By Arwa Mahdawi
The Guardian (10/5/18)
If you are very clever and work very hard, you can achieve anything. We know this because successful people are always telling us so. They got where they are because of their work ethic: rich parents, the right connections and random chance had little to do with it.
See, as exhibit one, man of the moment Brett Kavanaugh. You know, the judge who really likes beer and seems to hate women having autonomy over their reproductive systems. When Kavanaugh appeared before a committee to defend himself against accusations of sexual assault, in between sniffles he argued that he has earned everything he has achieved, including his undergraduate place at Yale University. “I have no connections there,” he said. “I got there by busting my tail.”
The president and his supreme court nominee have been claiming they rose to the top all on their own. Sadly, stretching the truth is not confined to them.
Kavanaugh may have busted his tail, but he was also stretching the truth; his grandfather went to Yale. Which sounds like a connection to me. Of course, the fact his grandfather was an alumnus doesn’t necessarily mean Kavanaugh didn’t get into the prestigious university on his own merit. However, there is a good chance his family ties were considered in the admissions process. In the US, a lot of universities, including Yale, treat “legacy” applicants, family members of alumni, more favourably.
Self-made schtick is fake news
Let’s move from Kavanaugh to an equally delightful master of the universe: Donald Trump. One of Trump’s favourite subjects of conversation is how he is a self-made billionaire who got to the big league off the back of his abnormally high IQ and a negligible $1m loan from dad. Which, by the way, he paid back with interest. I hate to call Trump a shameless liar, but evidence suggests his self-made schtick is fake news. An investigation by the New York Times found Trump actually received about $413m (£317m) in today’s money from his dad, most of which was from dubious tax dodges. You need to have a passion for alternative facts to square that with being “self-made”.
It’s not just the likes of Kavanaugh and Trump who have deluded themselves, and seek to convince others, that their success is solely the result of hard work. The insidious myth that we live in a meritocracy is, unfortunately, also peddled by liberals who consider themselves “woke”. Take late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, for example. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Kimmel deflected a question about diversity by insisting: “Comedy is very democratic. The people who are great rise to the top; the people who are good rise to the middle; and the people who aren’t good don’t make it.”
I’m not being funny, but that is nonsense. As comedian Greg Proops pointed out on Twitter, there are three white men named Jim hosting late-night comedy/chatshows on US TV. And these guys are basically clones …