Monday, May 21, 2012
Atlantis, as has often been said, is a meritocracy. And that said, there are two major flaws in that — the question of what merit is, and the problem of deciding whether such merit is appropriately privileged.
I spoke to Wolff, who once was Sir Wolff, almost Lord Wolff. And Wolff laughed that deep rolling laugh of his, that rare and dangerous laugh, and he told me some stories.
There is always privilege, he said, and always people who resent such. There are those who claim the aegis of the Dauntless Hero, but who have never sought to live up to his ideals. I have said, not all our sons from Cathay or Sind or more distant lands are worthy of the name. Indeed, I suggest that each year, not more than 20% of such sons be allowed to claim a birthright. We need new blood.
I replied, "My friend, how can you deny such people their birthright? Their fathers were alumni, why should they not benefit?"
Wolff's laughter now had an edge to it. Four generations of my lineage have been sons of the Hero. Far be it from me to be ungrateful. But I must quote the words of the Man, when he said not all who called him Lord would be recognized by him. I suggest that the Governing Authorities decide, case by case, on who should receive such honours. And when there are no more places, THERE ARE NO MORE PLACES.
His voice turned melancholy. But the main problem is that of Atlantis itself, a nation now of nit-pickers, if not fruit-pickers wandering soulless orchard roads. Why should the young be sifted like chaff and wheat at 12 short years of age? And to four decimal places too, forsooth. They should be banded, banked and balloted. If randomness prevail to some extent, fewer will be inclined to overclock their children, or as the terrible legend goes, send their children through the fire of Moloch.
Give them their bonuses for proximity, but do not give them too much. Let each council of each school choose who they take in, but only to a fifth of the harvest. Let the remaining four fifths be as random as the raindrops in the ocean. Then we will know which schools are truly best, and which have been as milkmaids stealing cream.
I laughed at that. The spell shattered, and I awoke alone to the sound of distant howling, as if a wolf had claimed all the wilderness for his own.