Morals, Ideals and Development

[This was written for the MDP blog.]

Immanuel Kant wrote in the Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, “Act as though the maxim of your action were to become, through your will, a universal law of nature.”
Kant, like several other enlightenment thinkers, believed that there were certain principles that could be arrived at apriori (prior to experience, theoretically), that were independent of the subjectivity that experience brings to our worldview. To Kant, reason was a tool that all human beings possessed, which could lead them to an unquestionable, universally acceptable moral code. To put it crudely, Kant believed that by exercising rationality, we could all come to the same conclusions as to what is good and right (what ought to be a “universal law of nature”), and what isn’t.

Philosophy, over time, has moved on to recognize subjectivity, embracing experience and questioning long held notions of “truth.” Yet in practice, rationalizing complex situations in abstraction seems to be the predominant method of decision making, even today.

In my two semesters at the MDP program, morals, ideals and their relationship to development work have been discussed extensively. We seem to largely agree that one of the biggest mistakes that development practitioners seem to make, time and again, is determining in a vacuum what communities want and need, without any real input from the community or a real understanding of its particularities. Who are we to impose our values on people whose lives we are so removed from that we cannot hope to understand their perspective from afar? We live our academic lives in a world of P Values and regressions, not always realizing that at the core of everything we do is a set of firmly held ideals that we are usually unwilling to compromise; ideals that may be different from those of the communities with whom we hope to work.

It’s important to understand that these ideals are constructed and are not universally accepted. They are what we have come to possess as the result of the kind of education we received and the environment in which we grew up. One may argue that some things (scientific facts, for example) are objective truths, and that with the “right” kind of education and exposure to the “right” kind of information, all human beings will recognize them to be true. However, the question that remains is: are we justified in imposing our values and ideals (irrespective of their validity) on communities that function with a different set of values and ideals?

I am of the opinion that imposition is almost never justified; and even if it is justifiable, never fruitful. As development practitioners, it is important for us to relinquish the goal of ensuring that communities live a life deemed suitable by our standards, and instead move into a paradigm where our job is to ensure that all members of the communities we work with are empowered to make their own decisions about how to live their life. We are responsible for building the capabilities of community members and providing them with a fair opportunity to achieve whatever it is they might want to. If there are internal hierarchies within communities, or systems that we perceive to be unfair, we cannot hope to rectify them by assuming some sort of authority over community members and dictating what they must do. The only way to bring about change effectively is to bring about change from within, rather than imposing it from the outside.

For this reason, the definition given to development by Amartya Sen appeals to me greatly. Sen defines development as the expansion of the freedoms and capabilities for human beings. Development, by this definition, requires individuals to be given the access, opportunity and ability to aspire to and achieve the things they value.

There is a need to move away from measuring development by income, assets or even happiness, and towards measuring it by the extent of empowerment and the expansion of capabilities and opportunities. I expect that actualizing this change is one of the biggest professional challenges we will face in the coming years.

Advertisements

Communication, debate, and honesty (a semi-coherent, inconclusive ramble)

About two years ago or so, a more aggressive version of me had an epiphany, following which I changed in an important way. I was made aware of something that I hadn’t consciously considered before: I was terrible at talking to people I disagreed with.

Most people I know are uncomfortable when they’re confronted by someone who disagrees with them.  A fear of such situations is, perhaps, what makes reinforcing our opinions in a group of people who agree with us so satisfying and reassuring. In my limited experience, most conversations where the conversing parties were not in agreement involved an awful lot of aggression. Such conversations almost never, in my limited experience, ended in consensus. Occasionally, such conversations ended in swearing, one party being kicked out of the other’s house, a family feud, what seems like a lifetime of hatred, and a happy ending after 30+ years when the grandchildren fall in love à la Romeo and Juliet.

My mum is a very non-confrontational person who always disapproved of the ease with which I landed up arguing with members of my extended family. When I was sixteen and more full of myself than I had any right to be, religion became my favourite topic of conversation. Much to Mum’s chagrin, I developed quite the reputation for being blasphemous. Luckily for her, I didn’t cause too many family feuds. Looking back on it, I didn’t really get anyone to agree with me, either. I wasn’t even able to get anyone to give my arguments a chance.

