Five Lies Our Culture Tells
The cultural roots of our political problems
We talk a lot about the political revolution we need. The cultural revolution is more important.
- Career success is fulfilling.
I can make myself happy.
It’s easy to say you live for relationships, but it’s very hard to do. It’s hard to see other people in all their complexity. It’s hard to communicate from your depths, not your shallows. It’s hard to stop performing! No one teaches us these skills.
Life is an individual journey.
You have to find your own truth.
Rich and successful people are worth more than poorer and less successful people.
We pretend we don’t tell this lie, but our whole meritocracy points to it. In fact, the meritocracy contains a skein of lies.
The message of the meritocracy is that you are what you accomplish. The false promise of the meritocracy is that you can earn dignity by attaching yourself to prestigious brands. The emotion of the meritocracy is conditional love — that if you perform well, people will love you.
The sociology of the meritocracy is that society is organized around a set of inner rings with the high achievers inside and everyone else further out. The anthropology of the meritocracy is that you are not a soul to be saved but a set of skills to be maximized.
No wonder it’s so hard to be a young adult today. No wonder our society is fragmenting. We’ve taken the lies of hyper-individualism and we’ve made them the unspoken assumptions that govern how we live.
There is nothing essentially wrong with meritocracy. The problem lies in what we determine deserves merit. Is it material success? Is it success in relationships? Or is it a success that looks at our character and piety?