Wednesday, August 21, 2013

So many worlds, so little time

Today’s subject is not literature or art.

Today’s subject is social studies.

Using all the mental powers I have in my arsenal, I have figured out that in that little map over there in the sidebar -------------->
Feedjit places a red dot in each country where someone has read my blog recently, except in the U.S. and Canada and possibly Australia, where it places a red dot in each state or province where someone has read my blog recently. [Note. Feedjit’s definition of “recently” is known only to Feedjit. --RWP]
So even though several, or many, or even thousands, of people in the country of Russia, say, may be reading my blog, Feedjit gives me exactly one red dot for that huge expanse of terra firma.

/sarcasm on/

Thank you, Feedjit.

/sarcasm off/

Another thing I have noticed -- maybe it is different on your map -- is that although I occasionally see a red dot or two in South America, I hardly ever see a red dot in Africa, only the occasional reader in Ghana or South Africa or Egypt. I know there are lots of people on that continent. Why don’t more of them read my blog?

In a post or a comment the other day I said there are currently 7.3 billion human beings living on planet Earth. I was wrong.
I’ll say it louder for the people in the back:


The current estimate is that 7,123,500,000 human beings live on planet Earth in 2013. [Editor’s note. I know that in the British scheme of things you call this number 7 thousand million, not
7 billion, and that what you call 7 billion we call 7 trillion, but what are a few zeroes among friends? As nothing, that’s what. --RWP]

We 7.1 billion people are distributed as shown below (the most recent year for which reliable statistics are available is shown in parentheses):

World (2012) 7,058,000,000

Asia (2011) 4,216,000 0002011

Northern Asia (Russia) 143,000,000
Western Asia 238,000,000
South Central Asia 1,800,000,000
South East Asia 602,000,000
East Asia 1,588,000,000

Africa (2012) 1,072,000,000

Northern Africa 213,000,000
Western Africa 324,000,000
Middle Africa (Central Africa) 134,000,000
Eastern Africa 342,000,000
Southern Africa 59,000,000

The Americas and the Caribbean (2011) 942,000,000

North America 346,000,000
Central America (includes Mexico) 158,000,000
Caribbean 42,000,000
South America 196,000,000

Europe (2011) 740,000,000

Northern Europe 100,000,000
Western Europe 189,000,000
Eastern Europe 295,000,000
Southern Europe 155,000,000

Oceania (2011) 37,000,000

Any way you slice it, that’s a lot of zeroes.

I said all that to say this:

You’d think I would have a few more red dots over there in that Feedjit map.

The sentiment expressed in the preceding sentence is called “a First World problem.”

As Bette Davis once said, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

The nations of the earth are commonly divided into the First World, the Second World, and the Third World. Someone has even identified a Fourth World.

According to my source (good old Wikipedia), the term “First World” was coined during the Cold War and was often used because of its political, social, and economic relevance. It was first introduced in the late 1940s by the United Nations. Today, the term “First World” is slightly outdated and has no official definition; however, it is generally thought of as the capitalist, industrial, wealthy, developed countries that aligned with the United States after World War II. This definition included most of the countries of North America, Western Europe, Australia and Japan. In contemporary society, the First World is viewed as countries that have the most advanced economies, the greatest influence, the highest standards of living, and the greatest technology.

The term “Second World” refers to the former socialist, industrial states (formally known as the Eastern Bloc), the territory and the influence of the Soviet Union. Following World War II, there were 19 communist states; after the fall of the Soviet Union, only five remained: China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam. The concept of "Second World" was a construct of the Cold War and the term has largely fallen out of use since the revolutions of 1989, though it is still used to describe countries that are in between poverty and prosperity, many of which are socialist and former socialist states today. Subsequently, the actual meaning of the terms “First World” and “Third World” changed from being based on political ideology to an economic definition (the terms developed country and developing country are sometimes used). This might also cause semantic variation of the term between ascribing a region's political entities and its people. So says Wikipedia.

The term “Third World” arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either NATO (with the United States, Western European nations and their allies representing the First World), or the Communist Bloc (with the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba and their allies representing the Second World). This terminology provided a way of broadly categorizing the nations of the Earth into three groups based on social, political, and economic divisions. The Third World was normally seen to include many countries with colonial pasts in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. It was also sometimes taken as synonymous with countries in the Non-Aligned Movement.

