The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems
Courtney Martin

Courtney, after living abroad on and off for over a decade, and working in all sorts of local and international development/problems/solutions (including homegrown ones in my native country), I loved your piece — EXCEPT, until I got to the very end. You need to do a ton more research into how Molly M operates and the impact of her work. It may not be exactly this seductive reduction, it may not be white man’s delusion, it’s a whole ‘nother neurosis. Please do more research before you blindly laud someone like this (assuming you don’t work alongside her and do not know the work from the inside — or maybe you do, in which case, I’d ask you to take a step back and ask yourself some questions then). Molly’s efforts may be slightly more in tune than many others, but very, very, very far from what I feel you’re suggesting here in terms of how to operate in the world and among the problems (and solutions!) which surround us. I write not to try to bring Molly’s efforts down — as many of us intimately familiar with her work have mixed feelings and thoughts about it — it’s just to say, before lauding someone, make sure you’re taking a real taoist look as well — no one’s perfect, it’s just that lauding+critical thinking/constructive criticism do not have to be separated. And, if you’re attempting to look at the neurosis of development workers (and there are many!), you may want to look at Molly’s work as another category of ‘messed up’. FGM continues in Senegal. And beyond that, many people are not happy with Molly’s attitude and approach and activities — culturally or otherwise. Maybe you could write a better piece about Molly’s and others’ attempts to create lasting behaviour change, and their successes and failures, in an honest light. Complexly yours — and learning more every day from Africa than it learns from me. Katie L.

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