What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Competing to Love

Why does helping people have to be competitive?  Why is it that I want to get a job helping people so badly, but can't?  I want to work on alleviating poverty, I want to work on breaking down ethnic, racial, and gender barriers, I want to work on providing sustainable ways for the nearly 1 billion undernourished people in the world to be able to have food.  I want to work towards every individual in the world being able to achieve  human security, dignity.  I want to work on real, true democracy, so that the masses of the world can have real say in their lives.  And I want to work on this 80-90 hours a week.  But I can't.  I mean not for real.  I can do things on the side, I can Occupy, I can volunteer, I can apply for jobs, I can try to network or meander my way into these industries, and hopefully one day get a job.  One day.  But then if I get that job, who doesn't get it?  It's just like all the other jobs I've applied for and haven't gotten.  One job, hundreds of applicants who all want to work in an industry or on a project that matters to them and the world that they believe in.  But only one gets it.  Only one person gets to legitimately help the world in that way on that day.  The rest of us are left trying to find ways to do things in our spare time, unprofessionally, until the next application goes unsuccessfully fulfilled between waitress shifts, nanny gigs, and temp jobs to pay rent.

Obviously, this is the job market.  It is the same job market for anything and any industry.  Whether it be finance, advertising, non-profit, academia, whatever, there is a competitive market centered around making money to support one's self.  But hey, I've done things to strengthen my chances.  I have skills, I have experience, I am intelligent; just like everyone else.  Yet, I don't seem to be able to win these job competitions.  (To bad we couldn't just have a race to see who gets a job, I'd be all set then!).  But they're not. They're based on a fine tooth comb of your life, but without the life.  More on what some person sitting behind a desk thinks about your life on one piece of paper, about their company's interests, and all of that filtered through the lens of their's and society's prejudices and presumptions.  Because I moved around a lot in my 20's does it mean I will now?  Gaps in employment must mean I was just slacking off rather than couldn't find work right?  And what is to say that those "non-traditional" life moments don't add to a person?  Or that I packed a bag and went to Sierra Leone to fill that time?  Oh, wait, that looks flippant, unstable.  Being able to do anything anywhere isn't as desirable as being able to sit and role over on demand.

But it is not just me, there are also of course issues about the organizations' funding, their priorities, and whether they've been able to dredge up enough capital from the netherworld to be able get shit done.  It doesn't matter whether I can do the job or not.  It doesn't even matter that we all can do the job, or that there are too many candidates and not enough jobs out there.  What matters is that we are competing against each other to be nice to each other.  People are trying to help people, trying to put in hard work, and they can't - not on a real level.  Not in a way that allows them to sustain their own lives.  Our society has taken being nice - an inherently cooperative emotion and action, perhaps the quintessentially positive human trait - and turned it into something aggressive, commodified, and surrounded by competitive negativity.     

This is frankly just a horrible way to structure society.  Skilled compassionate people with no real and sustainable outlet for that desire.  I have skills damn it!  We all have skills!  But they are not skills that somehow mesh with or fit into this system that requires things to be big money makers.  I don't want to compete to help you.  Why don't we do it together, or divide up our efforts and help more?  No.... let's make it competitive!  Here's a vision for you: what could be worse than sitting back and watching an old lady trying to cross the street and needing help.  Two people come up to offer help to her, yet rather than working together, they turn on each other and start fighting over who gets to help her.  They don't both to take one arm and work together, or have one stop traffic and the other take her arm, instead they compete against each other and end up fighting amongst themselves.  This is where our society is today in terms of humanitarianism; we're brawling in the street over who can help the old lady across while we ourselves become a spectacle, rolling around on the ground in a fit of flailing arms and legs.  Of course the elderly woman continues to cross on her own because she's got stuff to do, until:  Smack!!  A truck comes along (whose driver is working a double to make rent and hasn't taken a break).  The two people keep fighting of course, as if the train wreck next to them isn't happening.  So sad.  We shouldn't have to compete to help people.  Organizations shouldn't have to compete for money to help people.  Nor should people have to compete for jobs for it either.  Utopian yes, but we should just be able to to be nice to each other and sustain some semblance of a life around it. 


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