19 Dec 2012 marnanel   » (Journeyer)

First world problems are problems

There's a Ralph McTell song called Streets of London where the chorus goes:

So how can you tell me you're lonely,
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something to make you change your mind.
Read that again carefully. You may think you're sad, but there are people living on the streets of London who are worse off than you are, so you're actually mistaken about being sad.

I'm not in any way trying to minimise the terrible problem of homelessness. Go to Shelter now and give them some money, OK? But the trouble with the song's argument is that it's bollocks.

Firstly: trying to police another person's feelings is a fool's game. Everyone who's suffered from depression has had some patronising bastard come up to them and tell them that everything would be all right if they just got a sense of perspective. Don't be that person. The last thing we need is Ralph McTell singing about it to warmed-over Pachelbel.

Secondly: suppose the song's argument was valid: you can't be sad, because there are people on the streets who have it worse than you do. Well, is there a human situation worse than living on the streets of London? Maybe being tortured in Libya is worse? Well then, we should be able to go round all the homeless people in London telling them all that they're not allowed to be unhappy because they're not being tortured in Libya. Eventually you find the person who's having a worse time than everyone else in the world, and you tell them that they're allowed to be sad, and nobody else is. This isn't the Depression Olympics.

You often see this argument in the guise of "first world problems". Sometimes, yes, people do have to get a sense of perspective. But often this is just a derailing technique. Criticism of almost anything can be belittled this way. And you know what? Maslow's hierarchy is a hierarchy. It has more than one level in it.

OK, end of rant.

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/259944.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2012-12-19 13:36:43 from Monument

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