I was just flipping through my RSS feed a minute ago and by all accounts today is another typical day on the Internet, each one bleeding relentlessly into the next. A cat’s butt made an appearance on a Spanish weather report. Here is a photo of Christina Hendricks as a teenager. The Office star Rainn Wilson made a parody video about the whole Angus T. Jones thing. Seems about right. Seems like what you would expect. It’s all so buzzy! WWW the World Wide Web! And then I came across a trailer for a documentary called Skateistan, an outreach program in Afghanistan that teaches the children of that war-torn country (girls included) how to skateboard. In truth, this is also pretty “Internet Friendly.” Thinking about people in Afghanistan is kind of a hard sell when you could just look at a video of a caterpillar walking in circles. At the very least, if you want the NETIZENS of 2012 to pay attention, you’ve got to have a hook. In this particular instance, the fact that millions of children all around the world are living in abject poverty in the midst of unspeakable human horrors is obvsies not enough. (Sidenote: there was an NPR piece about children in Mexico living among the bloodshed of narco-trafficking that was a real fucking nightmare. But what do you think of the iPhone 5? Is it too light? Did you prefer the weight of the iPhone 4S in your hand and also isn’t it so annoying that they changed the docking port?!? UGH!!!!!) It’s worth pointing out (or probably it isn’t) that I am just like everyone else. You think I want to think about this stuff? It is a bummer! Let’s watch New Girl on the DVR! But this Skateistan stuff does look pretty nice. These kids are having fun out there, and over 40% of the participants are young girls who have largely been denied any opportunity for engagement in their society. So let’s just take, like, two fucking seconds and think about these kids. We don’t even have to watch the whole documentary, but can you just watch the goddamned trailer? I’m sorry that I’m swearing at you so much! Life is overwhelming sometimes when you think about it!

I really don’t think you guys took this post seriously enough. It’s important! We need to work just a little bit harder! I am pushing you on this so that you in turn will push me. I mean, don’t push me to the point of actually having to get out of bed, or contribute to the betterment of the world, right? Haha! Haha? No, no, let’s just watch this trailer and then remind ourselves that we have it pretty nice that we should not take that for granted and then let’s go back to the part where we can’t decide what to eat for lunch and we are mildly annoyed that our shipment from Amazon took a day longer than they estimated in the confirmation email. LOLOLOL. (Via HyperVocal.)

Comments (38)
  1. The story of the Mexican mayor who was murdered has been haunting me personally.

    More importantly though my Droid isn’t holding a charge as well and I have food to instagram!

  2. Louis CK’s bit about white people problems vs real world problems will always be my favorite bit of commentary about this.

    • aaaaaand apologies for the size, but I ain’t care, it’s Louis CK.

      • Of course the corollary to the brilliance of this bit is how every fucking 20-or-30-something white person now uses the phrase “white people problems” for seemingly any problem one can have short of genocide. It’s a great bit in the context of a standup routine, but it’s become one of those things where people have taken their self-deprecating white guilt schtick over the line into just being accidentally racist. There’s always this underlying supposition that white people are the only people who have stuff because every one else is too poor/uneducated/etc.

        Guess what, white folks – minorities are every bit as annoyed as you are when the cable goes out or the supermarket doesn’t have the cereal you like. Those are actually just people problems. Small problems, but still things people get annoyed at.

        • 1) I just learned that apparently Louis CK actually coined “white people problems”? Is that true?

          2) Most people I know have actually reverted to the less polarizing First World Problems.

          3) Either way, I think the WPP/FWP phenomena have made many people complain in a more ironic way. In this case, irony isn’t necessarily bad.

          Honestly, I find myself increasingly laughing at myself even as I bitch about the minor inconveniences of a privileged life. I think the popularity of the WPP phrase has probably made a lot of people more mindful, if nothing else.

          And we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. One’s perspective shifts depending on circumstances. There are plenty of wealthy people that would find my life, as privileged as it is, completely difficult and unpleasant. We’re wired to find fault no matter how good it gets.

