Worlds Apart (HLD 125)

25 July 2020

I heard recently someone hastily correcting themselves after using the term “Third World Country”. Apparently the correct terminology is now underdeveloped country, I believe.

It did get my brain churning and leaping about in different tangents, of course.

We have all heard about first world problems. I had one today – I was using my phone to take notes in an all day meeting and I was conscious that my phone battery may die out. I didn’t have my power bank with me, so I stressed a little until my kind slave (aka my husband) dropped off a charging cable for me.

First world problem is a term which refers to a response to the perceived absence of more pressing concerns (according to some internet site somewhere!)

My question was – quite obviously – “What’s a second world country???”. If we have a first and a third, surely there’s a second?

Enter my trusty online research tool, and I find that the first, second and third world concept was first raised during the Cold War. First world meant anyone aligned with the US (the popular cool kids in school), second world were communist/soviet aligned countries (the nasty gangs types who kicked sand in your face obviously), and third world referred to everyone else (the nerdy non athletic poor kids that people largely ignored).

Once the Cold War ended the term second world largely disappeared, but we’ve retained the first and third groupings.

Obviously I like to share my quirky questions with others, and it usually helps if there’s red wine involved in these conversations.

Someone suggested that the three designations could be interpreted as place getters in a race. We all get a podium finish in the human race, although some get a better jewellery reward.

And now we’ve eliminated the silver medal people and just left ourselves with first or third and nothing in between!

First world problems are numerous: Phone calls from unknown numbers, being left on hold for too long, poor mobile phone coverage, television remote control not working, not being able to find the end of the toll of sticky tape, late delivery of online shopping, etc.

Fortunately the third world people only have to deal with corruption, poverty, war, hunger, healthcare, education, safety. And many of these are caused by exclusion, fear, intimidation, broken infrastructure, and lack of money, resources, access to information, and tools.

But aren’t they’re lucky they don’t have to worry about hot cross buns appearing in the shops too soon after Christmas?

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