Source: The Straits Times.

The country that celebrates meritocracy like no other

In the name of meritocracy, the son of Lee Kuan Yew became Prime Minister.

In the name of meritocracy, the wife of the Prime Minister became Temasek CEO.

And meritocracy it was that led to the personal lawyer of the Prime Minister becoming Attorney-General, and a PAP Member of Parliament becoming Deputy Attorney-General.

Meritocracy has also paved the way for the wife of a Senior Minister of State to be appointed Auditor-General.

Over the years, how many children of those at the top have been gifted prestigious scholarships, on the basis of meritocracy?

How many powerful husband-wife pairings, and powerful siblings, have stemmed from this thing we call meritocracy?

Singapore’s decades-old love affair with meritocracy shows no signs of abating.

Meritocracy as a word and concept was coined by British sociologist and politician Michael Young in 1958. He went on to rue what it has become, writing in 2001:

“If meritocrats believe, as more and more of them are encouraged to, that their advancement comes from their own merits, they can feel they deserve whatever they get. They can be insufferably smug, much more so than the people who knew they had achieved advancement not on their own merit but because they were, as somebody’s son or daughter, the beneficiaries of nepotism. The newcomers can actually believe they have morality on their side. So assured have the elite become that there is almost no block on the rewards they abrogate themselves.”

Think about that: the man who coined the concept of meritocracy has since disparaged it for its tendency to be misused and abused.

And yet here we are, in a country that celebrates and idolises meritocracy like no other, that uses meritocracy as the reason and basis for so many things that go on.