Resisting Exotic Problems

barnard2An excerpt from Courtney Martin’s essay “Western do-gooders need to resist the allure of ‘exotic problems'” in The Guardian:

It’s intimidating to throw yourself into solving problems that you’ve grown up with and around. Most American kids, unless they’ve been raised in a highly sheltered environment, have some sense of how multifaceted problems like mass incarceration really are. Choosing to work on that issue (one that many countries in the global south handle far better than we do) means choosing to nurture a deep, motivating horror at what this country is doing through a long and humble journey of learning. It means studying sentencing reform. The privatisation of prisons. Cutting-edge approaches, like restorative justice and rehabilitation. And then synthesising, from all that studying, the direction a solution lies in and steadfastly moving toward it.

The activists, entrepreneurs, advocates, designers, and organisers that I admire most these days are up for that kind of investment. They seem to lean in to systemic complexity with a kind of idealistic sobriety. They are people working on the least “sexy” issues imaginable: ending homelessnessgiving more people access to creditmaking governments work better.

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