Jagged Little Pill
Don’t get me wrong. There is an element of truth in here, and with the very worst lies there always is. This one has a name. It’s called meritocracy, or meritocratic individualism. This is a a dogmatic ideology that like religion, comes with self-supporting explanations. It simultaneously boasts its own instances of success, and externalizes and explains away its failures.
It certainly can motivate people to succeed when possible, but it also blinds one to larger systemic influences. Many will self-blame and self-destruct when they lose their socio-economic position (no apologies or excuses) and suppress issues of social injustice and oppression when it happens to others (no apologies or excuses). Why look into it? They’ve obviously just dropped the ball!
This article talks about the effect of this ideology on management employees in a downturn from a look at an employment counseling outfit.
I know this seems really nice and uplifting, but at the same time is it the covert expression of the idea that good things generally happen to “good” people. The unspoken corollary is that if something bad happens, then you must be deficient in some way.
Think of this message like a cog in a machine. Make 7 billion copies of it and hook them all up together in a big machine, and what do you get? Chew on it for a while. I contend that this “cog” is precisely why we have the society we do. Remember that no two cogs can fit in the same spot in the framework.
If every last person got a degree in a random sector worthy of 60K per year (or all sectors for that matter), what would the market do? What would happen to the relative value of a degree in the job market? We would still have unemployment and we’d still be screaming at them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and to stop making excuses.
The truth is oh so sweet.
Then again, so is arsenic.