I advise you to watch this video in English – especially lesson three – before reading this post or listening to this song in French while reading this post. Meritocracy presupposes that people get what they have worked for. Every day, people drown, kill or are killed, grow up in places dangerously close to hell or strangely close to paradise. Do they deserve it? My nanny died while holding my hand on the way home from school; I am surrounded by a large family that I love; I lost my father at the age of six; I grew up in a rich France; I got my PhD with the jury’s congratulations; I have multiple sclerosis. Do I deserve it? The answer to these two questions seems obvious to me. No. Yet meritocratic ideas infest our societies. Maybe that’s because a yes would make it so much easier. Indeed, it is comforting to find a purpose for all this or a great goal that explains the sacrifices.
In my short life, I have learned to respect not goals but means. I focus on things I like to do and share my easy or difficult moments with others. I try to be benevolent with myself and with others and to enjoy my incredible opportunities. I am also learning to better perceive events. Things, good or bad, happen to us – no control over them – but the way we perceive things can be controlled. Blaming myself or blaming others for their mistakes wastes time and energy, and both are necessary to seize opportunities and enjoy good times.
Two medals, left the Legion of Merit, right a more modest medal. Image Credit Romain Cazé CC-BY
What’s the connection to sortition? There is no choice when meritocracy overwhelms our judgment. Decisions are then influenced by our innumerable unconscious biases, we then share things and power according to our mood. But the choice of flipping a coin is a conscious act. It is a much fairer way of sharing than meritocracy. No one deserves more than others to own things or make decisions. Sortition serves a means and not a goal, it allows us to share and lead with much more impartiality. Because it becomes consciously impossible to think that people deserve their share or what happen to them when randomness is in charge.
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