About two years ago or so, I realized that, having grown up in an environment where everyone was more or less okay with my blasphemousness, where no one really cared enough to listen to me and reconsider their opinions, I’d assumed, subconsciously, that changing people’s opinion by conversing with them was impossible. Yet, for whatever reason, it seemed important to me to yell my opinions at everybody. Perhaps I thought angry Facebook statuses would help brainwash the unsuspecting individual who hadn’t yet formed an opinion on the issue I was yelling about. Perhaps it was because I’d been told so often that discussion and debate were important to “take the conversation forward”; maybe I even thought I believed that. Yet, if I’m being honest, every time I spoke to someone who disagreed with me, I never thought there was even a small chance that they’d reconsider their opinion.

About two years ago, when I realized this, I concluded that arguing is best done peacefully, by tweaking  your arguments  enough to get the party you’re arguing with to listen. The numerous internal battles I’d fought to form opinions on important matters would be futile if I couldn’t engage in debates where all parties were willing to listen, understand and change. I began to believe that consensus was, at the end of the day, the purpose of debate. I concluded that, to achieve consensus, I needed to become more of a pacifist in my style of argumentation. I’d have to try not to take offense when people say (what I perceive to be) regressive things; I’d have to, instead, try and explain to them why I disagreed with them, while being careful not to alienate myself by sounding far too “radical”.

Today, I’m not too sure where I stand with respect to this. On one hand, I’ve been becoming more and more conscious of the fact that some of my opinions are not as well-informed as I’d like them to be. I’ve become more wary of confirmation bias, and I’ve been trying to be a better listener. On the other hand, my fundamental beliefs and ideals haven’t changed too drastically. My worldview has become more nuanced, but it hasn’t changed fundamentally.  A lot of the things I firmly believed and a lot of the values I held two years ago have been reinforced, time and again. I care more deeply about these now, and toning them down for the sake of amicable conversation doesn’t seem quite right.

There always seems to be a trade-off between articulating ideas as precisely, bluntly and unabashedly as possible, and sharing ideas, communicating effectively, and convincing people of your stance. You might accuse me of seeing the world in black and white, but I do honestly think that in most conversations, there comes a point when I, consciously or subconsciously, choose one over the other because I have to. It would be ideal, of course, to be able to do both simultaneously. Unfortunately, I’m not optimistic enough to believe that that is possible. I think it’s highly unlikely that there will come a time when people who disagree completely with each other will be detached enough to have open, honest conversations where they try to come to a consensus. The key, perhaps, lies in compromise, in learning when to compromise, and understanding why you’re making the compromise. I do think it will take me several years to get to a point where I’m more or less completely comfortable with talking to someone I disagree with.

When I do get to that point, I’ll make sure I look back and write about my journey to it.

What is Development – II

Part II – Process

It is important to reinforce our mutual commitment to achieving the goals of development, every now and again. However, it is more important to discuss and debate the process that must be followed to achieve these goals. It is difficult to establish if policies or programs have been successful, or to determine the degree of their success. Therefore, it is difficult to settle on what the best approaches are to bring about desired changes.

Jeffrey Sachs, in his book ‘The End of Poverty’, argues that if we mobilize the funds we need and direct them towards solving the problem of poverty, we should be able to do so, in our generation. There have, however, been several critiques of Sachs’ work. Dambisa Moyo, for example, argues in her book, ‘Dead Aid’, that foreign aid, rather than solving the problem of poverty, has exacerbated it. Aid, she says, has been “an unmitigated political, economic, and humanitarian disaster for most parts of the developing world.” Moyo criticizes what she perceives as the patronizing nature of the West, which allows for the belief that problems of the developing world can be “solved” with western intervention through foreign aid. Several academics (like William Easterly,  in ‘The White Man’s Burden’) have also pointed to the lack of evidence for the claim that foreign aid brings about positive developmental outcomes. It is, therefore, debatable whether or not this method – that of setting concrete goals and directing resources towards them – is effective. Firstly, the goals that have been set may not be acceptable to the populations they have been set for. Secondly, it is difficult to ensure that resources mobilized are used effectively, on such a large scale.

