The rise of the progressive aristocracy

The rise of the progressive aristocracy. By Adrian Woolridge.

In the pre-modern world positions in society were largely inherited. Some people were born with saddles on their backs and others booted and spurred to ride them …

The meritocratic idea was the dynamite which blew up this view of the world and provided the materials for the modern era. But its reign is threatened as never before. …

Now meritocracy is being displaced by birth rights:

The radical left is now presenting a critique of meritocracy that is far more extreme than anything that has gone before it, but which also wields far more cultural heft: a woke assault on meritocracy.

It starts by repeating standard leftish complaints about meritocracy: that it protects social inequality by dressing it up as cognitive inequality, thereby adding to the already intolerable pressure of modern life.

Then it throws the explosive question of race into the heart of the debate. This rests on the demeaning claim that the best way to promote members of ethnic minorities is through “equity” rather than “excellence.” It also makes it far more difficult for ordinary people to discuss the subject dispassionately and far easier for radicals to engage in demagoguery and polarization. Even more importantly, it creates a new hierarchy of virtue at the heart of society.

We are thus moving to a more ambitious stage in the left’s long social revolution: from simply dismantling meritocracy to creating a new social order based on virtue, rather than ability.

The modern era of individualism is ending, along with white people:

Meritocracy is “racist” and “the antithesis of fair,” pronounced Alison Collins, a former commissioner of education in San Francisco.

And the old idea of judging people as individuals? That’s the white man’s game of divide and rule. “Colorblindness” — what we used to regard as the absence of discrimination — is dismissed as a con, designed to draw a veil over millennia of exploitation.

The entire machinery of meritocracy is rejected as a legacy of the eugenic movement or imperialism. Or, perhaps, the “white” way of looking at the world. “The use of standardized tests to measure aptitude and intelligence is one of the most effective racist policies ever devised to degrade black minds and legally exclude black bodies,” writes Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist and Antiracist Baby.

The woke revolution does not simply aim to remedy past injustice. “The only remedy to racist discrimination,” writes Kendi, “is antiracist discrimination.” The idea is some groups by virtue of their history of marginalization and exploitation are wiser and more moral than others. …

Racial minorities inevitably enjoy a higher moral status than whites but they also enjoy something equally important — greater access to understanding and moral wisdom. This is why the woke habitually invoke “lived experience” and “my truth.” Conversely, white people are guilty of original sin until they do what the kulaks were supposed to do and abolish themselves as a class. “Abolish whiteness!” says Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal. “White lives don’t matter. As white lives.”

These race-based arguments bring with them the exhumation of the pre-modern habit of judging people based on group characteristics rather than individual achievement. History is repeating itself as both tragedy and farce at the same time.

Rather than progressing towards a post-discriminatory future, we have a pyramid structure once again, but this time it’s inverted. …

Under the new hierarchy, the more oppressed groups that you belong to, the more moral virtue you possess. Similarly, the more privileged characteristics you hold, the lower you are on the moral scale and the more you have to do to make amends for the past.

In the woke new world, your birth characteristics are more important than merit or your actions. Is meritocracy doomed by the communism in our genetic past?