I would just like to forewarn you that there is no actual conclusion to this article. It is purely based on the metaphysical queries that traverse my neural pathways whilst I’m contemplating in the shower. However, there is a purpose: to encourage you to expand your views on the system that we live in, breaking down the mental restrictions that society has so carefully planted to prevent liberal thinking.
Now, let us ponder upon the concept of merit. I’ve battled my way through enough judicial judgements in my first year at law school to know that you should always begin with a clear definition. Our ol’ pal, The Oxford Dictionary, defines merit as being:
“The quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward.”
Worthy? Deserve? Do you think that if you and that person applying for welfare benefits had grown up in each other’s places, it could undeniably be concluded that you would both be in the same positions that you are now? Some seem to think that they have some divine entitlement to all the privileges that they have been blessed with and I, being quite sceptical of this, will attempt to refute this simply nonsensical viewpoint.
First, let us attempt to answer the fundamental question at hand: do we really deserve anything at all? Well, if you’re a hardy supporter of the biological side to the ‘Nature v Nurture’ debate, you’d argue that we are genetically programmed to behave the way that we do and that our genes control almost every aspect of our behaviour. However, your average behaviourist would advocate the view that we are born as ‘blank’ beings that are shaped and moulded by our social and environmental surroundings. The point I’m trying to make is that, regardless of which side of the debate you take, or whether you agree with parts of both, you’ll find that it’s a lose/lose scenario for elitists everywhere. How can you radiate arrogance and boast of your medals, trophies and awards if someone else could have so easily taken your place? That achievement may seem to have been due to your hard work but, on a larger scale, was a result of factors far beyond your control. We could even question whether your ability to “work hard” was determined from the moment you were born or throughout your life via your upbringing.
Critics would argue that this view would prevent advancements in various practises and areas as people strive to achieve in order to gain recognition for their efforts. Now, by no means did I say that people should not receive acknowledgement for work they have put in to their respective fields. Recognition is an excellent incentive for people to push themselves and achieve great feats. What I am personally against is elitism. How does it differ from recognition, you ask?
It’s simple. It is the purpose of each which differentiates one from the other. Elitism is the attitude of thinking you are above someone because you possess certain characteristics or have achieved certain things. These characteristics or achievements will then be bragged by the individual in order to belittle another and make themselves seem that much bigger in the eyes of their peers and enemies. On the other, more angelic, hand, you’ll find that the act of receiving recognition, whether it be through a prestigious award or a simple pat on the back, is merely so that an individual knows that their hard work and dedication has been appreciated by others – this being, in my eyes, the greatest of all incentives for success.
So, in simple terms: be proud of your achievements but don’t let your pride cloud your thinking to the extent that you actually believe that you are above others. Make the most of every opportunity that presents itself before you and never take anything for granted because, just like Neville Longbottom could have taken Harry’s place, there are many others who could have taken yours.