Thanks David! Good questions..
I’m uncomfortable generalising (anything really), but would, in many cases, question whether going to remote places in the global South as a Westerner is the best use of our privileges and resources. The queasy feeling tells us something. Olivia Rutazibwa articulates it well. I summarised here: https://medium.com/the-good-jungle/five-questions-you-need-to-ask-yourself-if-you-want-to-work-in-international-development-79b32b8c8f6d
Shouldn’t all industries benefitting from exploitation feel queasy? Yes, absolutely. I just happen to focus on an industry (or industries) whose work often escapes due scrutiny under a certain halo effect. The ‘near enemy’ issue..
Are there industries today that are free from the system? Probably not. I’m worried that this is often used as a cop out — an excuse for sticking our heads in the sand and settling for something we believe to be a ‘lesser evil’.
Is political activism and research the only noble work left? Definitely not. I know so many people across a wide range of sectors doing deep, valuable work with real integrity, and they’re rattling the system, whichever it is they’re looking at.
Do I think writing a blog and podcast on this topic is just another kind of exploitation, except the kind where aid workers come to assuage their guilt but never actually change anything? If all we do is write/read blogs to make ourselves feel better, certainly that’s complacency and problematic. That said I don’t believe it works that way. When something you read/ express connects with deeply held values you hold, and your actions are in contradiction to those values, how does that assuage any guilt? Doesn’t it (whether gradually or immediately) intensify the motivation to change something?
I believe in the value of having the conversations we don’t dare to have.
I left my role in the industry, and I’ve kept saying no to opportunities that lack integrity/ feel exploitative. It’s subjective and you can shoot holes into anything, but there’s a gradient along which I have set a limit.
There’s a myriad of people whom I’ve come into contact with as a result of having these conversations, who are actively changing something, beginning with themselves.