Much is prone to be said about why certain countries belong to the so-called third world and why others have somehow triumphed and become the first world. The problem with this way of classifying things is that it only takes into account economic factors; that is, it is a strictly materialist way of evaluating the success of a society. Following a very American way of seeing things, material affluence is considered all there is to life.
For those who see fulfillment beyond the ability to buy products, there is a clear deficiency in this point of view. This is not to say that a manner of material prosperity should not only be desired but is absolutely necessary in order to attain loftier goals, but in a world infected by a reductionist and mechanistic way of thinking, method and quantity are confused with wealth and achievement in themselves.
What follows are a couple of observations about the third world and first world contrasted from extended first hand experience. These observations should not be unduly extrapolated or generalized, and they refer strictly to the countries and contexts mentioned. The point to be made, however, is that simple classifications into first and third world areas are a very poor way of measuring the success of a society. Furthermore, that identity, cohesion and tradition are not enough, although they are necessary, for the success of a group.
Here we might also interject that different people might have differing opinions of what success is. In this writing we will allude to the holistic success of a society. Firstly, the individual is not sacrificed as a piece of machinery for the abstract concept of the group. Secondly, the group itself is not there to satisfy the whims of the individual. Thirdly, that in so doing conditions are brought about for a flourishing culture that not only allows for but incentivizes a holistic development of individuals. Finally, and as a consequence of the previous points, the group as a whole moves towards transcendent goals of an idealistic nature, which makes it tackle obstacles with a view in the distant future and not just the immediate consequences or the possibility of momentary gain.
A brief comment on the third world of Latin America
A more accurate, though brief, description of the Latin American third world will be in order. It should be understood that Latin American countries are not all like the most multicultural parts of Brazil. In fact, there still is a great deal of segregation. The real problem is that countries divided by so disparaged groups such as aboriginals, mestizos, Africans, a very few criollos, Arabs, and others have no way of coalescing into a national identity. One should also mention that the typical North American or European generally has a hard time identifying a Latin American if that person does not look like a Mexican Indian, and that is pretty often.
In general, you could say that there are broad cultural strokes along Latin America, but unlike what is German, French or English, the lines are blurred and often rely on petty superficial distinctions when it comes to separating something that is Colombian rather than Venezuelan, or Honduran rather than Guatemalan. One should mention that exceptions to the third world rule, at least in the past, like Chile and Argentina, had large German and Italian populations that greatly enhanced the efficacy of their countries in the past. This was amplified by the fact that Spain had settled governmental centers in those areas as well, making them better organized and prepared to rule effectively from the very outset. Countries such as Argentina developed, at one point, a very distinct identity, considering themselves apart and distinct from the rest of Latin America, and something closer to a new breed of European descendants.
Most countries in this predicament take things like certain specific cuisine or their little accent variation of Spanish as their identity. Left-minded people in these countries say nonsensical things to the effect of the lack of an identity being our identity; or even worse, that a lack of identity and the diversity is richness and thus good, even though they may even acknowledge the communication and practical problems that come with that.
In the more clear cases of third world totalities, such as Central American and Caribbean countries (with the exception of lucky and equally mediocre Panama that have the canal), there is a clear case of incurable corruption. Corruption is such an intrinsic part of the attitude the population has towards the state and the rest of the population that one could almost say it is part of the culture. This stems directly from the fact that two Hondurans, for instance, rarely share something on the transcendent plane, not to mention heredity. Their connection extends no further than the beer they like, the soccer team they support and their taste in women. If you do not feel like that mass of people is truly your own, that you are a part of them as an undeniable actuality and not just as a poetic turn of phrase, then there is very little reason to feel an obligation towards them. There are, of course, individuals that are simply honorable, but that is a trait that is increasingly hard to come by.
The general poverty of Central America stems mainly from this lack of cohesion, and a lack of far-reaching vision. Here, democracy and bureaucracy show their worst face for in combination with the cultural corruption, it all serves as a cruel parody of a world that could be but in which nobody believes in. This is another huge difference you will find between first and third worlders. First worlders believe in such things, even if they are delusional, mediocre and materialistic in the end. Third worlders do not really buy all the nonsense, but they still play along, thinking things simply cannot be worse, so what could be the risk of trying again?
On the other hand, Latin America retained the old style of education of Europe, even as Europe has advanced towards Marxist indoctrination and the U.S.A. and Canada embrace an astoundingly poor model for their public education that places far more importance on the appearance of social responsibility than on the actual education of children. The result is that when a Latin American, even one from an unmistakable third world area, gets a full education in the public system, they tend to be better educated and generally better informed than the average American or Canadian citizen. Hence the general derisive attitude towards the great money lands of the north that is incensed by the often empty and ignorant boasts of U.S.A. residents — whether they are actually from, Kansas, Mumbai or Puerto Rico — which is often erroneously confused with jealousy by outsiders.
Then again, what good is all this good breeding if, on a collective basis, society as a whole is a filthy garbage disposal area? The well-educated Latin American lives off the ruins and remnants of 19th century Europe, stuck there forever in dreams and illusions of a gentleman’s society that never was; forever sad and full of complaints, and in a constant and futile tug-of-war with Marxist imbeciles with chicken brains. We return to the bottom line: no identity, no unity, no ideal to strive for; only band aids, a chronic malady of pessimistic expectations for society and conformist mentality towards life.
