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The hardest ideology to examine critically is your own.  Meritocracy is a social norm in Canada and the United States, woven through the fabrics of our societies.  It is a belief that supports much of the status quo and reinforces some of the harmful myths that cause suffering in society.  Is it all bad?  Of course not, but it can lead one down a path of making moral assessments of other people’s worth based on the material or social goods that they have ‘won’ in society.  It can be easy to overlook the role luck plays in achieving and getting ahead within our social systems.

Clifton Mark, writing for Aeon Magazine writes about the place meritocratic ideology occupies in our society.  This is the juicy part, but I’d encourage you to go read the entire article.

 

“Perhaps more disturbing, simply holding meritocracy as a value seems to promote discriminatory behaviour. The management scholar Emilio Castilla at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the sociologist Stephen Benard at Indiana University studied attempts to implement meritocratic practices, such as performance-based compensation in private companies. They found that, in companies that explicitly held meritocracy as a core value, managers assigned greater rewards to male employees over female employees with identical performance evaluations. This preference disappeared where meritocracy was not explicitly adopted as a value.

This is surprising because impartiality is the core of meritocracy’s moral appeal. The ‘even playing field’ is intended to avoid unfair inequalities based on gender, race and the like. Yet Castilla and Benard found that, ironically, attempts to implement meritocracy leads to just the kinds of inequalities that it aims to eliminate. They suggest that this ‘paradox of meritocracy’ occurs because explicitly adopting meritocracy as a value convinces subjects of their own moral bona fides. Satisfied that they are just, they become less inclined to examine their own behaviour for signs of prejudice.

Meritocracy is a false and not very salutary belief. As with any ideology, part of its draw is that it justifies the status quo, explaining why people belong where they happen to be in the social order. It is a well-established psychological principle that people prefer to believe that the world is just.

However, in addition to legitimation, meritocracy also offers flattery. Where success is determined by merit, each win can be viewed as a reflection of one’s own virtue and worth. Meritocracy is the most self-congratulatory of distribution principles. Its ideological alchemy transmutes property into praise, material inequality into personal superiority. It licenses the rich and powerful to view themselves as productive geniuses. While this effect is most spectacular among the elite, nearly any accomplishment can be viewed through meritocratic eyes. Graduating from high school, artistic success or simply having money can all be seen as evidence of talent and effort. By the same token, worldly failures becomes signs of personal defects, providing a reason why those at the bottom of the social hierarchy deserve to remain there.”

It is fascinating how quickly we convert material success into also meaning good moral standing.  There is no reason for the linkage as we all are aware of people who disregard social norms and leave a trail of destruction in their quest for personal glory and achievement.

 

We can lump this video in with the others that attempt to shed light on issues in society that matter while discreetly hawking their wares in the background.  The best form of advertising?  I’m not sure, but the commercial makes space for some thinking about how generational experiences are becoming increasingly stratified and foreign to one another.

Are today’s youth doomed to be nothing but cloistered vid-heads who only know nature through what they have seen on the screens of their tablets?  Possibly but I’m thinking that much of the fuss we see about losing out youth to technology is a direct result of our societies ruthless quest for economic productivity, seemingly at all costs.

productivity

Productivity has ever increased, but at what social cost?  Remember when only one bread-winner was required to live a reasonable life and raise children?  Successive generations have had to work harder for less money, just to stay in place.  Community life has taken a back seat to the lifestyle focused the individual and consumption – social technology directly feeds into our atomization and separation from others.

The leaders of our society have learned the lessons of the past.  All that New Deal/Civil Rights/ Second Wave Feminist scared them shitless and having witnessed what an organized community of like minded people can accomplish are doing their best to ensure that it (social change benefiting the masses) does not happen again.  People with common interests, common community and commitment to bettering their own interests change society.  Isolated lone-wolves mired in consumptive practices do not.  Hence witness the trajectory of our society in which the ‘tailored-experience’ is all the rage; the idea that making choices (ones that are carefully circumscribed mind you) is empowering; and sadly the idea that social power resides in competition and being ‘unique’.  These are all hallmarks of society geared toward preserving a status-quo that benefits a particular segment of society.

The video is playing up the same fears every generation has about the next.  Are some of the concerns valid?  I think so, but nothing that cannot be overcome with realization that social media friends are not the same as having friends in real life.  Sharing (not the facebook variety) your life with others is a necessary part of healthily existing in society and cannot be replaced by social media.  Can social media/technology be used to enhance and facilitate our social interactions?  Of course, but it is not a replacement for the attachment and community humans need to be healthy and happy.

Societal analysis aside,I for one am glad that video games have come as far as they have.  Video games are an immersive experience for me that allow me to spend some time outside of the real-world.  At the same time I do realize that video gaming is just one aspect of life and must be balanced with other pursuits/activities/interests.

Admittedly, one must be careful in allocating time to video gaming as hours seem to disappear, especially when playing with your friends .  It is very easy to lose yourself in the experience and come out bleary-eyed on the other-side wondering why the hell it is 2am and why you’re not sleeping. :)

Recently I posted a quote from John Hari on addiction.   See it here.  I’ve also updated the post to include the video below as well.  What is detailed in this TED talk is idea that we should punish and isolate addicts from society.  This idea, according to Hari is about 100 years old and also, more importantly completely wrong.

The methodology we base the current “War on Drugs” and how we treat people who are addicted is based on poor experimental design.  When we control for environmental factors – addiction mostly disappears.

This TED talk was too important to bury in an update of an old blog post.  So please enjoy John Hari and his important ideas on addiction.

I’m reading Kimmel’s book GuyLand and I shudder to think of what I would be if I had engaged in the sort of crap that constitutes the typical male maturation process.

 

We have not featured an RSA animate here at DWR like forever, so here we go a quick hit in the qualities of persuasion you should have.

Interesting vid from TED about the social composition of cities.  I would have liked David to get into a little more detail about the methodology used to create his pretty maps.

Talk about unintended veracity.

Talk about unintended veracity.

 

Fascinating don’t you think?

Consider the neat way this dovetails into how relationships in our society are structured and the expectations placed upon those who are male and those who are female.

Pro-tip:  The deformed cup or one that isn’t complete without the other is where you should start your discussion blaming. :)

 

 

 

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