Thursday, August 26, 2010

Meritocracy & Racism: Philosophy, Politics & Economics

Let me try to write something here to see whether I can be as polite as I have been made out to be.

Meritocracy is a philosophy of the conduct of human society where the view is that the betterment of the whole can be obtained from the efforts of a few who are best that are available in the nation. The purpose is to keep pushing the frontier of material progress as a basis for the spiritual enlightenment (although I will concede it is possible to push for spiritual progress as a basis for material enlightenment).

That, of course, where merits are spread among human beings of all races is a god-given reality which we have no choice but to accept. But to suggest that merits are naturally inherent in particular races of people is a gross generalisation that bears no resemblance to reality. But, in the normal teaching of young children, the exhortation is always on effort to cultivate talents inherently bestowed by god on all human beings, whatever those talents might happen to be.

It will be a sad case for society if the leaders of society predetermine what talents should be cultivated for two reasons: (a) other potentially interesting or useful talents which could save mankind will not be cultivated; and (b) the obvious talents which now seem to be useful may be a manifestation of past desires and hence the likely consequence of mass unemployment of perfectly trained graduates with no opportunities to exploit them.

Meritocracy is a philosophy which strikes a chord in the heart of every rational man and woman.

I blame the designer of the course on philosophy, politics and economics who puts the politics before the economics.

Meritocracy, in its original state, is an economic concept of social advancement, admittedly concocted during the era of the rise of science and technology and the industrial revolution. Given the problems of the world, especially of overproduction, there may be a case of less-than-the-best-of-meritocracy to lead the band in search of prosperity. Houses are now too small to contain all the TVs, refrigerators, washing machines and cars that households wish to buy.

Politics, in itself, is already a very difficult game to play, especially where the whole objective is power and wealth and the refusal to die (hence the need to build monuments).

Political power is got from the people, and the method is often through the art of lying with style and stirring up of emotions where none seem to have existed before.

It is an unfortunate result of the end of colonialism - it ended because Britain could not longer justify keeping the colonies on economic terms in view of the social responsibilities that came with the rise of the welfare state - that the new concept of nationhood was promoted and somehow given independence for.

The notion of nationhood gives rise to the idea that there is a nation, or is it a race (or some other configuration) that gets rise of the past of being subjugated by foreigners.

In the world before the British colonial rule, people of different races and races from all parts of the world were living together - all over the world. Globalisation is not a new concept - people have been mixing about for a long long time, in order to perpetuate and strengthen their genes.

That a people feel extremely uncomfortable with people of a different colour, culture or religion is feeling that can only come from fear - and this cannot be the most pleasurable way to live.

Fear is ignorance which can only be removed with knowledge and wisdom, and which can only be acquired by openness, exposure and interaction.

By preaching exclusivity, insularity, and isolation, the end result is inevitably polarisation and this is the recipe for racial strife.

There is much for everybody to learn, and each must learn from the other. If business acumen is the goal, then one must mix with people who are good at doing business. If personal peace and tranquility are the goals, then one must mix with the religious or spiritual.

The learning process must be made available to everybody so that those who are interested to better themselves can find the avenue in which focused efforts can be made. To be followed, naturally, by competition to see who is better and this can be done in a friendly manner.

Human society and culture will evolve as people struggle to survive or to find pleasure in a world with rising population and diminishing natural resources. As we struggle for ourselves, we must not forgot our neighbours whom we can help as well.

It is unfortunate for all of us if we have to fight tooth and nail with each other for survival. This means the beautiful society as we know Malaysia to be is gone.


semuanya OK kot said...

"I blame the designer... who puts the politics before the economics."
Economics is contentious, to put it politely, and there could be many political issues that must be place above it. The furture of humanity is now in very great danger because of economics.

"Given the problems... especially of overproduction..."
There is also excess capacity. China spent its "stimulus package" on more capacity. USA spent it on saving capitalists. The solution to excess property everywhere (including here) is to keep propping up this teetering godzilla of an industry.

"It is an unfortunate result of the end of colonialism..."
The subversion of democracy is a universal problem. Only a handful of scholars have spoken out on capital itself, globalization and the "free" market. As in mainstream science, the rise of new economic ideas seems to require the dying out of old economists, evan though we cannot afford the delay.

"The notion of nationhood..."
We need to dispell national blinkers that our overlords wish us to don, and begin to see the patterns in exploitation.

