Over the next couple of weeks this writer will use No-Script-For-Life.com to examine the system known as meritocracy. More specifically, I will look at the pseudo meritocracy of  countries like the United Kingdom.

Part One – The Undulating Playing Field

In a successful meritocracy, those who work the hardest are rewarded the most. ( e.g. “Britain is a meritocracy, and everyone with skill and imagination may aspire to reach the highest level”)

In a pseudo meritocracy the people who have done well use it as a tool with which to beat others. The most brutal of which is the notion that every person who fails in life “should have tried harder” or is somehow ‘at fault’.

It’s a proven psychological fact that we are all pre-disposed toward the belief that the world is basically a good place and people are, at heart, decent individuals. Some people have pre-conditioned themselves with this notion to such a degree, that any challenge to it provokes an an angry response.

Whilst it is indeed better to believe everyone are basically good and decent human beings, and not out to hurt or upset us, it would be foolhardy to ignore facts to the contrary. Bad people exist everywhere, even people we thought were super lovely sometimes turn out to be grotesque monsters (see Bill Cosby). But this is an example of how a simple belief – a philosophy for life, if you will – becomes an ideology. Ideologues are often blind to facts, and often will either choose to disbelief evidence, or construct a narrative that fits with their ideology. Proponents of meritocracy are ideological.

Meritocracy is nearly always talked up by those who have done well in their lives. They may have studied hard to get a job they really enjoy, they may have inherited money or property from a relative, they may have set up and run a profitable business, they may be the offspring of people who have made millions (parents or grandparents) – or politicians looking for a convenient way to explain why somebody has no money, influence or status. Often they are blind – sometimes willfully – to the struggles of most within the system.

In the coming days I will look at the members of society who benefit from a meritocracy (spoiler alert! It’s the usual suspects), explore the societal consequences (which include racial discrimination, misogyny and the rule of law) and the economic implications. There will also be unique mini-case studies of people who have been indirectly affected by the pseudo-meritocracy of the UK, and the people who will be affected in the future (Gen Z got it easy compared the generations to follow) and look at the environmental impact of meritocracy.

Lots has been written on this subject, so if you are interested there is plenty out there to read. However, my experiences, those of people I know and the way in which I disseminate the research I have conducted will be unique to this series and No-Script-For-Life.com

Anyone who has suffered a misfortune that disrupts their ability to work – be it physical infirmity or mental health – will know, perhaps better than anyone, that in life shit frequently happens. In fact, shit often happens disproportionately more to some people than it does to others. You might call it Murphy’s Law. But blaming an individual for their circumstances is usually flawed because often individuals are the victims of circumstance.

Should the individual take responsibility for not trying hard in school, for example? Can there be mitigating factors, such as the fact that individual may have been bullied and their lessons were frequently disrupted by other students? Should they have tried harder to overcome the difficulties? In this scenario, what would that actually look like? Standing on a chair to point out that “we’re all here to learn”? Is this a situation where the child telling their parents is going to have any impact at all? The parents might complain to the school or help their child catch up – if that individual have doting parents, but in reality that child has already fallen behind. Through no fault of their own their education – their start in life – has been compromised.

“For a merit-based system to truly work there must first a level playing field”

Many school children overcome the difficulties of their environment to become, active, participating members of society, but seldom do they become high-earning, well-connected members of society. In a pseudo-meritocracy the citizens of tomorrow are hamstrung by their circumstances before they take their first exam. It is not the students’ fault that a greedy government might make swinging cuts to materials, teachers, assistants or building maintenance. And yet it is the same people who made the budget cuts who advocate a system of meritocracy.

For a merit-based system to work there needs to be a level playing field for anyone who wishes to ‘compete’.

Again, using public school education as an example, in order for there to be a level field every child should get the same level of education from equally qualified teachers, using the same materials – in a building where their shivering will not detract from the important job of learning. But in order to provide a true level playing field, factors beyond the classroom also need to be considered.

It is a more or less universally accepted fact that every child is the product of their upbringing. So, leveling the playing field means every parent should be of a similar disposition, of similar intelligence and treat every child in a fair, uniform manner. Already that sounds like Happy Story Hour. It’s certainly nothing that ever happens in real life. So when the system is so basically flawed – the playing field so undulating – how there be a basis for a successful or fair meritocracy?

I once had a very dear friend who was killed in a road accident. She was a single parent, the father having run off shortly after their youngest was born, never to be heard of again. Her two children did not receive appropriate support from friends, family or the state following the sudden and horrific death of their mother. When the eldest boy left school with no qualifications or experience, he struggled to find and hold down a job. When the youngest left school a few years later, his brother had already joined a gang and was being pressured to recruit his brother. Both have since had stints in prison. In this case, these individuals cannot hope to have entered the meritocracy – they became ‘broken resource’ before they even left school.

You are reading this article on No-Script-For-Life.com

The boys had a step-father who lost interest in them when their mum died. He left the family home before they were teenagers, taking their step-sister with him, more or less leaving them with an elderly relative and the need to fend for themselves. He eventually married again and had another daughter. The last I heard, the eldest daughter was studying to get the final points toward a sociology degree, the other was training to become a volunteer police officer and had won various junior kickboxing championships.

In this context the meritocracy is a blatant fallacy.

But those who pursue the notion that a real, functioning meritocracy exists will already have their answer in place; “there will always be the unlucky ones”. And, in so doing, highlight the sham of the ideology and the selfish mindset of its proponents.

In the next installment, I will take a look at how the United Kingdom is set to become a ‘two tier’ system for healthcare, areas in which a two tier system is already in place, and why this is inexorably linked to pseudo-meritocracy.

M.A. Gregory

Coming soon: Part Two – The ‘Two Tier’ System

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