Doing Good for the World, The Right Way
Armed with a Georgetown University diploma, Beth Hanley embarked in her 20s on a path hoping to become a professional world-saver. First she worked at nonprofit Bread for the World. Then she taught middle school English in central Africa with the Peace Corps. Finally, to certify her idealism, she graduated last spring with a master's degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University.
... Hanley, a think tank temp who dreams of aiding the impoverished and reducing gender discrimination in developing countries, is stuck. ... Numerous young Washingtonians bemoan the improvisational and protracted career track of the area's public interest profession. They say the high competition for comparatively low-paying jobs saps their sense of adulthood, forcing them to spend their 20s or early 30s moving from college to work to graduate school and back to work that might or might not be temporary.
No, wait. I don't weep for you.
You know, somewhere there's a guy, toiling in a cube, who just spent six weeks working out a way to make toilet paper with 1% less energy input, thus cutting the cost of goods sold by 0.25%, while keeping the TP just as soft and smooth as it was before.
...and that man has added more to the sum total of human happiness and productivity over those six weeks than little-Miss-altruist Beth Hanley has in her decade of getting elite degrees, wasting time in the Peace Corps, and getting her masters degree in international relations.
I'm not saying that Mr-TP-improvement is a hero ("because what's a hero?").
And I'm not saying that little-miss-perky-nose-and-silk-blouse is a bad person.
But, aside from her own sense of self worth, what has she accomplished in the last decade?
Pretty much zero.
Who is more of a humanitarian, a Norman Borlaug, who through his technological efforts saved untold millions from hunger, and even starvation, and was reasonably compensated for it, or an Albert Schweitzer or Mother Theresa, who labored to help a relatively few poor and ill, while living in relative poverty? Obviously the latter derived personal satisfaction from their hands-on retail efforts, but I don't think that they ever whined about their lifestyle.
These people do in fact need to grow up, and understand that there are other ways to help people than forming non-profits and NGOs, or working for a government bureaucracy. People are helped most by technological advances that make essential items--food, transportation, communication, shelter--more affordable and accessible to them, not by those who provide them with handouts and sympathy, and keep them in a state of perpetual dependency.