Yesterday I found myself complaining that there wasn't a parking spot at the grocery store. I was using deplorable, unnecessary words to reprimand the man who had shamelessly "stolen" the only available space, and I became increasingly more annoyed with the pedestrians simply walking into the store as I circled the parking lot. Then I thought, this is a "First World" problem. I have a car that is driving on a paved parking lot, in front of a store that is stocked with more food than imaginable, and I have enough money to go into that market and buy food to feed myself and my loved ones for the week. With that perspective, my lack of an immediate place to park my paid-off, safe car didn't seem so awful.
In our modern Western society, it is easy to label our daily grievances as "First World problems" and laugh off the actual implication of that phrase. We live in an Instagram era where #firstworldproblems is frequent. This phrase has been associated with running out of conditioner in the shower, your favorite brand of coconut water being out of stock, or your Amazon order taking the 10 days to be shipped rather than the 6 on your guaranteed delivery of 6-10 days. I find myself using it when my roommate uses up all the hot water, I can't get my mom to answer the phone, the concert I wanted to attend sold out in 30 seconds, or, as aforementioned, I can't find a parking spot. But what does it mean to have a first world problem? What is the first world? What is the third world? What is a third world problem?
The term "First World" originated after World War II. Any country that had similar economic and political interests to the US-essentially developed, capitalist, industrial countries-were labeled "First World," such as Western Europe and Japan. The "Second World" refers to the former communist and/ or socialist, industrial states, such as Russia, Eastern Europe and China. The "Third World" are all the other countries that didn't fall into those two categories. In the modern world, the term is frequently used in reference to the developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. The term "Third World" covers capitalist and communist countries, as well as very poor or very rich countries. Although it is frequently associated with the poorer areas of even the richest countries (think Saudi Arabia). The technical definition changes, but the general concept of the "Third World" identifies countries that suffer from low economic development, a lack of (or underused) natural resources, high levels of poverty, high infant mortality, and a dependence on industrialized nations. So what is a "Third World" problem? An economy dependent on the developed countries, an unstable government, a high rate of population growth, illiteracy, and disease. Another problem is the middle class of developed countries is nonexistent. There are normally only two classes in the "Third World." The very poor and the elite who control the nation's wealth. Most third world nations also have a very large foreign debt and are exceedingly less advanced in terms of technology. So yeah. "Third World" problems trump "First World" problems any day.
In general, I think our hearts are in the right place when we label our inoperable curling iron a #firstworldproblem. We are trying to remind ourselves that our problems are minor, are temporary and that we are blessed beyond our wildest imaginations. But I think this initial acknowledgment has been lost in a world of ever flowing hashtags. At By Grace, we define ourselves as helping marginalized women in the "Third World." I think it is part of our duty to remind ourselves and the Western world of the "Third World" problems, and help to change our population's mindset: as I am able to eventually find a parking spot, there are solutions to high illiteracy rates and high infant mortality rates. We can be the difference. So next time you're having a "First World" problem, know that we feel you. We all have those days and those annoyances. But also know that there is a remedy to your problems and to "Third World" problems, and we are all a part of the solution!
Until next time,
PS Any clutch, wallet, or jewelry organizer purchased this week will have 100% of the proceeds donated to the women in Ghana to help in our effort of eliminating their "Third World" problems.