Why we don’t really live in a meritocratic society.
Does success seem kind of arbitrary to you?
Why does “just work harder” not seem to cut the mustard like it used to?
Is it not clearly evident that the best and brightest are not at the top?
Merit, the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward, and one of the key components western democracy is built on…or is it?
Ergo, for a society to be meritocratic, the desire to be meritorious and its accompanying admiration and remuneration has to be there. If you cannot see where this is heading I’ll lay it on the line for you like King Louie. I feel the pursuit of excellence or goodness is sorely lacking in society, but I also feel that those who do pursue it do not get adequately rewarded for it. Sadly, we have a worsening habit of giving praise and adulation to those who really haven’t done anything to deserve so.
Now, I know what this may sound like so I’ll just say it… Am I just an embittered smarty-pants who felt the world owed him because of his intelligence?
The answer is a complicated no, but a no nonetheless. To cut a long story short, I’ve not lost my mind (like the Spandau Ballet song), I’m merely trying to ascertain what it is that I’ve done wrong to not obtain the success I feel is usually associated with people of my level of education. As I mentioned last week, people like me are susceptible to intellectual arrogance and I work damn hard to keep that in check. However, this can be difficult when you see utter buffoons elevated to positions of status and authority who clearly aren’t deserving nor competent enough to hold such positions.
“People are yearning so much for competence and leadership they latch onto it when they see it.”
The irony of private school/Ivy leaguers talking about other people feeling entitled, damn, you lot are some of the most entitled people out there getting handed opportunities left, right and centre with a silver spoon up your arse. Maybe Karl Marx was right in that the major differentiator of the masses has always been wealth. Nepotism is also rife, I mean there is a difference between looking after family and friends and nepotism, and this current corrupt capitalist and political system is ripe for the pickings in this department.
“Do we still live in a ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ society?”
The odds are stacked against us to succeed; demographics, geographics, socioeconomics, education, talent/skill, earning capabilities, money management, life skills, wisdom and guidance/mentoring, opportunities and networks etc. As I talked previously in my article “A problem of distribution or production?”, do we still feel a meritocracy is the best way forward (and achievable)? Do we still need to try and mobilise our resources for the best and brightest? The constant uphill struggle against some of the things I’ve already mentioned here is inevitable and it’s obvious that much of the lion’s share is going to the Scars of the world and not the Mufasas.
The cynic in me would say something like, “that’s just the way of the world” or “it is what it is”, but it just pisses me off royally hearing people talk about living in a meritocracy when you know “merit” didn’t get them where they are today. As we drift away from an ethics based society to a preference based one, maybe we have no need for merit? Maybe meritocracy is a delusion we sell ourselves to make us feel better?
We’re constantly hindered by incompetent people with no ready solution in place, but then again, humans are great at getting in the way of themselves. Perhaps mediocre sham masquerading as good enough is the best we can hope for in society.
The next time you come across some who does a good job, please go out of your way to praise them. Thank them for the good job that they have done – maybe even reward them – and maybe this will help increase the likelihood of repeat behaviour. It’s so easy to make this world a worse place to live in, for ourselves and others. It may seem like there is no point to performing to a high quality when you go unrecognised and some other bottom feeder is paid the same as you. It may seem like “virtue” has come to signal something to not achieve. Remember the Socratic notion, that no matter how appealing or worthy the unjust way of life seems, the just life is always better.
“An old alchemist gave the following consolation to one of his disciples: No matter how isolated you are and how lonely you feel, if you do your work truly and conscientiously, unknown friends will come and seek you.” – Carl Jung