Somewhere beneath the ivory tower in which these debates take place, poverty, war and, environmental destruction remain stark realities. It might be important to engage in these debates, however, it is important that the urgency of these problems is recognized and addressed. How can we make these problems seem less overwhelming, and more solvable?  Esther Duflo and Abhijeet Banerjee, in their book ‘Poor Economics’, suggest that we scale problems down, in order to understand what solutions work in specific contexts. It is easier to answer smaller, more specific, problem-oriented questions than it is to answer questions about the effectiveness of foreign aid.  When considered at a macro-level, the problems we are trying to address seem too large and overwhelming to be solved. If they are broken down into smaller, more approachable problems, we can hope to  cumulatively bring about positive effects. The drawback of this approach is that, several times, we tend to solve problems in isolation and end up aggravating other problems in the process of solving one. The indiscriminate use fossil fuels to further economic growth in emerging economies like India and China are examples of this. We must remember that it is important to consider the larger picture, while solving smaller problems. This, however, is easier said than done.

Another more pressing pressing problem with the methods suggested by Duflo and Banerjee is one that Moyo touches upon in her book. In recognizing what we perceive as “problems” in the developing world, and systematically determining which solutions are more effective, are we disregarding the autonomy of those experiencing the problems? Is it, for example, ethical to treat individuals as subjects of a statistical study or a randomized control trial? For example, how ethical is it to incentivize vaccinations by promising a cash transfer to families that vaccinate their children? In doing this, are we not undermining the autonomy of these communities and, essentially, forcing them to make decisions that we believe will be beneficial to them?

Further, is it ethical to offer solutions to some and deny them to others in an effort to measure if the solutions are effective? If we believe that a solution can work, even if we are not sure if it is likely to work, are we not obligated to offer it to everybody, without discrimination (even if the discrimination is “random”).

Most importantly, what gives us the authority to determine if something is truly a problem that needs to be solved?  Is it ethical to interfere in the lives of indigenous communities and offer them modern medicines or technology, simply because we think it will improve their quality of life, by our standards?

These questions are difficult to answer. Privileged people do not inherently have the right to intervene in the lives of members of underprivileged communities to “make them better”. However, we must also recognize that the privilege we have is the result of a deeply unequal system. Therefore, we do have a responsibility towards those who, purely due to chance and circumstance, face problems that we have the means to solve. It is important, however, to stop and consider, every now and again, if we are imposing our standards on the communities that we are working with and disregarding theirs.

Finally, it is important to include communities in the process of development by working closely with them, providing them with full information, and asking for their opinion. We cannot hope to understand the circumstances that those in poverty, or those in war-torn regions face from atop an ivory tower. We need to climb down, live, and work alongside these communities, in order to help them in best way we can.

***

‘Development’ is a word that we use to address both a product and a process. We are not, completely sure, or in agreement, about what either of these constitute or should constitute. In order to determine the goals of development, we must come together and recognize the ideals we share, and reinforce our commitment to them. This, I believe, is the starting point to establishing more concrete goals, through discussion and dialogue. In order to determine the process that needs to be followed to achieve these goals, I believe it is important to start small, while also keeping in mind the bigger picture. Communities that are being worked with must be considered and consulted while determining the products and processes of development. We must ensure that each individual’s basic needs are taken care of, and that they have the capacity, opportunity, autonomy, and information to make choices about their life. To me, development is progress towards a system that promises this to each and every individual.

 

What is Development? – I

Draft of Part 1 of an essay that was due this week.

Part 1 – Product

Over the last couple of weeks, there have been several discussions around me – in classrooms, among friends, and on the internet – about the polarization of politics and the ideological divides that have grown to inhibit communication among different groups of people. Most of the conversations I’ve been a part of have discussed this phenomenon with respect to the recent US election. The more I listen, the more I find that I am able to draw parallels between this and the political discourse underway in India. The conversation about nationalism has grown increasingly polarized in India. The supporters of the political party in power seem to be growing more and more supportive of measures to curb anything that is perceived as “anti-national”. On the other hand, the more left-leaning groups seem to have become extremely wary of nationalism and patriotism. More recently, the measure to demonetize 500- and 1000-rupee notes to curb ‘black money’ has received excessive praise and support from some, and attracted extreme criticism from others. The discourse on caste and affirmative action has also become increasingly polarized, with some groups admonishing the very acknowledgment of caste-based distinctions, and others criticizing the lack of acknowledgement of inequalities and progressive measures to combat them. As I grow increasingly aware of this polarization, I struggle to find commonalities between these groups. To bring about positive change, it is important that we work together; it is important for these groups to reach out to each other and reaffirm their commitment to certain shared ideals.

