I was channel-surfing just now and reached some documentary on the ABC about Bhutan, and the first sentence I hear as it changes over, with an image of a peasant woman looking over a valley, is about how the Bhutanese live “a content life, free from the trappings of the Western world.”

What a load of horseshit. I can’t stand it when Westerners get all disillusioned with their lives and look at people in the Third World as some shiny paragon of the human spirit, living a romantically idealised life. 80% of the people in this world – the ones that you’re looking at with naive envy – spend their days squatting in ditches to take a shit, building mud bricks under the unforgiving sun, and watching their children get kidnapped by the local drug lords to be sold off as sex slaves in Eastern Europe, until they eventually die of cholera at age 41. They would trade their rustic rural life for yours in a fucking heartbeat. The “trappings” of the Western world, all that consumerism and bustle that you find so hard to deal with, you poor little things? Those “trappings” include stuff like medicine, clean drinking water, electricity, central heating, and the ability to walk down the street without being caught up in the crossfire between rival clan militias.

There’s also the entirely unrelated fact that it is an insult to their dignity; one of the more benign cases of categorising foreigners as Others, but an example of narrow-minded orientalism nonetheless. There is something immensely frustrating about watching a group of clean, healthy Europeans traipse through a Himalayan mountain village and croon about how the life of the villagers is so simple and pure, and oh my god they must know the amazing secrets of the world, before promptly returning to South London and their oh-so-evil consumerist lifestyle.

I saw an episode of Oprah a while back where she went on a roadtrip across the country and spent some time in Amish territory, and upon showing that segment she turned to her audience and said “100% happiness – they are one hundred per cent happy – and how many of us can say that?” The hive drones nodded and murmured in assent and I felt like kicking the TV screen in. If that life is so perfect, why don’t you go join them? Yeah, didn’t think so.

To sum up, it is incredibly ungrateful and inappreciative to look at Third World citizens with that kind of ultimately insincere envy. There are people who risk absolutely everything to bring themselves and their families into the sanitised corporate bubble of the West (where they are then thrown into a detention camp on Christmas Island and called “illegals” and “queue-jumpers” in newspaper editorials), so show a bit of gratitude that you were born in this clean, safe paradise instead of in a squalid refugee camp in the DRC, by not making stupid blanket statements about the “trappings of the Western world.”