In this era of national elections we are hearing many themes that attempt to have make sense in our lives. One of these themes is "meritocracy," the belief that people receive wealth and income solely by virtue of their hard work and talent. It's the idea that privilege and access matters not and that somehow, we can each claw our way to the top. The thought that "them that's got" getting even more will somehow benefit us all and that if we work hard enough and make a big enough contribution to society, we can be among them.
Napoleon Hill, in "Think and Grow Rich," translated it to, "Your rewards in life are directly proportional to your contributions." As I reflect on this theme I hold it up to my life and the life of others I have known and now know, and I begin to wonder. Certainly there are many examples of people who have succeeded against all odds, but do they serve as examples of a meritocracy? Can one truly succeed solely by their efforts, or do class and access place some at one pre-determined level of success and others somewhere beneath that? Do meritocracies really work in the everyday world outside the sports arena?
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