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The Illusion of Meritocracy: Patriarchy, Capitalism, and Mental Health

11 Apr 2024 4:52 PM | Dr. Nick Battle (Administrator)

In a truly meritocratic society, success would be determined solely by an individual's abilities and efforts. However, the reality is far from this ideal. Patriarchy, capitalism, and the myth of meritocracy intersect to create a system built on partiality, favoritism, and preference based on various factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, sexuality, and religion. This system not only perpetuates inequality but also has a profound impact on mental health.

One of the fundamental aspects of a meritocracy is the absence of inherited wealth and privilege. In such a system, all individuals would start on an equal playing field, with the same access to resources and opportunities. However, this is far from the reality in the United States, where generational wealth and privilege play a significant role in determining one's success. Families pass down wealth, connections, and opportunities, creating a system where success is often predetermined by birth.

Those who believe in the myth of meritocracy often come from marginalized or disadvantaged backgrounds. They are led to believe that hard work alone will lead to success, despite the systemic barriers they face. This belief is perpetuated by the occasional success story of someone who "made it" against the odds. However, these stories often overlook the privilege and advantages that enabled their success, such as access to capital or influential connections.

Individuals like Ben Carson or Clarence Thomas, who are often held up as examples of meritocratic success, are more accurately examples of individuals who were favored and placed in positions of advantage. They were able to take advantage of programs and opportunities that are often out of reach for most people due to their circumstances.

The pursuit of success as defined by societal standards can have a detrimental impact on mental health. Constantly being bombarded with images and ideas of what one "should" have or be can lead to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression. The pressure to succeed in a system that is inherently unfair and biased can take a toll on one's well-being.

It is crucial that we redefine success on our own terms and challenge the myth of meritocracy. Success should not be measured by societal standards but by our own values and goals. By recognizing the systemic barriers that exist and working to dismantle them, we can create a more equitable society that values the inherent worth and dignity of every individual.


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