Writing Anonymously to an Unknown Audience
If you have a story that you think is important enough that you want it to reach your friends, coworkers, and someday the entire world, why on earth would you choose to start writing anonymously?
Because the world is unkind to truth-tellers! We live in a system that exists because it benefits the people in power. The more unstable the system becomes, the incentive to remain in power grows larger and larger.
Let's not get all philosophical just yet. What am I afraid of? I'm not a whistleblower. I'm not Reality Winner or Chelsea Manning. I'm not anywhere close to any classified intelligence or drone footage. I'm just a simple American who has traveled, studied, and lived internationally. I have seen the dysfunction of international NGO work and the chaos that we cause when we parachute into countries whose languages we can't speak and try to fix problems we can't possibly understand.
I first started writing when I was still working at an NGO. After three long years of cognitive dissonance, I was becoming confident that I was not the right person for this job. There was a widening gulf between the impact that I originally thought I would have in that role, and the impact that I was actually having.
I was traveling multiple times per year to a country where I did not speak either of the official languages!
I was working in the field of digital health but I never felt properly qualified. Even though I had a Masters degree in Public Health, I constantly felt inadequate because most of my knowledge and experience came from my on-the-job training!
I was working remotely for an NGO that raised money in the US and invested that money internationally. The mental, social, and physical distance between my day-to-day work and the daily reality of my colleagues was too much for me to bear. I often thought that it would be far more effective to just transfer my entire salary to my international colleagues directly. They would be able to hire more staff and do more with it than me!
When I was able to travel to visit my colleagues in person, to see the hospitals and clinics where our software was being used, I felt better for a moment. The distance between what I dreamed of achieving and what I had actually achieved was still there, but it felt like the gap might be slowly closing.
I wish I could tell the stories of the people I worked with, and maybe someday I will. But there was something more urgent that I needed to get off my chest. I had started to realize that the international nonprofit (international development) system was set up so that our international partners would be persistently deprived of power while “The Experts” in the US and Europe amassed more and more power.
It was everywhere I looked.
Academic partnerships – professors writing papers and doing advanced data analysis using data that was planned, collected, curated, cleansed, polished, and packaged up by unnamed research assistants and students so that The Experts could publish in prestigious journals and give prestigious speeches.
Financial partnerships – the foundations and US Government agencies that funded our work created or modified their “funding opportunities” every year but the processes never became more simplified. More hoops to jump through, more data required to prove that the “interventions” were successful, more paperwork to share monthly success stories. But no opportunity for the truth-tellers to speak their minds to those in power.
—– draft in progress —-