Has everyone seen the “First World Problems” video read by people of the developing world? It’s super unsettling. I remember when the hashtag came out it kinda flew over my head (like most internet trends tend to do at first).
I feel like I’m unsettled about the video not because it makes me want to donate money, and help the people of “the third world” (Which by the way since we’re gonna go and mainstream the topic of development: this is categorically incorrect to call these people “of the third world”– saying someone is from the third world only perpetuates the US vs. THEM divide, at the same time it incorrectly labels countries that are in fact not of the third world but are capable of emerging from poverty) but more so because it is taking something out of context and replicating the cycle of guilt that basically has us in the position we are in today in terms of our relationship with the developing world.
Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the point of the hashtag #firstworldproblems supposed to be ironic? Didn’t it start because people were actually listening to themselves and they realized how ridiculous they sounded? Isn’t it because we understand that it’s absurd to complain about being in the bathroom without your cell phone (#firstworldproblems) or because we get the fact that we sound like arrogant and pretentious little pricks if we can’t remember what our maid’s last name is (#firstworldproblems)
Weren’t HALF of those hashtags made up just to be absurd?
The relationship we share with poor nations of the world has existed for decades on cycles of guilt – we “owe them something because we f’d them up” or my personal favourite “we should keep meddling and providing aid where it hasn’t worked countless times over.” YES the colonial legacy is responsible for the position that much of the world has been locked in. Yes we have more wealth and trivial, minute problems. Yes you should care about fellow human beings and not be greedy and unaware of what goes on in the poor countries of the world.
But please, “Gift of Water” don’t insult me by telling me that we don’t get it; We get it.
We don’t need to feel more guilty. Guilt doesn’t provoke positive action for change.
If you want to create change, motivate people, and give people of the developing world the respect their due to change their own destiny.