Sunday, November 22, 2009

Depressing realities

So I'm in that delightful stage of one's fourth year of college where one attempts to decide "what to do" after graduation.

I decided at least a year ago that I don't want to go to grad school right away, but rather after two or three years. UChicago has burned me out pretty well, for one thing, but for another my degree is highly interdisciplinary and as a result I'm not even sure what departments I would want to apply to (though lately a Ph.D. in Middle East Studies seems more and more likely). More importantly, though, I'm fundamentally uncomfortable with the idea of making a living off of theorizing human beings without ever knowing them or doing any concrete work with them toward improving their circumstances. It's not right.

So I decided at around the same time that I want to work in probably an NGO for a while in a fairly concrete capacity--not desk work and not theory stuff. I don't need an organization that's promising transformational change, largely because I'm too cynical to believe in such promises--I'd rather just do some good work that maybe helps some people just a little in their actual lives for a while, without yammering about civil society development or investing in the change of tomorrow and so on.

The problem, right, is that it's very hard to find out what organizations of this sort exist because most of the ones with web presence are large and/or more think-tank or diplomacy oriented. This isn't a path I've ruled out, but it's not what I'm ideally looking for.

So last week I got an email from the International Studies listhost about government and NGO jobs which included a link to a website that serves as a hub for professionals and organizations in "international development, global health and humanitarian aid." I did a simple search for "Middle East" under "Companies & NGOs" and my god, it is discouraging.

It's discouraging for the following reason: probably 90% of the results I scrolled through that day (haven't had time to continue) were consultancies of one sort or another, usually concerned with economic development. I'm profoundly skeptical of such organizations: I don't think they necessarily do much good, and most often they serve to make consultants rich off the needs of poor people without having much other effect. This is precisely the antithesis of what I want to spend the next couple years doing.

I don't have any deep thoughts right now about that fact that aren't deeply obvious, in part because it's very late at night and I spent the evening at a Girl Talk show followed by watching 10 Things I Hate About You (incidentally, one of my favorite movies of all time) and drinking beer. But the basic fact of it is depressing to me, and I wish it weren't so.

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