#Hashtagging Third World Problems

#FirstWorldProblems #WhiteGirlProblems #MiddleclassProblems – we see you says @WritersofColour

  1. #WhitePeopleActivities ‘self-deprecating’ hashtags that ultimately cast white people as the sole occupants of a literate upper middle class
  2. I don’t like this expression “First World problems.” It is false and it is condescending.
  3. Yes, Nigerians struggle with floods or infant mortality. But these same Nigerians also deal with mundane and seemingly luxurious hassles.
  4. Connectivity issues on your BlackBerry, cost of car repair, how to sync your iPad, what brand of noodles to buy: Third World problems.
  5. All the silly stuff of life doesn’t disappear just because you’re black and live in a poorer country.
  6. People in the richer nations need a more robust sense of the lives being lived in the darker nations.
  7. Everything—the normal things and the awful things—happens all at once for other people. You know, just as in your life.
  8. Here’s a First World problem: the inability to see that others are as fully complex and as keen on technology and pleasure as you are.
  9. Who would have thought Research In Motion’s technical issues would cause so much annoyance and inconvenience in a place like Lagos?
  10. But of course it did, because people don’t wake up with “poor African” pasted on their foreheads. They live as citizens of the modern world.
  11. None of this is to deny the existence of social stratification and elite structures here. There are lifestyles of the rich and famous, sure.
  12. But the interesting thing about modern technology is how socially mobile it is—quite literally. Everyone in Lagos has a phone.
  13. tejucole
    Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic then collected Cole’s tweet stream up into a couple of paragraphs, and wrote an interesting piece around it:
  14. Cole’s perspective as someone who has moved between the US and Nigeria (he now splits time between Brooklyn and Lagos) lets him demonstrate where people in both places connect. Even if that point of connection is not between the depths of their souls, but the phones in their hands.
  15. …to which Cole then further responded:
  16. Alexis Madrigal (@alexismadrigal) at the Atlantic helpfully puts my “First World problems” rant into essay form: theatlantic.com/technology/…
  17. The rant was not intended as a total argument. It was an intervention, a reminder that the ways of being human are complicated.
  18. Things can’t be blithely tagged “white girl problems” or “First World problems” or “middle class problems” and then filed away.
  19. To think you alone have to deal with banality, that other people’s lives are high drama all the time, is the height of unexamined privilege.
  20. When I went to the Venice of Difficult Things this weekend, I found it squalid, true, but I also saw generators and satellite dishes.
  21. A guy is struggling to program CNN International on his TV while his 7-year-old is literally swimming in shit creek.
  22. The paradox is this: not every aspect of the life of those who are terribly poor is terrible poverty.
  23. Everything—the normal things and the awful things—happens all at once for other people. You know, just as in your life.
  24. Pull my calloused finger. RT @mat_johnson Or as I like to tell my student writers of infinite antebellum gloom: Even slaves told fart jokes.
  25. Teju Cole’s rant as he calls (we think it a bit better than a rant) reminded us of the following fantastic article first published in Granta Magazine.
  26. ‘How to Write About Africa’

    by Binyavanga Wainaina

    Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’,‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans. Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

  27. childsoldier
    Child Soldier… pic.twitter.com/L5lTYuMVuB

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2 replies

  1. I would say #FirstWorldProblems (or memes with the same caption) are being primarily sarcastic, as to show that some people are so spoiled and privileged that they make a big deal out of petty and unimportant things. Although I completely agree that First World, or Third World for that matter, are problematic concepts (where is the Second World, btw?), these hashtags are probably not meant to belittle disadvantaged people. The primary purpose is rather to mock spoiled morons – and I would even say that it’s salutary that they are able to make fun of themselves.

    Like

  2. Very interesting piece.
    I completely agree that much of the West has a 2d view of the developing and that lives are much more alike than they are different.
    I always took the term ‘First World Problem’ to mean a problem that takes on an extra importance above its worth because the person experiencing it has few other issues in their life to be concerned with. It doesn’t mean the problem is exclusive to the ‘first world’.
    I also don’t like the terms first and third world.
    Thanks for writing.

    Like

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