Who’s the Third?
I live in Madagascar, a beautiful, exotic, and unique place to call home, but also of the poorest nations in the world. Some might say I live in a Third World country. Why is Madagascar, and most other parts of Africa, South & Central America, and other poverty stricken places labeled the Third World? Maybe because most of the population of Madagascar lives on less than a couple bucks a day, or that even a college professor on average only makes a couple hundred bucks a month, or is it that the roads are dreadfully maintained, or maybe it’s just because Madagascar is part of the Global South, another label for countries down here. The Third World, it has a negative feel to it, especially now that I have lived in a country labeled as such for going on three years now, and the One-Third feeling can dig deep. So why is Madagascar labeled the Third World?
It has nothing to do with money, the economy, jobs, or where we are positioned in the world. Intrigued? It was when I did a little research to dig deeper into a its meaning, that I uncovered some compelling information about our label. It has everything to do with the Cold War, yep, you heard me right. So economics aside with this label, it has everything to do with politics. The First World name was given to those that allied with NATO back in the Cold War days. Communist counties like the then Soviet Union, China, and Cuba were given the Second World label, and that left the rest of us, Madagascar included. It was the rest of the world, the independent ones that were not associated with the Cold War, that got labeled the Third World. With that, the title stuck, but let’s face it, that time has come and gone, which has given the 1/3 World a different feeling as we have grown further from the collapsing of the Iron Curtain in 1991. 1/3 seems left over, less than, and not as important. But here’s the kicker for me, Madagascar is not part of the 1/3, it is the majority.
Along with most of mainland Africa, Southern & Central America, parts of Southern Asia, and other extremely poor countries where people live on less than a couple of bucks a day, where a professor only makes a couple hundred in a month, or where the majority of people are farmers, and live a life off the grid, is where most of the world’s population call home. This is the Majority World. Where I might never see the new iPhone 6, a discount big box store like Target or Wal-Mart, where you can’t get a pumpkin latte at Starbucks (but it is Springtime here so pumpkin just wouldn’t taste right anyway), or where many things someone from the States and Europe would call the norm, just might not be found.
These terms, Majority and Minority, invite us to reflect on the global inequalities and unequal power relations between the two world areas. Giving thought that there is a majority and minority on a worldwide perspective, I like to think gives reverence to how one understands the world in its entirety, not just as the USA, or Europe, or Africa, or North/South, and of course First, Second, or Third. Appreciating that there is a majority that does not live, maybe as one does from North America, can open ones heart, eyes, and understanding of our neighbors throughout the globe. Don’t get me wrong, Christ himself drank the best wine, hung out with the rich and famous, but He also walked with the poor, understood diversity, and what it means to be an outcast within the majority. But our God that walked among us, loved all, sent us the Spirit to remind us that we are all woven together as one. So let’s ditch the Third World label, and stand with the Majority.