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Insiders and outsiders have always existed, but merit is the great equalizer

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Ensuring diversity will in itself ensure a broadening the pool from within which one can choose those of the greatest merit. (Image: Makeamem.org)

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Let me advance the theorem that one of the reasons that America has risen to world prominence in the last hundred years is that it has been, to an important extent, a merit-based society. 

In contrast with the situation in many of the societies of the “old world”, and in countries where religious orthodoxy was more or less supreme, individuals tended to be locked into the segment of society into which they were born. The capacities of the best and the brightest were often not realized for the benefit of their societies. 

One was born to rule or be ruled. A society was fortunate to have rulers in the various segments of society that had merit, orone did not, and suffered the consequences. This tended to be much less the case inAmerica. And if one did not like the way things were shaping up where you were there was always the frontier. And the ideal of democracy was front and center, that the nation was there to serve the will of the people. That meant that the common people had to receive the benefits offered by a prosperous society.  

Even as society became more ordered, the ethos in America was far different than it was in Europe. It was the prevailing rule, if not always followed, that merit dictated who should advance. In Canada, the land of my birth, although conditions were more like Europe, we could not fail to be affected by the American mind-set. 

Power structures, wherever they are, establish mechanisms to retain power. The existing power structures that were established in America fought back in ways designed to maintain their hegemonies.In politics, a whole network of measures were put in place to suppress the popular vote. People with means used them to influence how those who were dependent on them, in one way or another would cast their votes. The vote was denied to women so their interests could be ignored. People of color were terrorized into submission. 

Education was always recognized as an avenue likely to lead to economic advancement. This was not always available freely to all. When it became more generally available, quotas, formal and informal, were-established, to limit entry to those considered less desirable by those in positions of power. 

Mentoring tended to be offered more often to those considered to be part of the desirable group. Those In the less desirable group had to be much better than the best to advance. For some, opportunities were totally denied. With time, barriers were breached by some. Even today, being better than the best to advance is the war cry of all those in the less advantaged groups, women, Jews, and Asians, Blacks and Latinos. 

The situation of the Jews in America may be viewed as a particular case. Exclusion fostered in them a drive to enter areas of economic activity that were less-occupied by those in the majority culture. Many began as pedlars, advancing to becoming small shop-keepers. 

This ultimately led to the establishment of department stores and supermarkets, in which Jewish ownership was a dominant feature in the early days of their development.  

Just as Jews entered banking in the days when the Christian church banned money-lending as usury, Jews sought out the less-travelled road in their efforts to survive. Similar developments occurred in the new American entertainment industries, Vaudeville, Broadway, Hollywood and television in America. Remember the Ziegfield Follies! And Jews tended to advance their own co-religionists in these fields. 

The Biblical Jewish ethics of education, life-preservation and Justice led to an emphasis among Jews for studies in scientific research, medicine and the legal profession. This caused the establishment of quotas for the entry of Jewish students in Universities in the early days. They did not prevent the dis-proportionate presence of Jews in these professions.

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Returning to the general, these days we are hearing a great deal about fostering diversity among the leaders in our business community. The argument is that creating diversity on the Boards of companies running enterprises in America will lead to better decisions. It seems rational that having representation from groups under-represented on Boards, compared to the general population, like women and people of color, is likely to lead to better decision making. This is almost like re-establishing quotas, but in a positive sense. 

The argument has always been that one cannot find sufficient numbers of individuals who excel from among outlier communities. And often, there are fewer of these that have been advanced into the pool from which one can make these choices. It is in this that one can see the roots of systemic racism. 

It all comes down to measuring merit in making when identifying those who will lead us. It is a human tendency to be more likely to recognize merit in those whose backgrounds we are most familiar with. This creates the tendency to choose people who are most like one-self. It is more difficult to recognize it in people whose backgrounds one is not familiar with. It is in this arena that one can see merit in a quota system. And ensuring diversity will in itself ensure a broadening the pool from within which one can choose those of the greatest merit.  

American democracy is the road to continued American excellence! Maintaining a merit-based society is part of the answer to that challenge.  

Max Roytenberg is an author, poet and blogger, with many published articles in Jewish periodicals in Dublin, New York, Winnipeg and Vancouver. After a career as an Economist and Executive in the Food Industry, in Canada and abroad, he writes, and lives with his Bride, in Vancouver. He has children and grandchildren in the US, Canada, China and Israel. His last book, “Hero In My Own Eyes”, is available through major booksellers and on Amazon.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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