Friday, January 24, 2014

The Failure of the Meritocracy: Twilight of the Elites

Chris Hayes has it exactly right.  He's an Editor-at-Large for The Nation, (at least he was in 2012) and has a book out titled, Twilight of the Elites: America after the Meritocracy.  What I refer to as the Corporatocracy (from John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man) or the Oligarchy, Mr. Hayes calls the Meritocracy.  It's the same kettle of rotting fish.

The word "meritocracy" was coined by a British social critic in the 1950s.  It was used in a satirical way to describe how the elites rig the game and make rules in their favor.  Basically, the whole thing boils down to this:
1. in the ethereal atmosphere of the elitist world, the most valuable characteristic of Humankind is high intelligence;
2. the most valuable use of that intelligence is deemed to be the making of vast sums of money;
3. other considerations, such as a social conscience, egalitarianism, democracy, compassion, and the like are deemed to be unimportant...or even hindrances.

Though the Brit who coined the term meant it in the vein of 1984, or Animal Farm, or Brave New World (in other words, dystopian societies), elites have (supposedly by mistake) adopted the concept as a model for society.  As a result, they have come to view themselves---because most of them are super-intelligent---as a class apart, superior to the Average Jane or Joe in every way.  They also have developed a strong sense of solidarity within their Class because they are, in their minds, vastly superior to the "little people".  [I was stunned when the International Head of BP, in a national TV news interview, referred to the Gulf residents as the "small people".  The man reeked of condescension...and I think, knew it.]

This all has resulted in a situation in which the elites, who are great Institutionalists, wind up protecting the people in the institution (public or private) rather than the people whom the institution serves...the overwhelming majority of any population.  Those of us in the lower socio-economic classes are viewed as Insurrectionists, and there is little or no concern for our well-being.  Example:  the cover-up (or ignoring) of the Sandusky affair at Penn State by the hierarchy of that institution.  Example:  the opposition to Cesar Chavez when he protested the lack of protection for farmworkers from pesticides, back when pesticides were barely regulated.

Those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder have experienced the negative effects of the Meritocracy for decades and decades.  What's different now is that the Upper Middle Class, since about the late 1990s or 2000, also has been experiencing those negative effects...especially economically, but also socially.  Wages/salaries have largely stagnated, people have to work longer in order to survive retirement in anything resembling a comfortable fashion, economic "bubbles" often have negatively impacted retirement funds, the National Security State is becoming more and more demanding and intrusive, wealth is being transferred from the Middle Class to the upper one percent at a truly astounding rate, and on & on.

The Sea Change in all this, the thing that has the elites very concerned, is the fact that the Upper Middle Class (and even many of those at the bottom of the ladder) is demonstrating that it will not put up with business-as-usual.  Sometimes actively, sometimes passively, they are expressing their extreme displeasure.  Faith in institutions of all kinds is in a free-fall decline...and most of those institutions are controlled by elites. 

The Meritocracy/Oligarchy knows that something bad for them definitely is in the wind.  Because they're mostly short-term-gain thinkers, I predict that in the not-so-distant future we'll have more economic bubbles and more "too big to fail" bailouts, or something even weirder, enabling the upper crust to scam even more billions.  Financial "derivatives" may be instrumental in that scenario...again.  I hope I'm wrong.

Partly just my opinion.

No comments: