Wednesday, 20 April 2011

On getting your hands dirty

"Working for a charity which supports people who used to be in the Army? That's a bit right wing, isn't it?"

Haha, yes! In that very special right wing way of working to improve the lives of predominantly working class people! Funny thing about helping people with debts, DLA applications and rent arrears: they're rarely from the officer class.

Okay, I admit, I'm getting pretty defensive about this: a whole blog post in response to an offhand comment related to me at second hand might conceivably qualify as overkill. In my ultimate vision of my ideal career path, I didn't plan on working for a services charity: being a typical bleeding heart lefty liberal feminist, the grand plan is still to work with, say, a women's shelter, or a homeless outreach program, but these sort of charities don't generally come that high on funding priority lists (and have I mentioned recently how much money Britons give to saving the fucking donkeys?), so jobs are few and far between. My employers, however, get millions in donations every year, so they can afford to hire a charming and efficient administrator to make their fixing-people's-lives professionals' jobs easier.

And that charming and efficient administrator? Gets to do some pretty good life-fixing too. Seriously, last week I made a man cry with gratitude because I moved heaven and earth to enable him to repay money lent to him by his daughter. Without that money, her kids wouldn't have been able to go on holiday. Without that money, he wouldn't have been able to eat for a month. Without me and the terribly reactionary right wing charity I work for, he would have had to choose between souring the one good relationship left in his life, or risking his home and his already failing health by repaying the debt out of his own pocket.

But I guess because he was in the Army when he was young, he's just a tool of the establishment and I should have left him to rot, right?

I would absolutely love to be able to help everyone who needs it: it would be wonderful to be able to pay off the rent arrears of every struggling single mum, to help every person bewildered by the Disability Living Allowance application process to navigate an unfamiliar and uncaring system, to negotiate with unscrupulous credit card companies on behalf of every person they're trying to force into bankruptcy. But I can't. So if my choice is between making an unimaginable difference in some people's lives while being unable to help others, or throwing my hands up in despair rather than work for a services charity because I think that War Is Bad, I'm not that torn.

Sorry, dude, the revolution wasn't hiring. And may I ask - you're making the world better how, exactly?

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