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Once again, I was led into an interesting discussion with my youngest son and breakfast companion of a thousand years. It first started with an innocent reaction to what he had read on the web; pertaining to terms like First World, Second World and Third World. Initially, my son had at first wondered out loud what countries comprised each and with that, we started as though an imaginary globe and compass was front of us, hologram-like, as they did in Star Wars movies. Then talk about ‘start the ball rollin’, little did we know, like a runaway globe, seriousness turned to tongue-in-cheek comments and as we ended, everything just had rolled off the table completely. Figuratively of course.

The observation centered on why people still loved to call our country Third World. Why is that, he asked. I know we have been called many names, i.e., developing country, banana republic, etc., but third world? Is there also a fourth or a fifth world? Or is there a priority number or something we weren’t told about? How about a senior lane somewhere then? We eventually moved on to Russia and its former satellites as being referred to as belonging to the 2nd world category. This just led to a more intense discussion which involved for one thing, some Russian satellites as relatively poorer than the Philippines. So, just because they’re Russians and whites, are they’re ranked higher than us now? We dwelt a bit on racial implications for a while but thought better of it. It was cut short and over-ridden when we gravitated to that 64-dollar question: Who in hell was making all these categories and why are we so beholden to their pronouncement? Then, are these innocently-conceived economics terminologies or purposely-crafted first world points of view? Seems to me an apt analogy would be when city folks call someone from the provinces as “probinsyano”, a derogatory slang for the ever backward homie. Truth be told, how can America be even considered first world, when it is now trillions in debt and deficit spending and owes China and the Arabs an arm and a leg?

The bottom line, I said, was that it all boils down to perspective of the person looking. For as long as I can remember, Americans have been referring to Asia as the Far East. We’ve read so much about this reference, starting from our days primary school. As such, textbooks and generations of Filipinos have been used to referring to our country as being in the Far East. You know, that exotic land in the orient. This means we are actually mouthing what they think, them standing in their homeland pointing at us and saying we’re from the far east. How about our perspectives? From where I stand, I know my far east is California. My west would be Europe. If we follow that silly American idiom for things not going according to plan as going “south”, then for me, I’m going to Australia! If they call Oz the land “down under”, what’s stopping us from calling Sweden as the land up above?


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