First World vs. Third World Problems: Turn Out the Lights

It’s been a while since the last post on this subject, but here’s another write-up by one of the undergrads in the Politics of the Global Economy class on the internet meme “first world versus third world” problems.  This one covers issues regarding the lights going  off in both sets of countries.

The internet is a strange and daunting place, overrun with cats demanding bovine snacks, baby monkeys riding on pigs, and gifs of poor chaps maiming themselves in highly unfortunate manners. However, amidst all of this silliness, cute and hilarious as it may be, there are some rather thought provoking memes that occasionally rise up from hustle and bustle of the interwebs. First world problems highlight the disparity between the problems that developed societies experience, the more petty, the better. For a meme with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, memes of this variety can provide a sobering, but ironically humorous take on the daily qualms people complain about, especially when compared to a real third world problem, which is exactly what I intend to do.

See more at the Know Your Meme image gallery at

Laziness is a common theme on the internet. That lack of wanting to be a productive member of society is quite alluring at times. However, this particular meme highlights a specific issue, the reckless disregard of the conservation of energy resources and lack of concern for the privilege of having consistent lights in one’s abode, let alone one’s bedroom.

Perhaps this gentleman would prefer to live in Zambia, where, on occasions, the lights will turn themselves off. Africa’s developing power infrastructure is often rather sketchy, leading to abrupt blackouts on a regular basis. For Nigeria alone, the black outs cost 1 billion dollars per year. The one plus side to this would be that it would allow Mr. Lazyman to lie in bed all day long without getting up to turn off a light, if he so desired…. Assuming he doesn’t require air conditioning to continue his resting, though one might doubt that he would have the willpower to simply open a window.

That said, he would have the bonus of being able to put off any work that he might have to do that requires electricity until the power comes back on in the dead of the night, a rather annoying problem for the farmers of Zambia.  Many of these more rural focused individuals have to irrigate in the dark when the power returns, or risk losing their crops to the vicious African heat.

But, unfortunately for Mr. Lazyman, the United States has a reliable electrical infrastructure. It typically only goes down due to excessive storms, lawn mowing gone wrong, and oddly ambitious squirrels. The lack of infrastructure in some African countries, like Zambia, hinder their development, making urbanization, modernization, and industrial development rather difficult, especially when a few monkeys can knock out a large portion of a nation’s electricity. Sub-Saharan Africa’s infrastructure simply can’t handle the stress of “700 million citizens that have access to roughly as much electricity as do the 38 million citizens of Poland.”

In a world of light, Sub-Saharan Africa remains largely in the dark. Image from

Of course, depending on the frail infrastructure to turn off the lights for him might be too unpredictable for Mr. Lazyman. If he wanted absolute dark nap security, he could always join the (approximately) one billion people that do not have to worry about light switches; in fact, they don’t have to worry about electrical light at all. Of course, this would mean that he would have to get out of bed to use the coal necessary to heat his abode, leading to the risk of him joining the “indoor pollution that contributes to more than 3.5 million deaths per year.” Poor fellow can’t win for losing.



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