The Evils of Gate Keeping


Gatekeepers exist at every level of society, but the issue comes down to this---somebody somewhere is deciding who gets in and who stays out. Someone is deciding who gets to go to medical school and who does not. Someone is deciding who wins the contest and who does not. And sadly, these decisions, like most other decisions made by human beings, are subjective and arbitrary.

Let's take some examples.

You are completely qualified and apply to law school, but a group of elites decides you're not. You are completely competent and apply for a job, but a group of elites says you don't make the cut. You enter a contest and your entry is awesome, but again, a group of elites says the best you can do is not good enough. You are an amazing actor and audition for a part in a movie, but a group of elites says you're not right for it. Or you can be a talented singer and get voted off American Idol. It all has the same effect. Someone else is deciding what we will see. Someone else is deciding who gets labeled a winner or loser. Someone else is deciding what sits on the shelves in stores. Someone else is deciding the content of what we will be reading on Wikipedia. And they try to make the process look unbiased and objective, but it is not.  

If the gatekeepers were doing a good job, then you might sleep better knowing only the best got through, but clearly that’s not what is happening. And that's the point of this essay. We are not experiencing the best. We are experiencing what one person or perhaps a small group of people thought was the best. And more often than not, there is no connection between the quality of something and what people think. What people perceive is not the same as objective reality.

Not surprisingly, the gatekeepers perpetuate the mirage that this system is fair and objective. All these award shows, cooking contests, hiring committees, and film festivals are not discovering and honoring the best,  they are actually honoring and elevating their own self-importance as superior beings presiding above humanity. 

The evil of the system is that society's choices are being limited by a very small minority.  The evil of the system is that good people get crushed and thrown away by the few or even, at times, by the many.  The evil of the system is that these judges and jurors don't think twice about killing new and often beginning talent. They create a world with few winners and many losers, a world where your fate is decided for you no matter your aptitude, attitude, or talent.

Think about it.

Many movies fail. Many songs fail. Many people drop out of college. Many "award winners" fade into oblivion. And all of these people and projects were given a chance at the expense of others, and failed. There is pure beauty you will never see because someone somewhere decided you shouldn't. Why? Because the gatekeepers, like most people, are often wrong. They bet on the wrong horses, but want you to pay the costs.

Alfred Hitchcock, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, never won an Academy Award.

Ridley Scott, one of the great directors of our time, has also never won an Academy Award.

Fellini won five.

Does that make him better?

Many exceptionally qualified students are rejected from medical school every day.

Does that mean these students could not have been great doctors? 

Absolutely not.

It simply means the world is governed by gatekeepers who pretend the system makes sense when it does not.

And to the winners of these contests and prizes, perhaps the most insidious thing of all happens---they become true believers and the strongest supporters of the gatekeeping system. They believe you either have or you don't and that they too are bestowed with the magic power to judge others, and so is born another group of anointed ones who will carry on the torch of tradition, no matter how absurd or fundamentally flawed it is.

The Internet is changing things to some extent. Now instead of an elite minority deciding your fate, now the crowd can in some cases. With the Internet, it is possible to go viral and bypass the system, and yet, even the crowd can be wrong sometimes too. So while getting the approval of the crowd is an alternative to elitist gatekeeping, it is far from a solution.

The truth is there is only one solution to the evils of gatekeeping and that is to do your own thing in spite of  everyone and everything. The answer lies not within the system, but outside of it. There is a way; it's just not an easy one.

This means you must learn to believe in yourself and not seek external validation. You must shy away from contests and the judgment of others. You must pursue what you pursue because it brings you pure joy and makes you feel satisfied and happy. You need to forget what other people think because they are, quite frankly, often wrong.

Don't go through the gate---build your own estate.

Do what makes you happy.

Pursue your dreams.

And want not for the approval of others.

It means little in the end.

Rejection from a sick system might not be a bad thing because it forces you to find success on your own as an outsider. It introduces you to adversity, enhances your creativity, and frees you to play by your own rules. It makes you stronger and more resilient in the end.

You don't need or want the approval of the broken and corrupt. You only need to find what fulfills you, and if that means recognition, then pour your soul into what you want and recognition will find you. Don't seek it from others.

It is not the pictures that hang from the walls of the gatekeeper's house that matter---it is the pictures that hang from your own.