I like to continue with where I left in “About ‘Emma’ (XII)”. I want to continue with the discussion about “merit based” system, especially related to “Goodness”.
I think it is very clear from my last post that the economic system we have now is not exactly “merit based” system. And, it seems pretty clear that the economic activities are often zero-sum games. In fact, they are often minus-sum games, that the “success” of some people often have negative effects on the overall economic growth, contrary to what many people have claimed, even though the individuals would not necessarily fall into “wrong doers” categories, or even blameless in most sense.
But I think the idea about “Goodness” is even more problematic. There are at least two kinds of problems. First, I suspect that the reason “Goodness” become so “popular” is because people (“favored” by the system) often can fool people (others) by performing some kinds of “good” to get a pass to do whatever they want. On the other hands, people who are short-handed by the system are often silenced by reminding them to be “good”.
This is why I like to replace “Goodness” with “do right things”. The society cannot require people to be taken advantage of to be “good”, while insisting the system is a “merit based” system. I guess this kind of hypocrisy becomes so common I don’t think I have heard of people address this problem directly. A truly fair and just society only need and should require people to “do right things”, nothing less and nothing more, because people who are constantly doing things to be taken advantage of will diminish themselves, and they are in fact encouraging others to take advantage of them. If a society’s existence relies on these kinds of mechanism, the society is not a just society, and cannot function very well.
But one must know what are the “right things”. It is not easy, because the system that exists now is deliberately distorted (I think) that one had to find out what are “right things” on one’s own. First, I want to point out if the fundamentals are wrong, then doing the right things would be difficult, even knowing what are the right things would be difficult as well.
I want to point out the fundamental of the “merit based” system is actually closely related to “reward and punishment system”, which is based on animal instinct mechanism. And, as I said, it is often not really based on “merit”. But the question is what is the alternative. This is the question no one can give a good answer. Here, I don’t think I am able to provide a complete good answer as well. But I can give some indications on what are the elements of the alternative. First, if we are to have a civilized society, then the need for “animal survival instinct” for everybody should be met for everybody. Second, much of the talk about “elitism” is about education. So, it is a good idea for everyone to have the same opportunities for education. Here, the education is actually beyond the common meaning, mostly about one’s knowledge and enjoyment of culture. Many people do not seem to have the chance. What is the good solution?
I want to go back to the concern of people might be too lazy if there are no need to work. My thought is, people should have things to do, but not necessarily because they need to do it for the sake of survival, but because of enjoyment. If machines can do all the things that machines could do, then pretty much everything left will be interesting things to do, and they can be shared by more people, so each person would have more free time to have knowledge and enjoyment of culture outside of their work, which will lead to more understanding and good will towards each other.
But there is another aspect of education, related to “elitism”, which is to prove one’s “worthiness” (which is at least somewhat reflected in Emma). I think one of the biggest problems in the society is the obsession about ranking (another problem of the current “merit based” system). Yes, it is often inevitable to make judgment on things. One should not be too obsessed about ranking, especially in cultural education. In ordinary situation, I think enjoyment is more important than anything else. So, one would not need education to prove one’s worthiness, but for one’s own enjoyment.
I want to say a little more about “worthiness”. It seems that much of the things people do are due to the need to prove “worthiness”. For example, people accumulating wealth and status much for this purpose. But how much of the “worthiness” is needed for the enjoyment of life? It probably depends on how people’s minds are made on this subject. And, what does “worthiness” mean? I think it is healthy for people to feel good about doing things that are useful. But it is poison for people to need to prove they are “worthy” because they are “better” than other people.
So, it seems “the right things” start with the “right values”, and the right preconditions. There seems to be a lot more examples than I just mentioned that needs to be considered.
December 17, 2017