From Critical to Cynical

It has recently been brought to my attention that I am a very cynical person.

While I do have an inquisitive personality, I have noticed this slow descent into the land of cynicism more acutely since starting my postgraduate studies. The problem of looking at development from an academic point of view, is that it is extremely easy to get caught up in theory, so much so that we lose perspective on reality. I do not mean this in a derogative way, after all, theory and academics are fundamental pillars to understanding what we should do, and why.

What I am trying to illustrate is how, by becoming so critical about development practices, I have found myself slowly but steadily becoming disillusioned with the third sector. The more informed I become, the harder it becomes to find an organisation that I would like to work for. As a matter of fact, it got to the point that I left one of my tutorials thinking: ‘Do I even believe in Development anymore?’

I was so caught up with the negative aspects of Development, I lost track of the bigger picture.


Finding the ‘perfect’ internship

To make things worse, I was in the middle of trying to find ‘the perfect internship’.

I went to several talks by professionals and read several articles, the one topic they all had in common was this phrase: the perfect internship. Born and raised in Argentina, my skepticism towards INGOs and the Bretton Woods Institutions is not a secret. Time and again we have witnessed the consequences of bad development practices, which in turn has made me question and criticise the motives behind all the development programs I have encountered.

Thus, I kept finding an insurmountable pile of reasons why I did not want to take any of the opportunities that were presented to me. Somewhere along the line, looking for the perfect internship morphed into a Kafkaesque matchmaking endeavor. While I still believe unpaid internships are a form of modern exploitation, I understand now that looking for the perfect internship was a futile exercise.

An internship, by definition, will never be perfect. The whole point of an internship is to gain experience in an area where you have none. Therefore, how are we expected to know in advance what the perfect internship will look like?


It’s all about the people

And like a pseudo-epiphany, it came to me: it’s all about the people.

It is so easy to lose track of why we do what we do! I was questioning everything so much that I lost myself in the process. I forgot what I stand for and what I believe in. Fortunately, I have the privilege of sharing my postgrad adventures with a bunch of incredible human beings. We share thoughts and experiences, and, more often than I would like to admit, someone proves me wrong.

Having these conversations were extremely important, as they made me realise that being critical helps nobody unless it is in a constructive way. Yes, so Structural Adjustment Programs might be the worst thing that ever happened to developing countries in modern times but what am I going to do about it? Will I just sit in a classroom and quote Escobar and other post-development theorists or will I stand up and actually do something about it?

Yes, an internship might not be the perfect start and I might not agree entirely with the organisation’s values but what matters is that I am now aware of this so I can, in my own way, navigate the industry more wisely. It would be incredibly arrogant of me to think that I am always right or that I possess all the answers, but if I am sure of one thing it is this: it might take me a while and my methods might be ‘too radical’ for some, but I will always be willing to try and help in whatever way I can.

Watch this space.

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