Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Just stop saying first world problems - please.

Spidey was distraught he'd spun Tuesday's web on Monday

Ok, the next person who uses the term 'first world problems' will get a massive rhetorical slap from me. Apart from Jason Manford as it's the name of his most recent show and he seems a decent enough guy so he's the exception. The rest of you, however, knock it on the head please.

It's not the meaning of it I object to ie. people moaning about absurd issues that aren't entirely serious or of little consequence when compared with famine, poverty, etc. I completely get the comedy value of laughing at someone who considers it a tragedy that Waitrose has run out of Moroccan houmous just before Wilhemina's birthday party - especially when it turns out Wilhemina is a miniature schnauzer.

Of course I can identify with and laugh at the absurdity of being so apparently disconnected with the 'real world' that it's considered ok to have a Facebook page entirely devoted to mocking what's apparently 'overheard in Waitrose.' It's actually the term 'first world' that jars with me. You see it suggests that those in the 'third world' are all tutting at our "Marks and Spencer have run out of artichokes" dilemmas. That we are in some way superior and deserving of the status of 'first' while those poor pathetic sorts in poorer countries "probably don't even have houmous do they I expect ?" Surely they are far too busy digging latrines or carrying water to care about our middle class and selfish problems. How dare we express dissatisfaction with our over-fed, pompous lives filled with TV, cars and fattening food.

It's patronising in the extreme to pretend that countries in Africa, Asia or other countries that were originally identified as 'third world' do not also have an equivalent sneering culture. I recall visiting my cousin in Bangalore and her brother asking why she hadn't left for work yet and she bemoaned, "Mum won't let me have the driver today - how can I possibly go to work ?" This is in a city where going for a coffee and not being able to get wifi in the cafe was considered completely unacceptable.

The hierarchy of first, second and third world was coined to identify whether or not countries were aligned with NATO and those that weren't were 'third' in the list. It was judgemental and inaccurate back then and it remains so today.

So, here's the deal. I'm still going to laugh at the notion that someone genuinely thinks that brioche is 'a bit common,' but I might just try to encourage everyone to say something like, 'North London problems' - ok, maybe, not it's a bit too judgey. How about 'Seriously ? You call these problems ?" - ok, too sarcastic. I could just settle on 'posh problems' which is more accurate. I mean it's not like we're laughing at those who shop at Asda or Tesco or Lidl is it ?

Right, I'm off to watch the Apprentice with my decaff yorkshire cuppa and a gluten free biscuit. I'm not even going to mention that I've run out of almond milk.

Pah !


  1. I think the thing about problems is that they are all relative. Even within the street that I live on, everyone has different standards of what a problem is. It's really impossible to categorise!

    (I must admit that I do sometimes enjoy hearing what people say in Waitrose, though...)

  2. Superb post Swazi and I couldn't agree more. Use of the phrase is casual racism and not something we should accept.