It is not your imagination, our society favours the connected and corrupt over the capable who warrant promotion. It’s a common historical pattern.
“In times of difficulty men of merit are sought after, but in easy times it is not men of merit, but such as have riches and powerful relations, that are most in favor.
It ever has been, and ever will be the case, that men of rare and extraordinary merit are neglected by republics in times of peace and tranquillity; for jealous of the reputation which such men have acquired by their virtues, there are always in such times many other citizens, who want to be, not only their equals, but their superiors. The Greek historian Thucydides gives the following striking instance of this.
The Athenian republic, having obtained the advantage in the Peloponnesian war, having checked the pride of the Spartans and subjected almost all Greece to their rule, acquired such reputation that she conceived the project of conquering Sicily. This enterprise was much debated in Athens. Alcibiades and some other citizens, thinking more of the honor they could gain by it than of the public good, were much in favor of it, and hoped that the direction of it would be intrusted to them. But Nicias, one of the most influential citizens of Athens, opposed it, and the principal reason which he adduced against it, when addressing the people (who had faith in him), was this: that in advising them against this war he counselled them to what was against his own interest, for he well knew that so long as Athens remained at peace there were many citizens who wanted to take precedence of him; but he also knew that there was not a citizen who would pretend to show himself his superior, or even his equal, in time of war. Thus showing that it is the common fault of republics in tranquil times to make small account of men of merit. And it is a twofold cause of indignation for such men to see themselves deprived of the rank to which they are entitled, and to be associated with, and often even subordinated to unworthy men, who are their inferiors in capacity. This defect in republics has often caused great evils...”
This is often observed in our society. To such a degree our society scorns the merits of men and manhood in general, because easy times causes them to forget how important they are.
*Niccolo Machiavelli, Discources on Livy, Castalia Edition Pp. 318-319