All posts filed under: Tangents USA

Still Image from They Live, dir. John Carpenter (Universal, 1988),

In the Weeks That Follow: Media Literacy and the Identity Politics of Terror

This post was originally published on Tangents USA. You can find it here.  The Need for Media Literacy To contextualize my thoughts on the way we form our perceptions of humanity at large, I have a confession to make. I tend to watch the people through the windows of the apartments across from mine. I know that’s pretty much the definition of voyeurism, but hear me out. I do it because their mundaneness is comforting. It reminds me that what I’m seeing is a far more accurate depiction of the daily goings-on of the people in my own world and beyond. It is a relief to know that the guy cooking a quick dinner and the couple watching television are perhaps more common occurrences than the overwhelming amount of horrific events that my TV, computer, radio, and social media accounts report as the norm. It causes me to wonder whether our worldviews and the ways that we shape our understandings of humanity have become increasingly informed by the media rather than by the daily goings-on …

Cover Photo: The now-iconic photo accompanying so many “First World Problem” memes. Sources:,

What’s the Real Problem with “First World Problems”?

This post was originally published on Tangents USA. You can find it here.  According to, “first world problems” are defined as “[p]roblems from living in a wealthy, industrialized nation that third worlders would probably roll their eyes at.” There is even an entire website dedicated to highlighting the petty complaints and struggles faced by people in the first world. The people I hear using this phrase are usually relatively socially conscious. I think the intentions behind this term are probably genuine and rooted in the desire to check their privilege. Still, this term is half-baked in its intentions, and I think we can do better in this realm of social consciousness. We need to examine the rhetoric involved in conversations surrounding privilege, the distribution of wealth, industrialized societies, and the global South. Specifically, I want to take this opportunity to consider the sorts of things that the phrase “first world problems” implies. As feminist and writer Laurie Penny recently wrote in her article, “Gender Neutral Language is Coming Here’s Why It Matters,” the terminology we use has …

Spokeswoman from a well-intentioned UNICEF commercial. Source:

Altruism in the Midst of a Global Epidemic of Economic Exploitation

This post was originally published on Tangents USA. You can find it here.  Remember those commercials that used to be on TV in the 90s which played depressing montages of languid sub-Saharan African children with swollen bellies? Then some white lady would come on the screen and promise that for only fifty cents a day you could help solve poverty? Chances are you probably never signed up to save one of these sorrowful African children from hunger. Why is it that? Under the assumption that you’re still a decent human being that possesses some level of altruism, you were probably experiencing a combination things. Maybe you were too absorbed in your own daily problems to research the root causes of prevailing social issues and consciously act. Perhaps your budget was restricted. Possibly it was that commercials like these failed to fit within the bounds of our human capacity to feel empathy, as these distant faces appeared for fleeting seconds on TV screens. There are, no doubt, numerous factors that kept you from picking up your phone and calling the 1-800 number on behalf of someone thousands of miles away. …