objects. It is a process that does not individually benefit them. The benefit accrues to others. The abuse, the shame, the degradation, being treated as a second-class citizen in the family, the subjugation, the domination, the subservience, the ill-treatment et cetera they face in African marriages have their roots deep in the practice of lobola. I am not suggesting that if we scrap lobola today, all these ills and problems will go away. No, they won't. The damage is already done and will take ages to wean off.

Now here comes the perplexing observation. Women, the ones whose best interests are not served by lobola, are the most vocal defenders of the lobola practice. Why is that so?

If this practice does not serve their best interests, why do they want it to continue in perpetuity? Why do they think it is right? Why do they love it so much? False Consciousness.

Over the centuries, our controlling and paternalistic male ancestors authored the ideology that ingrained lobola as a central process in human relations. They made sure that women understood lobola in the way they wanted women to understand it. Now, centuries later, women still understand lobola in that way, the very same way that is crucial to their subjugation.

It is impossible now to point out to women that this lobola process is not in their best interests. It prevents a woman from entering the institution of marriage as an equal partner.

You can broadcast it a thousand times. Women just won't hear it. They derive their social value from the amount of bride price paid by their husbands. They don't want to hear anything else. Everything else is a tulip mania to them, just like how my friend views everything else other than the banking systems we have.

What shall we do with this lobola thing? Todii? How do we overcome the widespread false consciousness?

The army vis-a-vis Zanu PF

Members of the armed forces in Zimbabwe are suffering. They are not well paid. Only a few at the very top are eating. The rest of the army is having a hard time surviving.

The soldier is of course paid better than the teacher, the policeman, and the nurse, but the level of remuneration is far below what it is supposed to be.

In the streets, people will say soldiers are being paid well. Nothing can be so further from the truth. The truth is that they are better than the unemployed people, but they are not probably one of the worst remunerated soldiers in sub-Saharan Africa.

The struggle is real. Soldiers have endured hard times over the past two decades. You only need to take a look at their bodies and uniforms and then take a look at soldiers from other countries like South Africa. Soldiers in Zimbabwe are skinny, malnourished, and not well-fed. The uniforms are way beyond their best before date. If they are not living in the barracks, they make extensive use of public transport. Most of them do no own cars.

They are in this sorry state because the funds that are meant to remunerate them are siphoned away by politicians and corrupt officials under the Zanu PF administration.

Clearly, the administration of the economy by Zanu PF is not in the best interests of the members of the armed forces. They will be better off with some other political party running the government. Why then do we see the armed forces supporting Zanu PF as a political party? Why would they rally behind something that is fundamentally against their best interests? False Consciousness.

The reasoning behind the members of the armed forces is based on an incorrect interpretation of events, an improper understanding of history, and a flawed ideology. It is true that the military is “an order” and soldiers have to follow commands. However, nobody holds a gun to a soldier’s mind for that soldier to truly believe that Zanu PF is the best political outfit to further their interests. The number of military personnel who truly want Zanu PF to continue governing is astounding.

The consciousness behind the Zanu PF support is false. It is exactly similar to the slave that supported slavery. The soldier, whose economic livelihood has been reduced to survivorship alone rallies behind the political party that has created the sorry situation he is in. You can't make this stuff up.

The ideology of the oppressor has been passed down to the oppressed. The oppressor told the oppressed that only he can serve his best interests, and the oppressed believed it. Soldiers in the army mentally confuse and conflate Zanu PF (the political party) with Zimbabwe (the country). They cannot separate the two, and Zanu PF deliberately created this confusion.

The average soldier believes that he is employed as a soldier because of Zanu PF. This is obviously not true. Zimbabwe, the country, will always need soldiers, regardless of the political party in power. The average soldier believes that if another party were to govern, that party would sell out the ideals of the revolutionary struggle of the 1970s. That is obviously not true. The ideals of the revolutionary struggle of the 1970s have been neglected by Zanu PF. One-man one-vote, equal rights, freedom, justice, peace, development, sovereignty, have all been jeopardized by Zanu PF. People are living in fear, more than they were during the 1970s.

The average soldier believes the land reform benefited the people. The reality is it benefited political elites and military elites. The average soldier believes he is playing a crucial role in protecting the land from foreign intruders and those foreign forces that manipulate domestic politics. That is obviously not true. The reality is that the average soldier is protecting those that are abusing the land whilst persecuting the people.

The average soldier believes a new government by another political party will downsize the bloated army, thus making him/her unemployed. This is viewed as a threat to their financial security. The reality however is that the downsizing of an army rarely involves retrenchment. The downsizing happens gradually by placing a moratorium on hiring whilst ensuring the old madala’s reaching retirement age retire in peace, to enjoy their pensions. This is something that is actually good for the average soldier because a halt in hiring means the available resources are not strained further thus maintaining a stable remuneration level. The retirement of old madala’s creates upward mobility opportunities for the average soldier, the average soldier can, once again, dream of going up the rank and file, something that is not possible at the present moment. This is what is in the best interests of the average soldier.

What do we do to rescue the soldier from this psychological trap? How do we disentangle the mind of the soldier from mental slavery?

Small businesses vis-a-vis the government

Every now and then you get to hear a small business owner in Zimbabwe thanking the Zanu PF-led government for creating conditions that allow the small black-owned businesses to operate in Zimbabwe.

The understanding of the dealer, hustler, and entrepreneur is that they would be worse off if Zimbabwe was a better country. They think that the country would be owned and controlled by big businesses leaving them with nothing.

This is False Consciousness. The small business owner would be better off in a functional country. He would have opportunities to grow. When people have more income, they purchase more goods and services. Several of the small business owners could have been multi-millionaires due to their entrepreneurial activity if the economy were in a good state.

