Walking toward the counter of the hardware store yesterday with my purchase in hand, a guy who works there paused and said to me, “I HATE working on toilets!”. It was a relevant comment, as I had a toilet repair kit in my hand. I couldn’t help but agree with him, especially in light of the fact that the one I had to repair was brand new in 2007. The sturdy white part was made in Mexico, but the broken bits inside were, you guessed it, from China. The shitty part, if you’ll pardon the pun, is that if it weren’t made as absolutely cheaply as possible, the failure was one that in days past wouldn’t have required any new parts at all. In those days, and in the replacement, the flapper of the flush valve was/is actuated with a chain — if it broke, there was usually enough extra chain hanging around there under the lid to make the repair. But not on this cheesy Chinesey piece of crap, oh, no. It was a strand of plastic, integrally molded to the flapper. Probably saved a nickel in manufacturing cost, at the expense of making it irreparable and so destined many years too soon for the landfill. But that’s good for the cheesy Chinesey factories who make the cheesy Chinesey shit, because they get to sell that many more irreparable products — crapitalism at work!
That was my household repair for today, and now the Hall Of Congress works as it should and without leaking.
That’d be “a first world problem”, wouldn’t it? I remember the first time I ever heard that term, and thinking, “And what other kinds of problems would I be having in this environment?”. Having observed the rise in popularity of the term I think I understand it a bit better now: I complain about fixing my toilet and someone says, “That’s a first world problem”. In that context, it means shut the fuck up. If someone else complains about something and follows it up with a remark that it’s a first world problem, then it’s most often an excuse for ostentatious vanity, but sometimes an expression of something akin to what was once known as White Man’s Guilt. On the other hand, if someone speaks of a problem he’s having, and a commentator remarks to others that it’s a first world problem, it means essentially both things: The first speaker should shut the fuck up, and all present should think poorly of that speaker, and by extension grant the commentator somewhat less low moral ground owing to his or her feigned cultural enlightenment. The commentator is, after all, at least enlightened enough to employ a recently overused phrase.