The Problem With Problematizing

Jeff Fox
6 min readDec 16, 2020

Being alert for problems can be helpful but can also become habitual to the point of obsessive.

Trouble shooting is an essential skill for growth and development. We cannot overcome troubles if we do not first identify them and any change, either personal or societal, only happens after we recognize then address existing and potential problems. A discerning eye and critical mind are crucial assets but like all good things they can be taken too far eventually becoming problems themselves. Trouble shooting and perpetually finding fault are not the same thing.

Trying to affect any significant social change is a process fraught with all manner of challenges and obstacles to overcome. Two of the most important which are also incredibly difficult to achieve and manage are the breaking of silence and starting to integrate actual change once the problem has been recognized. The first can take generations or can happen in an instant, the second always takes far longer than we would like all the while remaining infuriatingly fragile.

There is no shortage of examples to choose from when it comes to societal struggles for change however a particular genre of struggle which has become far more central in our common discourse over the past couple of decades has been issues of minority identity and the societal treatment thereof.

Race, religious persuasion, gender, sexuality, there are any number of different forms of minority identity which have suffered from negligence, suppression, abuse, or even attempted genocide at the hands of empowered majorities. Throughout history those in positions of power have declared their personal traits and characteristics to be ‘normal’ and in all too many cases then acted to diminish or even outright eliminate those who differ.

This phenomenon gets all the more exacerbated when the difference encountered has been previously unknown. Explorers with greater wealth and military technology quickly become conquerors, religious missionaries become crusaders, attempts at ethical mentoring become inquisitions.

Over and over again far too many groups and communities which have found themselves outside the declared norms of the times have been subjected to absolutely abhorrent behavior. Enforced segregation, sanctioned…

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Jeff Fox

A professional dancer, choreographer, theatre creator, and featured TEDx speaker with an honours degree in psychology, two black belts, and a lap-top.