benefits for whom?

that's a weak title. sorry.

anyways, a professor of mine, actually the first professor of mine that ever even mentioned that "development" might not be a universally positive force (and he did a lot more than mention it--that's what the entire class was about. imagine how eye-opening that was after learning for 3.5 years of university that development is awesome because it always helps the poor [fill in the blank]), said that the only thing that development can universally be shown to do is to produce more developers. or something along those lines. a mere two years later, i think i could list a couple more things that development (i'm gonna omit the scare quotes throughout this post and the rest of this blog from now on, but just imagine they're there) usually does (in my experience), but that's pretty tangential to what i'm on about right now.

what i'm on about is being produced as a developer.

so a lot of this can probably go under the heading of "pseudo-guilty whinings of an over-educated guy with too much time on his hands", so i might as well get that out of the way first. i'm currently going through the song-and-dance of getting a work visa so that i can get paid for the work i do in india. so there's that direct benefit: i get enough cash to pay for my cokes and a couple dinners out every month. which is cool, that i don't have to constantly watch my savings drop and drop. but i mean, that just underlines the first problem: the type of work i do (and, let's be honest, a lot of corporate jobs too) might as well have a minimum parental income as part of the job description, with all the free work (internships, volunteering, working hard at lots of random extracurriculars) that you need to do before you actually start getting paid.

i mean, its not to say that development is the exclusive domain of the upper end of the class scale, but in many ways it might as well be. i don't deny that there are a lot of great grassroots organizations out there (TASO is a great example of this), but the mere fact that you have to qualify it with "grassroots" tells you something: it's not the norm (and we all know about norms and power dynamics), and as the "marked" and "particular", grassroots organizations have a lot of trouble being taken seriously. anyways, the point is, i use my class and my parent's wealth to my advantage in order to "finance" my employment. the same is true of a lot of other fields of work (to get a job as a lawyer, and usually even to get into law school in the first place, you need to be interning a law firm for a few summers), and development is maybe even better than most, but also has the effect of preventing social mobility in the end.

so on top of that, above and beyond who gets the job, it often weirds me out just thinking about getting this job at all. i mean, who am i (and by extension, who is anyone) to get paid to dispense something that i fervently believe should be free to people to whom my salary would seem like a small fortune? i mean, maybe my money could be better spent hiring and training someone from the busti to do my job. whoever got hired would certainly have an easier time of it, and would probably/possibly bring a more "authentic" viewpoint to it, however you want to define that. but again, ignoring who gets the job, its strange to be essentially living off of other people's misfortunes. i'm not a collection agency or anything, but in theory i have a selfish financial incentive not to eliminate poverty and/or poor health outcomes, as i would then be obsolete. i think my motives are separate enough (enough) from pure profit motive that i would still work to eliminate poverty and/or poor health outcomes, and anyways there's very little danger of me personally working myself out of a job. which gets back around to the original statement of my professor, my work isn't necessarily good at "developing" people (or improving health outcomes or anything on a large scale) but really about producing myself and the people with whom i work as the developer and the developees: they are created in an image (that they wouldn't necessarily have been created in had i not ever landed in india) that sets them in a very particular place in a number of global power dynamics.

so that's been a lot of fairly negative posts lately. in the next few posts, i really hope to put forth a few of our proposals, a bit of what we're doing, as a positive alternative to normal "development". i'll do my best to stay fairly critical (in the theoretical sense) of our actions, but i think it is necessary to make proposals rather than just critiquing existing programs/past/future actions if you're working in any sort of applied setting. so: stay tuned!