The B.V.I. has a long oral tradition which was a significant aspect of our culture. Most of it has been lost with the advent of other forms of communication. I cannot recall the number of times I heard and seen B. V. Islanders confront and discuss issues about merit and demerit. Most of the conversations centered on governance and education. If an individual was promoted rapidly in public office people saw it as favour and not merit. If a student performed better than expected on a local examination it was special treatment for which the student did not work. There is a lingering influence of this attitude in today's BVI society. But what do people really mean when they make these remarks?
Merit is a value system that describes qualities that are recognized and rewarded by societies.
Merits sre the strengths of anything, policy, law, agreement, or action. They show what benefits it has and how they can be gainfully used.Demerits are the weaknesses of anything and they tell what problems to look for or anticipate. If we analyse the messages referring to merit in the oral tradition we hear the voices referring to qualities that are perceived as good or worthy and deserve praise or reward. But if you go a little deeper, they are expressing their views that the quality should be stripped of emotional, contextual, anf formal considerations and the reward should be made on the factual content. Too often we run off track and give rewards based on contextual, emotional, and formal appeals. Francois de la Rocheforicald reminds us that "the world more often rewards the appearances of merit rather than the merit itself."
The term meritocracy which we use today is the equality of opportunity based on the innate talent of each person. Malcolm Gladwell claims that "the world is not a meritocracy as much as we may like to pretend that it is. We have a long way to go before we really reward people based on their own merit."
Derrick Bell gives some clarity to Gladwell's view when he said:"we live in a system that espouses merit, equality, and a level playing field but exalts those with wealth, power, and celebrity however gained."
Chris Hayes's view of meritocracy is not unfamiliar to B.V. Islanders:
"Those who are able to climb to the top of the ladder will find ways to pull it up after them, or selectively lower it down to allow their friends, allies, and kin to scramble up." Brice Springsteen claims that the the education system stifles true meritocracy as follows: "One problem with the way the education system is set up is that it only recognizes a certain type of intelligence and it's incredibly restrictive-very, very restrictive. There's so many types of intelligence, and people who would be at their best outside that structure get lost."
George Carlin point of view on governments stifling mertocracy is worth noting: "Governments don't wamt well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. That is against their interest. They want obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machine and do the paperwork, and just dumb enough to passively accept it."
The following comment by Ben Bernanke should ring a bell somewhere: "Meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic environment, luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and ptobably income, luckiest in their educational and career opportunities and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate, these are the folks who reap the largest rewards."
The final view is by Martin Luther "Merit is a work for the sake of which Christ gives rewards. But no such work is to be found, for Christ gives by promise. Just as if a prince should say to me "come to my castle, and I will give you a hundred dollars" I do the work, certainly in going to the castle, but the gift is not given to me as the reward of my work in going, but because the prince promised it to me."
- Dr. Charles H. Wheatley