On Wednesday, after the white smoke rose from the conclave but before Pope Francis was announced, Patt Morrison asked, “Will the new pope come from the third world?”
This caught me off guard; it has been a long time since I’ve heard the term “third world.” Part tongue-in-cheek (as indicated by the Big Lebowski reference), and part truthful, I posted on the Airtalk page…
Dear Patt: “3rd World” is no longer the preferred nomenclature. The term is “developing world,” it eliminates the implicit ranking of countries. Just a thought.
To which I received the following comment from “Mark in Irvine,”
Yes, so if you don’t say “Third World,” then we clearly aren’t ranking these areas of the world any lesser when we say “developing world.” Think about what you’re saying. You’re demanding others do this, but you aren’t doing it.
This comment resulted in a back and forth between myself and “Mark from Irvine”:
ME: I was actually talking about the social conventions around these topics. Have you a better term? You should share it and change the way people think. Complaining about a social structure doesn’t improve it.
HE: “Third World” works just fine. Everyone knows what it means, and if some people find a benign term like this offensive, so be it. Every identifying word can be deemed offensive if you infer some nefarious intent.
ME: I disagree. As someone from a “third world” country, it implies that the country, and the people, are ranked lower than “first world.” More importantly, it does not account for the country’s efforts to progress. Alternatively “developing country” indicates that the country is working towards becoming “developed.” Question: If “‘Third World’ works just fine,” then why is it no longer an accepted term?
I didn’t want to pull the “third world” country card, but all other options would take too long. At this point, the discussion was focused on whether or not the term was offensive, and “Mark in Irvine” could not seem to comprehend how the phrase “third world” could be offensive. I included a link to the Wikipedia page for the term “Third World,” as it described the phenomenon better than I could have. Interestingly, another anonymous participant also shared this page. I question whether “Mark from Irvine” read the page before providing the following response…
I’ll continue to use it happily. What would you call Mexico? It certainly isn’t “developing.” It might not be Third World? Maybe it’s “Degrading World”? I can think of many other countries going backward. Syria comes to mind…
I was shocked by this response and couldn’t bring myself to respond. “Mark in Irvine” was claiming that, in his opinion, some nations were suffering and potentially moving backwards in their political, economic, and social status, which was a vote for ranking a country, not just describing the context of the country. Reading it now, it is not as offensive as it felt the first time, but my original sentiments was not incorrect, as evidenced by the following response from an anonymous contributor.
This reminds me of when there was a push to resize countries on maps and flip the entire map upside down to stop “emphasizing” the “top”/upper countries. YouTube: Why are we changing countries?
And this response from “don.d”:
A term I have never heard is ‘Second World’. It’s like nobody wants to be ‘Second World’.
It sort of reminds me of an analysis I heard during the Olympics last year.The gold medalist is happiest, because he won. The silver medalist, though, is disappointed for not having won the gold, but the third place winner is happy for being on the podium whenany others failed.
So cheer up, Third World Country, you medaled.
Again, shocked. I think my response summarize all of my emotions over this entire conversation:
These responses REEK of “first world” privilege. So congratulations on justifying categorizing and ranking countries independent of their people, goals, or values. I expected more from KPCC listeners, but I suppose you are are first world consumers, not global citizens.
Stay tuned for further updates.