Fundamentally, I believe that there are certain things – certain standards of human decency – that most reasonable people can agree need to be met, for all human beings. . We can each define development in our own ways, based on our own, unique experiences. However, development is a shared experience and to me, it would be meaningless to speak of it without reference to this set of ideals – the standards of decency – that most of us share. We must be able to agree, loosely, on some definition of what constitutes as positive progress to be able to work towards it. We might disagree on the route that needs to be taken to achieve it, but a vision that is common, to some extent, is important.

It is, as expected, extremely challenging to come to a consensus on what this vision must be. One way of approaching this problem is to lay down some concrete goals. This has, in the past, taken the form of establishing certain standards of living that we believe all human beings must have access to. The Millennium Development Goals and, more recently, the Sustainable Development Goals laid out by the UN are examples of this. These goals, however, seem to imply that if we put certain milestones in place and mobilize the resources needed to achieve them, we should be able to achieve them. Yet, time and again, despite having access to the resources we need, we fail to achieve these goals. A complex social, political, and economic fabric – one that we don’t fully understand – seems to determine whether or not people have, or can have access to a decent quality of life. It is important that we account for this, while setting goals for development.

Further, the question of whether or not a set of indicators can measure an individual’s quality of life is debatable. While goals and milestones for indicators of welfare are necessary and important, these cannot be the ultimate goal of development. This ultimate goal must be broader, and must account for the fact that improvement is subjective, and cannot be measured straightforwardly.

The recognition that each community has its own way of understanding the world and hence, its own idea of what constitutes positive change, also necessitates the adoption of broader goals. It has often been claimed that communities know what improvements they desire. We, as practitioners, must facilitate development as envisioned by the community and not dictate what it entails. This recognition, however, does not diminish the need for an overarching goal. It is important to define what we want to achieve, in order to proceed in the right direction.

Around this time last year, I wrote in my statement of purpose for graduate school that development wasn’t something that could be reduced to numbers. I spoke of Amartya Sen’s conception of poverty as a lack of basic freedoms, rather than a condition characterized by low income or consumption. Today, I am able to understand that statement and its importance more clearly. The idea of development as freedom may seem far too abstract and perhaps even needlessly philosophical. However, the idea is powerful because it transcends the endless debate about goals and milestones. In characterizing development as freedom, Sen makes the goal of development empowerment. This changes the goal from, say, “All individuals must receive an education” to, “All individuals should have the capacity to obtain an education, if they choose to do so.”

In her book, ‘Creating Capabilities’, Martha Nussbaum defines development as capability-building. Development, according to Nussbaum, entails building capabilities among people, to ensure that  can then set goals for themselves and take steps towards achieving them. This approach to defining the goals of development likens development to a struggle for social justice. The goal of development, I believe, is give all human beings equal opportunities, information & access. It is to empower individuals and hence, give them the opportunity to seek and achieve a better quality of life.

I have often wondered whether we need a philosophical definition of development, or if we should just act instead, and do what we can to help create positive change. I believe, personally, that the latter approach cannot be successful in isolation. Positive change is not brought about by individuals, alone. Development, I believe, requires us to work together. To be able to work together effectively, we must first agree on what we are working towards. Agreeing upon an abstract set of ideals, which we can refer to while setting up concrete goals and milestones is, therefore, important.

Thoughts on Teaching

I work as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate course and teach two sections of about 25 students each. The least interesting part of this is the grading that comes with it. The most interesting part is that I’m able to look at the courses I took as an undergraduate through the lens of someone who’s creating lesson plans and holding class discussions. I have, as a result, developed some strong opinions on teaching and learning and the purpose, in general, of an undergraduate education. This will be a loose teaching philosophy, of sorts; something I’d like to look back on, in the future, to see if and how I’ve changed.

I think the primary objective of teaching, especially at an undergraduate level, is to teach students how to think, rather than what to think. It is also important that students are taught to be open, receptive and willing to admit to being wrong. It might seem like these objectives aren’t as pertinent to courses that are more concerned with information, than arguments (“scientific” courses). In perhaps a roundabout way, though, I would say they are pertinent to these courses as well. Stick with me till the end, and I will attempt to explain this better.