          • True story: No joke, right before election day, I was doing laundry, which involves carrying my dirty, filthy clothes down the street, around the corner, past the bush that smells like pee because the homeless pee there, to a laundromat where you have to stay the whole time or people will steal your stuff, and then folding it and carrying it back. It takes about 90 minutes. (Then usually +10 mins to unfold stuff and lay it out all over the apartment because turns out it isn’t 100% dry.) Anyway, I was just heading back into my building, sack of clean, 97% dry laundry on my shoulder, fumbling with the lock that doesn’t always turn, feeling kind of tired but overall like my life was fairly normal and decent and I had it okay, when I had a sudden realization. Mitt Romney has never lived like this, and he would hang himself if faced with the prospect. Kind of a bummer!

            I am Mitt Romney’s Afghani skater kid.

        • Yeah, I mean I think what CK means is more first world/rest of the world comparison, and just uses white people because they (we) tend to embody that mindset more than any other one demographic of people. I always use the term first world problems because of exactly what you said. And yeah they are still problems but it can serve as a reminder that, wait, it doesn’t really matter if I have to pay an extra $15 to get a new iPhone adapter or whatever.

        • i submit a change, we shall call them first world problems and leave it at that.

          • I kind of have a problem with the whole first world problems thing, too. I can’t remember what I was watching, but it was an interview with an author who was discussing that precise phrase and that he found it offensive as someone from Africa.

            Specifically, he brought up a Blackberry server outage from about a year ago that affected service all over Africa, and how it wouldn’t even occur to most Americans that there are millions of Africans who actually use that kind of modern technology as a routine part of their daily lives.

          • Your other option is basically Developed World Problems.

            I get people’s discomfort, I guess. Over time most people have dropped First World/Third World in favor of developed world/emerging markets (or economies — always posited in economic terms).

            Whatever distinction you make, the terms are going to serve to distinguish those economies that are the haves from those that are (at least for now) globalization’s losers.

          • Yeah, if you want to get technical that could be considered offensive too. The term comes from capitalist countries referring to unaligned countries ad Third World. Let’s just all take a nap and think of another joke.

          • Actually, I once got in a rather lengthy conversation with my sister (who works for the International Rescue Committee) about how terms like “First World” and “Third World” are super problematic (she prefers developed versus developing, although that seems problematic too?!) because

            1) well what the fuck would a second world be
            2) FIRST world implies BETTER rather than DIFFERENT

            I agree with everyone’s points though about WPP/WFP, it helped some people become aware of the trivialities of their lives but ALSO became inadvertently racist. Mostly though, I just got sick of it cause I heard it WAY too much. It was almost as bad as “JUST SAYIN’” for a while (and both still bug me a lot).

            I guess, really, nothing anyone ever says will never not be subtly racist (or sexist, or whatever-ist) in some way and we all live in a world that puts us in double-bind situations perpetually so let’s all just give up.

            Also my iPhone is TOTALLY doing this thing where it just FUCKING TURNS OFF every now and then and also it never fucking knows what time it is which has made me late to work once this week! ACK!

          • What about “people who haven’t been systematically prayed upon by capitalism and communism?” That includes people of all ethnicities, creeds, countries and ages! What do you guys think? Ah? Okay Bye! ✌

          • HOW I wish to RESPOND to this whole FUCKING thread:

          • I totally think we need to cognizant that the first world is not the only one with certain tech problems and the rest of the world is not living in a genocidal state of paranoia BUT I also think we have to lighten up and just laugh at the small stuff. It reminds us that it could be worse. Like when my boyfriend died of cancer a few years ago the only thing that really helped me get through was that the generation before me had people dying left and right from AIDS. So yeah, it sucked having my boyfriend die at 32 but some friends who were in their 40s had their entire social network wiped out when they were younger than me. It doesn’t diminish the hard times that I went through but it gave me strength to power on. Now I also know that there a big difference between selecting an ATM language and your boyfriend dying, but a lot of good things can come from knowing people who have made it through tougher times than you. Even if it is just an ordinary frustrating day.

