The Meritocracy

After discussing the situation with his captain the first mate returned to the deck to inform me of my fate.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but we’re going to have to toss you back in.”

“What? Why?”

“We can’t allow anyone to stay on this ship who doesn’t deserve to be here.”

“How do you decide who deserves to be here?”

“It’s simple, really. This is a meritocracy. Those who have enough merit to be here are here, just as they deserve. If you don’t have enough merit you don’t deserve to be here and therefore you aren’t here.”

“What? That doesn’t even make sense.”

The mate shrugged his shoulders. “Look, I’m sorry, but if you deserved to be here you would already have been here. But you were on that rather hideous raft.”

“I built that raft with my bare hands! I cut down palm trees with a rock I dug up from the beach. I made glue from the bones of a wild boar which I had to kill with a sharpened seashell. Surely that has some merit.”

“Well obviously it has some merit just not enough for a place onboard this ship. It’s more like a drifting-on-a-raft-in-the-ocean amount of merit which is why you were drifting on a raft in the ocean. So I’m afraid that’s where you’re going to have to return until you have enough merit to stay on our ship.”

“Well how can I get more merit so I can stay on board?”

“You can’t get more merit,” he said with an eye roll. “That’s absurd. You have as much as you have. No more, no less.”

“But you just said…”

“Look it’s quite simple. On this ship you only get what you earn and whatever you have earned is what you have. You didn’t have a place on our ship so you must not have earned one.”

With this the first mate signaled to a couple of burly sailors across the deck who began lumbering toward us.

“So what, you’re just going to drop me back onto my raft and leave me drifting in the ocean?” I asked.

“No I’m afraid that’s not an option,” he said.

“I’m glad you agree,” I said, relieved. “It would be inhumane to do such a thing.”

“No, that’s not it,” he said. “It’s just that we’ve been sailing for a good hour now since we picked you up. Your raft is some leagues behind us by now, so we can’t return you to your raft.”


“I’m afraid we’re just going to have to deposit you as close to where we found you as possible which is the ocean on the rear port side of the ship.”

“You’re not even going to take me back to my raft? You’re just going to toss me in the ocean?”

“That’s a rather emotional way to put it. I would say we’re simply returning you to a state of affairs that more closely resembles the natural outcome of your life choices.”

“You’re leaving me worse off than when you picked me up! I’ll drown! This is immoral!”

“Come now sir,” the mate was beginning to sound angry. “Do not lecture me on morality! No, asking the rest of the crew to sacrifice some portion of their rations, which they have earned, to feed someone who has not earned them, that would be immoral. Giving you a room you have not earned while others had to work for theirs, that would be immoral.”

The two sailors were just feet behind the first mate now. “What are your orders sir?” one of them asked.

“This is insane,” I said, panic creeping into my voice. “You said yourself that I had earned my place on that raft. You’ve taken that away from me. How is that moral?”

“You are not our responsibility. You came aboard of your own free will even though you had not earned a place on this ship. You abandoned your raft; we did not steal it from you. Now you expect us to alter our schedule to accommodate your poor choices? No sir, that is not how we do things aboard this ship.”


The mate cut me off, “I’ve heard quite enough. Gentlemen please return this fellow to his proper position in life.”

With that the mate walked away. I tried to run from the sailors though I knew not where I might find sanctuary. I was weak from malnutrition and they overtook me with ease. I screamed and kicked, protested and pleaded as they dragged me to the rear of the ship. It was no use. They reached the back of the boat and tossed me overboard without so much as a grunt.

I hit the water hard, the air knocked from my lungs. I struggled to tread water but even with my head above the surface I couldn’t yet breathe. The last thing I saw before the ocean waters pulled me down was the large white lettering on the back of the ship. It read: USS Meritocracy.