The Third World Fallacy: What It Really Means to Be From a Third World Country

13/03/2014 10:21 GMT | Updated 13/05/2014 10:59 BST

If you're expecting me to paint a picture of the struggles of those from developing countries to reinforce the first thought of an Aid commercial showing a young child that came to mind when you read the words 'Third World', then I am sorry to disappoint you.

Let's get the bottom of the definition first. The term Third World has in recent history been given connotations that reflect the mentioned country's economic development and political development. However, this was not always the case. The Western Three World Theory (as opposed to the Far Eastern/Marxist Three World Theory) categorised the US, the UK, and their Allies as the First World. Russia, China and their Allies were categorised as the Second World, and any country that was not allied with these superpowers was the Third World. It was a way to quickly identify allegiances during the Cold War, and since its end, is no longer in use. The actual meaning of 'First World', 'Second World', and 'Third World' has since been distorted from its roots in political ideology, to now representing a country's economic definition.

This is the stereotype that has been sold to the world. The term 'Second World' is not used any longer and so we are left with the First World and Third World. The world has also been divided up into the 'Global North' and the 'Global South', developed and developing countries, NATO and the Communist Bloc, democratic nations and autocratic dictatorships. Are you noticing the pattern yet? Ultimately, these terminologies demonstrate how the views of the Western world are being imposed on to the rest of us. A classic example of the 'us versus them' theory in action.

So, in this context, what does it really mean to be from a Third World country? It means that the majority of your country's youth and diaspora members has been conditioned to see the West and their version of 'intervention' and 'building democratic institutions' as morally correct and justified. That working for an NGO or charitable organisation is the only way they can connect with their home country. That their people need to be saved and that only those from Western countries, such as themselves, can truly make an impact and save their people.

Coming from a Third World country means that your country has most likely been colonised, either physically or economically, and have been receiving Western aid for the 50 years since you were 'given' independence. It also means that you are dependent on the 'international community' (synonym for the West) for military, economic, and development support to make your country more 'democratic'.

Perceptions equate to power. A quick glance at the 'True Size of Africa' map will make you reconsider the image you have been sold. If you are a fan of 'The West Wing' TV-series, you will remember the quote "in our society, we unconsciously equate size with importance, and even power" during the episode where they try to change the map because it is wrong. For too long, we have accepted the Mercator map of the globe that puts the Western countries on top as the most accurate depiction of our globe. However, earlier maps created by the Arabs placed Western countries at the bottom. The Mercator maps also depict Western countries to be shown as bigger in size. But why have they been distorted? Is it to reflect their self-importance, or perhaps convince you that your country is smaller than it actually is? Or is it just a subconscious reminder to ensure you never forget who is really in charge?

This is because the African proverb is true:

'Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter'

But coming from a Third World country also means that you have a chance to tell your own story, to change the narrative that is being subliminally forced down your throat, and to write your own history. If we change the way we talk about ourselves, perhaps by changing the negative connotations associated with Third World, or choosing our own words to define ourselves, then others are forced to change the way they talk when they mention us. To be from a Third World country means that you have a responsibility to your children to ensure that they understand that they can write their own stories. And that we will celebrate those stories they write until their stories become the norm.

But until then, we have to first write our own history that we can read to them as bedtime stories, of heroes who changed the world, created a better and more equal world, one word at a time.