The End of Merit
Everywhere we look, the principle of merit is compromised or regarded as the worst form of unfairness. Sanctioned mediocrity is now the order of the day. Standards of achievement are diluted, hard work goes unacknowledged, and the desire to excel in one's field or to accept responsibility for one's actions and even for one's failures is in abeyance. Individual talent, intelligence, entrepreneurial success, and personal discipline are dismissed as unjust advantages deriving from the exploitation of the dispossessed. "You didn't build that," as Obama notoriously proclaimed. The inevitable result is the devitalizing of political, intellectual, and professional life to the point where a society finds itself in a state of "progressive" deterioration.
The American (and Canadian) university system is in precipitous freefall, filled with students largely incapable of scholarly ability and civil decorum, professors who do not or cannot teach, gender studies mavens who pollute the curriculum with feminist groupthink, administrators infected by political correctness who propagate "hate speech" laws and shut down controversial debate, and so-called "diversity officers" inimical to diversity of ideas. In effect, the university has opened its doors, in the name of affirmative action, student empowerment, and equity hiring, to a cohort of self-righteous incompetents and mischief-makers. The consequence is predictable. The weak and the undeserving profit at the expense of the shrinking cadre of the committed and the qualified, and society is the worse for it.
Journalism, once a respected profession, has lost its reason for existence, having scrapped its mandate to report on events and to act as public watchdog. Instead, it devotes itself to dishing up propaganda, fake news, and outright lies. Media outlets hire not journalists in the established sense, but journolists, partisan peons poorly trained in linguistic proficiency and utterly devoid of ethical standards. Those who depend on the media for information are thus systematically deceived, leading to a further coarsening of public cognition.
Similarly, our various welfare organizations and government departments, originally conceived as a social safety net, have violated their founding impetus and have come instead to celebrate failure and ineptitude. The ambulance network in drug-infested Vancouver, for example, is too busy responding to its constituency of addicts to provide prompt service to tax-paying citizens. Municipal authorities are dedicated to saving those mired in the throes of self-abuse while ignoring the rightful claimants to paid for social services.
Our Human Rights Tribunals, a para-judicial and unaccountable arm of Canada's chartered courts, cater to the social stratum of the so-called marginal and oppressed at prohibitive cost to decent working people, who almost invariably lose the frequent suits lodged against them. The same is true of our tenancy boards, which favor non-paying and unreliable tenants while penalizing landlords who have invested in and labor to maintain their property and who may be prosecuted and fined for refusing to rent to unsavory applicants. One recalls, too, the subprime mortgage fiasco, which devastated the global economy for years. Union workers cannot be fired for laziness or inadequate performance, both of which are ubiquitous. What is misnamed as "social justice" prevails across the board, yielding a declining culture in which merit, ability, responsibility, and the fruits of honest labor are denounced as forms of "privilege." The surrender, as Jordan Peterson has famously argued, to the clamor for unearned and often chimerical "rights" is near total.
Further, multitudes of unskilled immigrants and refugees from third-world countries and overtly hostile cultures contribute ever more critically to the accelerating decline of Western societies. The welfare rolls and medical facilities overflow, the fiscal weight is ultimately unsustainable (the German commissioner for immigration, refugees, and integration forecasts that only a quarter to a third of refugees will enter the labor market over the next five years, and "for many others we will need up to 10." He is probably being optimistic), civil disorder is on the rise, and the academy is choked with degree candidates who cannot meet the conventions of accredited success. The hallowed doctrine of multiculturalism is a surefire recipe for cultural stupefaction and eventual collapse.
Affirmative action is a prime instance of the social and cultural convulsions in which merit, integrity, and criteria of genuine accomplishment – what Daniel Webster defined as "the ligament that binds civilized beings and civilized nations together" – are replaced by officially valorized mediocrity and accepted malpractice. This is nothing more than a form of social dereliction pursued under the rubrics of gender equality and minority reparation, irrespective of native ability and certified competence.
The trouble here is that quittance in the present for the wrongs of the distant past – perceived or actual – will often lead not to gratitude or, more importantly, to the emergence of excellence and self-reliance on the part of its beneficiaries. Rather, it tends to generate continual grievance, parasitism, and pervasive decline in capacity and performance. The policy of historical indemnification, predicated on white liberal guilt, on a naïve belief in the power of anachronistic restitution or on a cynical electoral calculus to control a captive voting bloc, tends to vacate a nation's human and economic resources and to put its citizens in harm's way.
A symptomatic case, which stands in microcosm for society in general, is provided by former FAA air traffic controller Willie Shields, who reports that affirmative action hiring protocols have placed commercial passengers in grave danger. He himself will no longer fly. The FAA, he reveals, has "started conspiring ... with leftist groups like the Black and Hispanic Controller's Coalition. Gay and lesbian organizations started demanding hiring and promotion slots for their members – as if one's preference for a particular style of recreational sexual behavior is an indispensable predictor of air traffic control ability." The entire hiring exercise "is designed to identify applicants who are white males for the purpose of eliminating them from consideration." As one commentator remarks, "from the control tower to the operating theater affirmative action threatens."
Everyone is at risk when the meritocracy principle submits to the social justice compulsion and feel-good dynamics. Planes drop from the sky. Bridges collapse. Universities increasingly hire crackpots and graduate misfits. Algebra perpetuates white privilege, and math is racist. Shakespeare is just a dead white male whose place in the canon must yield to feminist poetaster Audre Lord. Art, as Sohrab Ahmari has painstakingly shown in The New Philistines, devolves into indoctrination and self-indulgence. The English language itself is a colonial scandal. The influential postmodernist school insists that truth is an instrument of power – except, of course, for its own categorical truth. Thus, unexamined belief takes precedence over analytical thought.
Why, then, should we be surprised that congressmen can fancy that the island of Guam will capsize if too many American Marines are deployed there? Political illiterates and historical amnesiacs beatify a charlatan like Karl Marx. In civil law, especially in trials dealing with allegations of sexual assault, preponderance of evidence gradually begins to substitute for due process and "beyond a reasonable doubt." The evidential merit of a case is irrelevant. And so it goes. The four cardinal virtues – prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice, to which we can add intelligence – are dismissed as a Judeo-Christian conspiracy against other races and civilizations, a canard that produces the decadence we are presently witnessing.
The wholesale derogation of all things Western – science, art, technics, common law, civil institutions, the material abundance furnished by capitalist enterprise, the concept of the "individual" – has blinded generations to the gifts and uniqueness of a meritocratic civilization, now being disassembled from within and supplanted by a species of pharisaic tribalism.
In my own country of Canada, there is practically no hope for recovery or substantive change. The culture is too heavily socialized. Moreover, a Conservative government, should it ever be elected, lacks the will to buck the trend or to reverse whatever Liberal and socialist policies are already in place. We have no political figures possessing the gumption and combativeness of Donald Trump. Even in America, if Andrew Breitbart was right in his conviction that politics is downstream of culture, Trump may prove ineffectual in his efforts to redress the balance.
Absent a constitutional revolution, as I have contended elsewhere, I see no solution to the predicament in which we are embroiled but to await the coming collapse and hope restoration may arise from the rubble. Meanwhile, like Yossarian in Joseph Heller's Catch-22, we must do what we can to survive. Stay out of debt. Acquire a financial reserve, and monitor it carefully. Read books. Make sure we are armed. And don't fly.