“Third-world country” label

Let’s play a little game. I have two unnamed countries and one of them is often labeled “a third-world country”. Country A has almost 600,000 confirmed cases and more than 23,000 deaths from Covid-19 as of now, and charges its citizens a significant sum to have tests and treatments. Meanwhile, country B has less than 300 cases and, thankfully, zero fatalities so far, yet provides FREE Covid-19 tests and treatments. Which one is the 3rd-world country?

Another clue is that in country A, there was almost, on average, one mass shooting a day last year while, in country B, the number of deaths from guns is minimal. In country A, children have to practice drills for shootings while that concept is foreign to children and parents in country B.

In my examples above, country A is the US and Vietnam is the other one. Yes, I did cherry-pick some aspects to make a point, but that’s THE point. I often hear politicians and citizens in the US use “third-world countries” and call out names like my country’s to talk about major existing issues here, usually ending with: we are not a third-world country. Frankly speaking, Vietnam has an endless list of problems, but we are aware of that fact and we own them. On the other hand, in the US, some media outlets, some politicians and many folks still don’t acknowledge that there are serious flaws in the current systems. They still make claims such as this: we are still the greatest country on Earth. Well, on what grounds though? Each country can cherry-pick some metrics to make a claim for themselves and it will be perfectly legit.

By no means am I implying that the US is a 3rd-world country, in any shape or form. My first point is that the term carries a condescending tone towards other countries and shouldn’t be used, especially in the context of discussing your own (often neglected at worst and under-addressed at best) issues. The second point is that we all know without self-awareness of our own issues, we, as individuals, won’t make progress or self-improvement. Why would it be different for countries? Is it even remotely possible that problems that have existed in this country for decades still exist because of a belief that no matter what happens, the US is still the greatest on Earth?

There are a lot of great things around here. My admiration for the US, not as strong as it used to be, is still there. I appreciate what it has given me. As a result, I hope that things will change in a more positive way in the future, that there will be less denigrating attitude towards other less developed countries and that people here, in the words of Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones, “look the truth in the face”.

Chernobyl Miniseries – The lesson on failure to look the truth in the face

If you have some time to spare and an active HBO account, I’d recommend the miniseries Chernobyl, whose trailer is below

The series is based on a real historical event – a nuclear catastrophe some 30 years ago in Chernobyl, Ukraine, which at the time still belonged to the USSR. There have been 4 episodes released out of the possible 6 so far. Admittedly, it’s pretty heavy, gripping, astonishing and gut-wrenching. Deaths by radiation portrayed in the miniseries are very shocking and horrific. Nonetheless, it’s even less shocking than the efforts to sugarcoat and cover up the situation at the authority at the time. Had there been more courage to face the truth, there would have been fewer deaths, I believe, based on what I have seen so far in the series.

This Twitter user, who was born and raised in the Soviet Union at the time, can attest to the authenticity and attention to detail of the show

As I watch the series, I am drawn towards a belief that the more serious a situation is, perhaps the more we should tell the truth as soon as possible. Most likely, anyone of us has been there before – not courageous enough to face the truth once or twice. I have. With dire consequences. I wish I could have done differently in those situations and told it like it was, no matter what.

Just like Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones said, “look the truth in the face”.