01/21/2013 05:07 EST | Updated 03/23/2013 05:12 EDT

Merit and Starting on Third Base


If the world were a perfect place, we'd all be fully recognized, rewarded and appreciated for our hard work -- and talent and perseverance would be the only way to get ahead. But in our fast-track world, does merit always mean success? That's what the MeriTALKracy initiative is all about. Inspired by the motto on the Upper Canada College school crest -- Palmam qui meruit ferat (let he who merited the palm bear it) -- we ask, who deserves it and how has a commitment to earning it shaped one's life? In a series reflecting on this question of merit, prominent UCC alumnae weigh in. We'd like to hear your thoughts too!

Merit to me means no more than whether you have earned through effort or achievement your wealth, position or status. And while this might seem straightforward in definition it is more complex to apply in reality. For example, the "merit" debate is being played out in the occupy movement with the question of whether income inequality means the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor. In other words, do the rich merit their wealth or not? Ironically many of these same people fail to ask themselves the more existential question - aren't all North Americans and Europeans advantaged based on their citizenship versus those unlucky enough to be born into the developing world?

After all, a homeless man in Canada is a rich man in Kenya. So we often complain about social inequity within our own developed countries and question whether certain people merit their advantages, yet we fail to question our own luck at being born into some of the wealthiest societies the world has ever known. My point is that merit is relative and really we should always ask ourselves whether there is someone more deserving of my wealth or position if they had my head start. And no matter your wealth or position the answer may likely be yes.