"... preaching exclusivity, insularity, and isolation..."
This is a response by one set of pirates to another.

walla said...

Because he was the only doctor in town, the patient was sent to his clinic.

Being only a GP, he took symptoms, noted fever and prescribed panadol.

A few days later, the patient got worse and was admitted to a hospital.

Fortunately there was a specialist around. Probably back to see the family.

The specialist diagnosed the patient. Spontaneous petechiae compounded by hematemesis, metrorrhagia, melena and epitaxis. Since the patient had started vomiting violently, plasma leakage was apparent and coincided with severe thrombocytopenia and elevation of aminotransferases.

In the nick of time, prescriptions were made for hemorrhagic dengue fever; to avoid bleeding complications, the patient was weaned off panadol, given acetaminophen and a protocol of intravenous fluid therapy consisting of Ringer's lactate and an antiviral agent that targeted dengue RNA-polymerase dependency.

All three - doctor, patient and specialist - came from the same race.

Diseases don't distinguish race.

To become a specialist, the doctor would have had to put in more years of study and practice.

Like their targets - diseases - medical studies don't bullshit on merit.

The medical profession is built on non-racial meritocracy.

What in saving lives, everything else. Teachers must know the subjects they are supposed to teach. Judges and enforcement personnel must know when and how laws are to be applied. Businessmen must know the danger of underbidding, overbidding and risk-taking. Engineers must know how to read circuit diagrams properly and their technicians must know what tools to use for what repairs to what standards. Especially when it's servicing things like commercial airplanes.

But most of all, politicians should know the danger of making statements that reveal their propensity to use racial logic to divide peoples.

For when peoples are divided, meritocracy takes flight, even for those races served by anti-meritocracy policies.

After all, knowing the real world, they have reasonableness ingrained in them every day so much so they can readily accept that playing fields in the real world are only leveled by those who walk on them diligently, and never for long by those automatically inserted into every stratum of an organization in order to open opportunities for their career advancement when they have neither been properly trained to have the right skills for the right tasks nor made steady progress in building knowledge and experience over time, like how a general practitioner in a small town may aspire to be a renowned specialist in a global metropolis.

walla said...


A policy that is anti-meritocratic is just playing a zero-sum game which is more for me so long as it will be less for you. It then becomes a racist policy. It targets a particular race on the erroneous assumption the other race to benefit from it is hampered from progressing by the race that is to be blamed. It becomes suppression, and that contradicts itself for its second component of growth is ignored in the chase of its first component of redistribution. It feeds on fear and turns it into hate, malice, jealousy and animosity.

And these are qualities one will search in vain to find in any study on competitive advantages of societies and nations. Take Porter's works on external influence on the competitiveness of industries. They distill to one quality - incessant effort to improve and innovate. Stripped of racial connotations, improvement and innovation are but a reflection of meritocracy. After all, when someone performs by universally recognized standards to rise up in his job, isn't he walking the path of meritocracy to where he can be entrusted to deliver even better performance in a higher post? Spread across society and economy, isn't that the only deciding motivator for all, regardless of their race, to improve themselves based on a common agreement to just focus on the right factors to improve in a job, rather than the wrong factors to win one over the other?

And this universal standard is important in another regard. For without it, politicians and governments can easily saunder over the line and say that since meritocracy need not be practiced in personnel, it also need not be practiced in procurements, disbursements and distributions.

So that on top of removing fair motivation and causing exodus of brains needed to build capabilities of a nation, corruption gets entrenched and grows like a fatal viremia, gnawing away the soul of the same nation.

Maybe that would explain why prosecuting officers attempt self-strangulation and over two thousand commit suicide every year. While mainstream columnists are still thick-faced enough to rail against those who have painted the gloom and doom and they do so by saying we are not doing too badly. Are they by any chance a product of the anti-meritocracy movement, one wonders?

Even i am sometimes amazed at how polite i can be. Must be the hunger pangs which weaken and dull all senses.

Let me have a happy thought right now. A Kata backpack, slim and light but bespoked not for cameras - just a fiber-glassed laptop. A wad of cash, rupiah seems right. A valid passport, any face and name will do. A pair of old Nike walkabouts, airfoamed. A simple pair of sunglasses, perhaps titanium-framed. And a cheap airticket to Bali. Economists will tell me how to improvise the rest along the way.