Thursday, 28 November 2013

Four Worlds of Earth

When I lived in a share-house, I used to walk everywhere and occasionally I would walk up Enoggera Road, the main drag around Red Hill. There was this sign along that road, actually on the corner of Enoggera Road & Ashgrove Avenue, beside the slip-lane, which always caught my eye.
At one time the sign had obviously said: "FORM 1 LANE", telling the cars to merge, but one of the kids from the local school had scribbled the letters 'P' and 'T' around the last word so that the sign instead read: "Form 1 PLANET".
That always stuck in my mind, because it makes absolutely no sense. It sounds pretty, but it's just hippy nonsense. This is already one planet, it's not like we live on Mars or Jupiter - Earth is a single celestial body. Not only that, but the letters were the wrong size. If you're going to the effort to graffiti a sign, do it properly, man . . .

But also, I could sort of see what this lazy poet was trying to say. It's about unity and coming together, throwing out prejudice and becoming one world. It's enough hippy-dippy saccharine nonsense to make me puke, but it raises an interesting point, which leads into the word of the day.
Something that a lot of people seem to forget, or don't seem to act upon, is the fact that Earth is not just one world . . . it's four. The Word of the Day is 'WORLD'.

World /werld/ n. 1. The earth or globe, considered as a planet. 2. (often cap.) A particular division of the earth: The Western World. 3. The earth or a part of it, with its inhabitants, affairs, etc., during a particular period: The ancient world. 4. Humankind; the human race; humanity: The world must eliminate war and poverty. 5. The public generally: The whole world knows it.

Lately, there has been some upset between Australia and Indonesia. Basically, Australian Intelligence Services were found spying on Indonesia, in particular by tapping the phones of some prominent politicians (and their wives). Indonesia responded by stopping Australia from sending a boatload of asylum seekers back home. It's a bit of a mess.
Also, quite recently, I saw an episode of Q&A - a live program where guest celebrities, mostly Australian politicians or journalists, sit on a panel and are asked pertinent questions by the public - which visited India and discussed both local topics and topics about the relationship between India and Australia.
In both of these instances, there was a lot of back and forth about how the country that wasn't Australia was (to put it mildly) not very good. All these topics about sexism, corruption, eve-teasing/rape, people-smuggling, classism, economic downfall & poverty, were brought to the forefront.

Now some of this is fair enough, especially on Q&A, the show is about bringing up these topics. My issue is, in these discussions and news stories, it seems to me as though Australia is judging these countries on Australia's terms, which is not a very open-minded view.
You see, some people believe, for instance, that Australia need not apologize to Indonesia for phone-tapping because 'Indonesia commits worse atrocities daily'. I've even heard some people say that Indians shouldn't bring up how racist Australians are towards migrants, because we're not as sexist as India.
To be clear, I think that Australia shouldn't apologize to Indonesia, because talking about Intelligence Operations within earshot of the media is considered gauche. But that's beside the point. The point is, it's very rude to judge these countries on our terms, because when we're not exactly sitting on an even playing field.
Because the fact of the matter remains that Australia is a first world country, while India & Indonesia are not. Each country develops at their own pace. Australia is a very young country, but we have the heritage of England and a partnership with America, connecting us as a member of the Western World as well as the First World. Meanwhile, Indonesia and India are Third World Countries. I would argue that India is a Second World country, but that's a matter for debate . . . oh no wait, this is my blog, so what I say goes!
India is totally Second World!

But I should explain myself a bit here . . .

See, "Third World" & "First World" as terms were introduced during the Cold War, and they relate to which side people were on. First World was America and its allies; Second World was Russia and its allies & Third World was Everyone Else.
But the Cold War is over now (at least, that's what they want you to think), so these terms have been vying for a modern context. A lot of people still view it as: Capitalism = First World; Communism = Second World & Everything Else = Third World, but that's fallen out of favour. Because as time went on, people noticed that Third World countries tended to have little to no industry, poverty & a crappy economy. At first it was a stereotype, but eventually people started to use the term "Third World country" as a synonym to describe "poor & underdeveloped country". This has gained prevalence in the modern world to the degree that the terms no longer concern themselves with politics or the Cold War, so much as cultural and economic growth as well as industry.

