As the recent #OERxDomains21 conference drew to a close, I found myself calling, via the chat, for a levelling of the pyramids. I want to reassure that I was not referring to any physical, historic edifice but rather to the tendency for humans to metaphorically create piles from aspects of life and then focus only on what emerges at the top of those piles. It could be piles of ideas, hierarchies of job roles or lifestyles, leagues of team sports or educational institutions, charts of music or film releases. We do this perhaps because we enjoy the judgement process, perhaps because it offers a way of organising our world into something we feel we can control, perhaps if other “authorities” do this we don’t have to. I don’t know. I then discovered others too were thinking about pyramids…and myths.
Leonard’s point was an important one to me. It tied together my feelings about competition in education with an awful image from Auschwitz I recall about behaviour in the gas chambers. Apparently when the gas was released into the chamber from a hole at the top of the dreadful edifice, people would climb on top of each other in order to try to stop the gas coming in. The bodies were found piled into a pyramid. That image remains with me from when I first heard about it in my teens.
People at the top of a pyramid, such as those who finance top flight football, recently discovered that their cosy plan to reduce the risk to their investment through the creation of a European Super League could be toppled by the very foundations of their pyramid.
Western economies are built on pyramids. At their base the worker ants – care workers, health workers, carers, the “key workers” who work long hours and whose labour is often undervalued. We need lots of them so the government can leave the population to look after itself. If you want to be higher up the pyramid you have the myth of “meritocracy” which justifies your position. I wrote about that this time last year funnily enough. In reality of course it helps to have wealthy parents and connections. We knew this long before it was proven.
There are few reasons to be positive as a citizen of the UK right now unless you simply absorb the tory party narrative which is being pushed out. However the story from the USA has improved enormously. Biden’s open declaration that trickle down economics doesn’t work was a much needed breath of fresh air and gives hope to the possibility of a new world order beyond the pandemic. One that levels the pyramids. Wealthy people do not automatically increase their gifts to others. Winners in competitions do not necessarily feel compelled to give freely of their time to educate those who yearn to win. Once at the top of your pyramid you are unlikely to look down at those crushed beneath you.