I first want to talk about a class that I took as an undergrad – a philosophy class – which I refer to a lot, when I think about how teaching should ideally be done. We studied philosophy of the Enlightenment in this class (Kant, most notably). The subject matter is unimportant; I just wanted to impress upon you how reading-heavy this class was. We read a fairly dense set of arguments for class each week and our professor would come to class prepared, not to teach us the arguments, but to defend them. The method we followed was this: we’d accept the assumptions (that were stated explicitly) by the thinker, and then assess the merit of his argument from within this framework of assumptions. This made reading a purely intellectual exercise: the question of the validity of these assumptions was set aside for a while, and the argument was evaluated purely on the basis of its rigor. It is important to get past these explicit assumptions and understand the argument, to see if the argument is making any implicit assumptions: An argument that makes assumptions that it doesn’t know its making is a bad argument. This exercise (that of identifying implicit assumptions) is fundamental to what we call “critical thinking”. Enabling students to think in this manner, I believe, is the most important objective that teaching must achieve.

Additionally, not placing a value judgment upon the assumptions, at least at the time of reading/understanding/deciphering the argument, is a good way of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. To have reasonable conversations with each other, we must be open to each others’ ideas. We must leave behind our own biases and account for others’ if we ever hope to understand where they’re coming from. That said, I do not think a logically valid argument within a framework of fallacious assumptions is a good argument. However, many times, it is hard to ascertain the truth value of assumptions with certainty. Given this, determining the validity/truth of explicit assumptions should, necessarily, be step 2 of the process. If we make it step 1, we can’t ever hope to have a meaningful conversation with people we disagree with. Atheists would never have conversations religious people. Liberals would never have conversations with conservatives. This exercise – the “I disagree with you, but let’s say for the sake of argument that X is true” exercise – is extremely important even if it isn’t the final step in evaluating an argument. Understanding this process is important to identifying and evaluating your own biases. It is also important for being open and receptive.

It’s easier to gear course material towards these teaching objectives for philosophy courses or other humanities courses. It can be a lot trickier, and at times impossible, to achieve them while teaching, say, a microeconomics class. Yet, logic is something that is fundamental to all the courses we take/teach, and this framework that I’ve worked out has a lot to do with logic. The key is to get students to ask questions, make connections, and identify assumptions; it is to get students to understand the process of thought, rather than just the product of it.

These “objectives” are based purely on the most valuable skills that I think I’ve developed through college. These are also skills that, I believe, are valuable to individuals that hope to contribute positively to the world.

I’m not claiming to be the most critical of thinkers or the most open-minded of people. I’m just a better critical thinker and a more open person than I was before going to college and taking certain classes. This is what I believe I gained from college and it is what, as a teacher, I’d strive to provide to my students.

I could prattle on and on, but I think I’ll stop here. I’ll be back, sooner or later, with more things to say about things.

Safety and Sexual Abuse

Our culture perpetuates a number of attitudes towards sexual abuse, without our knowledge, but with our help . These exacerbate the problem and complicate the process of solving it. Shaming and blaming victims, body-policing, et cetera, are a symptom of these attitudes, and the underlying flawed understanding of sexual abuse. Much has been said about this, and yet it remains important to say more: social attitudes towards sexuality and sexual abuse control how women live their lives, every minute of every day. In this regard, I’d say the situation in India is especially bad.

A lot of things work together to give rise to the problem, and the first of them is that we assign responsibility for preventing abuse to the victim. In the case of India, girls grow up learning that men are going to stare if you wear skirts that are too short, because that’s what men do. We learn that rape is wrong, and that rapists are cruel, but we’re also told that it is the victim who has to live with the consequences of rape. We treat sexual abuse as a consequence of the inevitable presence of evil people in the world, instead of treating it as a systemic problem. So we grow up believing that the only way to prevent sexual abuse is to ensure that girls keep themselves safe.

Way too many parents in India teach their children to not “attract too much attention”, in real life and in social media. Some parents micromanage their girls’ lives to make sure they aren’t putting themselves in any kind of danger. We tell our girls not to stay out late and put them in separate passenger-cars on trains. We insist that they be accompanied by trusted male-members if they’re traveling, or going someplace we consider “unsafe”. We do all of this with the best intentions.

We are, however, doing nothing to rectify a system that has led so many men to feel the need to assert dominance through gruesome acts. We haven’t done much to modify a system that has hyper-sexualized and objectified women to a point where a woman’s body has become her greatest hinderance; something that needs to be covered and presented a certain way to prevent its violation. We’re addressing the problem from the wrong end. Rape is a systemic problem; it isn’t something some evil men do to provocatively-clad women.

