Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Drop it

There it is again, in today's Dominion Post—yet another
egregious reference to the 'Third World,' the patronizing
phrase that, as I have said before, ought to be banned
from civilized exchange. In this case, the DomPost was
quoting rail commuters infuriated at frequent delays,
'some labelling the region's passenger train services
Third World.' A few days ago I said that use of the term
perpetuates hegemonic European assumptions about the
way the world is or should be, as well as discriminatory
concepts of social class. Seeing it quoted here, however,
I see even more directly how it insults the majority of the
world's population—those economically worse off than we
in the lucky countries. Anyone with the faintest familiarity
with public transport in countries lazily designated 'Third
World' will know that, whatever the sufferings of
Wellington commuters, they don't begin to resemble what
people in, say, Bangladesh or Chad put up with. Let's stop
pretending that somehow we in the West have it really
hard, as hard as anyone else on the globe, and let's stop
and think before we parrot phrases like 'Third World.'
No one would dare say 'nigger' now, so how come we license
ourselves to keep using a term almost as offensive?

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