The entrepreneurs are financially better off than others. This makes them want to preserve the status quo. The reality, however, is that they would be way better than others if the economy was not sickly.

The entrepreneurs are not getting the full rewards of their entrepreneurial activities. Most of their effort is stolen away by endless useless bureaucratic compliances, corruption and bribery, ridiculous licensing requirements, et cetera. They have to work twice as hard compared to entrepreneurs in other countries for the same level of profits.

If economic maladministration is strenuous on the small business owner, why then do we have small business owners that idolize and worship the government? Why do we have entrepreneurs that look up to the government as the savior when in fact the government is the predator?

What shall we do to help recover the mindsets of these lost brothers? How do we overcome the widespread false consciousness?

The five examples explored above are not all-encompassing. There many more cases of false consciousness prevalent in Zimbabwe.

Countering False Consciousness

Since false consciousness is a mental trap, an information processing error, the panacea to it has to work at the information processing level. The mind has to be forced to go through the cognitive dissonance phase and come out at the other end.

The solution progresses as follows:

  • Constant Bombardment of Alternative Information — to force the issue

Constant Bombardment of Alternative Information

This is an ideological war. Everything is fair in love and in war. You implement all the tactics you can to win. The constant bombardment of information, in this Ideological War (I-War), is necessary.

People have to be made aware of the alternative schools of thought and ideologies. The first step in most processes is awareness. Information has to be made available. People digest content that is available to them, they do not digest content that is not available. In the old days, it was easy for whoever was in charge of the official prevailing ideology dosed out by the power that is to get rid of any opposing views and ideologies by simply banning the material, and it was effective because the content was published on paper. With the digital age, censorship and broad banning are less effective. There has never been a better time for competing ideologies to find space in the minds of the people.

Making alternative information available has been made easy by technology, but it still needs to be a planned and well-thought-out process. How do you get alternative information to the soldiers that have blind loyalty to Zanu PF? It's a process. The right information has to be spread to the villagers. How do you do that, in a manner that they can understand?

The use of political rallies to spread information is now less effective. The use of mainstream media is being challenged by social media. The advent of social media creates an equal footing for competing ideologies. It allows information to spread freely, easily, and fastly. Those who intend on overcoming the widespread false consciousness have to make use of social media in spreading the right type of information.

Over and above social media, the education system is another vital organism for spreading information that leads to students adopting worldviews that are consistent with their best interests. The education system has been used as a tool to format the minds of young people into false consciousness. A good example is how the students of economics throughout the world have rarely challenged the concept of central banking, even though they are aware of the characteristics of communism.

The education system is still being controlled by the state, which is controlled by those who oppress us and author ideologies that are not in our best interests. Islamic fighters in the Middle East have a habit of kidnapping journalists and then re-educating them for months, forcibly turning them into Islamic believers. The kidnapped person can or cannot truly believe in the Islamic ideals after being released. The effectiveness of such a method is doubtful. However, what it underscores is the understanding (even though warped and twisted) of the role of education in formatting the mind.

We should take education seriously as it is at the core of the system that transmits values, beliefs, and ideologies. The education system, through teachers, textbooks, and reading material is a channel for spreading the right type of information that can potentially free people from false consciousness.

The flow of information must be constant. This is ideological warfare. Information is like bullets. Powerful words are like a double-edged sword. Word-power and sound. A constant stream of the right information will have the greatest impact. Sporadic, guerilla type of information is easily ignored, so it is ineffective. Bombardment is the right word to describe the approach needed. It is essentially bombing people with data and information that needs to be processed and/or absorbed.

Just like bombs, the information will be unwanted and uncomfortable to those who are being bombed. The information is meant to throw the widespread false consciousness off its base. No retreat, no surrender. Bombing nonstop. When the people try to apply filters to block the information from coming in, the revolutionary strategist needs to find ways around the filters to continue dropping them bombs.

The issue (whatever it is) needs to be forced on the people. It is hard for ideologically oppressed people to free themselves. The shackles of the mind are stronger than physical shackles. Thus, to free, for example, women from lobola, the issue has to be forced into conversations and thought processes. Culture has ingrained the prevailing ideology for hundreds of years. Lobola will not be challenged at the mental level by women if the issue is not forced upon their minds.

The constant bombardment of information as a strategy generally calls upon the strategist to understand attention economics and formulate tactics around that.

Assisted Information Processing

Making information available alone might not be enough as there is no guarantee that the data and/or information will be processed, digested, and absorbed in the right manner.

The people have to be aided in processing the data. The masses, under the spell of false consciousness, are by default, in a state of mind that is unfriendly to information that seeks to overpower the false consciousness. Thus, they are likely to digest the information negatively.

Assisted information processing is all about narratives. How do you tell a story? You have to offer a compelling narrative. Raw data and hard facts are nice, but most people don't understand them. Most people don't have the mental resources, or the time needed to sift through a ton of information.

Aided information processing is like placing signs on the road, as well as pointers that lead people to get to the right destination and not get lost along the way. It is different from mind control.

Class Consciousness

When masses of people have been liberated from false consciousness, they reach a state of mind that Karl Marx described as class consciousness. In the Zimbabwean case, class consciousness will be that desired state of mind where the majority of our people are not blinded by the ideologies of their oppressors.

I have articulated elsewhere that in Zimbabwe, we need to do more than just changing the leaders, the people themselves need to be transformed. The people themselves need to be changed. That change is specifically the uprooting of false consciousness, which is the undoing of the oppressor's spell on the people.

This is how we ought to overcome the widespread false consciousness. This is what needs to be done.

Will it be done? Who shall do it?


Financial Analyst, Cloud Accountant, Citizen Data Scientist, FPL Boss