This post has nothing novel to offer; it’s just an effort to join the conversation and perhaps, encourage some others to, too. It is important that we begin having this conversation on a larger scale. It is important that young people in our country are taught the meaning and importance of consent. It is important that we stop putting off the uncomfortable conversations, like we have done for so many years. It is important that we teach individuals to think for themselves, to empathize and be compassionate. Education isn’t a quick fix, but it is the only fix. It is the only way to slay the monster, and it needs us all to work together.

 

Hello, there

It is for the heart to suggest our problems; it is for the intellect to solve them…. The only position for which the intellect is primarily adapted is to be the servant of the social sympathies.

-Auguste Comte, as quoted by Arthur Cecil Pigou

 

Arthur Cecil Pigou was an economist who, writing around the same time as the famous John Maynard Keynes, was an early contributor to welfare economics.  A book-downloading spree last month led me to procure his book, “Welfare Economics”, which now sits in a “to read” folder on my laptop. So far, I’ve read the first chapter of the book and left it at that. While I do hope I pick up and finish it eventually, I’d like to, in lieu of straightforwardly introducing myself and this blog, attempt an introduction through the discussion of a couple of paragraphs from its first chapter.

So, in the first few paragraphs of the first chapter of his book, Pigou speaks knowledge as being able to bear either (or both, in some cases) of two things: light and fruit. These are the two things we may seek knowledge for, or that we might expect from knowledge. When we seek knowledge for “light”, we seek knowledge for it’s own sake, or for the sake of knowing, or to satisfy the need to know. When we seek knowledge for “fruit”, we seek it as the means to an end, or for its practical applicability, or as Pigou puts it, for the “healing” it brings.

I picked philosophy as a subject in college, because what it was, it seemed, was an attempt to answer the big, difficult, frightening questions I had about the universe and existence and such. I picked economics as a subject in college because the world was (is) unfair and unequal, and I wanted to do something to make it better, and it seemed like economics would help. Philosophy was for “light”, and economics was for “fruit”. Of course, a more nuanced analysis may claim that both disciplines had both aspects to them. Ethics, for example, is a branch of philosophy concerned with choice, and is meaningless if detached from the practical. It’s only fair to say that while a lot of what we classify as philosophy is studied for the sake of knowing, there is a part of it that serves simply as a means to an end. While this duality is characteristic of certain disciplines, Pigou says it cannot be true of the “economic sciences”.

Why would one study the mundane lives of ordinary men, trying to predict the decisions they  might make, if there was no social impetus to do so? Why would anybody be interested in studying matters as dry as the matters economists are concerned with, just for the sake of knowing? It is not wonder, says Pigou, but rather the social enthusiasm which revolts from the sordidness of mean streets and the joylessness of withered lives, that is the beginning of economic science.  Pigou never quite argues for this being true. He just seems to say it and leave it at that. I, personally, don’t want to impose this generalization upon you. I only brought up Pigou here because he seems to articulate, in these few paragraphs, exactly what I felt about my major in college. Sure, there may just be many people who enjoy studying the sordidness of mean streets, et cetera, and are not motivated by social enthusiasm, but I’m not one of them. I enjoy learning philosophy, reading political newsbits, fighting patriarchy and painting my nails. I also like dancing. I can’t say I enjoy studying economic theory immensely, but I do enjoy problem solving. And what motivated me to study economics  was that it was a step towards being able to help with solving of some big problems in the world.

A sense of social responsibility almost always comes from empathy; and that’s something I think we’re all bound to feel. For a privileged person, empathizing with less privileged persons is a not-so-great feeling, so most tend to push the empathy under a rug, or try and provide some twisted reasoning for why they deserve the privilege. And then there are some others who’ve assumed that they can’t do much to make the big, bad world better. But it doesn’t hurt to try.

Besides, Noam Chomsky would say you’re obliged to.

It would be fair, at this point, to say that my goal in life is to tryI’ve just finished my undergraduate degree, and as I struggle to complete this blog post, I’m trying very hard to get over my sadness at college life having passed me by in the wink of an eye. In a little more than a month I’ll be in a faraway country studying Development Practice with a group of unfamiliar people. I’m sure I’ll read more, think more and encounter more things that I want to record. I’m sure there’ll be several thoughts that need organizing, and several experiences that need articulating. This blog will be my space for all that and more. I hope that, if you’ve made it this far, you’ll keep reading.