Trout Fisting In America #12 – Meritocracy

Every motivational speaker, every Ted Talker, every successful person, can take their positivist bullshit and shove it right up their protestant sphincter. To pretend we live in a meritocracy, a land where the harder you work the more you succeed, is to reveal yourself as either a propagandist or a fool.

Of course it’s possible to be both.

I’m not saying there’s no point in working hard, just that there isn’t any cause & effect, no causation, no correlation, between hard work and success. There are shitloads of successful people who never worked hard (we’re sticking w/the standard US definition of success: money and/or power), and plenty of hard-working people that have fuck-all to show for it.

That’s true today more than ever, when most current jobs don’t pay a living wage, or offer full-time employment. If you work really hard, and get lucky, maybe after a year you’ll get a 25-cent raise. Even if you get promoted, you’ll just get put on salary and forced to work 60hrs a week with no overtime.

Back when I was working at 7-11, I actually got a 10-cent raise after my annual performance. It was my two-year anniversary (I got a pin to put on my smock! I used to wear a smock!), and during the review my manager asked if I felt I was working up to my full potential. I chose to go deep on the question—a huge mistake—and wondered if anyone ever truly reaches their full potential. After all, I could skip my lunch break (or whatever meal you call it when you’re eating at 1am after waking up at 3pm) and dust every single item in the store on a nightly basis instead of once a week. I could offer to carry the customers’ purchases out to their truck. You get the idea.

So despite the fact that I’d been working there for two years and never called in sick (couldn’t afford to), never stolen anything, never gotten a write-up, despite ALL OF THESE THINGS, I was given a 10-cent raise, the lowest possible raise you could give someone because I, and I’m quoting from memory here, wasn’t working up to my full potential.

I told my boss, Theresa, to just keep the 10-cents. There’s something to be said for holding on to one’s dignity.

I quit 7-11 about six months later, but that’s not the point. The point is that I worked hard. I did a great job. I created wealth for my employer. I helped maintain the GDP of our great nation. And what did I get for it? A 10-cent an hour raise. No health care. No sick days (remind me to tell you about the time I puked in the deli sink). No future.

It’s too bad. I actually liked the job. You could listen to whatever music you wanted to—I had a cheap boombox with a sticker over the cassette part that read GUNS DON’T KILL PEOPLE. ROCK MUSIC KILLS PEOPLE.

But ain’t that America? Work hard and you’ll get ahead, and if you don’t then it’s your fault. You weren’t smart enough. You didn’t work hard enough.

And all of that is an insidiously abusive gaslighting lie. Because even if every US person had an IQ of 150 and the work ethic of a highly-aspirational mule, if there aren’t enough good jobs for everyone then it stands to reason that some people are going to be shut out. There will be winners and losers, and all the hard work in the world isn’t going to change that, because the single best way to be successful in America is to make sure the first birth canal you crawl out of belongs to a person with a lot of money. Period. Wealth begets wealth.

When Ivy League schools still admit legacy applicants just because their parents went there, you know the system is rigged in their favor. It doesn’t matter if the children of the elite are dumb as dirt, or if they even want to go to these colleges. These kids are given access to wealth and power that the vast majority of their US counterparts will never even sniff. You ever help one of your friends get a job? It works exactly like that.

Speaking of friends and jobs, back when I was working at that 7-11, a friend of mine held over 15 jobs. He wasn’t stupid, or incompetent. Instead he had a strategy, and because he still lived at home while he went to community college, he could afford the risk. At each job, he would steal everything he could get his hands on until he was eventually fired. Then he’d get a job somewhere else and do the same thing. And so on, and so on. The last I heard, he’d finished college and was teaching history at a nearby high school.

I’m not mad at him. Even back then, I wasn’t mad at him. My friend simply understood the system better than I did. After all, any objective look at US History will tell you that theft gets you a lot further than hard work.

So the next time you’re pissed off because the Burger King drive thru fucked up your order, or the line at the post office moves slower than a hangover shit of guinness & cheese, or that person on the phone isn’t in a hurry to help you, remind yourself that there is absolutely zero incentive for anyone in America to give a shit about anything when they’re at work. Even investment bankers who crash the economy and cost their investors billions suffer no consequences and feel no shame. And let’s not even talk about the work ethic of the current US president.

And yet, while Meritocracy may be a lie, it’s an extremely valuable one. Capitalism couldn’t function without it. How are you going to convince people to work hard when most of the wealth they generate goes to someone else? Capitalism isn’t an ethos, it’s a scam. It’s a pyramid scheme that feasts on people’s dreams and their need to survive. And the people who work the hardest are the ones who are most deluded.

 

Trout Fisting In America appears every Tuesday right here at this site. We’re going to keep going until we reach #50, or until the Trout begs for mercy. Check out previous installments HERE.

About ScottCreney

Scott Creney lives in Athens, Georgia. He is the author of "Dear Al-Qaeda: Letters to the World’s Most Notorious Terror Organiztion".
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One Response to Trout Fisting In America #12 – Meritocracy

  1. Simon says:

    There’s been a shitstorm here in Australia about 7-11. Head office have had to pay back employees some $90 million in unpaid wages. Head honcho’s a billionaire. 7-11 employees here are often immigrants, as are,sadly, the franchisees who have ripped them off.

    Like

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