First World Problems and White Whines

A while ago, somebody on LiveJournal linked to White Whines, one of several sites which collects “first-world problems.” There are certainly some spoiled, privileged, and sometimes humorous posts collected here … but the whole concept bugged me.

Partly, I hate playing Competitive Problems. Yes, it’s important to keep perspective, and to recognize that there are others out there with far more serious problems than mine … but that doesn’t make my problems unimportant. Jay Lake talked about it a bit on his LiveJournal a few months back:

Friend: “Man, I feel lousy. I have a cold.”
Jay: “Man, that sucks. I hope you feel better soon.”
Friend: (embarrassed) “Oh, wait. You have cancer. Never mind.”

Because cancer is the trump card of Competitive Problems. (Okay, now I’m tempted to write the rules of this game. Diabetes gives me a +3 to complain about health problems, but I also lose one point per published book for any writing-related complaints…)

Where was I? Oh, right. What bothers me more than the “Ha ha, your problems aren’t real problems,” attitude (and I will admit I don’t have a ton of sympathy for some of the problems posted), is the whole concept of lableing these things “white people’s problems” and “first world problems.” As it turns out, “third world” isn’t actually shorthand for “Everyone is poor and starving and diseased and waiting for the west to swoop in and save them.” Here, have a few images from third world countries like India, South Africa, Brazil, and Tanzania.

I could write a long-winded post trying to unpack the various problematic assumptions here, but I decided to go a different route instead. Feel free to substitute “first world” and “third world” for white and PoC in my comments below.

Four more modified White Whine images behind the cut…