          • Eric,

            UH a “second WORLD” nation is a thing that existed during THE COLD WAR AS the terms “first world” and “THIRD world” arose DURING this period as WELL. THOSE TERMS have now been grafted ONTO the economic STATUS OF a State, but prior to THAT the “First world” was THE UNITED States and its DEVELOPED Allies, THE “Second world” was the USSR and IT’S SOVIET SCUM BUDDIES, while the “Third world” WERE THE undeveloped and unoccupied spaces ON THE RISK board ripe FOR THE taking. This was A MEANS of developing THE WORLD into three categories BASED on political IDEOLOGY. With the FALL of the USSR (because DUH USA), the terms all fell OUT OF vogue and conversation GRAFTED them onto the economic status of NATIONS BECAUSE the Second World no LONGER “existed.”

            Basically, DEVELOPED AND developing countries are MUCH better TERMS than that HORSESHIT.

          • Since I inadvertently opened this fucking can of worms, I feel the need to respond to all of this. Can we all just calm down? Like heimaey said, yes, people outside of the developed world use technology and yes the rest of the world isn’t in a perpetual genocidal state, BUT maybe the actual sentiment behind the first world problems thing is more along the lines of “hey, maybe my problems aren’t that big of a deal because I have it pretty good all things considered and I shouldn’t get so worked up over trivial things (which I believe was kind of Gabe’s whole point)”

          • thanks American Patriot, I did not know that.

            I can actually say I learned something at work today. Which is not what I can usually say. About work.

          • I am really surprised by the uproar that the use of “white people problems” has created. There have been, what, dozens of Gabe posts in that past that included the “Being White Is Hard” phrase? And I don’t remember anyone getting too bent out of shape by it.

        • @Jeb

          Because no one answered your question yet–

          Louis CK did not coin the phrase “white people problems.”

          • Jesus invented it like s/he did everything.

          • Hmmmm.

            Interesting: “The earliest known reference to “first world problems” can be found in the lyrics of Canadian alt rock band Matthew Good Band’s 1995 song titled “Omissions of the Omen,” which was included as a bonus track on their full-length debut album Last of the Ghetto Astronauts: “And somewhere around the world / Someone would love to have my first world problems / Kill the moon and turn out the sun / Lock your door and load your gun / Free at last now the time has come to choose.”


    • I always found these types of Louis CK bits really odd. There’s something self-hating about an observational comedian who has made his fortune complaining about things that aren’t hunger or poverty, complaining about people complaining about things that aren’t hunger or poverty. It doesn’t seem like a particularly new insight that there’s always someone who has it worse, and the people who say it aren’t necessarily working for Doctors Without Borders themselves. At worst, it’s like a less honest, more sanctimonious way of saying “shut up, your problems are not entertaining enough for me to care”. Anyway, I’ve done my share of feeling bad about feeling bad about things that aren’t hunger or poverty, and that’s no way to live. It feels bad enough to feel bad.

      Not to say it’s not really important to be informed about these things, especially to know what the U.S. is doing to contribute to people’s misery, like in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc., where we’re currently slaughtering thousands and terrorizing hundreds of thousands of people with robot planes. Because if no one knows about it, there’s no outrage, and if there’s no outrage, it doesn’t stop. But I don’t think denying or minimizing my own feelings about slow sidewalk walkers or what have you helps one way or another. Questioning every emotion I have and whether it’s a worthy one is just exhausting and paralyzing and ultimately seems even more self-absorbed and navel-gazing than just feeling what I feel. Anyway, not trying to claim any kind of high ground here, just always thought the Louis CK stuff needed a counterpoint.

  3. “i’m board! i’m so board!”

