First World Problems, Third World Mentality, by Dr. Yaw Berko

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I usually buy gas at Costco, and have established some rapport with most of the attendants at the gas pumps.

There is this elderly gentleman I always chat with! He is retired and does this not for the money, but to while away the time!

Last week as I was filling my gas tank, he came by very moody more like down! He told me about his cat which had died and wasn’t over it’s passing yet!

The cat had suddenly been taken ill and at the vet, the cat was admitted to the ICU! In my shithole mind, my eyes starting rolling backward! At some point, it was determined that the cat needed a neuroradiologist and had to be transferred to Madison! However, the cat’s condition was so critical that it could not go to Madison by regular ambulance so an air ambulance had to be summoned. At this time with my ass freezing in the cold, my shithole brain wanted to blurt it out “it’s a fucking cat for Christ sake, get a new one” but I did not say so! By the time the air ambulance had arrived in Appleton the cat had passed on! I expressed my condolences and wished all the best! I also prayed he got another cat that he could cherish and love like the one he just lost!

And all the while I kept thinking, there are a number of refugees who have walked over 2000 miles to the border seeking peace and relief, and can’t even be attended to and yet an air ambulance was able to come to the aid of a dying cat!

Pet Ambulance.jpg
A dog being ushered to a Critical Care Unit in Des Moines, Iowa

We both saw things differently from our perspective, by our upbringing and culture and there is nothing wrong with each perspective. I believe however that the world has enough resources to allow for an air ambulance for a dying cat and aid poor people fleeing from danger seeking refuge for a better future. The two need not and should not be mutually exclusive!

Americans have a first world problem. Sometimes that first world problem takes away the human side of us. Everything we own we got it by ourselves and so need not look out for the other! It reminds of “Jimmy built this.” Greed and lasciviousness and envy is overtaking the human side of us. Last weekend one or two women lost their wigs in a scramble for TVs or makeup on a crazy day called “Black Friday.” Many people were trampled upon in this madness, the crazy dash mostly about things we don’t need but want because it’s on sale!

One first world problem that keeps me laughing this time of the year is season greetings! There is a “fictional” war on Christmas so those who wish others “happy holidays” are perceived to be Antichrist! Where I come from we used “happy holidays” and “Merry Christmas” interchangeably with no malice or ill will towards anyone! After all, it is the intent that matters not just the words! The dismay about “happy holidays” is such a paradox in a society where “fuck” and “shit” are used as terms of endearment! As in “this shit is goooooood” or “the tiramisu was so fucking good.”

So whichever side you find yourself, First World problems or Third World mentality, one thing is for sure! It always pays to see things from the perspective of others! That is the only way to build tolerance!

This ”Xmas” sorry ”holidays”, my apologies Christmas I wish all humanity good health and happiness!


Dr. Yaw Berko is an internal medicine physician who practices in near Green Bay, Wisconsin

Feature photo courtesy of John Moore/Getty Images


A physician providing primary medical care to patients across the lifespan

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