I don’t have a lot to say today. I have other stuff I need to be doing, so I’ll try my best to keep it short. But I’ve been thinking a bit more about moral obligations, helping the poor, and making a more just society. It’s been causing me to think about what I want to do after graduation. My plan for the past little while has been to go to graduate school for social psychology, with the eventual plan of getting into psychological research, most likely at a university. That’s what I’ve been telling people for the past little while, but primarily just because I hated not having an answer to the question of, “So what do you want to do after school?” I mean, I like psychology, and I like research, and I think I would enjoy it, but I think I would enjoy plenty of other things as well.
So the past few days I’ve been mulling over in my mind some things that might change my plans. In particular, I want to find a job that directly helps people. That’s the reason I went into psychology in the first place – to get into counselling or clinical psychology, in order to diagnose problems and give advice, etc. Through my time at university, I changed my focus to be more on research, because I found that more enjoyable. But now I get the feeling that I may not be satisfied with a job where I don’t help people in some way. I mean, psychological research does help people indirectly – very indirectly. But I want to find a way to get right into the midst of things and help others where they’re at. Beyond that, though, I’m not really sure what to do. I could potentially take on a job in research and then volunteer elsewhere. That’s an option. The other option is to go and volunteer somewhere, perhaps do some overseas work, for a little while after graduation, before going onto grad school. I don’t know. But it’s something I need to think about a bit more.
I do have one final thing to mention about this, though. I watched Schindler’s List last night, a movie which I have watched before and definitely enjoyed. It’s one of the few movies that really gets me emotional – and even moreso because it’s a true story. Schindler originally is a businessman who takes advantage of the Second World War and the increasing hostilities against the Jews to get cheap labour for his factory. He sees the Jews as a way to profit, but refuses to get emotionally involved. However, over the course of the movie, there is a clear character progression where he realizes that the humanity of these people are being taken away from them. So, he hatches a plan to buy almost 1100 Jews to save them from extermination. He uses the profits from his business to do so, and essentially ends up broke. Near the end of the movie, the war comes to an end, and Schindler, still a member of the Nazi party, has to flee. He says goodbye to the crowd of people he has rescued, and as he shakes the hand of his dear Jewish friend and associate, he breaks down in tears. He breaks down because he realizes that all the money he wasted – all the cars, the suits, the luxurious parties and fine wines – could have been used to save more people. At the climax of the movie, he realizes that the money he spent or saved directly affected the lives of other human beings. He spent money on useless nothings that could have saved the lives of a real person. And so, though he saved so many, his cry of desperation is that it “wasn’t enough.”
There is an important lesson there, because what was true in 1945 is still true today. The choices we make about our money, our time, and our possessions still translate to a direct impact on the survival of others. The money we spend on electronics, on clothing, on extra-long showers, on entertainment – all of these could be spent saving people’s lives. Real people. Real human beings. And I can’t get over that. I want to live a modest lifestyle so that I spend my money responsibly, realizing that the money I have is not truly the result of my hard work, but the result of my privileged position in society. I am a white male in North America, but I did not earn that status. I live like a king in comparison to the rest of the world. And I need to always remain mindful of that fact. I do not want to live in luxury that is borne on the backs of the poor. The money I spend on frivolous things could be spent to ensure someone is able to eat tomorrow.
So regardless of what I do after graduation – whether I go into research or go into an area where I can help in tangible ways – I want to live conscious of my privileged position. I want to live a modest lifestyle so that others can live at all. I think that is the only morally responsible thing to do, and I want to always be ready to take on that responsibility and live it well. I would encourage everyone else to do the same.