Wednesday, April 11, 2012

First World Problems

Holy crackers. Ten minutes ago, if provoked, I would have delivered to you the hottest, most condescending rant about the use of a word that I was SURE did not exist other than on Twitter.

But then I Googled it.

I had been fuming for months about Twitter Tweeters’ use of the phrase “First World Problems” to mean “white privileged peoples’ problems.” I was sure that was a lazy-brained, made-up term. I had always labored under the presumption that the proper group of phrases were “Old World,” “New World,” and “Third World.” I figured if there was ever a first world, it was Pangea, the globular, dinosaur-infested super-continent that existed a few eons ago before it broke up in slow motion into the puzzle-piece continents we know and pollute today.

The Old World, of course, is the world known to classical antiquity, and that we know from our Euro-centric history books. Namely, Europe, Eurasia, a taste of Northern African and some more Europe. The New World is the western hemisphere made famous by Christopher Columbus. Related factoid: the term “New World” was coined by Amerigo Vespucci in a letter to his boss (the rich guy who bankrolled his adventure lust), as he mused that they weren’t actually bumping into the edge of Asia when they went poking about across the Atlantic, but actually a “New World” yet unexplored.

THEN, as I was casting my “first world” diatribe in ink, I thought to be thorough I should Google “third world” so that I could define it in similarly erudite terms, and found this:

“The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either capitalism and NATO (which along with its allies represented the First World), or communism and the Soviet Union (which along with its allies represented the Second World).”

MY RANT! MY BEAUTIFUL RANT! Ruined by Cold War terminology. I double-checked this Cold War world break-down by Googling “first world” and came up with similar tirade-killing information:

“The concept of the First World first originated during the Cold War, where it was used to describe countries that were aligned with the United States. These countries were democratic and capitalistic. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the term "First World" took on a new meaning that was more applicable to the times. Since its original definition, the term First World has come to be largely synonymous with developed countries or highly developed countries (depending on which definition is being used).”

Thanks, Cold War. First I spend my childhood waiting to be nuked by the Russkies, then I have a perfectly good curmudgeon bluster stolen from me. What’s next, Second World? Are you going to tell me that Catherine the Great didn’t really like horses?

I’m going to go lie down.