  4. It’s really upsetting that this is how humans are built, but on the other hand, it would be awful and maladaptive for us to operate in any other way. Our ability to distance ourselves from disaster and hurt that aren’t in some way immediate lets us live our lives (in our untouched, beautiful towers) without being horribly depressed all the time. We can also forget without much effort that we are insignificant specks in a universe that is indifferent to our existence, and we can smile at the youTube reminder because the drawings are charming.

    Something like 15% of us battle depression in a major way at some point in our lives, and while that seems high, it’s also a wonder that the number isn’t much, much higher. (This tidbit ripped straight from a psych lecture that’s stuck with me over the years. To be honest, I’m not sure whether that is the percentage of people in the world or of Americans or of an entirely different subset.) Apparently, depressed people are more realistic about the world, themselves, than people who only really get worked up when Internet videos don’t load on time.

    • There’s a really interesting evolutionary philosopher/theorist (I wanna say Loewald or Frans DeWall…?) who talks about the “concentric circles of concern” which acts as a corollary to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs (which is the idea that you can’t be happy if you’re basic somatic needs aren’t met).

      The idea is that the healthier or more provided-for a person is, the better they can care for people outside of their direct circle of influence. So, we should remember that everyone has problems and it’s actually human nature (whatever that means) for us to NOT be able to connect with certain huge issues (war, famine, poverty) if they don’t directly affect us.

      ALSO: I think it was Lars Von Trier who talked about how depressed people are not affected by tragedy and can remain calm in incredibly intense situations because they already assumed the worst thing would happen, and that was his inspiration for Melancholia.

    • Fun story!!! I lived in NYC during 9/11 and had just switched jobs and needed to find a new shrink for my anxiety/dysthymia. When I found one, he asked me how I was coping and I said, “well, actually, kind of fine? better than my friends…” And he said that the people he would treat that had panic disorder seemed to be handling the awfulness the best because we already have these massive surges of adrenaline for no goddamn reason (well there are reasons but this is not a psych theory blog) and are biologically wired to expect the world to be awful much the time… so when it actually is and we’re in the middle of it, we’re secretly vindicated. Then he made a joke about how I should think of moving to a war zone in the Middle East as I might find it very relaxing. He was a funny guy.

  5. when i was in high school we used to go down to juarez for the ocassional trip, just to get out of the u.s. for a second. one of my best friends is from juarez and she is genuinely scared to go home. she invites us for new years eve every year but we all decline because of the whole fear thing. mexico is really scarey right now and the drug war just makes it worse and worse and worse. so she is going home for christmas and of course we worry that she will be safe and whatnot. but juarez is seriously a hope skip and a jump away. it is the most dangerous city in the world right now, and i used to be able to buy churros on the street for a quarter. it’s all just so disheartening.

    also this morning someone had a meme on their facebook wall that was applauding joe arpio in arizona. i fucking hate people.

  6. I’ve been working on being more grateful in life lately. It’s not easy! I recognize my life is pretty great, I have a loving family, a great fiance, the best dog, etc. It’s great! I just feel so conditioned by my 30 years of life to become so easily frustrated with little things that really don’t matter. It has been something of a go-to response for me for a long time, so chipping away at it takes effort.

    I also think we’re taught to feel kind of guilty about being happy with our lives. I know plenty of people who really do suffer in different ways, and it’s a hard thing to balance being happy and grateful but still be compassionate for others. Someone told me recently that we are actually best able to help others when we ourselves are in a good place, and that made good sense to me.

    Anyway, thank you Gabe for this little mid-week reminder to be grateful.

    • Totally agree…I saw somewhere recently that it’s not that the happiest people are the most grateful, but that the most grateful people are the most happy…I agree and it’s a good reminder that being thankful and happy for what you have makes for a much happier life than lamenting over what you don’t.

  7. everybody needs to go to bonesbridage.com now and buy Bones Bridgade: an Autobiography about the greatest skaters in the 80s.

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