The idea of a meritocracy presumes that everyone starts off and continues through with the same level of access to opportunity, time, and money, which is unfortunately not the case. It’s a romanticized ideal – a belief in which at best ignores and at worst outright dismisses the experiences of everyone outside the group with the most access to these things. A certain demographic of people have three or four steps above other people, so the playing field is not even.
–Ashe Dryden on merit.
Dryden’s whole post is about the inherent inequality of open-source software development, a.k.a. “being rich enough to give your labour away for free”, which is one of my bugbears. But I do like this particular quote, because it encapsulates a headspace I went through many moons ago when I too was confronted with realities that didn’t match up to the rhetoric I was hearing coming out of hackerspace.
Equality of potential and equality of access aren’t the same thing, although you probably have to not be a middle class educated white man to notice it.