For the better part of a century, a ridiculous division of the world in three political zones has stuck around.
First world country this, third world country that.
I wasn’t around in the 50s when this framework was articulated so I am not sure if it made any sense then. Given how widely it has been used, I’ll assume that thinking about the whole world in three zones conveniently defined around political alliances was all the rage at the beginning of the cold war/ end of the colonial era.
It is of course scandalous that this framework somehow survived into the present day as post-colonial, post-WW2 alliances pottered.
While no-one really knows what the “2nd world” was all about, rarely does a day pass by without some public figure making reference to “a first world country” or a “third world country”. The latter, in particular has left behind it’s original meaning and has evolved into a catch-all phrase for anything that is bad in the world: poverty, corruption, crumbling infrastructure.
To no-one’s surprise, Trump loves dishing out the phrase:
But not even Bernie is above using it.
The End of an Era
It is really time that this ’50s-era thinking about the world be retired for good.
But what framework to use? The old, traditional political alliances are crumbling. The economic map of the world is very different from what it used to be. Technology is eliminating some barriers while adding others. Concerns about the planet are front of mind for significant segments of population world-wide.
And then there’s a global pandemic.
Corona World Order
As it happens, the Covid crisis may become the framework by which the new world regions are defined as we speak.
It starts with travel restrictions. Soon, the new travel “routes” will lead to new trade routes. Which will lead to new alliances and the need to agree on new regional rules.
All of this is already happening and soon may define the way people think of the world.
Perhaps the new “first world” will include countries where the pandemic is under control, followed by a “second world”, where things are on the right track and finally followed by a “third world”, where the response has failed, with all the consequences you can imagine.
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