In the 21st century the term ‘First world problems’ is used within the developed western world and often describes issues that seem trivial to the disparity of the third world. However, I believe it is naive to dismiss the idea that first world problems don’t cause societal damage within the western world. Now I’m not talking about you only having diet coke and no coke zero in your fridge, or that you wanted the iphone 6 and only got the iphone 5c; I’m talking about real issues that solely occur in the first world. We should not be dismissive of such issues because they do not result in an immediate threat or do not pose some imminent lethality. We must remember that there is no charity for your common Man (or Woman) and that even with the supreme comfort of the first world, human beings are not routinely attacked by the struggles of existence.
We as a modern society seem to have one purpose- to work, to accumulate wealth and pass it down to our successors. However, this constant strive for wealth is one of the very issues that the first world presents. Despite our abundance, our sole purpose within the capitalist driven western world leads a majority of the population to pointless consumerism that not only hurts the individual economically, but our mass consumerist ideology is causing unrepairable damage to the planet as well as leading us into conflict over even more resources. Our need has turned into greed and unfortunately we have to tackle this alone. Within the first world we no longer belong and we suffer from individualism. Despite communities still existing, it is up to the individual to contribute as we are no longer part of a tribe or feel the need to defend our parent’s honour or name, nor do our children cling to us. Despite our mass communication tool we are more alone than ever. With religion on the decline we have no church and worse no spirituality , leaving an unfulfilled hole within us all. Despite the irrationality of religion, it has played a key role in society – gods played a parental figure and when our lives start to fall apart, we humans regress into a child looking for that figure that is always there to forgive and act as a moral guidance. Figures like Jesus Christ acted as a moral guide, reminding the wealthy to give to the poor, if not to hell they go, to be baptised in fire for their sins against their fellow man. While the Celtic tribes’ gods were tied to nature, reminding us to look after our planet and respect mother nature, the first world presents us with huge urbanization disconnecting us from all that is beautiful. One of the retorts to the death of belief in God in Europe was to replace religion with culture, but unfortunately consumerism has no vision, and unlike say during the Renaissance, our first world has no real goal and we are all to often reminded by science that we are but a mere speck in a vast expanding universe where we a guided by our own basic animal instincts. We have no obtainable heaven, therefore no end goal. We became a first world nation due to our productivity but with this comes the stress of modern capitalism, working long hours for very little substance in life. Our wealth comes at a price and the cost is our constant anxiety, in which capitalism holds us hostage with job insecurity and loss of property.
There is also a moral price attached to our first world as well. This burden is a heavy one, frustrating and dark and it weighs on our mind and souls. it distorts us from humanity, separating us from our fellow man. Our privilege is directly linked to the exploitation of third world nations. This in turn creates tension between nations as well costing a huge ethical price towards the individual. Due to the system he/she is born into they are forced to profit off the misery of others to participate in his/her own society.
So how can we avoid such tragedy of modern life as first world residents? I look to the work of political theorist Henry David Thoreau to tackle not only our consumerism but our return to nature. Within his theories we should learn to adapt his ideology to the modern world and begin to dilute our consumerist ideologies in line with the progression of 21st century. Unlike Thoreau, I am not stating we retreat to our cabins in the forest and not pay our taxes; instead we look to his message of how little we actually need to be content. Despite today’s capitalism constant poke of buy, buy, buy we should accept that wealth does not equal happiness and evidently our wealth inflicts misery on others. No matter how much we accumulate, it will not fill the void that the lack of spirituality has left us. We must think to a new age of philosophical thinking and enter a new renaissance of thinking to push past the hollow ideologies the first world has created.