Imagine you’ve just tripped and fallen on top of someone, and you wince at the slight stinging pain from your scraped knee. Meanwhile, the person beneath you has rolled their ankle and fears that they may have broken a bone, as they are unable to walk. Do you relish in your own discomfort, or focus on the more pressing injury of the person before you? After all, just because they have it worse doesn’t mean you aren’t in pain. This, essentially, is the dilemma surrounding so-called “First World problems.” Although everyone is entitled to their own issues, it is imperative to take into account the very different circumstances of developing nations, and most importantly, the causes of this discrepancy.
The fact of the matter is that living in a First World country does not mean your life is perfect. Everyone deals with their own struggles, ranging from menial things like running out of hot water in your shower, to greater hardships scattered across the globe, including houselessness and unemployment. Although it is true that for the most part, things can always be worse, this doesn’t mean that people should not be able to complain about their struggles. The mindset that you must be perpetually grateful, never acknowledging your own problems, is unproductive and potentially harmful. Constantly ignoring one’s own struggles under the guise of gratefulness for living in the First World can only exacerbate these problems, turning minor struggles into all-consuming hardships.
While First World problems can be valid, it is still important to acknowledge the discrepancies between living standards across the globe. Access to vital resources such as healthcare and education, as well as political and economic opportunity, is infinitely more attainable in First World countries than in many developing countries. This is true even despite criticism of imperfection in some First World countries. While we can still acknowledge the hardships in our own lives and address them accordingly, it is imperative to acknowledge this global inequity. The reason that life in First World countries is relatively comfortable for many citizens is often directly linked to the exploitation of the citizens of developing nations.
Exploitation of poorer countries is what fuels the more comfortable lives of many Western citizens. As corporations advance, it becomes increasingly harder to avoid contributing to this corruption. To this day, sweatshops and slavery run rampant across the globe. Regions outside of the First World are stripped of their natural resources, while putting the welfare of citizens in peril — all of this for convenience in the lives of First World citizens. However, the solution to this international issue is not simply to ignore our “First World problems” as we mourn the lives of others. A global effort to stand up to these exploitative corporations and governments is the only solution to dismantle the systems which allow for such inhumane treatment.
So if you’ve scraped your knee, go grab a Band-Aid; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking care of your own well being. But if the person who rolled their ankle before you hadn’t softened the blow, you may have been in much worse shape.