There’s this whole hideous world-ist meme about how you have a “first world problem” if your hair won’t stay in place, or you run out of K-cups for your coffee maker. It’s funny, on the one hand, because these problems are not really problems, and then rude on the other hand, because I’m sure everyone has trivial problems that annoy them, regardless of what “world” they live in. Like the lady next door said your kid was skinny, or the part of the river that you thought was the prettiest, or most useful got flooded early this year with the rains.
Or… what am I talking about anyway? I have never lived anywhere but what would be considered the “first world.” Sure, I have dabbled in a few countries with diseases of insanitation and a backpack full of antibiotics and malaria medicine, a kind of “world-tourism” that I participate in less and less as time goes on because I’m cranky and confused, and I’m not really sure it’s fair for me to go and hike around in some $80 shoes and then complain that a dinner (or taxi ride, etc) was too expensive. Plus I like my comforts (flat, clean bed, limited infestations, clamminess, diseases, etc).
But the world thing has practical applications right here at home. People in Chile talk about the worlds as though they all exist within the country. And maybe they do. Wealthy people living in Santiago have none of the second or third-world ills. Many middle-income people don’t either. But disparate incomes and access to education, health care and affordable healthy food are issues that weigh heavily on us. Transportation is a serious issue outside of Santiago, where whole communities can be cut off due to inclement weather, from rains to snows, and that doesn’t even count the natural disasters.
But that’s beyond the scope of this blog post. Which is how you know I spent way too much time in higher education, because we talk about the scope of blog posts. Except I went to school when there almost were no blogs, we just talked about research. And articles. So…
So what I can talk about instead, is how I always wonder how people who feel that they are firmly ensconced in first-worldliness, well-sealing windows and hard-covered books and nanas who come in every now and then and tidy stuff up and maybe cut up some fruit, and checking accounts, and credit cards and kids in matching uniforms laughing as they stroll down the streets with their parents wearing their kid-backpacks, holding hands and talking about the day.
What does it mean to them when they hear the clippity-clop of a horse carriage pulled down the street? Does it make them angry, thinking “oh great, now I’m going to step in horse poop” or maybe “this is unsanitary and old-worldly, and I hate it?”
Or are they more like me, thinking, “I love that in a place where there are buildings so high they practically disappear into the sky, and there are green buildings, loaded with plants on the outside, and fancy German chocolate and the eternal quest for feta cheese that tastes like feta cheese is supposed to, I can still bike down the street behind a horse-drawn carriage. And I love that.” And later, “I can’t believe why people ask me why I like to live in Santiago. Because stuff like this happens when you’re least expecting it”?
While you ponder that question, here’s a video for you to watch. Where do you stand?