Thursday, May 28, 2015


Having a conversation about meritocracies, I admitted that I prefer them.  For an old Liberal who is a step away from Socialism, that probably doesn't sound right . . . but like I defended earlier today, I will try to explain.

The traditional meritocracy is founded on the position that, being individuals that have proven their world, entitlement follows.  For those who haven't or cannot show their value to society, nothing.  "If you want it, then do something to deserve it," goes the usual reply to anyone who complains about this system - because meritocracies are almost always founded on the bootstrap principle.

I feel this is a lot of self-sustaining crap, particularly popular with people who do not pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, having been born into extraordinary wealth or at the very least, upper middle class.  Bootstrappism is very popular with the Republican party, particularly those who own farms left by their ancestors who choose to think of themselves as "poor."  But I'm going to stop myself there before I go into a tirade about how much of the population that considers themselves poor are really just people living on a narrow profit margin (of their own making).

A proper meritocracy should not be based upon what an individual has done, but upon what an individual is willing to do.  The answer should not be, "Go get it yourself," it should be, "What can you do, I'll help you do it."  If it comes back that the individual can do nothing, I firmly feel that the answer should then be, "What would you like to do, I'll give you the chance."

Thus, my meritocracy includes loans for students in order to give them skills.  It includes finding people work in their field and in providing money to ensure that companies in that field are able to hire employees.  It means that if I encounter someone who has no ability to DM, it is not part of my philosophy to send them away with, "Well, go learn how."  I would rather teach them.  And if they don't get it?  Well, teach them some more.  And keep teaching them until they do get it . . . or they decide to go learn something else.

There will always be a part of society that won't learn, won't improve, won't take the next step, won't consider their future and won't see anyone's offer to help as desirable.  Many of these people live awful lives right now . . . and yet the society I live in still tries to help these people.  I see that as right and proper.  There is always the chance that anyone will see the light and step up.  We've got to ensure, daily, that these people have a welcome mat to step onto when they're ready.

People who make the argument that "some people are born to be DMs and some are not" are merely absolving themselves of responsibility.  They don't know what they do that makes them 'good' and they can't be bothered to know.  They have no desire to share.  They enjoy their entitled positions . . . and they are very threatened when it's suggested that anyone could do what they are doing.

Far too often we make more of our circumstance than is deserved.  We translate "Mommy and Daddy left me money" into "we come from a superior stock" and ignore the sheer chance of it all.  We translate seeing an opportunity to improve our position as a clear indication of our superior intelligence, not evidence of being in the right place at the right time.  We translate "I kept at the job and got better" as evidence that anyone who fell by the wayside deserved to fall by the wayside.  And we self-identify our value by virtue of what happened to happen to us, arguing that we made it happen.

There's no rule that says everybody's Mommy and Daddy and leave their money to everybody, except the one we've made ourselves.  Having found our opportunity, it is up to us to help others find theirs.  Having kept our shoulders to the wheel and kept our jobs, it is our responsibility to lend support to others who are struggling to do the same.  No one deserves to fall by the wayside . . . and if they do, we're all at fault.  Our value comes from what we make happen for everyone.  We are all in this together.

It occurs to me that this is a good time to say that my favorite book is the Fountainhead.  And then not to explain why.

One of my best qualities is the ability to explain things.  Moreover, I like doing it.  I wrote a book that explains how to be a good DM.  I wrote another explaining how to be a good player.  I wrote a third explaining what works and what does not work about dungeons.  I suggest the reader look for these books, if the reader wants some help at their own particular wheel.

In the meantime, I'll be here, writing.  More than happily.  For that, I intend to get all the entitlement that I'm able to earn . . . recognizing that it won't all be mine when I've got it.

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Tim said...

I wasn't expecting to read something so inspirational. Now that's a meritocracy that makes sense to me.
I'd think part of what those with opportunity can forget is that opportunity is easy: you don't need to stress about what you can or can't do, or what you do or don't have time for. Financial opportunity is mostly just peace of mind, which does wonders for one's ability to learn (I know many fellow students who have struggled to accommodate a job, a full-time university education and managing their student loans, and find themselves very stressed as a result).
Lending a hand and providing one's own time to teach and help those who could use some more peace of mind seems a very noble goal to me: certainly an occupation deserving of a high status in a meritocracy. An atmosphere where people compete to be more helpful does sound rather positive.

Perhaps I will have to get a twitter handle to help share your wisdom with the world.

Ray Doraisamy said...

It's hard to admit, in reality, that our characters are rolled for us.

There is no 'elite array', or point buy yet.

It occurs to me that the problems of meritocracy, like the problems of most 'cracies, might be ease of implementation. And you know what? We've got the technology to enable better systems than are currently used, so there's no reason to be surprised at your appreciation for meritocracy. What's the point of labels if they limit us, anyway?

If you could be paid a fair amount (eh, let's arbitrarily decide on 'whatever you need to be comfortable') in exchange for teaching your books, what would your curriculum look like, I wonder?

Oh, and have a tweet.

Vlad Malkav said...

Can't say more than what Tim said... Thanks for the thoughts.