Corey Mwamba


you are as good as I say you are

meritocracies require that you are good at what you do; and if you are good at what you do, you will be given power.
with power, you have the right to decide what good is.
if you have the right to decide what good is, you have the power to decide what bad is.

power gives you the luxury of time.
if you have the power to decide when something is good, you also have the power to decide when something changes to bad.

time and power gives you the principle of choice.
if you decided that something was good, you can decide it is bad later; or even immediately.
you can use your time and power to improve; or establish your credibility through longevity and your past.

the principle of choice can entitle you.
you could have an imperial order. you could be an organisation. you can talk to others who can choose, who have time, who have power.

you can decide who is good at what they do.

meritocracies are about entitlement of the subject.

"Black Power" is a Western modern construct, a reaction to the much older "White Power".1 Only one is concerned with the reaffirmation of colonialism; its presence in society, its continuing history. As such, only one entitles The Subject to control The Other; decides who has choice, time, power; who is "good".

Colonialism is forever bound with imperialism, which is not a construct of the West but has had much development here. Imperialism has always had a good relationship with a form of meritocracy — after all, ideas of racial superiority are built upon conferring power to the subject above the other, through analysis and selection of traits. Francis Galton's first steps in this begin from chest circumference in Scottish men and height of the French; he then (with Victorian confidence, but with poor scientific reasoning) leaps forward to declare

Now, if this be the case with stature, then it will be true as regards every other physical feature — as circumference of head, size of brain, weight of grey matter, number of brain fibres, &c.; and thence, by a step on which no physiologist will hesitate, as regards mental capacity.2

About twenty years later, Galton had developed his ideas about eugenics, and during that time made his opinions on Black people very clear.3 His ideas for East Africa would have found disagreement with one person, however. Rhodes was already in Oxford by then, where these words by Ruskin made their mark:

There is a destiny now possible to us—the highest set before a nation to be accepted or refused ... And this is what she [England] must do, or perish: she must found colonies as fast and as far as she is able, formed of her most energetic and worthiest men;—seizing every piece of fruitful waste ground she can set her foot on, and there teaching these her colonists that their chief virtue is to be fidelity to their country, and that their first aim is to be to advance the power of England by land and sea...4

Rhodes' opinions on native South Africans (and indeed all Africans) were made flesh through the Glen Grey Act,5 which sought to disenfranchise people from their land; this led swiftly to the Natives Act of 1913 and then through to apartheid, which could be usefully compared with another set of racially-based doctrines. It is worth remembering that there are no statues standing for the previously mentioned regime, simply because we would not allow them to exist after WWII; the Allied Forces tore down these symbols.

It is also worth reflecting that Ruskin (from Thomas Carlyle),6 Rhodes, and Galton (who was not a fan of Carlyle)7 are talking about the justification for the merit of white people, and specifically English white people here; whether through destiny, industry, civilisation, or biometrics. Selection for merit is entirely about The Subject.

  1. Baden–Powell of Gilwell, "The Matabele Campaign, 1896; Being a Narrative of the Campaign in Suppressing the Native Rising in Matabeleland and Mashonaland" (London, Methuen, 1900): p. 135. [accessed 24 April 2018]. 

  2. Francis Galton, Hereditary Genius, pp. 61-2, 1869 

  3. Francis Galton, "Africa For The Chinese": letter to The Times, 1873 

  4. Peter Faulkner, "Ruskin and The British Empire", JWMS 14.1 (Autumn 2000): pp. 54-66. 

  5. Cecil Rhodes, "Glen Grey Speech", retrieved from South African History 

  6. Faulkner, ibid. 

  7. Galton, "Memories of My Life", p.169 

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