The other night my sister was complaining that her “regular” on-street parking space had been been taken by another neighbor. Our niece laughed and said, “Oh, what a first world problem.” I’d never heard that phrase before and loved it.
The vast majority of our daily headaches tend to be problems that exist primarily in a relatively affluent and safe Western culture: problems with the cable company, a car that is recalled, an exasperatingly crowded parking lot at the mall during the holidays, hassles with an insurance company, poor service at a restaurant. Granted there are more serious problems that transcend cultures, but the every-day irritations for most Americans who live above the poverty line are just that — irritations that are attendant to life in an industrialized country.
When I read a recent blog by our temporary colleague, Mansoor Ali Khan, who is here from Pakistan on a journalist exchange program, I was reminded of the trivial (and somewhat pampered) nature of many of our “problems.” Compared to living in a country where a drone attack can kill one’s entire family, losing one’s iPhone or getting a red-light ticket for running an intersection seems beyond trivial.