Meritocracy is one of the great fictions of late capitalism in the US, a shiny chrome paint job obscuring the gutted interior and rusted out chassis of society. Our collective allegiance to the myth that wealth and power are doled out on the basis of individual merit, rather than inheritance, nepotism, and structural advantages, keeps us grinding away for longer hours and shrinking wages – even as the GDP rises and new billionaires are made. The carrot-and-stick nature of meritocratic ideology rewards winners with wealth, influence, and power, while punishing the losers with diminished opportunities, increased vulnerability to violence, and shorter life expectancies. As the wealth gap increases, our visceral reactions to this polarized binary become more extreme as well. We celebrate and elect people that we perceive to be most qualified because we hold it to be self-evident that the wealth, influence, and power they hold are the result of individual striving – hard work and gumption ftw. At the other end of the binary, we pathologize, criminalize, and actively hate poor people because we are enchanted by the delusion that such social failure could only be the result of an individual making shitty life choices. You cheer breathlessly in the school yard while the bully beats the crap out of the weakling, hoping that your sycophantic applause will protect you from being the bully’s next victim – after all you are a half inch shorter than the weakling and you have asthma…it’s not your fault, you think. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.Continue reading “Down(wardly mobile) and Out(dated assumptions)”
First round of feedback is in! Making structural changes and building out some of the intimacy that I only hinted at in the first draft. Check back for updates!