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  • The first question you tend to get asked when you meet someone at a party is

  • So what do you do?”

  • And according to how impressive your answer is, people are either keen to get to know

  • you better, or swiftly leave you behind by the nuts.

  • Were anxious because we live in a world of snobs, people who take a tiny part of us

  • - our professional identities - and use these to come to a complete verdict about how valuable

  • we are as humans.

  • The opposite of a snob is your mother. She doesn’t care about your status, she cares

  • about your soul. Yet most people aren’t our mothers - and that’s why we worry so

  • much about judgement and humiliation.

  • It’s said we live in materialistic times. But it’s more poignant than that. We live

  • in times where emotional rewards have been pegged to the acquisition of material things.

  • What people want when they go after money, big jobs or fancy cars is rarely these things

  • in themselves, so much as the attention and respect - if you likethe love” - that

  • are given to those who have them.

  • Next time you see a guy driving by in a Ferrari, don’t think it’s someone unusually greedy;

  • think it’s someone with a particularly intense vulnerability and need for love.

  • Were also anxious because were constantly told we could become anything. We hear it

  • from our earliest days.

  • It should be great that there’s so much opportunity. But what if we fail in such a

  • world - what if you don’t manage to get to the top when there was said to be every

  • chance?

  • The self-help shelves of bookstores are filled with two kinds of books that capture the modern

  • anxious condition. The first have titles like

  • How to make it big in 15 minutesandBe an overnight millionaire.’

  • The second have titles like: ‘How to cope with low self-esteem.’

  • The two genres are related. A society that tells people they could have everything, but

  • where in fact only a tiny minority can, will end up with a lot of dissatisfaction and grief.

  • There’s a related problem: our societies are - to a large extent - deemed to befair”.

  • Back in the olden days, you knew the system was rigged. It wasn’t your fault if you

  • were a peasant and not to your credit if you were the lord. But now were told our societies

  • are meritocracies, places where rewards go to those who merit them; the hardworking clever

  • among us.

  • [word MERITOCRACY appears typed up]

  • It sounds lovely - but there’s a nasty sting in the tail.

  • If you really believe in a society where those at the top deserve to get there, that has

  • to mean those at the bottom deserve to be there too.

  • Meritocracies make poverty seem not just unpleasant, but also somehow deserved.

  • In Medieval England, people used to call the poorunfortunates’.

  • Literally, people who had not been blessed by the Goddess of fortune.

  • Nowadays, especially in the US (where meritocracy is big), they call them - rather tellingly - ‘losers’.

  • We scarcely believe inlucknowadays as something that explains where we end up.

  • No one will believe you if you say you were fired because ofbad luck”. Your professional

  • position has become the central verdict on your character. No wonder suicide rates rise

  • exponentially the moment a society joins the so-calledmodern world’.

  • How can we cope?

  • First off, by refusing to believe that any society really can be meritocratic: luck or

  • accident continue to determine a critical share of where people end up in the hierarchy.

  • Treat no one - not least yourself - as though they entirely deserve to be where they are.

  • Secondly, make up your own definition of success instead of uncritically leaning on society’s.

  • There are so many ways to succeed, and many of them have nothing to do with status as

  • its currently defined within the value system of industrial capitalism. Those who succeed

  • at making money rarely succeed at empathy or family life.

  • Thirdly, and most importantly, we should refuse to let our outer achievements define our sense

  • of self entirely. There remain so many vital sides of us that will never appear on our

  • business cards, that do not stand a chance of being captured by that maddeningly blunt

  • and unimaginative question, ‘So what do you do?’

The first question you tend to get asked when you meet someone at a party is

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B1 UK society anxious succeed meritocracy people status

Status Anxiety

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    VoiceTube posted on 2015/06/10
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