“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”.