American Oligarchy & The Myth of Meritocracy
By: Marcus Perriello | Our Voice Contributor
Most people don’t give the intricate inner workings of their environment a second thought. They just wake up every day, go through their respective routines, and live their lives, doing what they can to keep up with the Joneses. This level of ignorance has left the back door open for opportunistic capitalists to craft a system that allows them to preach one message while simultaneously working that system to portray the exact opposite of that message. What American culture has become is an economic model for wealthy and powerful people: Do what you have to do to make it to the top, then you are free to manipulate the system in your favor and no one can stop you.
The idea of a Meritocracy does have a certain degree of validity within its premise. But it only stretches so far before it begins to show its flaws and just how absurd the overall argument is when it comes to the issue of Human Life and Human Rights. The trouble with Capitalism, in its raw form, is that it leaves the door open for the commoditization of literally everything, including human life and human rights. Drawn in by the prospect of unparalleled wealth and prosperity, the American economic system touts its premise of Freedom and Liberty. In the same breath they’re stating that those who don’t have the means to pay for the most basic necessities of life are virtually useless and are therefore left to die as part of the purity of the system. This is the result of what has been called “Manufactured Scarcity”; the idea that resources – even those that are intangible and totally man-made – are so limited that only a select few who fight their way to the top should be allowed to have them, and therefore control them and the fate of everyone else who has fallen behind. Once this process is complete, the Meritocracy then becomes an Oligarchy.
Oligarchy is an economic and political system that is fully under the control of a society’s economic-political elites, usually with a democratic process in place for their own utilization, while the rest of the population is left to deal with the consequences of their decisions with little or no recourse. This is what has led some to become so thoroughly disenchanted with the concept of Democracy in America that they don’t participate in the democratic process at all, further leading to the consolidation of economic and political power among the country’s elites. America’s history is one highlighted by the underlying lust for wealth and power among many in its citizenry that only saw what they could get out of this “Land of Opportunity” and went after it. They never once make the connections that can allow for a more balanced, harmonious and prosperous society.
When a society is driven by a strict creed of Individualism and the pursuit of wealth and power, there is an almost-total lack of common sense when it comes to the broader implications of hoarding of wealth and resources, as well as the amount of economic and political control that comes with it. Meritocracy, like Capitalism, only works up to a point. After the race is over, those remaining at the top do not want to part with their gains. Power is the most addictive force in nature. Allow it to concentrate too much in a given area, the simple joy of winning the competition can quickly turn into a crusade designed for more nefarious purposes. Even if those winners are not so readily corruptible, over time that corrupting influence can still see its way into their hearts and minds, leading to them orchestrating policies and events that render the whole of society unable to function.
By this time, a certain type of mental bubble exists within this group of elites that may seem normal and perfectly acceptable to them. But for those looking in who have been left behind, they don’t see a bed of roses: They see a swamp. They eventually come to realize that the system they’ve been taught to believe in all their lives is nothing more than an illusion; a cardboard cutout of what they’ve been told was a three-dimensional reality. From here festers the feelings of frustration, resentment, anger, and when it gets bad enough, even desperation and violence. Once this is realized by the elites, that’s when the demonic face of Fascism begins to show itself. The elites know their blissful wealthy existence is in jeopardy, so they being the process of using their immense wealth and power to call on their government puppets, Law Enforcement, the military, even private security groups to do whatever is necessary to quell rebellion. From this point on, it’s anyone’s game.
The whole notion of American being a country about “competition” is actually a dead giveaway on the part of the oligarchs because the word itself contains the actuality of winners and losers. Those who win (the Haves), and those who lose (the Have-Nots). In this sense, we can see that the idea of a Meritocracy is little more than a game, and not necessarily a solid, sound prescription on how to live life. Manufactured Scarcity is designed for one purpose: To obtain consent from the public to allow the consolidation of economic and political power. But Power in this sense of the word is little more than a mental apparition. In virtually every case, the mass of people perceive a small, aggressive, blustering, sometimes violent smaller group of people as more powerful than they are. This is sometimes based on presentation, messaging, actions, reputations, or any combination thereof.
Democracy has been history’s greatest checks-and-balances against the consolidation of Power. But as recent events have shown, even the seemingly-best defenses against the consolidation of Power can be circumnavigated, if the opportunists seeking to do so are clever and savvy enough to pull it off. In the United States, one such demonstration of this trait has been the slow-but-steady capture of the entire economic and political system by Corporate America, as investors, CEOs, and those of certain family lineage have been able to use their respective prestige to ascend to the upper echelons of Power in America’s political infrastructure. This successful, yet silent Coup d’etat has enabled the wealthy elites of this country to rig the entire system in their favor, leaving the rest of the people with little-to-no say in the greater discussion regarding America’s future.
Some people might think this means the end of Democracy in America, and that Fascism is destined to win the day and be the determining factor that guides the country moving forward. Nothing could be further from the truth. Again, Power is little more than a mental apparition; a perception of a given phenomenon that renders one’s own capabilities useless. This is where Consent emerges, as those who have interpreted this apparition as beyond their capabilities and therefore, created a sense of helplessness and uncertainty. It’s not direct consent, but rather the appearance of consent that is extrapolated in the mental vacuum created by the lack of understanding and uncertainty. In order to confront the phenomenon of Power in this sense of the word, one of the best ways to approach this problem is to start by recognizing that Life itself is not a game of winners and losers. Instead, we must recognize that Life itself is a unique, vibrant, ambiguous phenomenon that does not require decisions to be made about who lives and who dies, but rather what we can do to encourage this phenomenon and help it to grow.
It is this argument that flushes out the idea of Meritocracy as sound and valid. Without the rest of Life on this planet, Human Life would not be able to exist. Therefore, it is in the best interest of humanity as a whole to apply this idea of a Meritocracy not to individual pursuit, but rather to the very ability of mankind to survive. From there, the goal can be reset to one of Prosperity. Individual Pursuit does not have to be seen as fodder for competition. Instead, it can be viewed for what it is: A direct reflection of what makes us as individuals unique, and nothing more. This approach can help us to overcome this myth of Manufactured Scarcity (and Manufactured Consent) while still allowing for individual pursuit without the threat of personal ruin by outside parties based on the Power-driven notion of Competition. The best way to get to this point is the subject of the upcoming article: ‘The Hydrodollar System.’