Meritocracy : Taking A Lesson From Gaming

meritocracyWe stand today at a point we’ve never stood at before, led here by a great many social movements, from the end of slavery, all across the annals of history to GamerGate.  This point is a crrossroads, and one which holds great promise, if we choose to pursue the path as of yet unchosen.

The crossroads holds two signs, each facing an opposing direction, attached to a wooden pole in the ground, and we find a word upon either: meritocracy and minoritocracy.

In the past, we’ve had similar choices, but never quite this exact one.  Note that the nobility and the rich of old were, in fact, a minoritocracy; rule and leadership by the minority.  We’ve experienced minoritocracies for pretty much all of history thus far, be it a monarch, a matriarch, the wealthy, the nobility, or the leaders of a single party such as the communist attempts of the 1900’s.

Today, we see yet another new face of the minoritocracy, where minorities, based on their race, their gender, their sexual orientation, or what have you, seek to claim that the value of what one has to say is not based on what is said, but rather, by who said it.

Verily, “stop violence against everyone!” is a humane, charitable statement spoken by a woman, yet a disgusting self-absorbed statement if made by a man, and we see cases where people are only allowed to even speak their position as per a quite literal pecking order based on one’s oppressed status.

The minoritocracy of today is an oppressedicracy as much as anything else.

One would have thought, however, that we would have learned from history and that putting the fate of the many into the hands of a few, especially a few who feel they are especially deserving of special treatment, to be an ill-advised choice.

The fact of the matter is, we have the option to finally leave behind the minoritocracy, to unbind ourselves from those chains of status once and for all, and take a step towards true equality: the meritocracy.

So what is this meritocracy of which I speak?

Quite simply put, the statements which hold the most merit are valued above those of anything else.  It doesn’t matter who says something, so long as what is said holds merit.  A woman or minority never again need feel that they are ignored because of who they are, nor that people only listen because of who they are – we have the capacity for true equality at our fingertips, wherein the only feature which matters is the validity and merit of the statement itself being made.

This is the great equalizer, the single greatest achievement we could strive for, the pinnacle of civilization, and it fills a great many people with fear.

Within gaming, we have seen the meritocracy at work on a grand scale: those who strive for perfection are awarded, and those who rely upon what they are, rather than what they do, are frowned upon with disdain.  Truly, gamer culture may yet be the prototype for civilization to fall in the footsteps of, and what a world it could be.

When one looks upon gamer culture, what we see is that the surface seems to be much the same as we’ve always witnessed: women put upon pedestals for simply being female, freebies handed out to those we deem worthy by birth, and generally a sea of what we’ve come to expect.

Beneath this surface, however, once one reaches into the depths of the hardcore and professional gamer, a new world emerges.  Respect, here, is derived solely from one’s capacity to perform within the game itself.  No longer will one’s birthright hold sway, for the competitive nature ensures only the best are allowed within the ranks of the hardcore elite.

This is, again, a minoritocracy, yet it’s a minoritocracy wherein there is no birthright for selection – the entirety of the populace of this minoritocracy is comprised of those who have attained this status via merit, by what they have accomplished, and by the skills they have honed.

The meritocracy need not remain a minority, however: were we to truly emphasize and exalt those who strive for greatness, and were we to recognize these individuals for their achievements on a grand scale, we could achieve like we never have before.

The truth we must realize, is that we are not born equal, so much as we would like to claim such to be true.  Those who are born into poverty are clearly at both an advantage and a disadvantage to those who are born into wealth.  The wealthy find they have all the tools at their disposal to do well, yet also find they have never had to work for their mere survival, either.  When one never needs seek food or shelter, one can’t truly appreciate these things, and yet, when one is busy seeking food or shelter, one is not able to then also seek enlightenment as well.

I could go into detail at length over such, yet this is unneeded; what is required is to accept that we each arrive into life with an uneven playing field.  Each of our hardships grants us strength, and each of our luxuries softens us in kind.  Therein we must learn to grant hardship to those who have supped only from the finest wrought silver spoon, and aide to those who have naught the chance to learn at all.

