First World Privilege and Its First World Problems

Recently, the Twittersphere exploded when it was discovered that a treasured Zimbabwean lion, Cecil, was murdered by an American dentist on an exotic trophy-hunting trip. Everyone from high fashion models to Jimmy Kimmel to normal people had something to say about this, and it showed. Within the hour, Yelp and Google Reviews had thousands of angry critics, lashing out against the dentist’s practice. Reviews ranging from satirical five star reviews to one star rants leached all positivity from the practice. Yelp was even working around the clock to delete what it thought was illegitimate feedback from the bloodthirsty public, which demanded that the perpetrators own up to the homicide of a lion.

However, what shocked me the most was not the response or even the atrocity of the deed, but more the twisted thinking that this man had in the partaking of this lion’s death. This was a man who paid over 50,000 USD to two local hunters to lure a poor lion out of its protected habitat, kill it, and take its head as a trophy. This was a man who, during the controversy, sent out a statement saying that he had no idea the cat was famous, nor did he know it was protected and part of a research study by Oxford University. This was a man who, amidst bubbling controversy, tried to protect his own butt while hiding underground. Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby introduce you to a prime example of what I hereby name ‘First World privilege.’

Now, before we define what First World Privilege is, we have to know what to think of privilege in general. Privilege is something that is difficult to debate because we mostly agree that privilege is generally good, and that it is earned. People who have the luxury of privilege are assiduous, loyal, and dedicated people, and are the ones we have no problem lending money to, or letting borrow a knickknack or two. Unfortunately, that idea has been eroding, as privilege has been compartmentalized to include unearned privilege such as white privilege, male privilege, female privilege… the list goes on, but perhaps the most unearned is ‘First World privilege,’ something that is taken for granted on the daily.

First World Privilege is my unofficial name for the sense of entitlement, ignorance, and individualism that we all have as fortunate people living in a well developed society. This privilege credits our ever-present bubble of security, and lets us do what we want with no thought about the potential consequences to others. It makes us believe that the world is a mirror, reflecting only one side, and it makes us forget that instead of looking at a mirror, it is much more like looking at a stagnant pond of water. Whatever we do not only affects us and the people surrounding us, but also has a ripple effect upon us all.

One example of this privilege is manifested in the very clothing that we wear. We all check the tags on our clothing once in a while, and for sure, many of us have glanced at the tiny print that says, ‘Made in Bangladesh,’ or ‘Made in China.’ Due to recent media coverage about sweatshops and indentured servitude, we are all aware of the dangerous and unsafe conditions in which our clothing is made, and yet, H&M and Zara’s shares are still on the rise and their monopoly on cheap clothing just keeps growing. We don’t curb our materialism even when we know its dark secrets, and that is a prime example of First World Privilege. We choose to ignore it and push it aside because it does not harm us in the short term. We choose to close our eyes and revel at the prices instead of seeking the true value. This is an accepted pattern, resulting from our privilege as people living in developed nations of the world.

This is a recurring theme, found everywhere from the foods we choose to eat to the entertainment we choose to watch. What we know is bad, such as McDonald’s and The Kardashians, becomes something that is too far away for us to impact, something that is not our problem. We’d much rather push it to our superior, to the next level of management, just to have the next tier push it away. Thus, our problem remains no closer to a solution, constantly being pushed to someone else without any real progress being made.

This game of hot potato is not only devoid of facts, but makes a choice that has multiple layers of risk seem straightforward. It makes consequences that were unforeseen during the decision process glaringly obvious when we stand upon our wreckage that the result brought to us, which is definitely what Dr. Walter Palmer, the dentist that killed Cecil, is doing, now and throughout the rest of his life.

– Written by Maggie Che (school representatives team member)