The Meritorious Morons in our Midst

I want to make it clear yet again that when I use the word “moron” I mostly mean it in a clinical sense.  An Intellegence Quotient of 100 is simply the average “intellegence” (whatever that measures) of an 18 year old population (which is an arbitrary point at which the brain was considered fully developed by those who designed the standard) and most people cluster around that point, some higher, some lower, and it’s not any more unusual to have a mental age of 14 and a half (an IQ of 80) than it is to have a mental age of 21 and a half (an IQ of 120, we generally call these people “geniuses” though again, what does that measure?).

It is not particularly “meritorious” to be a “genius”.  I’d call it a freak of genetics and mostly a curse but then again I test on the high side of ability to take standardized tests whether I know a damn thing about the subject or not (I do know how to design tests, what answers the tester is looking for even if they are wrong, and absolutely no compunction at all about using the rules to my advantage).

There are people who operate under the illusion though, that merely because “they’re stronger, or meaner, that they can push you around.  I’ve seen a lot of that.  But it’s only true if you let it be.”

This is the logic of Calvinist Predestination– only a certain number of the elect can make it to heaven (pie in the sky, by and by, by and by).  The Lord your God knows you from the womb, every aspiration (it has two meanings, look it up) every act and inaction.  His judgment is made.

What then is a poor mundane to do?  There is only fate, free will a dangerous delusion.

Why, look for signs of God’s favor here in the temporal world.

Are you prosperous?  Well surely that is a sign of your virtuous nature and moral superiority.  And the more prosperous you are the more surely you are among the blessed who will sit at the feet…

Of Mammon.

Not that I believe in any of this crap at all, but didn’t Jesus minister to the poor and overturn the tables of the money changers in the Temple?

Matthew 25:40-

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

And yet we have this persistent myth that wit and perseverance prevail in our great and glorious dream world ignoring the harsh reality that guile, greed, and inbred accidents of birth result in a life of privilege far beyond actual abilities.

The Unattainable Illusion of Meritocracy

by Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

October 26, 2014

Repeat after me: in complex societies and organizations, merit is a complete illusion. We nevertheless pretend to achieve that for reasons of institutional legitimacy, and also, to the extent we can generally steer people who are fitter on some key axes towards more important or resource-intenisve activities, for reasons of efficiency. Note that this view is also likely to be more satisfying for individuals, since it will encourage those who may be less capable in certain ways that are considered important (intelligence, social skills, empathy) to apply themselves to do better in those areas. So motivated but less “talented” people have an avenue for their energies (il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux…).

But let’s not kid ourselves that an idea that has all sort of upside as aspiration and ideology actually works.

So what exactly is talent? Educated people like to think of it as intelligence, and that intelligence will be reflected in better educational attainment. But education in America has a lot of credentialing and is mixed in terms of substance (there’s a very strong argument to be made for the educational system that Bonaparte implemented in France, which has sadly decayed beyond recognition, where it made a systematic effort to find smart kids, no matter how poor their background, and track them so that they had as much opportunity to get into the Grandes Ecoles as children who grew up with highly educated parents. Bonaparte is arguably the father of meritocracy as a paramount organizational principle, and that meant uniform delivery of educational “product” throughout French schools. The same lesson would be taught to all fourth graders at 3:00 PM on a particular day all across the country). And “intelligence” is not all of a muchness; it has numerous components that are not well understood or analyzed (testing makes a stab at that on assessing verbal versus mathematical skills). And that’s before you get to the importance of social skills and emotional intelligence. James Heckman stresses the importance of socialization, that students who get GEDs (they pass a test that demonstrates they have mastered the material needed to get a high school degree) do markedly less well than students who complete high school.


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