Over the past century or so it became common practice to lump nations into groups depending solely on their relative prosperity and material development. Thus, the wealthiest (the “developed”) nations are grouped into the so-called “1st World”. These are mostly nations in the northern hemisphere but some southern nations such as Australia and New Zealand are included in this list. All of these nations also happen to be populated or administered by Caucasians. Japan, S. Korea and Singapore are notable exceptions. The “2nd World” nations are the ones from the former Soviet Union; their development and material wealth were intermediate in degree. Then come the vast majority of human population; the “3rd World” nations. These encompass Asia, Africa and South and Central America. They also happen to harbor the yellow, brown and black races.

Note that this artificial division of nations into blocks does not take into consideration the populations’ contributions to civilization in matters other than material wealth, over the millennia or their spiritual, religious, philosophical and cultural achievements. Also not considered is the fact that some of these ‘third world nations’ belonged to the ‘first world’ order during some part of their history. Good examples of these are Egypt, China, India, Persia, Iraq, Mexico and Peru. While most countries enjoy “golden ages” during which they were decidedly at the top of the pile, some enjoyed being at the helm for literally millennia! The definitive example of the latter is Egypt, which was perhaps the alpha nation for over 2000 years. India is a classic example of where, during its very long history it enjoyed periods of affluence when it was the richest nation on earth. However, over the long course of history, through its philosophical and theological contributions and expertise in mathematics as well as its export of culture, for well over 2 ½ millennia, India had been the most influential of all nations, even when its wealth and prosperity waned. Its influence would only wane as a result of the onslaught of colonialism, with the attendant transfer of wealth to the colonizing nations. Likewise, Persia and China each had a very long history, peppered with periods of prosperity and flourishing of art and literature. In many instances, it was the Persian and Indian ideas that so influenced and shaped the Greek thought that it is hard to imagine western civilizations achieving the heights of development without such exported ideas.

The Soviet Union is no more; the nations that formed that loose political group have all but embraced the free market system. They are technically non-existent on a “second-world” order any more. They are also not much more advanced than some of the countries that are still lumped into the “third world” order. Some good examples of such nations are Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey and several Middle Eastern countries. And, both China and India are poised to rise again, as behemoths. They will soon contribute 40% of world GDP (as they traditionally had done in the past). Clearly, the world order is about to crumble. What then of the arrogant division of nations into tiers? Clearly some of the 1st world nations will slip and fall. What of them?

Division of nations into 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th world was never necessary. It was only done to broadcast a certain superiority of the Western nations. It was degrading to those who were lumped into the lower strata. There was always only one world, and any change in circumstances is very transitory. In the context of history of nations and civilizations, these stages are but a twinkle. Therefore, it was sheer ignorance that prompted the use of such degrading terms. It should never have been used and should never again be used in the future. Nations can be divided according to geographical, cultural, ethnic or political groups; never according to their wealth. Otherwise, one will be forced to write and re-write the list of nations rather frequently. The sun has set with Britannia; some other wealthy nations will follow in due course. With their decline, the racial superiority the division of the world into groups based on prosperity was intended to cultivate will die as well!