Do you recognize the feeling that we can become really successful as long as we are well-educated and hard-working, making you think everyone has the same opportunities? Well, lets wake you up from this dream, because we can’t and we don’t. The typical “American Dream”, as it’s called, has its roots in the eighteenth century American Revolution, where our embedded idea of equality has imprinted our modern western minds.
I notice with the people around me that it’s actually problematic. Young students chose their studies with the idea that everyone has the equal opportunities that lead to success and wealth, and thus to happiness. The (social) pressure that we as young people experience from above and the necessity of the perfect choice thus places education on a pedestal it doesn’t deserve. This way of thinking is the perfect resemblance of our ideal of a meritocracy. It made me wonder what does determine one’s success, if it’s not education.
It might be necessary for me to first explain what a meritocracy is. A meritocracy is a society in which those with the best merit, which is talent and effort, are most rewarded. Seems fair, right? In fact, it is a competition between individuals in a capitalist market and liberal climate. And the problem with a competition is that there is always just one winner. This is no different from our society, as we live in a meritocratic society. Someone who is able to participate in the free markets, use his or her economic freedom, and who is able with the risks and freedom that individual responsibilities bring about, is seen as the ‘good and virtuous’. Automatically this causes that the ordinary folk looks up to those who are successful in this way, making them seem independent and admirable. To become just as successful, you have to take all the possibilities you get, which then even becomes an unwritten law: an obligation.
However, if you fail, you’re the only one to blame. It implies you’re not able to take care of your own business and not able to deal with the risk and independence that the meritocratic society brings about. The individual is more and more defined by his or her value for the economic market in terms of function and performance, which sketches an objectified image of humanity. Individuals are no longer interesting personalities, but mere stakeholder, which is ratio in its highest form. We can thus argue that the free market of the meritocracy has freed its people from personal subordination: that makes us freer but at the same time less personal in our relation to others. Instead of personal relations, the free market encourages competition. The opportunities that the free market offers resemble the meritocratic conviction that the sky is the limit, if you take the leadership of your own future.
Ideally, education has to play a significant role in the meritocratic dream, because it should be accessible to all and thus gives everyone a fair chance to become successful. This caused that the individual encouragement to be educated became a political concern. But besides working hard, you need a fair bit of talent to become successful. Individuals are thus increasingly trapped in the uniformity of the market system, and valued alongside the universal and objective norms of talent and success. The individual thus becomes objectified and reduced to a mere labour force securing profit.
I will leave it for now, because I think it will become too much for a lazy sunday morning, and then I will continue next time. But I really think it is important for people to recognize the system we are trapped in and how we fool ourselves with the idea of equality of opportunity. But first: food. The idea of this stuffed pumpkin I got from my housemate Britte. And I totally fell for it.
This is what you need – serves 3-4
- 1 medium sized pumpkin
- 100 gr soft goat cheese, crumbled
- 1 apple
- handful of pecan nuts or walnuts
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1-2 tbsp honey
Heat up the oven to 180 degrees before you start. Then cut of the top of the pumpkin and empty the inside from its seeds. Sprinkle the inside but also the top with olive oil, honey, salt, and thyme, and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the flesh has become soft. Meanwhile, cut the apple in slices and spread it over a sheet with baking paper, and sprinkle it with thyme. When the pumpkin has been in the oven for 20 minutes, put the sheet of apples in the oven for the remaining 10 minutes.
When the pumpkin is done, stuff it with the baked apple, goat cheese, and nuts, and finish with thyme and honey. It’s very delicious in combination with a fresh salad.