First World Problems

This short video (just over two minutes) has a very powerful message…


I have to admit that I’m rather uneasy with the way this important message is got across.

Firstly, I don’t like the terms first world and third world; I know that they are easily understood, but they seem to imply a value judgement that I don’t like.  Perhaps I’m just being picky.

More importantly, the video gives a somewhat distorted picture of life in Africa. Surprisingly enough, there are many people in rural Africa who have mobile phones and who share all of the same frustrations about network coverage and keeping the phone charged that we do in the West.

However, the key thing is that this video presents the relationship between the ‘first’ and ‘third’ worlds as being one dimensional. We don’t have real problems, they do. I’m not implying for one moment that there is no terrible grinding poverty in Africa – there is. But, if I can permit myself a generalisation, most Africans live lives which are richer in human relationships and connectedness than most Westerners. The loneliness, isolation and depression that are endemic in European cities – especially for the elderly – are relatively unknown in Africa.

Yes, we can help provide water (try sponsoring me in the London Marathon), but we also have a lot to learn from the developing world. The world is more complex than a short video can express.


2 thoughts on “First World Problems

  1. I was going to share that video when I saw it on Facebook, but decided not to because it made me feel rather uneasy too. Apart from the issues you mention, I thought the examples of problems from the West were not really representative of the things people here really struggle with – like finding a job, paying the bills, suffering from depression or other illness etc.

  2. Yeah… I think you’re maybe being a little harsh. The video doesn’t say it’s portraying Africa, and I think I saw somewhere it was actually filmed in Haiti. I think the contrasts in the video could very well represent differences of lifestyle within the same country – it resonated with me because of some of the differences I see between the materially rich (including myself) and poor here in Tanzania. But I do agree with you the framing of the video as “First World” v “Third World” isn’t helpful, and probably does point towards a geographical distinction.

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