We, as a people, as a whole, contain the capacity for greatness.  Some of us are taught to embrace that potential for greatness, and some of us falter, blaming the ills that befall us upon others, rather than climbing past those challenges within our path.  Some will rise to the greatest of heights, and some of us will not.  In the end, we must accept that there can never be equality of outcome, only equality of opportunity.

And to that end, the meritocracy holds within it the key to the equality of opportunity: to provide those who show the initial glimmer of greatness all the tools they need to ascend beyond mediocrity.

There is a story which illustrates this point well, one I heard many years ago and stuck with me:

A man dies and finds himself in heaven; he’s shown about the afterlife by an angel who points towards the great many individuals who populate the realm.  The greatest of minds and thinkers, the greatest of lovers, the greatest of believers, and of poets, of artists, of dreamers, from the most humble to the largest of leaders.

The man speaks to his companion, “There are truly wonders in this place, yet I find I have always had an interest in warfare, the great generals, the tacticians, the minds who would command so many others in the harshest of conditions. Could you show to me the greatest general who ever lived?”

The angel nods, and points to a single individual out of the multitude, and the man furrows his brows in confusion. “I see to whom you point, but I knew this man in life, and he was but a simple farmer, not a great military mind.”

In response, the angel merely smiles with a response unexpected. “Yes, but he was never granted the opportunity to lead an army; had he been granted such, he would have been the greatest general who ever lived.”

The point the story makes is deceptively simple, yet one we must explore if we seek to instill a true meritocracy: there are those who have great potential who simply never realize this potential.  It is of benefit to all of us that we actively seek out grant each of us the capacity to rise to our calling, whatever that may be, yet we must also understand that we can not live the life of another for them – in the end, it is up to the individual to use the tools provided to them or to shy away from the responsibility of greatness.

To this end, merit and logic are the greatest of the tools afforded to us: neither cares who you are, how you were born, or what you have done in your life, all that matters is the value of what you have to say.

This is the holy grail of equality, where I, as a minority and a woman, can stand up and be awarded respect based solely upon what I have to say, without my status as a minority or being female weighing me down, nor propping me up.

Merit and logic are each onto themselves a double edged sword, however; if I speak without merit, such will be scrutinized, and should I be found wanting, criticism most harsh will be cast my way as well.  No longer could I hide behind my status and demand that others grant me special privilege by birthright.

And therein lies our greatest challenge of all for instilling a meritocracy: equality.

It is equality to be criticized for a bad idea, as much as it is equality to be celebrated for a good idea.  When all that matters is what you say and what you do, not who speaks the words or who performs the action, those who were privileged to be viewed beneficially without merit, simply for their birth, will cry foul, and claim that equality itself is injustice against them.

Which, sadly, is exactly what we have seen.

We reap what we sow, and for equality to blossom, equality must be the basis of all our decisions, here, now.

The cycle of hatred is called such because it is, in fact, a cycle.  It doesn’t even matter if men may have oppressed women since the dawn of time; it doesn’t matter if the white man may have subjugated the rest of the world, it doesn’t matter if these are even true or false.  The cycle continues so long as we base the future upon the hatreds of the past.

Even if men had held women beneath them for 200,000 years, then 200,000 years of women holding men beneath them will solve nothing; it will merely be another turn of the wheel, and the cycle will continue forever.

We can never build equality upon a foundation of inequality.  The wheel will simply turn once more and destroy all we have accomplished as has always happened.  Eventually, the oppressor will be defeated, and the oppressed will become the new oppressor, but there shall always be an oppressor until someone is willing to forgive, and to lay the foundation of equality for all, not just equality for themselves.

Within the meritocracy lay the ability for such, as its foundational premise is that we, as individuals, are irrelevant, only our ideas and our capacity to enact them matters.  We are but the humble containers of knowledge, with the design of the container being of no value compared to that which lay within.

The wheel turns full circle, and yet still we continue to stand before the crossroads, a single point in our history, but the words upon our sign have changed.

“Equality by merit and equality of opportunity”, or “Some are more equal than others and equality of outcome.”

Which will we choose?

Which will you choose?

About Catreece MacLeod

Catreece MacLeod has worked as a writer, editor, video game designer, teacher, 3D artist and quite a few other roles. Her specialization is pre-production writing, most notably, world design and IP creation.
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