The third world in the first world

Peace is not just the absence of war. It is also the eradication of poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, class distinctions, fundamentalism, and other factors that promote degradation and conditions that prevent human beings from achieving their greatest potential.

The Third World has always been present in the First World. The First World was from the beginning developed on the back of slaves; the First World controlled labor. But today in the United States we see a realignment of the Third World in the First World: A lingering apartheid is more responsible for the growing underclass than any other factor. It began as far back as the segregation of Native Americans on reservations after the dregs of British society waged the so‐called Revolutionary War.

Let us examine how we divide up the world. Anthropologists and sociologists suggest that the First World is the developed world, basically the one that controls capital development. The Second World had the education and other potential for development but lacked the First World’s capacity to develop: It did not have access to hard currency or the same capacity to produce modern machinery and high technology. With the demise of the Eastern bloc, perhaps the Second World no longer exists. These nations are trying to enter the First World but in so doing have become victims of capitalism, and poverty is running rampant.

The Third World has been described as the underdeveloped or developing countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, especially those not allied with the communist or anticommunist blocs. In September 1979, I attended the nonaligned conference in Havana, Cuba, and in so doing became the first elected North American official to attend such a conference. What intrigued me about that meeting was listening to representatives from the Third World say that they could not expand their economies and promote development because the World Bank and other sources of international capital were not available to them unless they developed goods for export, a practice that was often detrimental to the people in their countries. For example, the cash crops they were asked to grow would be sent abroad while the people went hungry, and the attendant growing patterns usually caused soil erosion, which in turn led to devastating droughts.

Listening to these discussions I began to think about the conditions in U.S. inner cities. One comparison after another illustrated to me that our inner cities, predominantly populated by people of color, suffer the same conditions as the so‐called Third World. The parallels are even more apparent now with the steady decline in these areas over the last decade—a decline that has resulted from failed government policies, from redlining by banks and other financial institutions, and from the absence of meaningful analysis of the situation by academic institutions.

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