The phrase “third world” is one of those terms that will probably fall out of usage over the next decade. The Cloud People never use it these days as it is dangerously problematic for them. It is one of those terms that is now freighted with a lot of bad thoughts and bad memories. That and the term made the most sense in the Cold War days when the civilized world and the fringes were divided between the Americans and the Soviets. Most people under 40 have no idea what the “second world” even was so having a third world today probably seems like nonsense to them.
The term was coined by a guy named Alfred Sauvy, a French demographer. He wrote an article comparing the countries no one cared much about, with the Third Estate. It was an idiotic and ridiculous comparison, but it stuck and was eventually embraced by banana republics and African potentates. It got picked up by American radicals as a cause and the term became associated with the ass-backward crap-holes almost always south of the equator. That bit of noticing is what’s now very dangerous.
The term still means something to geezers like myself and whenever I have a reason to experience the third world, I call it the third world. The thing that distinguished these societies from the advanced societies is the disorganization. Pretty much everything is a disorganized mess, especially the traffic. P.J. O’Rourke once observed that the degree of chaos in a country’s traffic correlates to the general chaos and lawlessness of its society. I no longer recall why he said it, but it has always stuck with me.
The reason, of course, is trust. Large scale social organization requires a relatively high degree of social trust. If you want to build a building, for example, you have to trust that the people in charge are not going to change the laws halfway through your project so that you capital has been wasted. You have to trust that the laws will remain pretty much the same, with regards to property and contracts. Otherwise, you are leaving your investment to chance. Contract law and private property are rooted in social trust.
Driving is one of those large scale things Westerners take for granted, but the whole enterprise relies on social trust. As a driver, you rely on the other drivers to operate their vehicle by the conventions of your culture. You assume the other drivers are going to act in a predictable manner. In low-trust societies, it is every man for himself on the roads, because no one assumes anything about anyone, other than they are out for themselves. The result is YouTube videos dedicated to insane drivers.
Anyway, I get through the airport and make it out to where I can catch a cab. The driver has one of those great Caribbean names, Vladimir Sanchez. For some crazy reason, a lot of Caribbean mothers named their kids after Tolstoy characters. There are a lot of Puerto Rican girls with German first names like “Heidi” for some reason. I once knew a Puerto Rican girl named Olga. Vlad was chatty, but I barely understood him as Caribbean Spanish is loaded with slang. But, he was cheery and helpful.
He also drove like a maniac and came close to slamming into a few cars on my short trip from the airport to the swank Miami hotel. That’s when it occurred to me, as my life flashed before me, that we will need a new term for the world that is about to be forced upon us. Calling some country south of the equator “third world” is not going to make much sense when most of American is operating much the same way. Instead, we will have terms for the “other place” and the “other people.” We’ll need a name for those not like us, but allegedly still “us” according to our masters.
For example. A Cloud Person heading to Miami for a meeting with other Cloud People will talk about being amongst the other people. Maybe Miami will just be one of the many “other places” that exist outside the fortified Cloud cities of Washington and Manhattan. Similarly, the Dirt People will talk about those almost ethereal people, who are mostly seen on their TV’s, but once in while are seen touring the favelas of America. Persians have a word, “biganeh” that literally means an unknown person or person of alien origins. We will all be biganeh to one another.
This may seem bleak, but the future always does. It is the way things are headed as the people in charge tear apart what took centuries and millions of dead to construct. When you come into a place like Miami, you see see why the Cloud People want this for everyone. They see the polyglot beef stew culture around their swank hotel and think that it is the glorious egalitarian future foretold in the prophesies. They never see Liberty City or Miami Gardens. They have no reason to care as that is an “other” problem to be managed by other people.