Another first world problem


Like many other people, I frequently find myself hugely conflicted: between the everyday going-ons of middle-class Australian life, and the deep pain and suffering experienced by so many around the world, but particularly at the moment, those refugees fleeing parts of the middle east. This is most apparent in my Facebook newsfeed, which is scattered with healthy recipes, Buzzfeed quizzes and updates from my friends’ lives – all vertically juxtaposed against images and stories of drowned children and families. Very few people who saw it were not affected by the devastating photo of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi, who drowned with his 5 year old brother, Galip, and their mother. As a mother of little boys, and just as a human being – I cried a lot.

I struggle with this conflict even in relation to this blog. I really enjoy creating, and cooking, and blogging. It’s a fun, enjoyable part of my life. I think there is value in it, sometimes. But at other times, it also seems frivolous. Frivolity is a lucky luxury not afforded to everyone. We often joke about #firstworldproblems, which are real in their own way, but which also serve to remind us how good we have it, on the whole (and not wanting to undermine the very real issues and struggles that all people experience throughout life). Although I am very frustrated by the current policy directions of Australia – mainly because they seem to be furthering the divide between the haves and the have-nots, both within Australia and internationally – I am also very lucky to live here (which is why I would like to offer that opportunity to others). And I do mean luck, specifically – whether it was that we were lucky enough to be born here, or lucky enough to have the means (privilege) to move here, I do believe it is luck that finds us here. Not superiority. It’s also within our power to extend our safety to those who are not so lucky.

I’m also aware that my personal ‘conflict’ is itself, a first world problem. I get to have the luxury of feeling ‘conflicted’ about my comfortable lifestyle, and then I get to write about it on my blog, while others experience daily trauma and threats to their lives and well-being. It feels a bit self-indulgent. On the other hand, I suppose it serves a purpose: better to be aware and be uncomfortable, than to bury my head in the comfortable sand.

But what on earth do we do about it? The sense of frustration at feeling helpless is part of the conflict. I also don’t think it’s about feeling guilty for having fun and being frivolous. But as a society and as individuals, I believe a deep questioning is required: of what we value, and why, and at what expense, even though this is confronting. Taking into consideration as well, that we each have our own ‘line’, and avoiding judgement of each other is important. We are all hypocrites in one way or another, and compassion fatigue is real. But empathy for each other’s unique and personal journey is critical to moving forward in a positive way.

Yes, we can write to our local members, although this usually makes me feel more frustrated, when I receive their non-replies. We can sign petitions and attend rallies – an easy way to show strength in numbers. We can donate to or volunteer with organisations that support refugees and asylum seekers – or any organisation supporting any cause we care about, really. We can look to the areas in our personal lives where we can make change. And we can be loud about the things we care about on social media. Although it might feel like a futile action, social media ‘activism’ can have a butterfly effect. This article talks about the potential impact of the profile picture campaign on same-sex marriage: although it is unlikely to directly lead to policy change, campaigns such as these are effective in showing personal networks where we stand on particular issues and causes. Through social media, we learn how our peers are behaving, and that can have a strong influence on how we behave, too.

I considered not writing this post, because others have written about this far more eloquently and knowledgeably than I am. In doing so I hope just to add to the outcry of voices seeking change, and to encourage others to add theirs.


  1. Colleen B says:

    I really hear you. I struggle with these same feelings and frustrations and I also am not sure where to take these feelings, what to do about it. I know especially in light of the refugee crisis or reading about all the starving children in the world or human trafficking, I sometimes feel even a bit disgusted at myself for my in comparison, very petty concerns. It’s hard because we are very blessed, we are very lucky and very safe for the most part. The trick I guess is to even in the midst of knowing how good we have it, strive to not become indifferent or complacent in the face of suffering. The fact the you cried at the picture of that small drowned boy matters. It really does matter. Even if we can’t always actively do something tangible, we can try to never stop genuinely caring. I know it doesn’t seem enough but it’s something.

    • Erin says:

      Hi Colleen,

      Thank-you for taking the time to provide your considered thoughts. That’s a really good point about striving to not become indifferent or complacent… It is easy to ‘forget’ once the news passes and we move on with our daily lives. On the other hand, we don’t want to feel so guilty that we become depressed or experience anxiety about it – something I have struggled with. I think your point on genuinely caring is the key – to enabling us to live our lives, but also to contribute to the wellbeing of others where we can, and to support social change more broadly. xx

  2. ladyredspecs says:

    Hi Erin, I look forward to meeting you at EYB. Great post, very eloquently written. Maintain your rage, complacency is a far worse state of being! This country is built on the sweat of people seeking refuge, and long may that continue….

    • Erin says:

      Thank-you, I appreciate that and agree! It’s always reassuring to meet like-minded people. 🙂 Look forward to meeting you next weekend!

  3. Hi Erin! I agree with you. I am haunted by the images of the tragedy you mentioned. I sat at my desk at work and cried. It didn’t change anything, but certainly made me want to lend my voice in some fashion to the situation. We have a volatile political/social situation brewing in Europe right now. Extremely volatile. I know that moving back to Aus wont spare us from “the ugliness” (as it’s the same ugliness you see over there) or solve anything, but rather we need to stand where we are as long as we are here… and be strong for those who aren’t and can’t be.

    • Erin says:

      Wasn’t it just awful – I can imagine over there it feels even more ‘close to home’. I think we still have our own ugliness here in Australia too – by nature of our politicians turning back asylum seekers to die at sea or in other countries, and in locking them up in detention centres to be abused and traumatised. It’s very difficult as one person, ‘without power’ to make a difference in these areas… But I guess we all need to add our voices and whatever we can offer. Thanks for such a considered comment, Marisa. xx

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