I had an interview for a temp agency yesterday. It went ok, and at the end the interviewer asked me if I’d be ok working for Monsanto. I said sure, but now I’m wondering if I would. Maybe if it were just as a temp? Maybe if I really, really need the money to pay my rent? Maybe if I’m not working on producing pesticides myself, but making other things or testing for them? I don’t mind working with toxic substances if we’re using proper protective gear and procedures. I didn’t mind (that much) that my old lab generated barrels of toxic waste. They were hauled off & stored somewhere that was supposedly safe, but who ever really knows how that waste will end up eventually?
At my current part time, minimum wage job I’m asking people to donate to environmental causes. Save the Bees from Bee-killing Pesticides, Get the EPA to Ban Roundup, Phone Your Senator to Tell Them You Hate Trump’s Choice to Head the EPA….This seems to be an ideally ethical job, right? Yet, what if I’m asking someone to donate who may not be able to afford to do so? They can always say no, but some people have a hard time saying no to a compelling pitch. I had one woman on my first night who reminded me so much of my Mom, an elderly woman who had given small donations over a fairly short period of time and said she needed to be careful how much she spent on these causes. Mom had advancing Alzheimer’s and very bad judgement, so phone calls asking for money helped to destroy her. I used to feel so angry at the people who kept taking money from her, but now I think they didn’t all realize how they may have been hurting her.
I don’t see a big ethical dilemma in stealing food when I’m hungry and don’t have money. I feel a bit more ambiguity about stealing food for my dog, but that’s still a relatively easy decision. Food Stamps won’t pay for dog food, so since I don’t want my dog to starve, sometimes I’ve shoplifted dog food. Even then, though, shoplifting became so easy that it became a temptation to take something I didn’t absolutely need, because I knew I could get away with it and it might make me feel better. I shoplifted pasty and clothes that I didn’t really need. I keep telling myself stealing creates bad karma, but when I’m feeling down it sometimes takes an effort not to do it.
I’ve done dumpster diving instead of shoplifting, but even that can create ethical dilemmas. Don’t cause damage or leave a mess. Don’t take more than you need, so someone else who comes along can get something too. Yet…if you get produce from a dumpster and wash if properly, should you tell other people who might eat it how you got it? What if it’s something like an unopened milk carton? What’s the proper balance between honesty and sparing other people’s sensibilities? What if what you’re really sparing isn’t their sensibilities, but rather how they’re likely to view you?
I need a full-time job that pays enough to pay my rent and other expenses, but I hope I don’t have to take one that feels ethically questionable. I try to do what I think is right, but it’s not always a clear choice.
Life is full of choices filled with moral ambiguity. Hopefully, we do the best we can, but I don’t think we can ever be perfect.