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First world complaint? 第一世界的抱怨

中国日报网 2022-11-04 13:06


Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: That is a first world complaint.

My comments:

That, whatever “that” is, is trivial.



Not worth mentioning.

Not worth our time and energy.

In our discussion, however, “first world complaint” is not so trivial that it isn’t worth any more of our time. So, don’t worry, we’ll talk more about it.

A first world complaint or, rather, first-world complaint is a kind of gripe (complaint) about what is known as a first-world problem.

First-world problem?

To understand that, you have to understand what “first world” stands for.

It is Mao Zedong, the great Chinese Helmsman who first put all the countries on earth into three worlds. Simply put, the first world consists of rich, industrialized, old imperialist countries (Britain, for example). The third world consists of the once colonized areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The second world consists of countries in between (Australia, for instance).

Anyways, “first world problem”, as an idiom, represents a specific concern of someone who lives in the first world, America, for example, a concern of someone who’s rich and well-to-do. And this problem may not be a problem for someone who lives in a poor country.

Let’s use an example to illustrate the point. Some youngster in America may be complaining at this very moment that his or her Wi-Fi service is slow. To him or her, that is something really bad and intolerable. Why, imagine, you can’t finish watching a movie on Netflix without interruption.

That’s terrible. That can be heartbreaking for a teenager. That may drive someone to suicide if they don’t know any better.

I’m exaggerating. Quite a bit, actually. But, by now, you can probably infer that such a problem is not going to bother someone in Sahara, Africa, someone who often has to skip meals because there’s never enough food to go around.

Hence, what’s implied in addressing “first-world problems” is that they are not life-and-death issues. And if you complain about them, you’re probably spoiled to some considerable degree.

Instead of worrying about those unimportant things, people living in rich countries should spend perhaps more time and energy on poverty alleviation, among other important things.

Well, without pontificating further about it, that’s about it. And, with no more ado, here are media examples of first-world problems:

1. We’ve obviously been talking a lot this month about clutter as we try to help guide you through your New Year’s goal of de-cluttering and letting go of stuff. But at some point as we were putting together our list of tips, tricks and mental health pointers related to clutter and “stuff”, we had to stop and ask ourselves, “Is this really a first world problem only?” Are we actually feeding into the epidemic more than helping it by giving it such importance? At the end of the day, we decided that it didn’t matter if it was a first world problem, it was still important to help people overcome it. However, we did think that it warranted a discussion about its status as a first world problem to help people put their clutter issues into perspective.

Yes. Clutter is a First World Problem.

The easy part is to answer whether clutter is a first world problem or not. It is. And that’s not to say that you wouldn’t run into the occasional clutterer or hoarder in a developing world environment. But you wouldn’t come across it as frequently as you would in the first world and the causes of the need to clutter or hoard would be somewhat different. Yes, they would still arise primarily from mental or emotional issues that revolve around emotional displacement and a sense of security related to “stuff,” but the triggers and societal pressure would be different. Additionally, and why clutter is predominantly a first world problem, there simply aren’t the resources or the time to care to collect boxes and boxes of “stuff” in most developing nations. If your choice is to grow your food or collect “stuff”, well, that choice seems obvious and we lament the tragedy when people don’t have enough.

So What Is Causing Clutter in the First World?

It would be easy to say that clutter builds up in the first world simply because it’s the wealthiest part of the world and has more access to financial resources (though obviously as class distinction grows this becomes less and less true) and “stuff” to buy. But the answer is much more complicated than that and rooted primarily in social constructs of economic privilege and economic injustice. Even the current terminology indicates our cultural bias – truthfully Africa has always been the first world. When we broke it down during our discussion, we came up with four primary reasons that clutter has grown to such a massive issue in the currently skewed first world.

The Culture of More, More, More: The biggest factor is simply that we live in a society where you’re encouraged to think (some might say programmed) that your self-worth is tied to how much “stuff” you have. When you’re told that you have more value if you have more stuff, then the instinct is to go and purchase or acquire that stuff. But then what do you do with it? In reality, you probably don’t need very much of the same “stuff” you’ve acquired, so it turns into clutter. This is probably the biggest issue with why clutter is so predominant in the first world – and it’s enforced by the second factor that contributes to clutter as a first world problem.

So, the question isn’t really “Is clutter a first world problem?” Because it obviously is. And the question isn’t “Why is clutter a first world problem?” Because the answers seem obvious. The real question is “How can we create a first world society with less emphasis on ‘stuff’ and therefore less clutter so that other people on a sustainable planet have more?”

- Is Clutter a First World Problem? PostConsumers.com, July 19, 2015.

2. Another first world problem solved.

One of the biggest oversights in the otherwise smart design of the Nintendo Switch is the placement of the power port. It makes sense initially, as the console must be placed in a dock to be used on a TV, but the issues arise when playing in tabletop mode. Nintendo went to the trouble of building in a kickstand to make it more convenient to use the Switch in that configuration, yet it’s impossible to charge the console at the same time.

In response to this, the company has produced its own official charging stand, which will launch on 13th July for $19.99. It’s a relatively simple design; you plug the adapter cord into a port on the base and can then rest the Switch on the stand for extended sessions. The angle of the stand can even be adjusted, and it looks like it’s much sturdier than the rather flimsy kickstand that comes on the back of the Switch.

What do you think? Will you be using this? What other peripherals would you like to see for the Switch? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

- Nintendo Has Created An Official Charging Stand For The Switch, NinTenDoLife.com, May 10, 2018.

3. Over the years I’ve had conversations with all sorts of people about the wine they love to drink, but one person in particular sticks in the memory: Terry Waite. The humanitarian and former hostage unrepentantly told me he always bought the cheapest bottle of red he could find, a search he appeared to have honed to an art form, gleefully competing with himself to see how low he could get.

I remember thinking as he talked: whoever he’s sharing these bottles with might not agree but it’s one way to make a tricky decision easier. The phrase “wall of wine” was coined long ago to describe the impenetrable feel of a display of bottles in a shop. Because where do you start? Without pulling the cork or unscrewing the cap, it’s impossible to know which of them are any good.

I feel just as hopeless as anyone else if given a list of bottles I’ve never tried: the choice becomes an exercise in damage (and in my case damage to reputation) limitation. And yes, choosing wine is a first world problem but we mind, of course we mind, because the penalty for getting it wrong is a dismal evening ploughing through 750mls of the anti-joy.

Some solve the problem by heading straight to the supermarket promotion stickers. Others pick a grape they usually like and hope for the best. I’ve met those who choose by price, competition medal stickers or alcoholic strength. Who is not susceptible to a label whose design, like a book jacket, speaks to us and also looks professional enough to make us feel the producer knows what he or she is doing?

- How to know if your bottle of wine is a good one, by Victoria Moore, Telegraph.co.uk, October 26, 2022.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣   编辑:丹妮)


Chin up 别灰心


Go your way? 如你所愿


Father figure? 父亲般的人物


Go out on a limb? 担风险


Not giving an inch? 寸步不让

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