I’m not in my dream career. Oh, I have the experience and qualifications to be at least sitting at a desk adjacent to the position I dream of, but I am actively avoiding the whole sector. I know if I dip my working hours into even the shallow end of the sector, my lack of self-control will violently and happily drag me into the deeper end, and I cannot let that happen. In this case, it’s better for me to stay uncomfortably out of it, than relax comfortably into it. It could be so easy, so comfortable, so [self-perceived as] immoral.
Yes, I have moral issues with the position I crave.
The moral issue has only appeared since completing university in 2012. Instead of leaving learning behind me, I proactively [and annoyingly] sought out books of case studies which introduced a perplexing idea I have not yet resolved two years later. I have wondered, argued, brainstormed and deliberated the issue, but I cannot reach a conclusive end.
In Gregory David Robert’s book, Shantaram, the lead character arrives in Mumbai, India, and is befriended by a local taxi driver, Prabaker, who lives in a nearby slum. The pair develop a heartwarming friendship as a subplot of a 900+ page book. Like Shantaram, I found Prabaker tiresome initially. But as the storyline develops and the context of Mumbai is explored, Prabaker makes sense; the reader (me) found herself charmed by this little fast-speaking, always-has-an-idea, over-the-top, head-wobbling, endearing man. As Prabaker prepares to marry his dreamboat, Shantaram buys Prabaker a car to afford the new couple a life out of poverty. With the prospect of earning more money, Prabaker works himself into a sleepy state behind the wheel, and dies horrifically in a car accident.
‘Humanitarian’ work, they call it. International aid, and all its buzzwords. Supporting, helping and delivering services to people who are born in the wrong postcode. I wouldn’t call it altruism. That’s not to say that aid workers are not altruistic in nature; just that the position is not. Tony Vaux, in his aptly titled book, The Selfish Altruist, analyses each one of his projects (Rwanda post-genocide, for example) during his time at Oxfam, highlighting their mistakes along the way. In the end, Vaux challenges himself, with the mistakes in mind, how productive and positive his projects had been. In the Rwandan example, the identities of the rebels and victims had been confused so that his project were delivering food to the rebels, to the further misfortune of the victims. In the same project, food and supplies flown in from the States had been freely handed out with local farmers’ supplies rotting and local entrepreneurs’ businesses folding. Because local businesses were crushed, Rwanda took even longer to recover from its 100 day hell. Vaux’s conclusion broke his own regretful heart.
Granted, projects I undertake are not going to be on the Rwandan scale. But does scale matter when you’re talking about people’s lives? With intervention, some people live who would not have, but also, people who should have lived longer will die. I could be that intervention. But who am I to make that decision?
Maybe the immorality is in sitting back, contemplating the ‘luck of the draw’ while change is necessary. Maybe effort and diligence is enough to counteract the potentially negative results.
But until I’m convinced, I’ll remain uncomfortable.