On the other hand, this breeds a preference for enjoying life beyond material possessions that are generally hard to come by or simply too expensive to be practical. Education is not oppressive or oriented enough to be strong in ideological indoctrination, thus a high percentage of above-average IQs escape the nets of false history and whatever political biases come their own way.
From the third world, the comedy of modern world politics is seen as if from the outside, despite a weak country’s utter dependence on the smallest gestures of the world super powers. The futility of any action against these superpowers also implies that international politics matter to these countries only in so far as how the superpowers want to use and dispose of them in the long run.
The illusion of the success of first world East Asian countries
Here we turn to countries such as South Korea and Taiwan, specifically, which are considered to be the miracle children of a capitalist-industrialist system coupled with a strong control of education and healthcare by the government. Statistically, these things are undeniable, but when one takes a closer look at individuals within these societies, a very interesting picture starts to form. In general, we can say of these countries that they never lack in material means, and there is always a way, yet the individuals often appear miserable in one way or another.
Leaving Korea aside in the interest of specificity, we will now turn to Taiwan and make a couple of observations that more clearly illustrate the general point about the illusion of first world success. China’s non-negligible shortcomings should be obvious to most readers, but Taiwan is the often-forgotten golden boy.
Taiwan was neglected for centuries until along came Imperial Japan with the intention of making it a part of itself in spirit, education and infrastructure. After the end of WWII, Taiwan passed into an American-supported dictatorship that effectively turned the country into a factory while the last remnants of intellectual inquiry (which had, under the Japanese, seen the budding of a unique Taiwanese nationalist group of thinkers) and free thought were completely crushed and education was reoriented towards the mass production of obedient and useful workers.
In a few decades, Taiwan accumulated a great amount of wealth. In the course of three generations, it went from being a developing land of mainly farmers with a Japanese-educated central intelligentsia to a country of optimized factory workers with health insurance and secondary education guaranteed. Education is measured by standardized tests, rote memorization and stats thereof. Jobs are little more than that, while long working hours past ten daily hours are the norm, yet everyone knows most of that is wasted time.
Most people will acknowledge that most of what they learn in school and how they learn it is utterly useless; the popular opinion is also that seeing a doctor in itself is usually useless, but you get cheap medicine that comes with the consultation backed by national health insurance. In short, it is a huge circle jerk where everyone knows everyone else is a hack, but will not complain because they know that they themselves are a hack. Such is life in the degenerate first world.
You fill it up with important-sounding words, long pages of stats and numbers and congratulate society on how busy it is. Business is good because everyone is buying a plastic trinket, and in the case of most Taiwanese people, this is all there is to life: work and buying trinkets, until retirement, after which your progeny is in charge of buying you more trinkets. Even after death, the general superstition (it is not really even a religion) is that you keep “buying” things and sending them via burning to your dead parents, including fake money. The next life is simply more working to buy stuff. Such is the depth of a society that is materialistic through and through.
Even more alarming to someone who is aware and mindful of the care of body and mind, is that most people, even those clearly well off, seem to suffer from malnutrition and permanent exhaustion. This goes for children as well as for adults. Genetic and nutrition-based defects are the norm and one can see it in genetic bone discrepancies, widespread eyesight problems, extreme premature aging, the widespread visible physical incapacity in coordination and muscular atrophy in young adults as the preponderance among the population.
The government encourages this sickly, zombie-like attitude towards work because that is how a cheap mass-production factory best works: lots of mediocrity in rotation fast enough that low quality is negligible, and who cares about the price to be paid; that is how the wheels keep turning at the fastest pace. The government is afraid there will not be enough money to keep its status and affluence and it pressures big heads; these in turn are worried about their own status and self-importance and so they pressure bosses under them; these in turn have an obsession with being rich, the only meaning they find in life so they treat professional and supposedly accomplished subordinates like slaves; these in turn do the same to whoever is under them and treat their own families like one more assurance that they are doing well.
Ultimately, the pressure comes down on very young children who are made to fear a low number that condemns them to hell, threatened with physical and psychological torture if they but stray from the path of obedience and self-sacrifice for their parents. Their parents also slaved for their parents, and so on. All until a premature aging and the possible satisfaction of their descendants working to let them live their last days in relaxation.
A worthless first world
The first world has escaped the poverty of the third world, but rather than convert that method into a means of achieving something greater, it has remained in a small closed circuit loop where it fixates on the material factors that elevated it from third world status. If this is the price of monetary success in a country-turned-factory, is it really success?
The core of individual and nation is not what is, but where the future direction is found. The present is already the past. The future is what shapes both present and all times afterward. In the third world, there is the possibility of striving, but in the first world, there is a smug self-congratulation about what is and therefore, an absence of motivation toward the future.
For this reason, we might see the first world as in progress toward the third world, and the third world as in progress toward the first, so long as we regard first world and third world as states of being for civilization and not discrete physical places. As in all things, the rules of attraction apply, and so the first world desires the third and in doing so, suffocates its future with negativity.