Meritocracy or Meritocrappy?

Meritocracy- that’s a word we are all familiar with! An important social value that we all expect to experience when we are genuinely interested and work hard towards our goals and projects.

In our minds meritocracy takes the form of a f(x)=x formula. In other words we define meritocracy as time + effort= desired result.

Among those idealists out there I am very sorry but I am going to disappoint you today. The reality is the complete opposite of the preceding premise. Hard work and time do not take you to your final destination; determination helps but not entirely and who goes ahead professionally is not the person who spent day and night studying in the library.

Society is not as ethical as we like it to be and people are really bad and prejudiced when it comes to selecting talent. Most of you are aware of this but not in a totally conscious way.

Worse, when it comes to general judgement people base their opinions and support those that are supported by their leaders, peers and social surroundings- becoming a group’s insider involves spotting and following un-mentioned rules. Democracy is an utopian ideal that sounds great in speeches but there is rarely an active example of it- and those of you that disagree do so because you cannot go as far as spotting the root cause of its misuse.

Meritocracy cannot thrive in a world where society regards status and prestige highly. When these concepts are in play those in position determine who goes ahead and who does not. More importantly ‘wanna-be’s’ who are close to high status individuals are usually those who become the clique insiders and progress as a result.

Academically, various studies examining the relationship between labor markets and networks have but confirmed how contacts and the individual connectedness determine his/her employability- those with better networks of contacts get better jobs more easily. In this world today there no standardized employment system working efficiently.

An interesting observation made by Mark Granovetter, and one I find very true is that students from prestigious universities find better work more easily not because of the quality education they obtained but because of the high status individuals they met during their studies.

Of course, while this argument is generally true for everywhere it is especially true for the countries whose institutions have supported and enforced this kind of behavior throughout history. England, with it’s gentlemen’s clubs, aristocratic circles, the prestigious Oxford and Cambridge universities and the large concentration of high-net worth individuals is an incubation house of the phenomena.

Increasingly we see Oxfordians and Cambridgians with Latin or Art History degrees be awarded with jobs at high status banks and companies, whose qualifications relate nothing to the job requirements; this leads us to question whether banks’ and other companies’ existence is strictly based on economic grounds or instead, on their ability to connect with high status individuals who in turn help them find the best business deals.

Not to mention how embarrassing is the life-style for those working in these organizations- evenings and nights spent in a myriad of high end restaurants and clubs seducing clients with expensive wining and dining. This is what they call ‘doing business’.

So what can the rest of normal ones do to progress in this elitist system?

It will not be easy but you can still achieve a great life standard outside of the social structure through hard work, belief in yourself and knowing and loving what to do. If you pick a profession, say, playing a violin, with hours of practice and by fueling the effort with passion you are ‘walking the talk’ and convincing others of your skill. Slowly others will accept and admire what you do. Of course even here you will need a dose of good luck and acute social awareness- meeting the right people who will help you advance. That just is- take it or leave it.

What is your view on meritocracy? I would love to hear about it! Post a comment here or a tweet on @indigomemoirs

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