I love the continuing hashtag “meme” on Twitter full of folk complaining about #FirstWorldProblems.
Get the point? It’s like flying over the Atlantic at 10,000 feet in air-conditioned comfort over cold and life-threatening seas and complaining because your martini is not cold enough.
Yes, they’re trivial. So why do I like these so much? Because being trivial is the point. Because conquering the slings and arrows 0f outrageous fortune is what industrial civilisation has done so well; instead of complaining about the cold and the life-threatening, we now get to complain in public about our olives and our orange zest, and the resolute resistance of béchamel to thickening when we want it to. In short, because these are mostly teenagers with sufficient self-awareness to realise how much better their lot is now than it has been for most of human history, and enough humour to know they’re being precious about their complaints.
It’s the same reason I quite like all the complaining about obesity: for most of human history until now, the overwhelming problem was not obesity, it was famine and malnutrition. That we now have obesity to complain about is a sign that despite everything, things are ultimately still going right; that our industrial civilisation is still (against all the odds) delivering the goods.
Yes, things aren’t going right everywhere—but if the foundations of first-world civilisation were embraced in more places, fewer third-world problems would be so intractable. And yes, maybe some folk in the first world could be more careful about the goods they want delivered, but, hey, in historical terms this is but a short and benevolent blip, so maybe give them a chance to mature, huh.
And, yes, other folk could spend a lot less time trying to stop the production and delivery of all those goods—and stop trying to plunder the goods in various ways when they’re being produced and delivered—so that more may be produced and delivered, and more widely.
But isn’t it great when the biggest problem of your day isn’t arguing with a sabre-tooth tiger about your life expectancy, it’s realising you’ve put too much water in your quinoa.
I just thought we shouldn’t forget that.