Due to the complex history of evolving meanings and contexts, there is no clear or agreed upon definition of the Third World. Some countries in the Communist Bloc, such as Cuba, were often regarded as “Third World.” Because many Third World countries were extremely poor, and non-industrialized, it became a stereotype to refer to poor countries as "third world countries", yet the term “Third World” term is also often taken to include newly industrialized countries like India, Brazil or China. Historically, some European countries were part of the non-aligned movement and a few were and are very prosperous, including Switzerland and Austria. Over the last few decades, the term “Third World” has been used interchangeably with “Global South” and “Developing Countries” to describe poorer countries that have struggled to attain steady economic development, a term that often includes former "Second World" countries like Russia. This usage, however, has become less preferred in recent years.

Are you still with me?

According to one source, the world’s population is growing by 200,000 people a day. That’s 73,000,000 more people every year, 730,000,000 more people every decade. It is a bit sobering to realize that a hundred years ago, in the beginning of the 20th century, the entire world population was less than two billion people.

The term “Fourth World” was coined to refer to:
(1) Sub-populations socially excluded from global society;
(2) Hunter-gatherer, nomadic, pastoral, and some subsistence farming peoples living beyond the modern industrial norm; and (3) Sub-populations existing in a First World country, but with the living standards of those of a Third World, or developing country.

The term “Fourth World” originated with a remark by Mbuto Milando, first secretary of the Tanzanian High Commission, in conversation with George Manuel, Chief of the National Indian Brotherhood of Canada. Milando stated that “When Native peoples come into their own, on the basis of their own cultures and traditions, that will be the Fourth World.” Since publication of Manuel’s The Fourth World: An Indian Reality (1974), the term Fourth World is synonymous with stateless, poor, and marginal nations.

Manuel Castells uses the term “Fourth World” to represent the people in regions that are bypassed by most forms of technology. According to Wikipedia, “These people reside both in urban and rural areas, and are viewed as structurally irrelevant in our society as they neither produce nor consume what is considered important in a globalized and technologically connected world.”

It is very sad to think that some people, millions of people, view other people, millions of people, as “structurally irrelevant in our society as they neither produce nor consume what is considered important in a globalized and technologically connected world.”

You know what?

Maybe how many people read my blog or where they live isn’t that important.

This has been a brief, introductory foray into the world of social studies.

Your assignment is simply this: After reviewing some more First World Problems, tell me in the comments section of this post what you think the First World’s chief problem really is.


  1. According to my daughter, 87% of statistics are made up on the spot.

  2. Hilltop, but there really are 7.1 billion people currently living on planet Earth, give or take a hundred million here, a hundred million there.

  3. Lots to interest in this post RYP. I can't say I 've ever thought about all these worlds. Just assumed I understood and that they were somehow based on how developed their economy was.

  4. Helsie, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I learned a lot while putting it together. Social studies is (are?) not everyone's cup of tea, that's for sure.

  5. Greed.
    There's an innate selfishness within humankind and those who have, tend to want more and more, and if this means walking all over someone else leaving them starving to get there, they will do. I beleive the term here is "I'm alright Jack".
    Interesting, educational and funny with it. You should have been on the stage, oh hang on...I think you are *laughs. Some people should have a greater audience, especially those like yourself who do not fit the description I wrote above about humanity.

  6. Well, thank you, All Consuming, for being the first to tackle the question at the bottom of the post!

    Greed must certainly be a part of it, but it is not the whole answer.

    Self-centeredness comes nearer to answering the question, I think. A lack of love or caring about anyone but me and my needs, my wants, my desires, for I am the center of the universe. I must have everything, I must not be denied anything, I, I, I....

  7. What an educative post! Greed and selfishness have already been mentioned – so I’ll go for domination – the spirit of domination – corporate, religious, military, political – everyone wants to dominate others and wants to make others believe that their views are the best ones around.

  8. Yet another educative and engaging blogpost from a fine, upstanding member of the world blogging community. (I hope this comment is not too offensive for you - you see I usually don't know what I am writing or what effects my words might have upon others. It is possible that I am stark raving mad!)


<b>Cumulative story number 2</b>

After such a great groundswell of comments on my previous post -- there were exactly none, friends, zero (0), zilch -- I am not deterred. ...