One of the many things that Covid-19 shone a light on was the difference between essential and non-essential workers. In modern civilisation, the range of essential services is ever-widening as people grow comfortable with a baseline standard of living. While I was sitting around around comfortable at home for the two months the lockdown lasted, I could not help but feel guilty. I am not an essential worker; I never have been an essential worker; and I probably never will be an essential worker.
On reflection, I recognise while the government definition of an essential worker exists, it is but one interpretation. There are the organisations that are inherently essential, like Water and Power and Telecommunications, which makes all of their workers essential. By definition, every other organisation is non-essential to the basic function of modern society. While they undoubtedly add value to the human experience, we can survive without them.
This notion has caused an internal conflict: maybe I am better placed working for one of those essential industries? I would not feel so helpless were another lockdown situation occur. I have, however, never had the inclination to pursue that or even explore those opportunities. To be frank, I was never exposed to it and therefore never desired it.
Having said that, I know that I can add value by working in a “non-essential” industry. Yet, after everything that’s happened, it feels like a cop-out at the same time. I don’t know what to think. My internal conflict rests on the question of impact, I know that in however I decide to spend my time, there will be a net-positive impact on the world. But I cannot lay to rest the niggling feeling that it is a little selfish and privileged of me to desire to work in “non-essential” industries.