‘First world problems.’ It’s a phrase I see quite a lot on my newsfeeds. Used self-deprecatingly to mean, ‘This shouldn’t really get to me but I need to moan about it,’ or to joke about someone overheard in the supermarket:
‘Waitrose had run out of own-brand humus. I don’t know what I’m going to do for lunch now. #firstworldproblems’
‘My car’s broken down. I had to walk the kids to school without any mascara on. #firstworldproblems’
I even came across a blog post the other day about the ‘dilemma’ of ‘choosing the right sunglasses for your face shape. I mean, wtf, really?
And now this. More than twenty people dead, many of them children. Nearly sixty people injured. Young people still missing. Families torn apart. Parents grieving. Siblings who will never grow up together. Puts it in perspective, doesn’t it?
How can I go on, complaining about the antisocial parking outside my house, when somebody lost a child last night?
How can I go on, making a fuss about the lack of accessible toilets, when somebody lost a child last night?
How can I go on, protesting about having to accompany Benjamin to nursery, when somebody lost a child last night?
How can I go on, trying to take a stand on climate change, when somebody lost a child last night?
How can I go on, fighting discrimination against disabled people before and after birth, when somebody lost a child last night?
Because if I don’t go on, terror has won. If we don’t stand up for fairness, thoughtfulness and compassion even in the small things, this is where it ends. Whether it’s the man giving a stranger a hug or a lift home from the Manchester Arena, or one mum giving another the twenty pence she needs for the coffee machine outside ICU. Whether it’s fighting for a little bit more understanding among my neighbours, or for the rights and dignities of people I’ll never meet. Whether it’s casting a can of beans into a food bank, or casting a vote on June 8th. I may have a small voice, but I won’t be silenced, against those who would have us all clawing our way to the top and crushing those who fall beneath. Or those who would have us give up, close our doors, and at the same time close our hearts.
Yes, in the context of last night’s events, changing places toilets and preschool SEND provision are rightly viewed as first world problems. But in the context of last night’s events, life can be short and every problem is worth solving, to make every life as good as it could be. Okay maybe not the humus…
… in fact, maybe even the humus. If you have a little boy with ASD who is only able to eat something exactly that shade of beige and that particular style of mushiness. Maybe even the humus, if you’re an anorexic teenager who has pushed and pushed and pushed herself to go buy a snack that is healthy and contains some calories and then is completely floored to find it not there and ends up going home and eating nothing because anything else just hurts too much. I’ve been there. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Let’s keep fighting, together, without judgement and with compassion.