I despise elitism, and who doesn’t? Who endorses elitism? No one, practically, elitism in the closet currently, isn’t it? It’s traditionally NOT an American value, and yet, in reality, and in America, it flourishes around us like… something flourishing really well. Elitism is ubiquitous. So there must be some concept which is propping up elitism.
Some might say that those in power, the “elite” are merely holding onto power, and the people no longer believe they are actually, legitimately “elite”… that elitism has been beaten but they have momentum. But no, elitism is alive and well and belief in it is spread far and strong, even among progressives. It’s ubiquitous, it needed only find some other terms, other framing, in order to survive the assault.
Elitism lives in the myth of meritocracy.
In ages past it was elitism pure and simple, the assumptions were that the elite would exert itself, maybe God would take care of it, and you could find those that praised elitism and class stratification based on elitist ideals that everything has it’s place and everything should stick to it’s place. But now, that argument is shelved — why not the phenomenon itself?
Take an idealized merit based system… a singles sport like golf and singles tennis. You prove your merit directly by winning by the rules. The rules are fairly clear, and they are generally fair. When you win a game, you prove your merit to, for example, play on into the finals. If you have won by a fluke, over time the chances of that recede and one average you have a system which selects for tennis-merit.
But add “-cracy”, power over a culture or group, power to decide things for others, and you have a difficult premise even in this clear and artificial case of sport. Merit as a tennis player doesn’t mean you are the best person to head the USTA. It doesn’t even mean you would be the best teacher in your sport… skill is like this, mastering a skill doesn’t mean mastering teaching, it doesn’t mean mastery of everything related to your skill.
I’m a free market advocate, but the free market faithful, the type that confuse capitalism and free markets, they believe in an invisible hand that comes and turns the chaos of an unregulated market into what..? a meritocracy! They don’t concern themselves overly with those left out, those at “the bottom”, those that do not climb the ladder allegedly created, because it is a meritocracy, and when worth has been proven, of course, OF COURSE, you will concern yourself with gifting those who have proven their ability to use their gifts well, and subjecting yourself to their will and power. Indeed, the framing we all accept is that these people are at “the bottom” of something, when in fact they are “left out”, not at the bottom.
Some think the blogosphere itself is a meritocracy, that once again, “the cream has risen to the top” (classic example of framing by the way, as shit also floats… and quicker). Indeed, they feel the net is an egalitarian publishing system where finally those thinkers kept out of the previous non-meritocratic methods (like, journalism school I guess) can be appreciated and get their due… it’s purpose, practically, is to put us in contact with those merit-ful writers that were unknown. But as with the tennis example… the process of “rising” in blogging is still a game with rules, and merit related to those rules cannot be generalized. If you are a compelling writer that people want to read… that may be shown on the net, but that won’t make you a great thinker, it won’t make your prognostications true, your strategy sound, it cannot prove your worth to -decide for communities-, it can’t. Nothing can, there is no legitimate right to rule other, and there never ever will be. STOP LOOKING FOR THE PERFECT MERITOCRACY.
What I seek is not a meritocracy but another elusive goal, which so far is unproven, which may not exist, which may turn out to be as phantasmal and intangible as meritocracy should already be known to be… I seek a way for people to rule themselves. I seek a way for people to collaborate ideas directly into the material world, rather than be forced to seek meritocracy and layer upon layer of representation by the meritocraticly chosen.
That’s what netroots meant to me, it was a step on an evolution I’ve watched for some time as the internet showed us there was a lot we could yet do in terms of collaboration, in peer-to-peer power, in collaboration over representation. I believe the promis has been made, we can expect the removal of the myth of meritocracy, we have needed it only because we had no better choice, the technology of getting people together 10,000 at a time for collaboration will make old meritocracy obsolete.
Netroots for politics and net communication in general can help us put our heads together and make good ideas together. We can do that instead of invent yet another system we use to raise some above the rest. Any system we invent will not prove “merit” for the purpose of deciding for others, it will only serve a purpose, like any system, like any machine, it may be a good purpose, but it will not, cannot prove merit for the task of ruling others.
I seek self-determination, autosoveriegnty, a replacement of authority with good sense, and to free ourselves from the philosophies of the oppressed.
A new kind of human being, clearly, is what I seek.
NOTE: this essay escaped from My Left Wing.