Monday, March 1, 2010

Responsible Job Hunting

A little more than a week ago I became unemployed for the first time in over a year (which is not a very strange thing these days). From the perspective of a normal career, I am in better shape than the last time, having updated two basic skill sets (technical writing and test engineering) and provided significant evidence of a “new” one (creative writing). Unfortunately, my rapidly evolving value system and additional research are conspiring to limit my options for further work.

I remain more convinced than ever that without major changes to our economic system, the world is headed for a major population crash by the time someone my age would normally retire. My entire remaining work life covers the period we have to do what it takes to stop the greatest cataclysm in history.

I have two choices, as I see it. The first is easy: I can go along with our planet killing system, meeting the needs of my family by helping to destroy the world while making incremental changes to my lifestyle and maybe doing some feel-good activism (including writing on the side) that might convince others to change. The second is hard, but potentially more satisfying: I can spend the majority of my time trying to change or replace the system, reconciling my family's needs with those of the majority of others.

Like many people, I have a mountain of debt and am dependent on growth-hungry corporations (and a government bought by corporations) for my survival. In an effort to try getting out from under, I've started my own business – selling my writing (and an ancillary product, music) – and invested valuable time in trying to make a profit from what I've already created. Instead of making something better, I'm focused on increasing quantity, precisely the tradeoff that the profit motive proliferates and which leads to the increasing consumption and waste that is killing us. I console myself that what I'm selling is nonetheless worth it, because it has the potential to educate people about the critical issues I care about while entertaining them, which could possibly lead to some positive changes over the long term.

Meanwhile, I see government and non-profit jobs as a possible if imperfect alternative to profit-seeking slavery. Both are ostensibly engaged in helping people for its own sake, but there are very few of them, especially those that can significantly fight the world's impending doom by eliminating both the conversion of limited non-renewable resources into poisonous and unusable forms, and the sabotage if not outright destruction of natural systems that all life depends on. There is another major problem with these alternatives: they depend on the larger profit-making economy for support, through donations and taxes respectively, and that support is dwindling due to the economic consequences of the unfolding crisis (resource depletion leading to higher prices, and a combination of pollution -- particles, gases, chemicals, radiation -- and older populations leading to rising health care costs).

I am in fact looking at all options. This includes the worst, as a way to buy time for finding the better ones; but I'm afraid there just isn't any time left to buy.

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