Ethos Education

Monsters: To what extent can people be morally responsible for the impact of their job on others?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Consideration of the concept of moral or immoral occupations.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon the relative appeal of different jobs.
  • Reflect upon the relative morality of different jobs.
  • Reflect upon arguments presented by a character from Monsters with reference to his way of making a living.
  • Analyse key Bible passages about work and evaluate their significance to the discussion about the morality of different jobs.
  • Analyse a key Bible passage about responsibility to other people and evaluate its significance to the discussion, with reference to characters from Monsters.
  • Synthesise a set of job adverts, reflecting a Christian perspective on work and social responsibility.

STARTER:

Ask the students to work in small groups to agree a ranking of the following jobs, on the basis of how enjoyable they would be to do. Give out the job cards and ask the students to lay them out in order of appeal.

A variation on the above would be to carry out the exercise in the form of a silent discussion. Each student in the small group takes it in turns to place one card, and also to move one card whose previous placing they disagree with. This approach has the advantage of allowing all students in the group equal opportunity to put their point of view, rather than favouring the more confident or more vocal.

The jobs on the cards as are follows:

  • Professional footballer
  • Street cleaner
  • Doctor
  • Nurse
  • Teacher
  • Arms dealer
  • Celebrity press photographer
  • Conflict zone press photographer
  • Con man
  • Pop star
  • Journalist
  • Shop assistant

Once the students have agreed the relative merits of the jobs, ask each group to feed back their top three jobs and their bottom two jobs. Discuss any interesting similarities or differences between the groups and encourage students to explain the reasons for their top and bottom choices.

Now ask the groups to repeat the exercise, this time ranking the jobs according to how morally good or bad they think each job is. This time allow them to rank jobs as being equally good (or bad) as other jobs if they prefer. When the groups feed back their conclusions, ask them which jobs they felt were good things to do, which were bad, and which were morally neutral.

Explain that in this lesson you are going to be looking at the question of whether some ways of making a living should be considered as morally wrong, and looking at a Christian perspective on work and employment.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Remind the students that one of the jobs they thought about in the opening activity was a press photographer in conflict zones. Explain that one of the main characters in the film Monsters has precisely this job. In the film, large areas of Mexico have been declared as ‘infected zones’ after the crash of a NASA space probe carrying samples of possible alien DNA. In the scene the students are about to see, Andrew (Scoot McNairy) – the photographer – has been given the task of escorting his boss’s daughter, Sam (Whitney Able), safely back to the United States. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the discussion Andrew and Sam have about the morality if Andrew’s job. Click here to buy the DVD Monsters online (Vertigo films, certificate 12).

  • Start time: 0.14.18 (beginning of chapter 3 of the DVD)
  • End time: 0.16.45
  • Clip length: 2 minutes and 27 seconds

The clip starts with Andrew and Sam trying to hitch a lift. The first line is Andrew saying, ‘Oh! That feels good.’ Stop the clip after Andrew tells Sam, ‘…everybody has to earn a living.’

Ask the students to summarise Andrew’s argument for profiting from bad news. Their summary might include the following:

  • He is a victim of market forces – he can’t sell photos of happy children.
  • The financial realities of his line of work are determined by other people – people like Sam’s father.
  • He doesn’t cause the suffering, he only documents it.

Do the students think that this is a convincing argument? Is Andrew’s job a justifiable one? Should anyone have to justify their job on a moral basis?

Now show the students a second clip from Monsters. This clip occurs very shortly after the first one (in fact, you could just continue the film from where you left off – see below for timings and details). Ask the students to pay particular attention to the attitude of the man selling Sam’s ticket for the ferry home.

  • Start time: 0.17.43 (in chapter 3 of the DVD)
  • End time: 0.19.29
  • Clip length: 1 minute and 46 seconds

The clip starts in the ticket office, with Andrew asking, ‘English?’ The clip ends after the ticket officer says, ‘I feel very happy about that.’ You could use a slightly longer clip, starting at precisely the point where the earlier clip in the lesson ended (0.16.45). This would only add a minute of extra footage and might save you time in cueing the second clip up.

Ask the students whether they think it was okay for the ticket seller to charge such a large sum of money for a ferry ticket. Point out that the charge was probably several times more than the actual cost of the passage, and that the extra cost was purely because he knew that some people would be desperate enough to pay it. This approach to pricing during a time of disaster is often described as ‘profiteering’. How do the students feel about the fact that this ticket price makes the ferry unaffordable for many of the locals, whose only way to leave Mexico before the border was closed would be to travel overland through the highly dangerous ‘infected zone’? Do they think that the ticket seller is behaving in a morally acceptable way? The ticket seller’s final comment (‘I feel very happy about that’) shows that his conscience does not seem to be troubled by his business practice.

Put the students into small groups again and ask them to look at some or all of the following Bible passages, making notes as they do on what the passages suggest about Christian attitudes to work. Here are the Bible passages: Ecclesiastes 5:18-20; Ephesians 4:25-28; Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:23-25; Titus 3:14.

Draw out the conclusion that Christians believe that it is right for everyone to work, to be productive and to contribute usefully to society. To what extent could either Andrew or the ticket seller be said to be doing that?

Ask the students to read Leviticus 19:9-18 and to make a note of what the passage suggests about responsibilities to other people, particularly the powerless and oppressed.

How might this passage be interpreted in the light of the previous discussion about the morality of different jobs? What do you think a Christian might think about the morality of the ticket seller and the photographer? Is there an argument for saying that because the photographer is bringing the plight of suffering people to wider attention, he is doing something to help them rather than merely profiting from their misery?

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask the students to write a series of adverts for different jobs. Each advert should emphasise aspects of the job which make it an appropriate response to the requirements of the various Bible passages referred to in the lesson. Taken as a whole, the selection of job adverts should reflect an understanding of the Christian perspective of work and social responsibility.

YOU WILL NEED:

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