This is why India is considered Third World, it was once socialist, but it has been liberalising its economy for the better part of two decades now and it was a part of the "everyone else".
But I prefer the terms First, Second & Third World to refer to socio-cultural growth and economic stability (as opposed to socio-political affiliation) for three reasons:
1) Because the Cold War is over (at least, that's what they keep telling me)
2) We already have terms for these ideas. NATO/Communist Bloc/ Non-Alignment Movement for the separate three; or just pick one of the myriad of terms for Economic Systems. to describe separate countries.
3) It allows for the concept of a Fourth World.

If you accept, rather than political affiliation, that the system is:
First World - Strong Industry, Vibrant Culture & Stable Economy
Second World - Fair Industry, Stilted Culture & Poor Economy
Third World - Little Industry, Backward Culture & Failing Economy
then this leaves room for the concept of:
Fourth World - No Industry, Hunter/Gatherer Culture & No Economy

This accepts the concept of natives and aborigines; stateless, poor, tribal cultures that are not a part of the World Economy or Global Stage. Isn't it preferable to use terminology in such a way so as to be inclusive?
I think so, hence why I use it that way . . .

But I'm starting to ramble, so getting back on topic - accepting this system of classification for countries (which, of course I do, I just suggested it) Indonesia is Third World and India is Second World.
So, I believe, It is wrong to judge these people by First World standards. I'm not saying we have to look down on them - I certainly don't. Because this isn't caused due to idiocy or accident. It's a natural step in development, and these countries are still growing, it takes a lot of time for such legacy to die down. Australia's had a leg-up from the help of those already dominating the Western World, we skipped over that, but Mother England went through its darker period as well. So to judge these people by saying "you commit atrocities", etcetera is the same as demeaning someone for their inability to run, despite having a broken leg. It takes time for countries to develop and India is moving very fast, when you consider how much has happened in recent years. During that Q&A panel in India, when someone was talking about rape in India and Sexism - one of the panelists said essentially:
"This is all true, we are sexist; but we are way better than we once were."
It's true, India is developing and (as Moviebob so oft says):
  "Sunlight is a great disinfectant."
By allowing people to see the negative side of their culture, India is working on those negative aspects. While I have yet to see it from Indonesia (mostly due to my own disinterest) I'm sure Indonesia is growing too.

However, neither of them are there yet. India is better now than it once was, but it's not there yet and I think it's wrong to use that as "ammunition" on the global social or global political stage, and it certainly does not excuse our own failings.
As for Indonesia, this phone-tapping thing is the perfect example of First vs Third World. Indonesia is one of Australia's allies, but we are keeping a close eye on them because we can't tell what they're going to do. The government does not feel safe - not just for its own sake but also for Indonesia's. After the Bali Bombings, it's understandable that Australia would be worried about safety in this diverse, little archipelago.

[Does that excuse our Intelligence Agencies spying on our ally?
No . . . the fact that it's an Intelligence Agency excuses spying on our ally. This is a different issue altogether, which I might cover in a later blog post, but in simplest terms - what else do you think we keep this stuff a secret?]

In this Global Stage, where not only countries but people are interacting across their borders, it means that we need to learn to speak on fair and equitable terms. But a huge part of that is coming to understand and accept our differences. We don't have to say that India's sexist legacy or Indonesia's religious violence are good things, but we do have to recognize that, in time, these issues will be dealt with; we should offer support not vilification.
Australia may be first world, but that doesn't mean we're better people; I believe it's the best country in the world, but as a people we just have different problems that require our attention.
Perhaps if we give them the chance to grow, we wouldn't need these different words for us all; perhaps we could finally Form 1 Planet.

In conclusion, I apologize if this is a bit wishy-washy. It's Summer and the Heat is getting to me, and I'm becoming exhausted from writing, after Halloween & Duke Forever. But if nothing else, keep this in mind:
Every country is growing, from the first world through to the fourth. Just because we have a better economy or less poverty doesn't mean we're "done" growing, as a country. It just means we've got different work to do.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I'm going to form my own country - Quintaria - based in the Fifth World; With Counter-Productive Industry; Anti-Culture & a Negative Economy . . .

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I would love to read your words.