Incomplete Thought #1: People in politics and humanitarian work shouldn’t be

In Tamga, Kyrgyzstan, I met a woman who worked for MSF and had been in the south doing some work after the ethnic violence around Osh and Jalalabad. She told me there was a saying about humanitarian workers. They’re all one of three ‘M’s: madmen, missionaries, or martyrs. Generally, people doing it for the wrong reasons.

At another time, I heard (perhaps in a movie?) that the people that get into politics are the exact wrong people who should be. People who want to be mayor/premier/prime minister are at some level attracted to power and attention. Again, doing it for the wrong reasons.

Now, there are definitely good people working in international aid and politics. But the two systems are almost set up to reward people for the wrong reasons. Politicians need to stay in power. Humanitarian workers want to be relied up. They manifest people and processes that counteract the guts of the work that should be done.

Can these cycles of corrupted positive reinforcement be broken?


The Incomplete Thought Series is, well, a series of incomplete thoughts. These are thoughts I have not researched, but which have popped into my head and am interested in discussing. Your incomplete or complete thoughts are encouraged.