I really liked the idea of exploring meritocracy by creating a different world. Throughout 2016, I’ll probably explore different concepts by referring to this world. I’ll post discussion questions or food for thought at the end of each short story. Feel free to comment and discuss if you’d like.
And so, I’d like to head back to Majority Metropolis to discuss representation and “the best candidate for the job.” Check it out:
The first Mayor of Majority Metropolis was a very smart man. He’d been a doctor in the previous world that had gone under, and it was this expertise – expertise that he passed on to several other people –that helped the families of M + 0 birth the newest generation with very few issues. Mayor 0 was an excellent problem solver, good with people, and a visionary to boot— in fact, Mayor O singlehandedly designed the initial urban planning for Majority City (among other things). He was also very short –5’ 6” to be exact.
After 35 years of leading Majority City and helping to birth two successive generations, he died suddenly one Thursday morning on his daily walk about the city. The citizens of Majority City were saddened and distraught by his death and, uncertain how to proceed without the man who had lead them for so long, they called an emergency city council meeting.
“We need to find a new Mayor,” said one city councilman to the gathered crowd.”
“We should look for one exactly like Mayor 0” proposed another.
The citizenry vigorously agreed with this suggestion. And that is what they did. They set about finding a new Mayor 0 — someone with good problem solving skills, intelligent and visionary. And someone who was short – 5’6” to be exact. (It wasn’t that they thought the shortness was particularly necessary, but they were a superstitious lot and well, one couldn’t be sure when trying to duplicate a process).
And thus they chose Mayor 1 from a field of six intelligent, visionary, short men with good people skills.
Every ten years, the citizenry gathered all 5’ 6” tall men together and held an election to find the new Mayor. The elected mayors were not always good—in fact, few were like Mayor 0, but this was their process for choosing their leaders and it stuck.
Fast Forward to M+ 17 generation
M + 17 knows (and cares) nothing about how great Mayor 0 was, )but everyone is in agreement that Mayor 32 is a spectacular idiot and can’t wait to vote in a new Mayor in January), but we digress
The leaders – the power brokers– in Majority City are a diverse lot of mostly men (though the Presidents of both the main high school and the Chamber of Commerce are women thanks to a change in laws during M+12) who run everything from the Bank to the Hospital to the Brewery downtown. The one thing they have in common is, well, they’re all 5’6”.
In Majority Metropolis, 5’6” men are the prototype for success. When you think of leadership, intelligence, attractiveness, wealth – even sexiness – short men (5’6”) are where it’s at. They’re the faces that the advertising agency uses to sell everything. Women who are the right height are considered the most attractive and desirable for marriage. Even if you’re born to a poor family in Majority Metropolis, being 5’6” gives you quite the edge in job opportunities, housing applications, loans—it even gives you an edge in the really competitive entertainment industry.
Setting: 6 Board members of Metropolis Bank reviewing applications for their new CEO:
“Well these are our final 3 candidates,” says the Chairman. He gestures to the three headshots on the board, “what do we think?”
“I really like candidate 2 the best,” says one boardmember (BM). “I think he really has a good grip on what we’re trying to accomplish here and can take us to the next level.”
3 of the boardmembers agree with him.
“What about candidate 1?,” proposes another BM, “She is a woman – which will help our public image – but I also think she’ll fit in here.”
There is much nodding of heads in the board room. “That’s an excellent point. We can really sell how inclusive we are with this candidate. And well, she would fit into our culture very well. I propose a vote. All those in favor for candidate 2 –“
“Wait a second,” interrupts Charles, the only boardmemember who has yet to speak. “We interviewed 12 candidates total for this job and I just think that perhaps we should look at everyone before collapsing it down to these three.”
“But these three candidates have all of the qualifications that we are looking for,” says the BM to his left.”
“Yeah, they are the best candidates for the job,” says the one to his right.
“You mean they’re the best 5’6” candidates for the job,” Charles replies. “What about these other candidates?” The boardroom grows suddenly quiet.
“Whoa whoa whoa, Charles. I don’t like what you’re implying here. No one said anything about height here. Ok? We don’t discriminate. Everyone has equal opportunity here in Majority Metropolis, especially after the Equal Rights Act of M+14. And we’re choosing a woman candidate afterall.”
“Ok then” says Charles, “what about this candidate.” He holds up the picture of his candidate of choice, his 6’2” height marking clearly displayed. “He’s got the exact same qualifications as the other three and we all liked him in the interview, right?”
There are a couple of head nods around the table, but only the BM to his right speaks up: “He’s a good candidate, Charles. I just don’t feel that he would really fit into our culture here, you know?”
“Yeah, we don’t want to give the impression that were hiring someone just to fill a quota, you know?” says the BM to his left.
“But this guy is qualified –“
“Look Charles,” says the Chairman, “We have to pick the person who is qualified but also going to fit into our culture here. We can’t scare our investors by going with an unknown, you know? And just think about how different he might feel from everybody else hmm? We want this to be a good working environment for EVERYBODY.”
The Chairman ignores Charles and raises his gavel, “All in favor of candidate 2?”
Did the Board choose the best candidate for the job? What comes to be the expectation when everyone in power (and on tv) in a community has a certain characteristic? Does this contribute to the way the people with this characteristic in common view themselves? How they view others? What about people who don’t have this characteristic? How are they viewed? How do they view themselves?