First world problems make me sick. Ignorance isn’t always bliss. The third world may have no idea that only a plane ride away, their lives would improve tenfold—or maybe they do. Either way, whether ignorant or envious, they have no clue, no hint at what living with a higher quality of life would be like.
Those of us privileged enough to be born in the first world see pictures of living conditions in other countries where the poverty line blurs with malnutrition and homelessness. We watch documentaries about ongoing genocide and starvation in places that were once thriving empires and peaceful villages before European conquest. We may sympathize with the struggles of our fellow human beings; yet, we cannot empathize. How could we? We have no frame of reference to understand a fraction of the daily life threatening obstacles that the majority of the world faces every day.
In South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia, the most prevalent problems involve health—clean water and food. My biggest dilemma, is finding an Ethernet cord to connect to my Xbox so I can access my Netflix and HBO go accounts. In comparison, my problem is without a doubt a single grain of sand, unequivocally unimportant to anyone else other than myself.
Speaking of health and ethnocentrism, Whole Foods is a gem at showcasing classism and first world problems at their finest hour. This supermarket is a vast oasis of healthy organic perfection. It is the Mecca for fresh produce, free range animal products, and all natural herbal remedies. A majority of Whole Foods’ products even cater to individuals with explicit dietary restrictions; however, it seems that the upper class are the only minority that seems to suffer from these medical issues –gluten-free, vegan, Candida. You never seem to hear impoverished individuals complaining that Trader Joes or Shop Rite doesn’t have the gluten free indulgences that fit in with their probably hypochondriac-induced health problems. Maybe that’s because the rich are the only population that can afford the food their diet allows.
First world problems are not only disgusting, they’re heartbreaking.
There was an internet phenomenon circulating the World Wide Web. It’s called the Ice Bucket Challenge. The idea is to generate awareness about ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain, in addition to inspiring donations to fund research for treatments and a cure. If you have a camera, a bucket full of iced water, and friends to whom you’ll pass along the “philanthropic” torch, you’re all set.
While the concept of using social media and simple ingredients to generate funds for a worthy cause, there are a few flaws with this almost harmless charity event. First of all, how many of the people participating in this internet fad actually reach into their pocket and give money to this organization versus the amount of people who claim they did and are just insisting that the bystander effect will take its due course? Pointing out a disease on the internet is the basically the same as asking for money on the street. It’s like Joaquin Phoenix’s character says in Hotel Rwanda when the Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel owner, assumes that international military intervention is on its way because news crews are filming the genocide, “I think people will look up from their dinners and say, ‘Oh that’s awful,’ and go right back to eating their dinner.” This charity event is nothing other than a glorified egotistical popularity contest of viral fan footage with a bit of donation dodgeball sprinkled into the mix.
More importantly, there happens to be this global epidemic called GLOBAL WARMING, where the earth’s ozone layer is rapidly depleting causing the atmosphere to have less chemical authority to support the maintenance of fresh water supplies. And yet, you have millions of Facebookers wasting gallons of fresh water to generate awareness to a cause that researchers have been working on for decades instead of donating money to a cause where you may actually see results of your good deed. How about refugee camps of the war torn Middle East? Or possibly funding medical supply drops that carry medical equipment and products to countries where modern medicine is scarce, if not rare. How about the Peace Corps or Doctors without Borders? How about anything that would give you cultural perspective on global issues instead of internet fame for a few hours!
European conquest not only decimated entire populations to near extinction, it damaged the Native’s ability to think objectively. It wasn’t a matter of cultural diffusion—it was a nuclear bomb whose effects keep rearing their ugly heads. Weapons of this war included: religion, disease, slavery, clothing, architecture, government, agriculture, exploitation of natural resources, and sheer dominance by the victors to the point where a new caste system exists based on ethnicity, which stemmed from European preference for lighter skin. This prejudice took prevalence over the aristocratic hierarchy native to that country! In most countries, this caste system is still in place today, and has even been altered to more severe standards.
Yet, despite these atrocities and hardships, the citizens of these countries wear a smile. They wave at you when you walk by, even while carrying 50 pounds of fresh water on their backs trudging uphill to their adobe mud hut on a dirt road while you elegantly wave back in your air conditioned car with your $600 IPhone in your hand. A piece of technology you vow you cannot live without while the equivalent of it’s worth could feed a whole family in that country for a few months.
If American citizens are going to regain respect from the world instead of scrutiny and judgment, we need to become global citizens. Looking at the world with rose colored lenses is dangerous and detrimental to cultural awareness and international understanding. Watch the news. Read a book. Perform a good deed that impacts a global population, not only how many followers you have on FaceBook.