There are many theories out there about how human kind can progress to a more equitable society. One such is the concept of Meritocracy (mer-i-toc-ra-cy). Some enthusiasts link it to Plato’s Republic; whilst others are adamant it is not. The term was coined in the 1950’s by sociologist Michael Young in his paper The Rise of the Meritocracy. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meritocracy It has subsequently been adopted into a political philosophy by those in search of a hanger for their winter coat.
So what’s it all about:
According to the Oxford dictionary:
- it’s a society in which power is held by people with the greatest ability.
The Chambers dictionary suggests:
- a social system based on leadership by people of great talent or intelligence, rather than wealth or noble birth.
You may see only similarities and some positives in the two definitions but for me, I see only doubt. It is based on the original plan of the Han Dynasty whereby civil servants sat exams to illustrate their ability and to prevent nepotism.
Michael Young gives a critical analysis:
“merit is equated with intelligence-plus –effort, its possessors are identified at an early age and selected for appropriate intensive education, and there is an obsession with qualification, test-scoring, and qualification”.
It is reminiscent of the 11+ in the British education system which determined the school a child would attend, and in all likelihood, the future that child could experience. The whole process was heavily influenced by the wealth of the parents. Today it is basically the same, no progress at all.
At present we are moving in reverse towards more diversity in provision and more private schooling. In consequence, the bulk of our children are left to a hit or miss outcome. How did Lenin phrase it? ‘One step forward, two steps back’! In the name of political correctness, multiculturalism and Conservative dogma we are subjecting our children to a vision of blind spots on every corner instead of an open landscape and parity of opportunity.
More than often, if not always, a child’s future will be enabled or disabled by their upbringing. Love, care and attention with the addition of experiences are a substantial leg-up for anyone. Key to this is the emotional input and the interpretation placed on that by the child. However, there are as many nuances of interpretation as there are neurons in the brain. Hence, in part, the emergence of different personalities in the one family.
Moreover, education as a tool is a bad judge of character. The ability to pass exams does not mean that that person has the empathy, nor the wherewithal to sustain growth in themselves never mind the populace at large. Nonetheless, education is a key component but where is the starting line? Do we view education through the eyes of Howard Gardner and the premise of ‘multiple intelligences’? We must also recognise the power of emotion and determine how much credence we give to emotional development in any scheme. Emotion is a fundamental platform of the human brain, and try as some would like us to, we cannot divorce ourselves from its input into our decision making.
In the USA the government departments were run along a similar line to the original Han Dynasty with exams to determine ability and thus progression up the ladder. That system of exams has fallen by the wayside and lead to severe criticism. Chris Hayes, in his book, Twilight of the Elites, decries the loss of the old system and lambasts the present set-up.
“the consequence is that we’re ‘”led”’ by a grasping, status-obsessed elite class that’s increasingly socially and economically distant and prone to rigging the game for its own benefit, the public good be damned”. (Wikipedia)
Chris Hayes has in common parlance (patois) hit the nail on the head and in so doing identified a current that most of the electorate worldwide can identify with.
So where and how do we find the Princes/Princesses of altruism? Plato might suggest a canny band of philosophers but their opinions are as diverse as their understanding. History is littered by well-intentioned thinkers (too many to mention) that have sought to bridge the gap socially and economically between the classes. Plato himself was one such advocate with his writing on the Aristocracy which was dependent on the altruism of an elite.
A similar condemnation can be made against John Stuart Mill with his Considerations on Representative Government and his concept of ‘plural voting’ which prescribed more votes for the educated man. Such thinkers look down from their heady heights and whilst a slither of them may want to march with the workers, they are restrained by their elitism. Thinkers are no guarantee of voices for parity.
More recently Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels brought us communism and most of the twentieth century was blighted by its infusion. From the outset committees of the elite took control, a process known as Democratic Centralism and the dictatorship of the proletariat became the dictatorship by the hierarchy. That is what elites do; they self-serve, take a positive and bend it and shape it to their will. So it has been with all religions, communism and democracy. All efforts of enlightenment have been corrupted by man. On the other hand, Capitalism does not have to be moulded, it has inequality built in as a prerequisite; how else do the labouring jobs get done!
What is highlighted by the pursuit of equality is the persistent illusion that paradise is possible, and possibly just around the corner. Even the belief in hope is used as a control mechanism by the Overlords. One such example is the lottery, as millions worldwide join in the search for El Dorado. As long as there is hope the weight of life is slightly easier to bear, and hope keeps the mind distracted. We are all caught in the dazzle of gold as our selfishness gnaws at us from within.
Let the voice of Carl Jung pervade our daydreaming, “Unfortunately, there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be”. The truth will out! It appears that Jung has us pigeonholed far more succinctly than we ourselves understand, when he states, “man turns a blind eye to the shadow-side of human nature”. On the Psychology of the Unconscious 1912 Sourced Wikipedia
Few would deny that we have a dark side, that our psychology is fragile and easily thrown out of kilter. If we can accept that Jung has a credible point then we must recognise that our ‘dark side’ must be dealt with as an initial step. But herein lies the Grand National of hurdles and whether we have the ability to overcome them. The positive side is that Jung believes we can become stronger if we mesh our conscious mind with our ‘shadow’.
It is critically important that we come to terms with our ‘shadow’. Perhaps, it should form a compulsory study for all school and university courses. However, do we have the mental capacity to openly discuss our dark side in classrooms, on TV and radio?
Morning folks and a fine morning it is. There are no celebs on the programme today but we do have a thrilling discussion about our dark side. Do you recognise your shadow? A piece of music first, let’s see, ah yes, Rachmaninov in D Major. Then we’ll hear from our experts before taking calls. Should be a blast!
Looking back at Chris Hayes statement about the greed and selfishness of the American elite we can glean an understanding of Jung’s assertion about the ‘shadow’. A question arises, is this something we have known about for millennia and ritually dismissed? Is the ‘shadow’ the seven deadly sins? Is the conflict with our ‘shadow’ too much for us to bear and that is why we turn a ‘blind eye’ to its perniciousness?
We have come a long way but it appears we have a much longer and a more difficult road ahead. And what of meritocracy, will it survive into the Future World? To the dustbin of history!
“The hideous thing about meritocracy is it tells you that if you’ve given life your all and haven’t got to the top you’re thick or stupid. Previously, at least, you could always blame the class system”. Laurie Taylor, sociologist who criticizes Meritocracy as a myth used to justify the status quo. It is akin to the Peter Principle of Laurence J. Peter, “every employee rises to their level of incompetence”.
A further nail in the coffin comes from Khen Lampert, Meritocratic Education and Social Worthlessness. Dec: 2012
“By definition, the principle of Meritocracy could not be effective in a non-competitive society or environment”.
Ah, well, back to capitalism and the drawing board!