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The Little Meritocracy: a Childhood Fable

What life is really like beneath the depths.

The image is black and white and shows a man swimming under the sea.

As I tuck my children into bed at night, I sell them the childhood dream that they can be anything or anyone. Mummy totally believes in you.

Whilst I do, absolutely believe they can change the world, that may be more parental bias than truth, given our social standing in the world.

A persistent illusion of modern-day living is that we live in a meritocracy. It’s sold to generation after generation. The idea that people get ahead based on their own accomplishments rather than their parents’ social class or successes. We are born with a societal checklist of all the things we should achieve before thirty - university, marriage, mortgage, and motherhood. All you need to achieve this is to knuckle down and work hard.

In the background the sun is setting. In the foreground there are 3 silhouettes of people holding up mortarboards.

For me, nothing tramples self-esteem more than the inflexible belief that, "if you work harder you can have all of this" rhetoric that drips through society today.

As of December 2021, more than 274,000 people are homeless in England, including 126,000 children. Try as they may, society cannot fool me into thinking ALL of these people refuse to knuckle down and work hard. In case you live under a rock, the world is suffering. The climate is teetering precariously close to devastation. We survived a pandemic and now find ourselves deep in a cost-of-living crisis that younger generations have never had to live through before.

But, millennials and Gen Z'ers are still made to feel they're the problem. Tarnished as "hipsters" for buying avocado toast instead of saving for their first home. However, in the North East of England, the average house deposit is £26,769, if you substituted buying an avocado every day it would take you approximately 56 years to save for a house, amazing (avoids eye contact with avos).

"Young people could afford their own home if they would give up Netflix, coffee, and the gym."

So is the problem really our Netflix subscription or could it possibly be that meritocracy is a myth. I see you. You physically cannot work any harder. But if you aren't quite where the world thinks you should be, you probably feel like the pressure is always knocking at your door.

Rachel Maclean the safeguarding minister of England, claimed £213,000 in expenses alone last year but has some helpful ways of combating hard times with some handy #ToryBudgetingTips.

"Make your money go further, by simply getting more money"

When pressed about the need for people that are working up to three jobs but still have to use food banks, Maclean suggested people “work more hours or move to a better-paid job.

Oh. My. Goodness. Finally a revolution. Something we working-class folk had never thought of before. If we are struggling, let’s trawl indeed for another non-existent job that we don’t have the experience for because we can’t get a job. You could attend university I hear you cry, yes. But then my family isn't entitled to any government help with bills, food, or energy. If you do the math, £12,927 of maintenance loan doesn't quite cut it for a family of 5. A loan that you lose universal credit money for having, but still have to pay back. Aaah, the tender touch of a double-edged sword.

Okay, so university isn't right for us, we'll work more hours, even though we already work forty-plus a week. Whilst we're at it, we could dip into our trust funds, buy super-market brand beans and tell our kids to put on another jumper when winter rolls around and they can see their own breath in the living room.

"Generally speaking, what people find is by going for some of the value brands rather than own-branded products - they can actually contain and manage their household budget."

The ridiculous audacity of it almost makes me want to throw my head back and cackle with laughter. Some people have never been “poor”, and it certainly shows.

The image is of central London at night. In the background Big Ben is lit up/

We live in a country where the young people and the working class are demonised. From the awkward moment of telling the posh mum at school your postcode.

Oh sorry, my little treasure can’t make that date anymore. Maybe we could reorganise for... never.

To the stigma of being on benefits or a young parent. We are guilty by association. But if “working hard” was enough for people to own their own property, then we’d have a lot more homeowners within our country as opposed to people living in poor, unsanitary rented accommodation.

On top of the stigma of renting, comes the degrading experience of inspections.

"Hello, it’s the estate agent, can we check you’re being a good peasant?"

"Oh, you won’t be in, no worries we’ll just come in with our key."

"You don’t have a choice; we’ll fine you if not." WHAT?!

A key is in the lock of a door.

Think about it really, what purpose do inspections serve? Well, what if your landlord/lady has had a bad experience. Let me tell you, I’ve had terrible experiences with landlords, but can I invade their privacy too? Can I enter their home without permission, with a key I have squirrelled away? Can I touch their stuff when they aren’t home?

Oh and, before I move in can I meet with them to check their job history and their sexual preference?

Your home isn’t yours and probably never will be.

The actual purpose is to remind you that your home isn’t yours and probably never will be. That you’re being judged on your cleanliness and décor choice, that Karen and her clipboard have the power to literally make you homeless if you're not conforming.

Unfortunately, if you can’t afford the privilege of owning your own home, you automatically veto your right to privacy, Netflix, and exercise.

If you read this and prioritise the debacle of landlords worrying about dirt over people's actual human right to freedom, then take pause and think about what that says about the world and its views on the underprivileged. Think about whose worth society is valuing more.

Finally, if you’re mad at the injustice of this country, get in the shower and sing children of the revolution at the top of your voice into your Aldi's own brand shampoo bottle. But don’t you dare turn the hot water on... peasant.


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