“I need to take a shower, but my hair looks really really good already.#firstworldproblems“
“I just dropped my laptop on my foot! Ow! #firstworldproblems“
“I wish I could unwatch the entire Lost series so I could watch it again without knowing anything. #firstworldproblems“
“I hate when I forget my electric toothbrush on vacation… Using a regular toothbrush is the worst! #firstworldproblems“
So has anyone seen the trend on social media of joking about First World Problems? I find it hilarious. Poking jokes at the pseudo or privilege-dependent problems we face is actually a great way to laugh at ourselves while keeping perspective.
So where does this perspective hit a wall? When it reinforces the gap between our worlds as something uncrossable and unconnected. When it exacerbates the “us/them” at the expense of our common humanity.
Last week at workshop, I heard a humanitarian telling stories about reconciliation happening in Rwanda- of men and women forgiving those who’d murdered their family members and visiting the site of their deaths with the killers. Intense stuff. As he commented on their courage to overcome their hurt and anger, he said in passing “and we get angry about stuff like waiting in line for our latte or getting cut off in traffic!”
It was a classic “First World Problems” moment- but it was really off, I think.
So, don’t get me wrong: if hearing stories from the developing world gives you perspective on what’s really important in your life, that’s so legit. But still I thought to myself: “I’m fairly positive the people in this room have more to be angry about in life than waiting for a latte!”
I know I do. I’m angry that my father has chosen substances over his family. I’m angry that some people at the churches I grew up in in found it unacceptable to date outside of my racial background. I’m angry at those who took advantage and victimized me in childhood. Just because we’re in the developed world, it doesn’t mean we’re less human.
As a communicator in the non-profit world, I am convinced that sensationalizing the suffering of those we help or invalidating the suffering of those who donate to our work breaks down the human connection between us. It robs us of the real value we have to give to one another.
Needing courage to face our pain is not a “third world problem.” As I hear about those we help at Love146, I’m inspired towards greater hope and bravery as I confront my own real pain. It’s my aim to pass to you that same gift. This cannot happen if I blind myself to the reality of pain in the lives of those reading this, or if I depict the pain of exploitation as something unrelatable and beyond the human experience (don’t get me wrong, it would probably raise more money, but it would still be cheap!)
One of the easiest lies I could tell you is that because children affected by trafficking need help, you don’t. That’s a lie. We are all human: We hurt. We hope. We suffer. We Love. We need each other.
Let’s not deny our humanity by thinking our problems in the developed world are invalid. And don’t deny the humanity of those in the developing world by thinking they have nothing to offer you in their “poverty.”
As a supporter of Love146, I think being connected to this work is a great help to each of us in the restoration of our own humanity. As a channel between our supporters and what’s happening in the field, I’ll keep trying my best not to get in the way.
just a quick note: I do know the terms “first world” and “third world” have become derogatory. I also know trafficking is certainly not only a problem in the developing world. I kept with these conventions in this blog just to make a clear comment on the trend and thinking surrounding “first world problems.”