The meritocracy myth is a lie. It is perpetuated and propagandized. It exists to buttress the status quo and maintain systems of power and privilege.
The Horatio Alger myth, so inspirational during periods of growth, may work against people during contractions. Its message of can-do individualism urges us to beat the odds, but it cuts us no slack when the odds grow terribly long. The impotent struggle to prevail against conditions that won’t yield can prove the unmaking of self-made men, and perhaps turn them into madmen now and then. For true believers in the gospel of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, the notion that bootstraps sometimes snap — and occasionally in great numbers, simultaneously — is destabilizing and bewildering. To accept that this notion is true may suggest that you have been lied to about how the system works, provoking resentment. To deny this truth may convince you that the defect lies in yourself, provoking despair