We’ve all had defining moments in life. Those moments when clarity rains down around you in a flash; “like a bomb went off”. Usually those moments don’t involve actual bombs…
I was unhappy with my old job at Evil Corporation for a long time. I don’t think I was every truly happy at working as an aerospace engineer, but the realization of my dissatisfaction was, for a long time – years, very unspecific. I had a creeping sense of boredom. I kept taking on new projects in the hope that something would capture my passion. I had to fight against somnolence towards my work; willing myself to accomplish tasks. I had a longing for something real and meaningful and after about 2006 a growing concern about the morality of what we, the defense-industrial, complex were doing. Despite my unhappiness, I hadn’t made any moves towards leaving; my fate had not yet been sealed.
Every Monday morning our group had a meeting to discuss the events of the previous week relevant to our work. You might think it odd, but even cutting edge intelligence can be come mundane after a couple of hundred meetings. It was hard to keep everyone at the meeting engaged week after week. Several years ago one of my colleagues showed us something that had never been presented before. Instead of PowerPoint charts he cued up a video. And there, from the comfort of a climate controlled conference room in Southern California, we watched in graphic detail as a group of people and some sort of terrorist target were blown to smithereens. The location of the target, how it was destroyed, who died, or whether or not they were truly “bad guys” isn’t what is important to this story. What is important is that as the bombs went off, the room erupted in claps, whoops, and cheers. Not everyone cheered; but most did. I know I stayed silent and sickened. Is this what all my and my colleagues lives had come to? To cheer as other human beings died? I liked to believe that I was doing what I did to make the world at least a slightly better place. It was crystal clear to me in that moment that we were doing nothing of the sort. Although I firmly believe that war should always be the last resort, I am not strictly a strident pacifist. I do think that sometimes the best place for certain people is six feet under. But to celebrate death? Never. To treat the lives of others as some sort of game that can be played from afar? Hell no. I do not want any part of that.
I went back to my little windowless office after the meeting and shut the door. I knew then that my career was over. It would take years more, and a lot more shit, before I stopped getting a paycheck from Evil Corporation. But that moment when the bombs went off, was went I went off too.