The paradoxical dichotomy of nepotism

September 1, 2016 OPINION/NEWS




Hazel Speed

First of all, although most readily know only too well what nepotism is, the Concise English Dictionary defines it as follows, (caveat any recent change in nuance of the definition therein):

Favouritism shown to relatives or close friends by those with power‘.

It goes on to say that nepote NEPHEW, was from the former papal practice of granting favours to nephews or other relatives.

Search Engines, such as Google, provide whole pages of listings confirming the same interpretation of Nepotism within daily considerations, whether socially or in the realm of business.

In other words, the modern day usage of terminology in its appropriate application would be the term ‘jobs for the boys’, ‘old school tie’, ‘pulling strings’, ‘friends at Court’, being ‘well-connected’, etc.

Nepotism knows no territory that is out of bounds, no area is safe from its tentacles.

How often have we heard of an important vacancy occurring and an unexpected candidate being offered that post, perhaps unworthy of such consideration, or lacking in ability required for the job, then we learn of some link between the candidate and someone of influence, either a blood relative, or a friend calling in a favour owed, etc.

We all know this story only too well. The more deserving candidate stands no chance against these odds, therefore it is no wonder that the word ‘nepotism’ has as its synonym the more unattractive descriptions available within the English language.

On the other hand, let us look at nepotism from another viewpoint completely.

Many people claim to be ‘self-made’ – i.e. all they have achieved in the material world, or social worlds, has been brought about by hard work, and although this may be true, many at the same time decline to accept the possibility that they were also very lucky, or perhaps predestined to their success.

In the early part of this century, when times were hard, many struggled within working class confines and deservedly ascended the various social ladders to land themselves within the realms of the accepted gentry.

They are to be admired for their efforts and their successes, but equally, there are more people for whom such efforts find no rewards, or less similar ones, at least.

However, if one has come up the hard way so to speak, is it not natural and correct to ensure that one’s offspring do not have to toil in quite the same way to be a success in life.

Has the parent not already done this by acquiring his wealth or status?

It is true that the wise parent would train their child in the ways of the wise, trying to steer a balance between ‘opportunity’ (previously earned by the parent’s hard work) and ‘spoiling’ of character or personality attributable to the rewards that wealth has to offer, the virtue of hardship being the true education of all.

So now we have two opposing views of nepotism, both having equal shares in consideration, but usually only one side is viewed at any given time by one party, and that party usually only views the side that is pertinent to themselves.

So we have a paradoxical dichotomy – a split of two ways, each asserting their stance as being quite acceptable.

Perhaps attitude is relevant, an employer who employs a candidate for a particular vacancy may only be doing so as a ‘favour’ he owes to the candidate’s father, etc., or have an ulterior motive for employing this person. There will be some, however, who genuinely consider the candidate to also be their choice, as well as being ‘well-connected’ in the City.

However, one hears (though not often, sad to say) of people being judged by their merit, initiative, obvious character, etc., and although they may be from an unprivileged social background, they may be streets ahead of their competitors who perhaps are more well-heeled.

Should candidate (A) the humble background candidate with no connections or favours to call in and candidate (B) the socially acceptable, well-connected candidate – whose brain power and personality either are weak or are not at issue anyway, be treated the same in an employer’s considerations.

Just because of the fear of nepotism being shouted by someone, it does not mean that an employer HAS to choose candidate (A) rather than the smartly packaged candidate (B).

Reverse psychology equally would be wrong, where candidate (B) if chosen purely because of nepotism would preclude him also being the better man for the job above candidate (A) anyway.

If the offspring of a clergyman, perhaps, wanted to follow their parent(s) into the Ministry, it would be inevitable that they would receive certain ‘considerations’ on the merit of their parent'(s) own reputation, perhaps promotion coming quicker or slower than someone new into the church environment.

If this were the case, would it be wrong? Well if such a candidate for the church were to be hindered in some way then obviously this would be due to a form of one-removed revenge, someone would be taking it out of the offspring of the clergyman, who perhaps, may have made enemies.

If the candidate to the Ministry were to experience rapid promotion within the church, is this equally wrong? In itself, I think it is not, but if it were at the detriment of someone of a dissimilar background then it would be wrong.

When one purchases a company or shop from a former owner, within that contract is usually a legal Clause which is termed as Good Faith. This is the reputation of the previous establishment owners, a rapport with customers built up over many years perhaps, such customers having Good Faith in the proprietors.

That Good Faith is substance enough (though not tangible in the truest sense) to have some financial merit or consideration in the overall pricing of such a legal transaction. Indeed, in many slander cases, reputation and Good Faith (when in business environments) can receive restitutional payments, instructed by the Courts in the overall decision.

So it seems that perhaps, nepotism is quite acceptable IF it is the coinage for an equivalent acknowledgment of Good Faith – i.e. acquired knowledge or background, which places the candidate at an advantage purely because of this experience.

Like virtue, it is its own reward or/of justification.  Such commodity, then, is valuable in itself and should not be ignored.  Where it is wrong, is if it is used as an offensive weapon against the candidate of a different background or experience, who may, at the same time, be more qualified for the job.

It would be better to consider it on a points system where candidate (A) the one without the desired background/connections is given certain points for his own merits, abilities, character, achievements, enthusiasm potential, etc., and candidate (B) can receive the same points system where appropriate, but this extra background/experience (‘connections’ being subsumed therein) could equally translate into pertinent points, ensuring that both candidates are made equally aware of how the calculations are attributed, which action in itself would disprove nepotism in play, though of course, all systems remain open to corruption, including this one.

To satisfy the Good Faith element within the issues of nepotism would be one way around defeating this paradoxical dichotomy and at the same time would retain the rights and ‘opportunities’ of each candidate (A) and (B).

Failing this, nepotism remains not only an ugly word but irresolvable as a paradoxical dichotomy.








Hazel Speed

Photo (c) Hazel Speed – used by kind permision to Tuck Magazine

Hazel Speed is a Philosopher, Writer, and Artist with various creative projects at differing states of development. Her flaship project is an animation which has produced a film short:

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